I recently read a Mark Twain quote that said something to the effect of, “It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” It would appear that I am living proof of that adage.
It has been a long few months since I last posted anything to this space. It has taken me a while to decide if and what to write. I want to be honest in reporting my experiences, while still being sensitive to the feelings of others in the process. Hopefully I have accomplished both in what you are about to read.
The path I’ve traveled since leaving my home and deciding to end my marriage has been circuitous and interesting. Going from living with calm security and absolute certainty that every new day would be like the one before, to not having a clue as to where, how, or with whom I might be living has taught me a lot. My level of patience for the process rather than rushing to the end result has increased (though not as much as I’d like), as has my gratitude for things I might have previously assumed would always exist and no longer do, like my house, my lifestyle, most of my stuff and of course my marriage.
Still, in spite of hearing from many people that the grass was not greener and that there were a lot more toads than princes out there, I maintained the thought that my life was going to head in a relatively smooth direction, and ultimately be a happy one. After all, it wasn’t necessarily the wish to be with a different man that brought my marriage to an end; it was that I wanted the opportunity to be fully myself, something I had not previously been able to accomplish, a state for which I took and continue to retain full responsibility.
My fate may have been to remain a single woman and I was willing to be in that space, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t interested in exploring the eventuality of life with a new partner. In the interest of that possibility I tentatively signed up for a thirty-day trial on a dating site for people over fifty. My reasoning was that it might be prudent to experiment with dipping a non-committal toe into the dating pool. Before doing so I made a list of characteristics I wanted in my new partner, as well as those I most definitely did not want. I tried to get as specific as possible to try and ward off Fate’s fickle sense of humor. I filled out my profile and listed my interests, talents and what I hoped to find in a relationship. Almost immediately I was inundated with messages and requests for meetings, or at least more information. What I quickly realized was that most of my potential suitors hadn’t made it much past my photos because if they had, they’d certainly have noticed that men who were five foot five inches or shorter, smokers, deeply religious, politically ultra conservative, over seventy or lived in Montana, Kansas, Ohio or South Dakota were not exactly on my list of must haves.
On a side note guys, and let me just preface this by saying I do not, by any stretch of the imagination consider myself God’s own gift, but if you’re considering joining one of these sites, do yourself a favor and get a buddy or maybe even your sister to possibly proofread or edit your writing, dress you in something other than that wife beater and boxers, comb your hair, take a decent photo of you, and talk you out of positing that bathroom selfie. The lighting in there isn’t doing you any favors and you’ll end up looking more like a serial killer than anybody’s idea of a dream date. