Aging Out or Giving Up?

Last evening I considered a little lip gloss, the plum mascara, my favorite winter pencil skirt and a pair of hot boots. Yes, heels.

I thought about going out – there’s a nice restaurant a few blocks away, with a friendly Cheers bar atmosphere, especially early evening on Fridays. For a woman on her own, it isn’t too daunting. And there’s always a character or two that make for fascinating observation. And great stories.

I considered the possibility. And I set it aside.

Instead, my son had some people over after a busy week, and I stayed out of the way doing a little work, a little reading, a little writing, and generally keeping to myself.

Women aging out of dating

In perusing some sites I visit regularly, I was up for lighthearted fare. I went from relationship tips to style advice to a crisply written article by a woman in her 60s. She talked about aging out of the dating market. So last night, in staying home (surely easier), was that an act of recognition that I’ve “aged out” of dating, or simply given up?

I’ve alluded to this issue a few times. I tiptoe around it or plunge in, when writing about older men and younger women, not to mention my well stated preference for French men for whom, among other things, getting to know a woman by checklist is less prevalent.

One night does not a trend make…

Certainly, one night’s decision to stay in where it’s warm and comfortable doesn’t make for a trend. But the fact that online sites are no longer a viable means to meet people is. For a woman at 50, odds are she’ll be hearing from the occasional man in his 60s and some in their 70s. Trust me on that. It’s the age-old age issue.

Men her own age? That’s a no.

  • So do women age out of online dating, rather than dating altogether?
  • If that’s the case, and you no longer have the typical social outlets for meeting people, then what?
  • Do you accept that the rest of your life without a partner – casual or otherwise – is the way it will be?

A woman’s options

Oh, I’m not looking to spin a self-fulfilling prophesy. I still have a little kick left in me. The brain is fully equipped with quips, my flirtation skills ramp up when there’s a spark, and well… sex remains important to me. I may be worn down by the single parenting juggling act, but there’s still a “me” here – and that me is a woman, with a woman’s needs.

When I manage to get out of town, I meet people easily and I love the process. But escaping – to anywhere – isn’t my norm. Tending to the last full-time months of parenting, not to mention earning my keep – these are the rhythms of my days and nights.

But I ask myself: By the time a single mother has raised her children, is she too tired to make the effort to date? Especially with demographically narrowing options?

Changes ahead

When my younger son goes off to college, I’ll be facing major changes head-on. I’m aware that those changes will be significant for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I’ll be dealing with layoff from my primary job.

A job that has generally been a 24/7 undertaking.

A job of the body, the mind, the spirit, and the heart.

In recent months I’ve had a few tastes of what this will be like. I sense the depth of disorientation that will come. It will pass of course, and I will take steps to create a new life. A different life. I hope, a good life.

Questions, predictions, reality

But I wonder if relationship will play a role in whatever comes next. And what about sex? What about friendship – which is perhaps the greatest gift of all, and one I don’t take lightly?

Do single women – never married, divorced, and widowed – simply age out of social and sexual options? Or do we give up in some measure, and thus, slide into a sort of invisibility that isolates us further?

I make no predictions. I offer no suggestions. Yet I believe in the accuracy of my observations, although I base them on anecdotal evidence as well as my own experience.

Culture, age, relationships

I will say that I sense this is particularly American, albeit not exclusively American. These are impressions and comparisons to my experiences in France. There, I have enjoyed the company of men and women to whom age is irrelevant, smarts are valued, and common interests as well as shared values yield opportunities to connect and plenty of good times.

  • Will I hop a plane in 2012? No way to know.
  • Will serendipity present other options? No way to know.
  • Will my shoes get dusted off for a few more rounds on the dance floor?

I have no crystal ball, but I’d like to think so.

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© D A Wolf

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Comments

  1. One thing about aging is letting go of the shoulds. I should go out in high heels and be social. I should live the rest of my life in one place. I’m no longer dictated by shoulds.
    Being in the middle of life are all sorts of opportunities to take risks…or not. It’s awesome that you’re looking at things half full, embracing possibilities. I see too many of us who as we get older our world get narrower. I say, go for it…in whatever way that means to you…or not.

  2. One aspect of men dating younger is the PITA factor of women in their 40′s being emotionally damaged goods after bad marriages and trying to find themselves. It is tedious to say the least if they are in therapy or even worse, trying to find their “place in the universe”. Not being in this state means you are in the running IMO.

    A woman that takes care of themselves and enjoys life is attractive. In real life, men are not fussy if they feel good around you so it is just a matter of meeting them (easier said than done).

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      You say: In real life, men are not fussy. May I add that to the “What makes a man tick?” list? And sounds like I should add “affinity for women who are not in PITA mode.” ;)

      Here’s the thing, batticus – the men have their PITA factor as well. We all need our healing time following the end of something. Some of us take it, some don’t. (I think when we do, the PITA factor lessens considerably, regardless of gender.)

      Thank you for bringing a bit of the male perspective. It’s much appreciated.

  3. I don’t think one ages out of dating/romance, though some do make a conscious choice to step out of the game. Romance is ageless — just ask my grandmother who, at age 89, has a new boyfriend!

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Kelly – Does this mean I have to go 40 more years? :) And now you’re going to tell me your grandmother’s boyfriend is 99, right? Or did she go for a younger man of 80? (Seriously, I think it’s great!)

