I have yentas in my posse.
That sounds a bit obscene, doesn’t it?
Really, it just means I have many people in my circle who want to have a say, offer advice, be heard.
So many times, I consider it a blessing.
As I’ve begun dating after my divorce, however, it also provides humor (and a lot of forehead slapping frustration).
It is comical to hear the advice middle-aged married people give to those dating in their forty- and fifty-something years. These are folks who have not been on a real who-is-paying, what-should-I-wear, what-is-he/she-expecting-at-the-end-of-the-evening date in many moons.
But they give advice like they’ve got it all going on. And then some.
I’ve heard their folksy sagacity on everything from skirt lengths to shared finances in a second marriage. It is probably the closest I will ever come to having a professional matchmaker at my service.
Oh, but people. I have some sagacity to share also. About how not to drive your divorced friends crazy with advice.
Oy (as long as we’re talking about matchmakers, a nod to my Jewish friend who has used one). Enough already.
As I navigate a relationship, I get opinions as to deal breakers and what constitutes a “keeper.” As in, “Well, if he can’t respect your XYZ quality, it’s time to just cut him loose.” Or, “Wow. You’ll never find another guy who is that thoughtful about ABC. You better hold on to him.”
The actual advice matters less than what it signifies.
It is a reminder to me that until I’ve hung from any one cliff, holding onto a lone tree branch to avoid a fall, I should not offer advice to the person hanging there. Because my directions may be faulty and, unless I know the exact pattern of actions necessary to pull up from that cliff face, I should remain silent. Lest this person take my advice and fall.
Enough with the metaphor. Let’s say it plainly: It is very easy, from the comfort of a decades-long marriage, to play fast and furious with my fate. “Drop him” or “keep him” are said with such surety, I am amazed.
Unless you’ve swum in the rather murky dating pool in your middle age, you are clueless. About what’s out there. About the realities of a long-term relationship at this stage of life—one in which you have stopped searching for flawless as you did in your 20s.
In middle age, you know you will not change the other person in a relationship. They’ve lived much of a lifetime as who they are. They bring certain faults and good qualities into your relationship. Everyone comes with both. Middle-aged dating is more a weighing of which mix you can tolerate.
Oh, that sounds unromantic. I don’t mean it thus.
Chemistry still matters. Butterflies do too. But you’re old enough to know that when neither is present on a particularly bad day, you’ll still be faced with either Mr. Hot Temper or Ms. Cranky Pants. If hot tempers or sudden crankiness are deal breakers for you, you will walk away—no matter how good the chemistry is.
My married friends, none of whom seems to be experiencing such bliss that I cannot wait to follow in their footsteps, think sifting through potential matches is somehow like it used to be. It’s not. Unequivocally, it’s not.
For starters, volume. Most people my age are married.
And then you have the whole life experience bit. I’m wiser than I was as a younger woman. Which means of the much smaller pool of eligible men, I am likely to choose even fewer than I did when less enlightened.
When I do find someone special, as I’ve been lucky enough to do, I need to move at my pace. I will want some privacy at first. I will expect support but not a plethora of questions about the relationship. Just wish me well and hope for the best.
I may or may not ever marry again. If I want the Oprah and Stedman model, so be it. If I take the plunge again, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about all of you watching me do it. I did that once, right? Feels odd to have you witness it again. And yet, I hope if you find yourself in a gorgeous garden on a sunny day with me saying, “I do,” you’ll cry and hug me and dance like an idiot.
Bottom line, the rules are different now. Not the big ones—I will marry (whether in ceremony or just with my heart) for love, not money. I will honor and cherish. I will look for shared laughter, tears and chores. But the small rules—the rules well-meaning friends and society put upon those of us who find ourselves in a dating ritual that hasn’t been updated since the Dark Ages—well, those will have to be of my own making.
I love my matchmakers. Even though they really don’t bring me any matches. They just critique the ones I find.
Again with the oy.