L.A. Affairs: Why does dating at 67 feel like high school all over again?
There is nothing that makes me feel like I don’t belong more than reading profiles on dating apps.
I was happily married to a man who found me attractive for the 42 years we had together. I figured men near my age — 67 — wouldn’t prioritize the socially idealized image of sexuality anymore, like we all did back in high school. I assumed that with maturity they had come to terms with their own not-so-buff bodies and realized that a sustainable relationship is not based on beauty alone.
For the most part, I appear to be sadly mistaken.
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Take Josh, for example, who described valuing honesty, loyalty and open-mindedness and said he was looking for someone emotionally available. He enjoys hiking, travel and theater (all things I had checked as my interests). But then he slipped in that he’d like a woman who dresses with a “sense of style.” What does that mean?
I imagine he’s looking for someone tall, slender, who shops at high-priced boutiques and who has such an innate talent for creative garmenting that even her everyday T-shirts are from Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
I’m 5-feet-2 and dress more on the practical side. Think J. Jill, NYDJ, and occasionally Nordstrom. I am physically fit, admired for my natural red hair and have always seen myself as more of a Honda or Toyota instead of a BMW or Mercedes.
Josh wants arm candy. I pass him by.
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Then there was John, a doctor whose profile showed wit and a dry sense of humor, something I appreciate. (Under favorite things to do he wrote: “Stand in line at the DMV.”) But he went on to say he’s looking for inner and outer beauty, or what he described as “inner cleavage.” He also made a goofy confession about liking outer cleavage too. I looked down at my chest. I think I have the “inner” but the “outer” is not quite as robust. I felt forlorn. Was he serious or was he joking?
I got a “like” next from someone calling himself MangoLover. Since his profile interests lined up pretty well with mine, I was hopeful. He was a recently semiretired highly educated professional close to my age who shared similar values, activities and desires. Also, he lived within 10 miles of me, which in L.A. is a big plus.
I “liked” him back, and included a short message: “I love mangoes too!” But after a few days of silence I’m back to feeling let down. What gives? After all, he was the one who chose me first. My mind envisioned multiple women responding with the same flirty line and I felt embarrassingly unoriginal. Then it occurred to me “mangoes” might be code for boobs, leaving me feeling even more embarrassed about my retort.
Next came Stuart, a tall, well-groomed professor whose engagement with current events, enjoyment of the outdoors, and love of music and theater were appealing. We moved pretty quickly off the app to the phone. But during the conversation two things became clear: He has never been married and has no kids. That was troubling. A person who has never been married might have difficulty with intimacy and relationships and is more likely to be looking for a fling. I want someone who can identify with my experience and be able to understand what it’s like to have lost someone after a long, rich life together.
Then he asked me how tall I am, and I told him. “Is that a problem?”
A therapist explained that violent traumas can make all your inner emotions flare. All your conflicts, even those years old and long buried. And so I confessed it all. All my struggles. And this time, with the therapist’s help, I recognized that I was a woman.
“Well, you can wear high heels,” he said in a voice that conveyed this would turn him on.
“I don’t wear high heels anymore,” I responded, good-naturedly. “They’re too uncomfortable.”
We amicably wished each other good luck.
Later, I reviewed my profile pictures. They are good, clear photos, but I realize there are no photos of me all dolled up. I haven’t needed to dress up for anything “fancy” since my mother’s memorial service four years ago. Is this another ding against my desirability? I imagine other 60-plus-year-old women whose profile pictures sport slinky red cocktail dresses at the Hollywood black-tie charity events they probably attend regularly, showing off their long legs, their nicely manicured fingernails wrapped around martini glasses, with lots of inner cleavage bursting forth.
I am never going to be that woman, I decide.
I had a pretty good track record of rejecting norms and traditions. That included marriage. Yet I suddenly found myself articulating all the reasons people marry — and believing what I was saying.
And maybe that’s the lesson here. I don’t need to be that woman or belong to that club. Instead I have to feel good about the club I am in and appeal to those who want to belong to mine. My pictures are perfect, just the way they are.
Perhaps it’s time to raise my standards and look for the exceptional man who understands that.
After all, if I had died first and my husband were on a quest to find new love, I know he would seek someone with whom he could have intelligent and meaningful conversations, who spoke from her heart and loved to laugh, who was forthright and adventuresome. And if she had a passion for sailing, all the better.
But he would never, ever mention high heels.
The author is a writer and psychotherapist in private practice in Burbank. Her website is mcarrmft.com
L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here.
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