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Dating at 61 is like a scavenger hunt

Dating at 61 is like a scavenger hunt
For the record, I don’t wholeheartedly believe in psychics. (But I’d like to.) (Barbara Kosoff / For The Times)

I burst out of the chute of a bad 15-year relationship and raced forward into dating as if in a sprint. It was a race against time; I wasn’t 30 anymore. I aspired to make up for lost time spent being so unhappy. So I set out to find him. I believed that I would.

Fantasies of how we would meet and the courtship accompanied me on my drive to work and were replayed daily over and over, like a favorite movie. I starred in and directed my own epic love story and would mentally edit scenes as I traversed Coldwater Canyon and Los Angeles traffic. At times, I was moved to tears by my imaginative work, so beautifully was it scripted and calculated to have a happy ending, in all ways.

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A psychic at the Santa Monica Pier had told me his name would be Don. (I didn’t know anyone named Don, other than a cousin. But that didn’t count, right?) I conjured up Don as a successful architect who owned his own business. Together we would explore Hollywood’s hidden staircases and lunch at Hugo’s Tacos in Studio City, a perfect Sunday outing.

For the record, I don’t wholeheartedly believe in psychics. (But I’d like to.)

Since I knew that Don was a far-fetched figment on my astral plane, I settled for men whose lives intersected mine less ethereally.

I had a litany of serious relationships.

None of these men was named Don.

Another psychic read my palm and said, “They don’t want you to know. It’s going to be a long, long time before you meet him.” The “they” she referred to were her angel guides.

I wasn’t sure if her celestial informants meant I had to wait years in this lifetime or until the next one.

Today, for me, at 61, the ocean of possible candidates has receded to pond proportions and is stocked with hopeful straggler fish. Not so when I was fresh bait. When I was younger, the lines at Trader Joe’s or Ralphs were dating sites. Now they are simply where I wait to pay while ensuring I have enough containers of Halo Top ice cream in my cart for the week’s Netflix binge.

I was that woman who could meet a man on a flight, at a wedding, hiking Fryman, on vacations or even while crossing Westwood Boulevard. Have I really run out of happenstance?

The universe had me on a scavenger hunt.

Certainty that he exists has been replaced by certainty that he doesn’t. Great hope plummets into abysmal hopelessness.

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Still, I arrive early at yoga to stake my spot on the studio floor and look for him. (I am one of those quiet yet territorial L.A. workout people. That’s my place. You can put your mat over there.) I also search for a Possible Don warming up for sculpt class or Hot Power Fusion.

Married and single friends advise, “Go to places that are of interest to you; that’s where you’ll find someone who shares commonalities.” This makes sense. But so far, it hasn’t worked. I’ve been to UCLA Extension writing classes — but met only other women. So no luck there. I’ve hung at the Encino dog park — and so far have met only couples, or halves of couples. With my pug still in tow, I’ve met plenty of kids and parents at my local bookstore, but no Don.

Still, I am hopeful that everywhere I go everyone I meet might be a lead or clue pointing me to the right person.

I was seated in Cafe Aroma on Tujunga recently, a spot where fellow writers and movie industry types hang out. I was waiting for my Bumble date to arrive when a wiry, silver-haired man sporting red tennis shoes went bouncing by — reminding me of Tigger from “Winnie-the-Pooh.” Grinning, he paused in front of me. We exchanged pleasantries charged with electricity.

Then he went on his way.

Moments later he bounced back, this time with tea in hand, tossing more smiles in my direction before returning to his table in the back. From time to time, I glanced over at him; there was just something about him. Meanwhile, my Bumble date, who looked like George Harrison, warbled on about social injustices, his counterculture lifestyle and therapeutic drumming. When the drummer and I had had enough of each other, we got up from our table and passed the man with springs in his step, sipping tea at his table. I couldn’t help myself. “You look familiar,” I said.

“I’m an actor, maybe you recognize me.”

“It’s not that,” I said. “You look just like my cousin Don.”

“That’s so weird,” he replied. “My name is Don!”

My feeble hope that this might be the Right Don peeked out from under its blanket of doubt. Had serendipity decided to come out of retirement?

I welcomed the cosmic intervention.

Don and I ended up exchanging phone numbers that day. (As the three of us continued chatting, I learned he was a writer too, with many screenplays under his belt, and I told him I was working on a novel.)

Now we text daily. We meet for tea. I’ll see him again next week. What if he is the end of my search? Oddly enough, I am not attached to an outcome. It’s OK if he isn’t the treasure at the end of the hunt.

But I’ll stay open to the possibility that he could be.

And that, at 61, serendipity still exists.

The author is a retired educator and small-business owner.

Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary: L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles — and we want to hear your story. You must allow your name to be published, and the story you tell has to be true. We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

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