Dating at 50
I saw him first in the local library, sitting at the computer, intensely focused on the screen. Perhaps that was what I liked the most about him, his intensity, the focus of his gaze. Or it could have been his wonderfully long hair, now graying and held back in a 60’s style ponytail, and the way he sat in a chair–taking full command of it.
I didn’t even know his name at first but we seemed to share a certain common something. Over time we got to talking, and after about a year of circling each other finally got around to exchanging email addresses. All this was done at the library, and I never saw him around town.
I thought a date together would be the logical next step but given my track record I wondered what could possibly go wrong. After all, my last 5 internet dates had been with
-an utterly manic prosecutor, who spoke so fast he was almost incoherent
-an art dealer who sprayed spit so badly when he talked I had to sit sideways
-a doctor whose nose snot continually ran into his mouth while he was eating and it was all I could do not to throw up
-an esteemed department head at a university who gleefully confessed to an obsession with young girls in Brazil, a country he tried to visit as frequently as possible…
and I won’t even mention the farter.
So when this sexy man I had slipped into this odd dalliance with told me his name was Tom, but spelled with an h…er, what? I began to worry. That’s Thom, which rhymes with Bomb, so I knew fate was trying to tell me something–I mean, who had a name like Thom? Maybe Thom Thumb. I began giggling hysterically, prompting the homely librarian of uncertain middle age to frown and shush me loudly. I glared at her and she glared back.
It was a Saturday night and the library was packed. Thom and I were both sitting in the computer room emailing each other as usual, in lieu of a conversation. Sometimes we were right next to one another, other times we couldn’t even see each other. But we both understood that these Saturday nights were ‘our time together.’
One Saturday I finally wrote: “Why don’t we go do something next Saturday instead of emailing?” And he responded:“OK. We can go play some pool. It’s near my house and I can walk home.”
So we had a date at last. Of course we had both forgotten it was New Year’s Eve.
As I pulled into the parking lot I could see he was inside, already practicing shooting, and my stomach began to get queasy. I took a gas pill, just in case, since the last thing I wanted was to bend over the pool table to take a shot and have the trumpets sound.
I went inside and Thom was very relaxed and said hi as casually as if we did this all the time. I looked around the room, checking the pool table lighting–overhead is the kiss of death at our age: double bags and chins where there were none–but there was nothing to be done about it. I was resigned to looking about 90 and suddenly felt very discouraged.
We’d decided to play 8-ball and as he racked and went to take the first break he bent over and I took a good look at his hair. Did it conceal the Donald Trump affect, I wondered? The lighting made the bags under his eyes big enough to put my groceries in and I worried that I probably looked just as bad. I asked to borrow his glasses for a minute to read the rates of the hall but couldn’t see a thing–they were the glasses of a blind man!
The veil of virility was falling away fast.
We were each a game up and by the third rack I’d drunk too much Pepsi. As I walked away to the bathroom I knew he was watching me. Was my ass, once a splendid specimen, THAT big now, I wondered? When I got into the bathroom I saw that some of my spray-on hair dye had started to run, just a little bit, and had I been playing the third rack it would have been a total disaster.
As I came back to the table and was about to shoot the break Thom said, “Wow, that was fast. When my wife goes in there it feels like she’s gone for an hour!” and so I scratched. Now I never scratch–I shot pool in college–but I was in shock. What a fucker! I tried to act like it was no big deal but I’m sure my pain showed. Expectations are the worst…
Needless to say, he won that game and we called it a night politely mumbling kind lies about the parties we both had to get to before midnight. I waved to him from the parking lot and drove home woodenly, suddenly feeling very foolish for making an effort at all. Who was I kidding? My dating years were over.
I got into my pajamas and turned on the computer and went to my email files and found Thom’s. The screen asked,“Do you want to send “Thom” to the recycle bin? And I thought, YES!!!, and it was satisfying to press the button and watch his email file vanish. It was clear my New Year’s resolution would be no more dates. NEVER! I had a lifetime of British murder mysteries waiting, some great potato chips and dip, and a cold beer. My Saturday nights wouldn’t be lonely again.
I was finally free. Even the thought of menopause, hot flashes, saggy boobs and no more sex didn’t bother me now.
I loosened my jammies and farted. What the hell.
Karen Petersen has traveled the world extensively, publishing both nationally and internationally in a variety of publications. Most recently, her poems and short stories have been published in The Manzano Mountain Review in the USA, The Bosphorus Review in Istanbul, Antiphon in the UK, The Wild Word in Berlin, and A New Ulster in Northern Ireland. New work will be appearing in the Saranac Review in the USA and Idiom 23 in Australia. In 2015, she read “In Memory of W.B. Yeats” at the Yeats Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the KGB Bar in NYC. Her poems have been translated into Persian and Spanish. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Classics from Vassar College and an M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She teaches English Composition at NNMC.