  4. Provocative questions! I agree with Michelle about the “shoulds”… Its a losing battle. We all have to march to the drum of our own needs, and our own cost/benefit analysis of time spent. If it was a dinner party with some singles, would u have been more likely to go? Was your motivation to go to the bar just to get out and have some interesting convo? If so, then that’s what matters and whether your “giving up” on dating doesn’t apply.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      @Cougel – I think men and women both take a risk when we step “out there” in certain social scenarios. Batticus is right that more natural meetings – at events of interest – is a better way to go. That’s not always possible. As for the bar/restaurant, it was more to be out in the world, talking, looking, with adults and letting whatever conversation would flow – flow.
      @Stacia – Thank you for your good words. Guess I’ll keep my hot boots at the ready!
      @Molly – Hard not to wonder, isn’t it? No guarantees of anything, for any of us, ever. But I do think we have to stay open and away from our preconceived ideas of what a good fit may be. We never know really, until we try. But trying gets harder as the years go on. As for that 70+ thing? I looked. Don’t quite know what to make of that!

  5. Agreed on the gender symmetry of the PITA factor, healing takes time and it is necessary in order to be fully engaged in future relationships.

    Online dating is soul sucking, it is based on dispatching people quickly in the hunt for the one. I’ve given up on it, it just doesn’t suit me. I prefer the “luck favours the prepared” (Louis Pasteur? Thomas Jefferson?) approach, creating serendipity by attending events in the evening. Cocktails, art, technology, and lectures are more my style; if it works out with meeting a woman (and it has occasionally :) ), great but if it doesn’t, my life is richer in the meantime. When circumstances allow, get out there; a smile from across the room is like a magnet for a man.

  6. “…a smile from across the room is like a magnet for a man.”
    Amazingly true words.

  7. I’m betting you’ll find a fulfilling, steady relationship once your nest is empty, your time is yours again, and your body and brain have some time to reboot after this crazy year of projects and deadlines you’ve guided your son through. With those boots, you’re bound to score. (Pun intended??) ;)

  8. Once again, I am thinking about that too, but I have no real answers except that a friend sent me an amazing link about love after seventy. Read it because it’s sooo touching!
    http://snapjudgment.org/love-after-seventy

  9. I think we’ll be quite interested to read about how it all plays out… particularly hoping you’ll take your blogging verve along with you if you should happen to become our correspondent in Paris or other places yet to be determined.

    I appreciate your willingness to not predict, stay open and keep it real.

    Nevertheless, we can certainly wish you fun, romance and great adventures ahead—I know I do.

  10. pia louise says:

    i believe you will find what you seek……..

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Thank you Pia. And welcome. I hope you are right, for all of us – men and women both – who would like to share our lives. In the meantime, I stay open…

  11. At the age of 54 I decided to try being single. For the first time in my adult life! Now at 61 I’m so happy to be on my own. I just took myself to a lovely lunch where I read the new National Geographic and enjoyed a mimosa. No one to disrupt my peaceful time, no one to criticize, no one to try to please. Absolutely heaven!

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Hi Meredith, and thanks for joining the conversation. It sounds like you found what feels right for you. Lovely!

  12. Just found this blog. It’s nice to know I am not alone. As a 53 year old single mother of three and a busy teacher, I have come to realize that the imagined life I thought I would have after leaving a bad marriage is not what has happened. For the first two years after my divorce, I went a little crazy and dated and experimented with men of all ages. Now after four years alone, I am discouraged and frankly not interested in dating at all. I have decided that I will be the person I want to be and enjoy the fine things in life.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Welcome Kristina. It is a different world from what we anticipate, isn’t it. I guess we put our best face forward, and keep going. I like your attitude – “I have decided that I will be the person I want to be and enjoy the fine things in life.”

      It sounds wonderful!

  13. I have experienced a progression in dating styles and experiences post (and during) separation and divorce. I was on my own for a few years and am now amazingly happily married. It does happen. We even met online, with five years difference in age (re your post on age differences). My atypical match ad (wife and I are both unusual in more than the usual ways) specified “any age, as long as you can keep up with me.” But I can’t imagine dating anyone more than a decade younger than I am. We’re both in our 60’s now, and Fran had been single/unattached for only a few years also. In any case, after folks have been single for more than a few years, dating seems to be without expectation and does dwindle off. I have a recent blog post on this topic.

    I found your site from Postcardsfromdivorce blog. This topic isn’t really my focus and I am grateful to be removed from it. But I have been through a significant learning experience…behind me. I am trying to reduce computer time and increase outdoor activity time (latter is very important to Fran and me).

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Glad you stopped by, Paul, and welcome. (We talk about more than divorce around here, so I hope you will stop by often.) It sounds like you had a very positive online dating experience! Perhaps we only hear about the squeaky wheel?

      “Any age, as long as you can keep up with me.” Wonderful!

  14. Not only good topic, but good writing, is essential to get my interest on a blog. You and Molly look good that way. I am generally impressed with women writers and their sensitivity (as long as they don’t let themselves get too caught up in that). Maybe I rush my writing too much, but life is short and so much to do. I met some wonderful women years ago via the New York Review of Books personals. Fascinating women and great writers, and I would go anywhere to be with certain ones (when I was in that period). Now, besides being a traditional academic sort of, I put time into peace activism (Quaker pacifist revolutionary socialist here) and related topics (google peacefulways for more). As mentioned, I am blessed with an amazing wife.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      A very interesting blog, Paul. I am going to enjoy visiting, and I hope others do, too. I agree with you – “wonderful relationships do exist” – but I also believe a certain amount of good luck helps! Not to mention two adults who have the perspective and common sense to appreciate how important people are – and not all the other “stuff” we often spend so much time fussing over. For many of us, that takes time and maturing. And personally, I’m always delighted when I hear a man say he has an amazing wife, or a woman say she has an incredible husband. Bravo. It is no small feat these days.

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