Faux Pause: Tales from Dating at 50
Elaine Gantz Wright is a writer, marketer social catalyst and entrepreneur. Hire her — elgantz()yahoo.com.
As type this, I feel like Carrie Bradshaw in menopause, but of course, I am not in New York City. I am in Dallas, Texas, where I am probably even more of a social anomaly than Carrie Bradshaw would be--even at seventy and single in the Big Apple. I'm turning 50 in about as many days--but who is counting? Demographically, I believe I define a new "tweener" status. Hey, sociologists, what do you think of that? I'm too young to be one of those "better-off-alone-damn-it," defiantly single grandmas and too old to be a "swingle" mom--still hitting the country-western honky-tonks on Saturday night. (Even though I never really did that.) And adding yet another layer, I am caught between the sassy cynicism of two perennially precocious teenage boys and parents who are clinging to the finest filament of existence in their shared limbo. Oh, just so much to consider.
So, dating . . . Oh my gosh, do I really have to go down that road again? Match, Chemistry, Plenty of Fish, and Christian Fish . . .the list goes on. With so much on my plate and a very dysfunctional, on/off relationship for the past four years, I've been on the dating bench. In the past, managing these interactions has become like a full-time job--working up the energy to produce intoxicating wit and banter that's coy enough to show interest but casual enough to allow the guy to actually go for the close and ask for a date. This is what I see as the main problem. No one wants to be the first to ask the question. It's like the classic job interview tango--never be the first one to say a number regarding salary.
And now, we have the added element of "texting." I had dinner on Friday (name changed to protect the guilty), and truth is, I felt very uncomfortable on the date. There was so much pressure on the initial meeting after a week of cheeky texting and PG-13 chatter. He actually texted (not called) moments ago to find out if I was blowing him off, because I had not "replied" to his Saturday-morning "weather-report" text about deciding to take a nap. This is definitely a new-media relationship conundrum!
Struck me that even if you are not doing it Anthony Weiner style, texting is such an intimate medium--your mobile phone is never more than a couple of feet away from you. It's in the palm of your hand, your pocket, syncing with your laptop (very saucy), on your nightstand when you go to sleep. It's just too close for comfort when you are communicating with someone you have not even met! Heck, I don't think I was ever that close to my husband when I was married--in a social-media context, of course.
Anyway, I told Dan it felt like one of those dreams when you show up to work or school without any clothes on--so vulnerable and exposed. Or like being intimate--emotionally or physically-- before you even shake hands or see each other. And now, dead air. When the texting gets tough, the texter gets going! In a way, texting is great, because with kids, ill parents, and a virtual work schedule, communicating, much less meeting, can be a gargantuan challenge.
'Tis a pitty, really. There is so much anticipation in all of this. On paper, he looked fab--successful attorney, well-read, educated, extensively traveled, art-collector, but even with the out-of-whack communication dynamic, there were still some major red flags. And I won't even mention the fact he claimed to be six feet tall -- but was closer to 5'7" in lifts.
Thank you for indulging me, dear reader. This blog is very therapeutic for me as I try to be more mindful, present, and aware of my attractions and choices. It's time to step away from the codependent dating patterns and move on up the ladder of dating spiritual enlightenment. First red flag:
1. Empathy with Ex-Wife -- You know you are veering off the true-love trajectory when you begin putting yourself in the ex's shoes--and not in a Carrie Bradshaw sense. He told a story about pursuing his ruling passion-- ballroom dancing. He boasted 20 years with the same partner--twice a week!! But he claimed there was never been "anything romantic" with her, because she was "such a personal wreck." So wrong on so many levels! I was even empathizing with the dance partner. And it gets worse.
Dan apparently drew a line in the sand with his wife--even though his wife said watching them dance hurt her deeply. He recounted with unabashed arrogance, "I'm always going to dance. That's just the way it is. You are welcome to cut in or come along any time, but I prefer Sandy (this other woman) as my partner." Really, dude? I told him I understood her angst. Did not seem to phase him. And I love ballroom dancing. Sad.
2. Failure to Introduce -- This might be just a pet peeve of mine, but just bugged me when a couple came over to greet Dan. My first reaction was along a positive vein. I definitely want a man with friends and social savvy. Unfortunately, he clearly lacked the latter. He stood up, turned his back -- and proceeded to conduct a conversation for about five minutes. We he wrapped up, they offered me timid, little waves. You can't introduce me? He said the man was a young attorney at his firm, and he brought over his wife to introduce them. Am I some sort of a stealth date? Then, I start getting paranoid that he is not even divorced at all. . . No way, buster!
3. Lizard Tongue -- He may not be aware of this, but I think it may have been calculated. May be the worst of the red flags in some ways. He had this mannerism of poking out his tongue and biting down on it with his teeth between sentences. This gesture was always framed by a big Cheshire-cat grin. So creepy and disturbing. Didn't Hannibal Lecter do that? This is definitely the kind of thing you cannot get through texting. What are men thinking? Once again, really, dude?
So, Dating 101 continues--after quite a long hiatus. I can tell it's going to be a motley ride! I think I am going to try Skype. Share your online dating story . . .
Elaine Gantz Wright