Heroes come in all circumstances and ages. The prophet tells us, “Your old will have visions; your young will dream dreams.” Elderly women in a retirement community in Mill Valley protested the war in Iraq on a busy thoroughfare with placards every Friday for years. A man I know of 22, halfway to a medical degree, is pursuing ballet dreams in New York City. Some people my age — extreme middle-age — train for marathons, or paddle down the Amazon, skydive, or adopt. They publish for the first time.
Me? I may have done the most heroic thing of all. I went on Match.com for a year.
The thing was, I had just done something brave, which was to write a memoir with my son, tour the East Coast together, and appear on stages before hundreds of people at a time. But one dream coming true doesn’t mean you give up on other lifelong dreams. You’re not dream-greedy to want, say, a cool career and a mate. And having realized this one long-shot dream with my grown child gave me the confidence to try something even harder: to date.
I recoil even from the word “date,” let alone the concept of possibly beginning a romantic relationship. Those woods are so spooky. I have an almost perfect life, even though I’ve been single since my last long-term boyfriend and I broke up four years ago. I really do, insofar as that is possible in this vale of tears — a cherished family, a grandchild, church, career, sobriety, two dogs, daily hikes, naps, perfect friends. But sometimes I am lonely for a partner, a soul mate, a husband.
I had loved the sleeping alone part. I rarely missed sex: I had tiny boundary issues in all those years of drinking, and by my early 20s I had used up my lifelong allotment. I over-served myself. I do love what Wodehouse called the old oompus-boompus when it happens to be in progress, but wouldn’t go out of my way. Additionally, I have spent approximately 1,736 hours of this one precious life waiting for the man to finish, and pretending that felt good. And I want a refund.
What I missed was checking in all day with my person, daydreaming about him, and watching TV together at night. There, I’ve said it: I wanted someone to text all day, and watch TV with.
I am skittish about relationships, as most of the marriages I’ve seen up close have been ruinous for one or both parties. In four-fifths of them, the men want to have sex way more often than the women do. I would say almost none of the women would care if they ever got laid again, even when they are in good marriages. They do it because the man wants to. They do it because it makes the men like them more, and feel close for a while, but mostly women love it because they get to check it off their to-do lists. It means they get a pass for a week or two, or a month.
It is not on the women’s bucket lists. I’m sorry to have to tell you this.
Also, 91 percent of men snore loudly – badly, like very sick bears. I would say that CPAP machines are the greatest advance in marital joy since the vibrator. It transforms an experience similar to sleeping next to a dying silverback gorilla into sleeping next to an aquarium.