By Adina Pelle
I have been flirting with disaster all my life.The simple act of putting it on paper now pans out better than traditional therapy. This is not to say there isn’t a plethora of reports sprouting out of my records of years of professional treatment. I’ll report those stories back someday to the fit majority. Instead, what I’ll talk about is the middle age conundrum I’ve been trapped in for the past few years. The twilight zone of the forties and the other frontier: dating after divorce.
When I was younger and had the energy to fight, create and heck, even stay up past 10 PM, it never crossed my mind that I’ll morph eventually into my mother, wagging a finger at people under 21 and using the adage “when I was your age …” or the one my son loves the most “does that music has to be that loud?”
A couple of years ago, before I found my present conjugal delight and having already experienced the company of some dismal dates (who can forget Larry and his flaming bright Larry-mobile) I agreed to go out with Matt. My experiences with the dating consortium should have been enough to make me slowly back away with my hands up and never dip my toes in the dating pool again. Alas, that would have made too much sense. There’s a certain desperation that takes over your common sense when middle aged.
I knew Matt from work, and we had spoken on the phone many times but never met face to face. He was in Boston and I was in Manhattan.We chatted daily, laughing hysterically most times at the circus of Corporate nonsense. Myself, I never fully made peace with my line of work after switching from art to insurance and computers. Being an artist, sort of speak, in a world that values engineers is no picnic; it requires large amounts of acting, prankishness, flouting of the social, economic, and physical order, as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of weapons of psychological warfare against boredom. Matt and I entertained each other daily on the phone in keeping up with the war against monotony.
To make a long story short he was going to be in my neck of the woods one night, so we decided to go out to dinner.I knew nothing about him other than what transpired through our phone conversations. He was the only son next to four sisters, he had graduated with a degree in literature from Boston College and his father taught some esoteric subject at Harvard School of Divinity.
I was finished getting ready for the night when my door bell rang. As I opened the door, I became slightly annoyed to see a missioner standing in front of me . I was determined to get him on his way quicker than usual. I am mostly polite with anybody trying to make me see the light, get born again or what have you but this time, I quickly told the fellow standing in front of me that I was Jewish and was not converting. It should have worked like a charm, but instead the young man facing me looked puzzled and when I noticed the nice bouquet of roses he was hiding behind his back my mind started racing back and forth between embarrassment and the comedy I was part of. The fact that Matt was standing before my eyes and looking very much younger than I expected should have made me uneasy and wishing for the ground to open up and swallow me. Instead, I went along with the flashing signs in the back of my mind : first, stay cool and secondly, the slightly panicked inner voice : “Oh my God, I am dating a younger man, I am a cougar !”
We decided, against my better judgment, to go dancing to one of the hot spots Manhattan is so famous for. I was fighting middle age so fiercely by now that the loud music, the noise from people shouting, the crowded bar, the constant rubbing against strangers led me somehow through and above my overwhelmed senses. Almost crushed by the crowd, we made it to the bar and the double scotch, neat, started working immediately with my inhibitions. I never liked crammed, packed spaces and my Paxil must have worked overtime that night because I seemed to have crossed the age barrier somewhat gracefully and elegantly, blending naturally in the young crowd. I was determined to have a good time. We danced, joked, joyned the cathartic motion of the place for about an hour after which we left the place and went to a nice quiet restaurant. The evening felt like a total success and nothing was going to bring me down from the cloud of confidence, vigor and, total buoyancy I was in.
Matt dropped me back at my place and as I entered my house, my son, home from college, was waiting for me.(in that sweet reversal of responsibilities I came to enjoy so much as we both got older) He asked me how my night was and I giddily smiled and exclaimed: “I had a wonderful time, even old people like me know how to have a good time and be cool !” He looked at me with sleepy eyes and asked nonchalantly: “Why do you have toilet paper on your shoe?” I looked down and, a strip of white paper tangled in my shoe was a loud reminder of how my entire poise that night was actually just in my head. Need I say more? I knew then and there that I’ll always be a middle age dork so, I stopped trying to look cool.
And by the way, why is the music so loud all the time?