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Putting myself out there

I understood why my daughter staged an intervention. Maddie encouraged me to start dating even though her father, my husband, was living in a memory care facility. She came to this suggestion navigating the treacherous path of my unraveling. She watched me become increasingly unmoored, lost in a melange of inappropriate responses that usually involved unsolicited advice or judgemental observations. I was overly involved, not just in her business, but in everyone’s business.

I took her suggestion seriously but felt uncomfortable with the idea. I didn’t believe there was anything morally dubious in finding a companion with whom I could share my interests and my days, but I was worried about how it would look from the outside. We humans are quick to judge. I didn’t want appraisals of my actions to hurt anyone. “Do no harm” is a mantra that guides me.

Am I making you uncomfortable?

How would I go about meeting people or vetting a potential companion? The most popular ways of meeting new friends are through work or school or referrals through mutual friends. I wasn’t working, so that wasn’t an option. I wasn’t in school or taking a class. The handful of classes I’ve taken through community organizations have been populated by legions of women. Rarely has there been a consortium of men in attendance. I didn’t want to put my friends in the awkward position of having to voice their discomfort with what I was doing. That left me with dating apps. But aren’t they a bit unseemly? 

A few of my friends had been dating through one of the better-known apps. I asked them what they thought. Their experience was a mixed bag, one they’d picked up in fits and starts. They’d have some luck, then hit a snag, kiss a toad, then quit the app for a while. They’d re-up when they had sufficient distance to forget a hurtful encounter or get over the embarrassment of an unreciprocated advance.

Just start for god’s sake!

OK, I could do this. I just needed some photos and a profile that shared a bit about myself.

OMG. It is impossible to take pictures of yourself when you’re 61 years old and have those photos look anything like the person you see in the mirror every day. You’ll be much heavier for one, your nose won’t be captured at the angle you’ve perfected at your bathroom vanity, and you’ll be backward (the mirror effect). Selfies will find you looking at some object in the distance with either a leer or an expression of excessive enthusiasm that doesn’t match your interior state. (Perhaps that’s a good thing?) So that’s a problem.

Maybe you’re not a nice person

Writing my profile uncovered a welter of musts and very little ease. Must be able to walk 3-4 miles per day. Must not drink. Must not talk about national news incessantly. (I find it horrifying…must limit my exposure to protect my mental health.) Must believe in science. (OK, that one was non-negotiable…it stayed in.) I wrote and iterated and wrote and lamented.

After ten drafts I realized that my profile did nothing to describe me. It was a chart of acceptable characteristics of an ideal companion. It was an open call for my husband. Wow. Beyond my heartfelt callout to the past, my profile communicated very clearly that I was unforgiving, demanding, and unhappy. Yeah, no “likes” on the horizon for me.

But how do you describe a personality you’ve only known as a reflection in your husband’s eyes? To a great degree, we become the person our closest people see. Robert’s gaze was the feedback loop that defined me. And I didn’t like who I saw. Who am I when stripped of that echo? I had no idea. This realization was profound for me. I’d become strident, angry, and anxious in the years I cared for Robert at home. How could I reclaim a kinder, gentler me for an honest portrait?  

Or perhaps that’s beside the point. Maybe our dating app profiles are meant to be aspirational. I would be this great person…if only. 

In the end, instead of cracking the code of Sharon, I just shared the activities that brought me joy. In time, I hoped to emerge.

We’ll see.

2 thoughts on “Putting myself out there”

  1. Hi Sharon:
    I’m glad your looking to date. I understand our photos don’t justify what we really look like. We’re much better looking😊. I hope you find someone who appreciates you ! Good luck❤️

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