The Rules of Dating at a 'Certain Age'

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Judith Burns is a free-lance writer who lives in Studio City

I am "a woman of a certain age." What a nice sounding euphemism, I tell myself. I have begun to date again after 24 years--following a year spent going with my ex-husband before marrying him, 22 years of marriage and a year as a DJF (Divorced Jewish Female).

The few times I've been out with a man, I tell myself that it is just a date, nothing more. This time there's a difference. It's the first time someone has "fixed me up" and said, "You two will get along. I know you're good for each other."

My friend Ellen goes on to tell me: "He wears a hearing aid also," as if that means we have a lot in common. No one has ever tried to fix me up with someone by telling me that he is left-handed like me, or wears glasses, as I do. But I shouldn't complain. Not many people are trying to act as a matchmaker for those of us of a certain age.

We're going to a movie, and I'm worried. I'm profoundly hearing impaired. I go only to foreign films with subtitles and wait for the rest of the movies to come out on closed-captioned video.

This is the first non-foreign movie I'll be going to in several years. Ellen offers to go to the movie with me the day before and explain it so I can have an intelligent conversation about it afterward. I am shocked when I find myself seriously considering this plan.

The advice comes flooding in. My matchmaker friend reminds me, "Don't go to bed with him on the first date. He's a nice man." I wonder what she means by that: He's a nice man. Like nice men don't go to bed with women on the first date. I vaguely remember when that was said about "nice women."

She goes on to say, "He may try to get you to bed, but some men use that as a test." A test for what, I want to know. I assure her that I wouldn't think of going to bed with him on the first date. "He's safe," I assure her. "Women of a certain age seldom go to bed with a man on the first date."

I ask Ellen if I should offer this live bait a bite to eat before we go to the show. Her answer is an emphatic: "No. Don't overwhelm him. Play it cool."

This dating business is still new to me.

Deciding what to wear isn't easy. The last time I did any real dating, I was stuffing my bra with toilet paper. Now I'm a 36C.

If it's raining out I can't wear my good heels. They'd get ruined. It's not like the old days, when I was married. Not only didn't it matter what I wore, but I had more than one good pair of shoes.

Ellen continues to advise me. "Wear something sexy. Men like feminine women."

Her admonitions are confusing. Don't go to bed with him, but wear something sexy? I hadn't planned on wearing my army fatigues, but I had better put on a silk blouse and skirt instead of a warm sweater and slacks. Catching pneumonia in an attempt to catch a man may be necessary. A small price for a woman of a certain age to pay.

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