I was dressed to the nines. Okay – maybe the sevens.
The heels and stockings completed the look, and the scent of Chanel drifting off the pulse points didn’t hurt. Not your usual evening fare for Barnes & Noble.
I’ve spent plenty of date nights at B&N with a book, but last Friday night was different. I had dinner plans (thus the attire), was early (and needed a place to wait), and so I popped into my local book store to kill time. A middle-aged man in a tweedy jacket was seated in a plush chair nearby. I was restlessly thumbing a book on Italy, and he struck up a conversation.
“What do you?” he asked.
“I’m an unemployed writer,” I replied, flippantly.
He raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
Apparently unperturbed by the U word (which I was hoping would keep him at bay), then he hits me with this: “Do you do any editing?”
My big break! Opportunity is knocking…
Okay, I think – it’s serendipity. I don’t look like the unemployed masses (speaking of which, what precisely do the unemployed masses look like, anyway?) – and life is what happens when you’re making other plans. Perhaps this is opportunity knocking when least expected.
He asks what I charge, and I explain that I’d need to see the material, a chapter for example, and then I could provide an estimate.
He hesitates. “I’m not a professional writer,” he says, “but it’s a 900-page manuscript on American history. I think it’s in pretty good shape, but it needs edits. Do you have a card?”
900 pages of history?
What the hell. I love a challenge. We exchange cards.
Then it starts…
“Well you look beautiful,” he says, “and I think you should blow off your date whoever he is and I’ll take you to dinner.”
“I have plans,” I smile, “but thank you for the compliment.”
“Blow him off,” he says earnestly. And thus begins the most extraordinary stream of boomer babble:
“Have dinner with me. I’m very lonely because you see my mother just died and I’ve got my dogs but it’s not the same as my mother, and I’m feuding with my brother over the estate and I attribute that to the fact that he wasn’t breastfed as a baby and you know everyone was going to the bottle in the fifties and sixties and that really was a problem, and I’m lucky you see because I was breastfed though it’s a shame he wasn’t because all those good nutrients you get from the breast – well, that really does make a difference, but it’s good I’ve had my book to keep me busy and you know it solves the conspiracy question over JFK, and I could share that with you if you’d blow off this other guy and go out to dinner with me, you know?”
OMG. Let me say it again. O-M-G.
He takes a breath.
I want to scream, or throw books in his general direction, or run.
Can I have my card back?
“I really need to go, but it was nice meeting you,” I say. I’m edging my way around a table as another woman shoots me a knowing “oh-you-poor-thing” glance beneath a fringe of silver bangs.
“I’ll call you,” he says as I’m walking away, pulling my thin jacket tighter around my buxom little self, and heading off to what was – thankfully – a normal dinner.
How NOT to call a woman on the phone
The next day – Saturday – I’m home and writing, as usual. Besides, I’m the wheels, the chauffeur to a 16-year old with a social life, the provider of sandwiches, the keeper of the adolescent haven of my kiddo and, apparently, many of his friends.
As I ponder his active social life, I wonder about my sultry Indian summer Saturday nights out – which are in short supply.
My cell rings a bit after noon. I recognize the number and don’t pick up. It rings every hour, until 9:30 Saturday night at which time I can’t stand it any longer.
I answer. He talks. I interrupt.
“I’m tied up,” I say, wondering what he might picture in that expression.
“Oh,” he replies, sounding surprised. “When can I call you?”
It’s Saturday night! Doesn’t he know the unwritten rule about NOT calling on Saturday night?
I get it. The man is lonely, and I know what that’s like. He’s lost his mother, and I know what that’s like. But he’s needy and socially inept and who knows what else. I have no intention of becoming his maternal, breast-feeding stand-in!
“I’m busy with my teenager,” I say. He persists, and I tell him again that I’m not available, and hang up. But I feel guilty.
Guilt, lessons, tips on boomer dating
Single parents are specialists at guilt, in fact, single parent guilt has its own twist, but this is different. This is soft-hearted-I’m-an-easy-mark guilt.
The breast-fed boomer boy?
He’s probably a perfectly nice man. But after a lifetime of taking in strays and nurturing others, I’m not going there.
Does he really have a manuscript? I couldn’t begin to guess. Was he trying to pick me up? Definitely, but it was an epic FAIL. His botched effort may offer a few tips, and in case you missed them, here they are:
- DON’T lead with the “L” word – Loneliness
- DON’T discuss bodily fluids – yours, your mothers, or anyone’s
- DON’T bring up death in the first five minutes
- DON’T say you’ve solved a conspiracy theory of international dimensions
- DON’T babble. A woman likes to know you can breathe.
As for what you should do?
Almost anything else!
Pointers and experiences of your own to share?
Ah, the single life after 40… after 50… after, well… any age, perhaps.
The single life after a long period of time alone, or perhaps after a difficult period of transition – say, losing a spouse, or divorce.
The single life when you want to be paired up can be fraught with challenges. Dating, especially when you’re out of practice, isn’t for the faint of heart. But I’ll tell you this: I won’t be hanging at B&N in my sexy stilettos and black stockings… next weekend it will be some other locale, preferably surrounded by paperbacks and hefty tomes, and wearing jeans and my nerdy glasses.
I’ll try not to peek up from behind my book.
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