As Valentine’s Day approaches, little nuggets of imagined happiness keep creeping into my mind like items from Cupid’s Pinterest Page: a man who brings me coffee in bed with a good morning kiss. A man who puts my feet in his lap and massages warmth into them as we listen to Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. A man who is strong enough to lift my 95-pound dog into the bathtub — a process that takes me 25 minutes. A man who cooks me dinner (or breakfast).
I’d be delighted to find a man who is fluent in any of the five love languages: words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time, and physical affection — as described in the popular book by Gary Chapman. (Even my dog speaks three.) It wouldn’t break my heart to find a man who’d willingly shovel my sidewalk and brush the snow off my car, two of a Montanan’s basic life skills. And I still have dreams of finding a man who looks like he’s won the lottery when I’m all dressed up — but who is still there with me when my nose is red and dripping, and I’m hacking like a three-pack-a-day smoker. I’d love to find a man who isn’t afraid to love me.
But first, in order for any of my fantasies to come true, I have to put myself out there. Standing too long at the edge of the river of life can leave a person with mosquito bites and stiff joints. I’d prefer to go dancing — where maybe my natural clumsiness will lead me to literally run into someone, say, about 6-2, with eyes of blue, and shoulders the width of a bale of hay. And, of course, a heart of gold. Cue the mandolins!
Long before the internet was a distant glimmer on the horizon, it seemed that there were plenty of unattached, attractive people with minimal baggage who were willing to go out on a limb and “see what happens.”
Divorced in 2016 after a long marriage, I stepped optimistically into online dating. But as part of my effort to move on, or maybe to avoid painful memories, I moved to Northwest Montana. Here, it seems, all the men who find my profile attractive tend to collect assault weapons and anger management issues. They’re also older and less physically fit than their profiles would suggest — but still confident enough to comment on the extra 10 pounds I’m carrying. (My Canadian friends shrugs and says it’s a winter survival adaptation and not to worry.)
My failure to find a single grain of wheat among the Rocky Mountain chaff is a worrying outcome, considering that it’s increasingly common, at least in the United States, to meet your future spouse online. But, in my humble experience, at least in my neck of the woods, and my 50-to-60 age bracket, the good, actually legally single guys are not online. So where are they?
Long before the internet was a distant glimmer on the horizon, it seemed that there were plenty of unattached, attractive people with minimal baggage who were willing to go out on a limb and “see what happens.” This got me thinking: How did people meet before online dating? A quick survey of friends, ages 25 to 65, yielded a wonderful variety of encouraging, technology-free love stories:
“I met my husband at a Christmas party. He was super kind to his drunk friends, even taking keys and giving people rides home. A couple months later we’d become friends, and then, one day, he said, ‘We should go on one date.’ On the first date we were both like ‘God! We’re totally getting married,’ and 10 months later we were.”
“We worked together at a local nonprofit office. We hid funny little drawings in each other’s desks every day to combat the monotony. Finding each other was the best thing to come out of that job, for both of us — and years later, we’re still each other’s best friends.”
“I was having drinks at a sushi bar with my girlfriends, when the bartender told us that a cute guy sitting at the bar had bought us a round of drinks. We chatted, and at the end of the night, he asked me out. I said no, because I was opening a retail clothing shop the next day and was going to be super busy for a while. But I gave him a business card. The next morning, as I slid my key into the lock, I noticed that both of the formerly bare window boxes were filled to the brim with colorful annuals. Tucked into a Martha Washington geranium was a business card for his commercial landscaping company. It was such a thoughtful thing to do.”
“I was 16 and on vacation with my parents. At our hotel, I met a cute boy at the pool. We corresponded for a few months, but then, I started dating someone locally. Twenty-five years, two children, and one divorce later, I was going through some old letters and stumbled across his contact information. I started wondering whatever happened to that cute boy I’d had such a crush on. On a whim, I called his old phone number, and he answered. We spent the rest of the night talking — and every night after. A few weeks later, we were engaged.”
“I was fixed up by my mom. One day she brought home a man she worked with. He was really cute and about the right age, and after dinner, he asked for my number. After we were married, I asked my mom, who was also my best friend, why she’d invited him to dinner out of the blue like that. She said, ‘I just had a feeling that you two belong together.’”
“I’ve always been shy. So following the advice of pretty much everyone who knows me, I walked up to a cute girl I’d said ‘hello’ to a few times. We were both summer interns at a national park. Thinking it was now or never, I got up my courage and asked if she’d like to go for a hike with me sometime. She said yes. Now I can’t imagine my life without her.”
What do these stories have in common? An element of chance, an element of risk, and something else. Maybe magic? But there is no sense of striving — of trying to make something happen. I believe that it will happen when it’s meant to happen, and with whom it’s meant to happen, or not at all. But let’s just say, I’m open to a little magic.
Cupid, if you’re listening, that’s a hint.
Wendy Cohan is a fresh new voice for women over 50. She has written for The Fine Line, Goalcast, Prime Women, and Purple Clover. Follow her on Facebook.