Beating Them Off With a Stick (October 7, 2010)

homer

A very close friend of mine, whose identity I will protect in order to spare potential damage to his momentum, is absolutely cleaning up in the world of online dating. Mr. Anonymous, a late fortysomething, recently divorced father of three, is the hottest ticket in town these days. He is presently juggling not one, two or three but 12 potential love matches. He recently sent me an email stating rather humbly, “I never got this much action in my 20s and 30s.”

What is the key to Mr. A’s success? Quite simply he is a good father, a homeowner and has a stable job. Apparently, the pool of single men in their late 40s looks more like a cesspool to the eligible women of a certain age. By comparison, Mr. A is a rock star.

This got me thinking on two different planes. In the first place I feel a tremendous amount of empathy for the worthy single, grown and serious women out there. Apparently, it really is THAT bad. But in the second place, this vicarious travel down the road of dating with Mr. A made it suddenly clear that the things we think are important in a partner when we are in our 20s and 30s may be a red herring after all.

I work with a tremendously fabulous woman in her early 60s. Linda is a grandmother to two beautiful little girls and enjoys a wonderful relationship with her only daughter and son-in-law. Linda works, goes on trips with her girlfriends and has so many hobbies and enjoyments in life. She is quite satisfied overall but has intimated more than once that she wouldn’t mind sharing all this joy with a good man. Linda got pregnant at the age of 19, and though her husband “did the right thing” (it was the late 1960s after all) and married her, she knows that he never loved her. Less than five years later, he was off with a new woman to start a new family. She has had some dates and a few crushes in the ensuing years, but nothing ever took.

Linda told me that as a girl she had a male friend who was slavishly devoted to her, and probably a part of him remains so. But she blew him off – many times. He wasn’t attractive enough, was a bit too much of a “momma’s boy,” and in general, failed to curl Linda’s toes. However during our conversation, after relaying that her ex-husband eventually cut off contact with his immediate family and the child he had with his first wife, she realized all too late that “a family man is the worthiest man of all.”

When I used to lie awake at night in high school, dreaming of the future husband who would “save” me from my unhappy home, he used to bear an uncanny resemblance to Brad Pitt from the movie Legends of the Fall. He was brooding, a tough read and our imaginary romance was oh so torrid. Once I had ventured out into the real world and got myself burned by a few bad boys, I realized that the Marlon Brandos of the universe, no matter how sexy, would never be the key to long-term happiness.

Further evidence that youth is wasted on the young. When we’re at our strongest, most healthy and promising, we want the things that can’t be right, valuing the wrong qualities in the wrong people. When we’re older, wiser and life is more complicated, we realize, sometimes all too tardy, that a little reliability might have done a world of good.

Mr. Anonymous is a great catch – a funny, loyal and worthy man. The final scene in his romantic comedy remains to be written. Here’s hoping he and Ms. Right (whichever of the 12 she may be) find their happy ending.

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