Looking for Love
Now that I find myself newly single at fifty, and just last night had a particularly wistful dream about James Franco (hey, aim high in your dream life says I!) it occurs to me that sooner or later I am going to have to start dating again. If the mere sight of that word sends a shiver down your spine, you are not alone, whether you are alone or not. Dating is so scary nowadays, most people have turned the selection process over to computer programs and conduct much of their initial acquaintance through communication means that do not require being anywhere near their prospective mate. First HIV made us afraid to touch each other, now we can’t even be in a room together. When did courtship become such a hands-off affair?
Slice of Life
It will come as no big surprise that I am more about falling in love than falling in line when it comes to current dating trends. I like my love the way I like the pizza slice you crave when you have a hangover – hot, messy, indescribably delicious and if you don’t feel simultaneously pleased and just a little disgusted with yourself there’s something wrong. Before my last relationship I made the rounds of online dating sites. There were a lot of men lurking behind their profiles perfectly content never to emerge in person. I understand a certain degree of caution in “taking it to the next level” of meeting face to face, but there really is no better way to know whether you will actually get along with each other. Some things that work on paper – or screens – do not work in person. After all, if you end up living with this person, you will sooner or later have to have a conversation or sit next to each other. If you are only good together as pen pals or text buddies, so you should remain.
Falling in Love
Of course, my “jump into the deep end of the pool to learn to swim” approach may make short work of a bad match, but, much like the metaphoric jump, can lead to a physical and emotional distress that feels like a near-death experience until you arrive at the other side, grab something that holds you up, and get out of the pool to catch your breath and then try again. Between the jumping and the arriving there may be a lot of drama, but all in all, it is a lot better than staring longingly into the water. And after a few tries, the drama decreases, and you can actually enjoy yourself a little before the sensation of drowning resumes.
On the Edge of Glory
So the question is, now that I have almost drowned countless times – promise to end this swimming metaphor soon - why would I want to have anything to do with this goddamned pool again? In real life, and in metaphor, I am what is known as a poor swimmer. I get where I need to go, but it is rarely smooth, definitely not pretty, and never lasts very long. And yet, in life and in metaphor, I love the water. I love being in love. The scariness is part of the thrill you can only get in a high risk activity, and all you can break is your heart, which, I can attest, heals faster than a broken bone.
Goodbye, Little P
As most of you know, in a week I am moving house. As I have not lived without some sort of companion animal for the past three decades, and will be saying goodbye to Little P, my feline friend of four years, along with her human father, one of my first acts as a newly installed single woman will be to go to the animal shelter and adopt a new kitty. I have already visited the Rutland County Humane Society once and the next time I visit I intend not to leave alone. While I was there I fell in love - more than once. There is at least one cat still there (I check the online listings regularly), thoughts of whom are almost as wistful as my dream of James Franco, if not more. I look at his photograph and a range of emotions rise up in me and my chest literally feels heavy and tight. I think – could I be looking at a living being who will be part of my life for the next dozen years? Is this the face that will be the first I wake up to every day and the last I see when I go to bed at night? Will he be everything he seemed to be or will he turn out to be an asshole? Strangely, for so many animal lovers, with our animal relationships we feel we can’t just break up at the first sign of trouble and move on. We are far more likely to dissolve a human relationship than give up on an animal. With cats you have to get it right, or make it right. Fortunately, they are way smarter than we are choosing their humans.
So it seems my first dating experience, from online acquaintance, to in person meeting, to that leap of faith that allows another being to be part of my life, will be with a cat. Which seems fitting, as the longest cohabiting relationship I have ever had was 14 years, with my cat Marlowe, who proved to be all the wonderful things he seemed to be, was my best friend in good times and bad, and was also a bit of an asshole. But once I have my new feline friend by my side, I will take a deep breath and return to my quest for human companionship. He will make my heart feel a little heavy and tight just thinking about him. His kisses will be indescribably delicious. And of course, he must love cats.