jackiehaugh.com
How Will I Know?
As I perused the lineup of eligible bachelors on my computer, many looking like they were the latest parolee from the local prison, I sighed. “Getting back out there,” as my kids liked to call it, in my sixties was nothing short of a major struggle, and at times a little frightening. Two years after my husband and I separated in 2001, my daughters decided it was time for me to start dating. Still feeling rejected and unsure of myself, I would have preferred to stay under my covers, with the blankets over my head, for at least twenty more years. But being a mom who’d do just about anything for her children, I sat at the computer and prepared for a new social experience. At first, I treated every like and wink—Internet lingo for how men on dating sites indicated interest in someone’s profile—with respect. And for those who actually made an effort to write a note, I decided they deserved a response, even if they seemed a little creepy. It wasn’t long before I felt like I’d taken on a new fulltime job answering the interest in my online profile. I went on dates, many of which were a complete disaster. I met men who lied about their height, weight, age, and even marital status (some still married and living with their wives). I was groped (several times) on the first outing, and one tried to embezzle money after a few conversations in the chat room. Then there were the ones dependent on alcohol and drugs for a good time, while others still lamented over divorces from twenty years ago, anger seething from every word. Steamer trunks don’t begin to describe the baggage many carried. Despite all the mishaps, I met a few nice individuals—yet even those only lasted a couple months because the fit wasn’t quite right. Before long, I found myself singing the words to Whitney Houston’s song “How Will I Know?” It was all too confusing. When I was a child, my parents instructed me to always follow my gut, my intuition, when unsure. It’s been a practice that has served me well—most of the time. But let’s face it, any gut can get gas. Sometimes there are other forces weighing heavily on our minds and hearts, and we either negate the voice within or put blinders on because whatever we’re hearing is not what we want to believe. Reality can sometimes be even more exhausting than dating. Several years ago, I was in a relationship with a man who was kind and generous. We weren’t a perfect match, but I was tired of being alone, so I let him in. Soon, we were spending more and more time together. So much time that I thought, perhaps, it would be nice to make space for him in my huge walk-in closet. Once built to house three adults’ belongings, it had been pared down to a minimalistic few dresses, slacks, and shirts. Standing in what felt like a vacant room, I surveyed the space, wondering where his few things could go. It wasn’t long before I began to shake and the words “There’s no room in here!” flew out of my mouth. There is no denying that senior dating is complicated. I believe we’d all love to meet someone organically like when we were young—at a restaurant, gas station, grocery store, or in a class. Better yet, have a friend introduce us. But this is a new age and with it comes a new way of connection, something I’ve come to accept. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s as old as time itself: the use of any excuse says everything in relationships. It’s says it’s not right. If he or she is the right person, you won’t be justifying how much time you want to spend together, how long to talk on the phone, or how far to travel to seem them. If they’re the right one, you make time and space. So, while my gut may still get gassy at times because my ego is on overload, or fear has crept into the recesses of my brain, I’ll continue to try. And, when unsure, I’ll open up my closet as a litmus test. I’ve since moved from that large home into an itty-bitty apartment built for one. Space is definitely limited. But should he one day show up and pass all the criteria, I’ll know he’s the one because I won’t just give him my closet but the whole damn place.