Monday, April 20, 2009

An Unplanned "Singlehood"

My comment in a blog on 4/15/09 Retired Spouse Syndrome generated several comments and many more emails to the editor@ I appear to have touched on a topic relevant to many men and women over 50 when I commented that I was an "unplanned single".
"Me too", was the response from a variety of readers. A couple asked me outright what my personal experiences had been navigating these uncharted waters at 60 plus and others shared snippets from their journeys.

Like many couples, my late husband and I fell into the the "we'll do that when" type of thinking. For us it was a case of when the business could stand on its own feet; for others it's when the kids are out of college, when the mortgage is paid off, when I retire and so on. We are superb at putting off dreams for a better time. When D was first diagnosed with prostate cancer there was a period of denial and a search for alternate as well as traditionally valued treatments. The cancer spread to his bones rapidly without regard for his age - he died 16 days after his 62'nd birthday - and with no regard for the plans we had postponed. All sorts of dreams in the making that we as a couple would realize died with him. Lessons learned this way are heart wrenching...and yet it is the way so many of us learn the downside of putting off, living for tomorrow not today. I'm not alone in this thinking. And certainly I'm not alone in thinking that when I entered this second marriage in my early fifties, that it was for life. I never for one moment considered that we would have less than ten years together as a married couple.

An unplanned single at just 63 and statistically in one of the poorest probability areas for re-connecting - hey, doesn't get much worse on paper than being a woman, 60 plus, living in a area of the country known for retirees and when the numerical odds are overwhelmingly in favor of men finding a mate. I think the latest figure I read was a 4-1 ration of single women over 60 to men!

I like my independence; I have always been independent; I am a capable woman- I've been known to solve the occasional plumbing problem and the only thing I shriek at are snakes. I am not needy. I have taken off on my own on trips to Alaska, Italy, Libya to name but a few and in three weeks I leave for Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya . None of that stops me from wishing to be a "we" again. Partnership with another is nurturing; it is healthy; it is energizing and besides - if the hormones are churning, skin and hair look fabulous! It's the chance to remember the day over a glass of wine; the chance to re-live ; the chance to continue to build on history. My moments of feeling totally alone come when something in the day happens that I want to share; they come when I think about preparing dinner and want to have someone in the kitchen stirring, tasting, talking. They come when I do eat my dinner quickly and I remember dinners that lasted several hours, of laughing, solving the world's problems, of feeling complete.

Last night I got out the date books from the past three years and flipped through the pages counting. I was astounded to add up the numbers and learn that I have met 20 men in those three years! Some the 'gifts' of friends ...."You might like him, at least give it a chance"...others chance meetings while traveling or through shared interests - birding, hiking, writing, Solar observing. I've never tarted up and headed out to a bar in search of a man! heaven forbid - didn't do that when I was younger and I'm not about to do it now - but I have allowed myself to smile at strangers, to respond to a smile and to start up conversations. I joined one boutique on-line site that was interest specific. Encounters have lead to coffee, dinner dates or hikes; others absolutely nowhere! I have been pursued by a small number of men who held no attraction for me whatsoever; I have been on the opposite end of that scenario in one situation. Of that twenty, only two 'clicked', only two had that "je ne sais quoi" that makes the heart leap and the possibility of connection come alive.

I don't spend my days surfing dating sites, stalking prospects! I live my days for each fire-fly moment of joy that they bring. E mail received last week told of belonging to the Big Box dating sites plus their more exclusive cohorts (Chemistry and E Harmony). One woman wrote that she had written over 500 e mails of introduction and garnered a total of two responses; she said that she spends upwards of six hours a day "working the sites" and that "some days I don't even go out of the house I'm so determined to find someone"! Wow. That's a no win situation.
Love to hear your take on this.

Thank you for taking time to read. To support this blog and help our main web site remain viable and current, please support our advertisers by visiting their sites.


  1. I think that, in this day and age, it makes sense to at least give online dating a try. In Gerry's case, it would seem to make a LOT of sense. Because she loves to travel, she could, as some do, use a dating site prior to a vacation to set up a lunch date. And because she lives in an area popular with tourists and retirees, she might get responses from eligible, attractive men looking to do the same thing.

    But online dating (like online ANYTHING) can quickly turn into an obsession, as illustrated by the the woman Gerry mentioned. My guess is that the woman's almost total lack of success may be due in no small part to her obsessiveness. Men---and women, too---can quickly sense when someone online is needy to the point of desperation. And neediness is not a quality in great demand in the dating world.

    It's crucial to balance an online search with an in-person one. When you meet someone in person, you can tell in sixty seconds or less what he looks like, what he sounds like, how he dresses, whether he has any social skills, and, most importantly, whether there's a spark---or at least the potential for a spark---between you. With online communications, you could invest months of your life in a "relationship" that dies a sudden death when you finally meet each other in the flesh.

    If bars aren't in your comfort zone, you can find eligible singles at art openings, group hiking events, adult ed classes, etc. But women need to get out of that that "other" comfort zone: the one that compels them to go everywhere with one or more girlfriends. If you're in college, a group of women might meet up with a group of guys. If you're in your 40's, 50's, or 60's, it won't happen in a million years. Learn to go out socially by yourself---confidently and unapologetically. Because most eligible men there will also be by themselves, you'll be noticed right away.

  2. Sound advice Jim - thanks for jumping in. Maybe I'll offer myself as a case study when I get back from Africa!


Let's talk....Give us your comments

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.