Aug 12, 2010

On the circle of Hell known as dating after 40.

To paraphrase a puppet childhood hero, it’s easy being GenX. We are a laid-back group, caught between the sheer numbers of the Boomers and the sheer bravado of the Millennials. Our numbers were never large enough to drive sociological changes, so aside from some overachieving exceptions, we're mostly just cruising along, taking in life's scenery and settling comfortably into our middle years. (Half of us, anyway. I find it hilarious--if “hilarious” also means “maddeningly ludicrous”--that women tend to get their emotional ducks in a row at pretty much the exact point in time men lose all track of theirs.)

 As for the women of GenX, we were raised to believe that we could do anything, be anything, as long as we got there under our own steam, without needing to rely on a man to power our trip. Well, it worked. We believed it. We did it. And promptly scared off our male counterparts (who were apparently never given a copy of the fine print on our self-reliance manifesto) in the process.

We are the daughters of the feminist movement, taught from an early age that nothing can stop us, that we can rise as high and achieve as much as any man. And in some ways that's true, we have taken great strides, stepping over traditional gender roles and going after and getting exactly what we want. But part of being powerful is knowing when to take the back seat, look at life from another perspective. Because the thing is, in a relationship there is no CEO, it's a delicate dance of push and pull, of back and up and down. But we endure because at the end of the day we don't want to go it alone. And when we find someone, a partner, we compromise, loving everything we can, and putting blinders onto everything else, because love isn't perfect, but it's the really great and perfect love that keeps us evolving, happy, and in the end...isn't that what life is all about?
-- Men in Trees, “Taking the Lead,” 2006

I realize, of course, that if it gets out, the treatise I’m posting could effectively end my haphazard dating career, but I find that's a risk I'm willing to take. I can no longer sit idle and silent while another amazing, emotionally intelligent, grown-ass woman is patted on the head and told that the reason she’s unpartnered at this age is because she’s just too picky.

People, I'm here to tell you that is officially an Untruth.

Below is a list of empirical generalizations based entirely on an anonymous mash-up of my own dating experiences and those of my numerous single female friends. (So if one of our prodigal dates happens to find this and start thinking libelous thoughts, don’t. You’re simply one among many, many, many.) And y'all tell me...if it were you rowing along in this slipshod, leaky boat called Dating After 40, with which of the following candidates would you choose to go over the falls?

The Bitter & The Divorced: News flash: we are not your ex-wife. Just like we don’t want to mother your children (they exist, so we’re pretty sure they’ve already got one), neither do we want to be a proximity-based repository for your failed marital residue. Just because it’s sticking to the bottom of your psychic shoe does not mean we want to see it all over our clean floors.

The Kindergartner with a Salary: If you’re over 40 and have never been in a long-term relationship, we’re happy to use you for sex but don’t think for one self-congratulatory minute that we’ve ever considered plumbing your non-existent depths. Our wicked smart mommas taught us to recognize All Hat & No Cattle long before you rode off into your very first solipsistic sunset.

The Wolf in Husbandly Clothing: You’re so busy saying everything you think we want to hear (in our pathetically marriage-starved state, natch) that you’ve failed to notice we stopped listening to your enormous pile of practiced horseshit somewhere around “...with a white picket fence and two Golden Retrievers.” Dude, sometimes we just need to get laid, too...why not try asking first and saving us both some effort?

The Genuinely Nice Guy: You’re out there. Trust us, we know this. We enjoy spending time with you. We just really, really wish we could be attracted to you.

The Throwback: When you appear out of our past, spouting compliments, we’ll admit it--our inner teen drama queen is flattered. While using us to abate whatever angsty drama has been percolating in your head for x years, you should probably know that--shock!--those pesky “what-ifs” weren’t yours alone. Aaaand...scene. We’re living in the now, too.

The Mover & Shaker: Yes, yes, we get it -- you’re a self-made, one-man wonder who is never, ever sick at sea. Or so you keep telling us and anyone else within earshot. ::yawn:: Guess what? We’re pretty awesome, too, and are definitely not content to just trail along in your bombastic wake. (Though we do enjoy the giggles induced by replaying your “Well done, Me!” soliloquies for our girlfriends.)

The Mama’s Boy: Quick test: does your mother still buy your underwear? If the answer is ‘yes,’ you have no business whatsoever wading in our dating pool. ::car horn:: Also, your ride’s here. Run along now.

There you have it. And it’s by no means an exhaustive list, merely a tiny sampling from me and my subset of optimistically single friends who want to believe that the right one is out there somewhere, compiling his own list of dates-gone-awry and wondering where in the hell we’re hiding, too.

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