A second chance at love
Retiring from work but not from dating
Last Thanksgiving when I went to visit a former roommate, she pulled me aside to tell me about a few “holiday grenades” that dropped prior to my arrival. The other tidbits are not relevant to this story, but one in particular was that her recently widowed father was starting to date again. The same thing had happened to a childhood friend when her mother passed away several years earlier. And, of course, a very similar bomb landed on my birthday almost seventeen years ago.
I recall sitting in a chain restaurant in Henrietta while my father thumbed through photographs of a woman at least ten years his junior. She had three children by three different men and an ex-suitor who had recently bought her a Volkswagen Beetle. He met her through his boss at a barbecue. This had been planned for some time. My mother had died exactly six months prior, and, frankly, I just wanted him to stop talking so I could go home and vomit the processed spinach and artichoke dip that had started to churn in my stomach.
Eventually the relationship ended when this woman started questioning why my father had yet to remove my mother’s belongings from the house. A few months later, my father retired from his company along with several other people. There was a group retirement party and one of the fellow retirees seemed interested in him. Her husband had also passed away, and I suggested he might want to hang out with her since she understood what it was like to lose a spouse. At the very least, he’d have a friend with some things in common. They started going to dance classes together and other assorted day trips and are still together today.
The reason I’m sharing this story is that the unfortunate reality of life is that it doesn’t last forever. Spouses die sooner than expected. People divorce or break up long before anyone ever intended. This leaves a lot of people nearing retirement age—or older—newly single, lonely, and looking for companionship in a world where dating and relationship expectations are likely very different than what they were prior to settling into a long-term relationship.
I chatted with a local writer regarding her mother’s adventures in dating after her father passed away. She said that her mother started out by meeting men on JDate, an online platform specifically for meeting Jewish singles. Her mother would also respond to ads in The New York Review of Books because it was, as she describes, “A good indication of quality men who know how to read.” Being well traveled, her mother eventually decided to fly to Venice, Italy, to embark on a Mediterranean cruise where she would meet an available widower. This was all arranged over the phone upon the recommendation of mutual friends that she and her deceased husband had known for about thirty-two years. After watching said gentleman pinch the behinds of several ladies on the cruise ship, she soon realized she was more of a decoy for him to get closer to other women. “Apparently this is a thing,” my friend tells me. “Older men tend to go on these cruise trips to ‘escort’ widows!”
Tabling the cruise ship escort idea as a scintillating topic for another time, I decide to call my aunt’s friend Nancy. She is in her early sixties and lost her beloved husband several years ago. She has been dabbling in online dating as well as a few other tactics to meet people and says, “eHarmony sucks.” She has primarily used Our Time and Meetup. “The games are worse than when I was young—people don’t look the same as they do in the pictures, and they lie about their age,” she comments. Then she laughs, “Every guy has a beard—one had a beard as long as his stomach!” Meetup has presented her opportunities to get together with other singles in groups for mingling, but Nancy says that the Meetup events, unfortunately, have a higher ratio of women to men. “The men are not very attractive,” she continues, “but of course, the women are all over them!” She also mentions the groups have started to shift to allow couples to attend—mainly those who met through the group and want to stay connected with the friends they’ve met. This makes things slightly awkward for the singles.
Nancy has met a few people the old-fashioned way—through her golf club. While these dates have been better, she has experienced her share of heartaches. Some of the men dominate the conversation with talk of their deceased or ex- wives, or talk excessively about themselves. Others have dated multiple people at the same time, which is a strategy she’s now employing to keep from getting too invested in any one person. She says, “When I was young, I could take the rejection easier. Now that I’m older, it’s a lot harder. And, I’m only going to say the ‘L-word’ if I mean it.”
She also braved a blind date with a man who showed up with dirty hair, body odor, and missing teeth. “You have to keep yourself in shape,” she continues. “The men want eye candy, and I do, too.” While attractiveness and personal hygiene are certainly important to her, she’s also looking for a financially responsible person who shares similar interests and provides good conversation, romance, and a sense of humor. “I want someone who makes me laugh every day. I didn’t expect to be alone,” she says. She then adds a comment that likely hits the nail on the head for many self-sufficient singles, regardless of age, “I don’t need someone in my life, but I want someone.”
Stacey Rowe is a freelance writer based in Rochester.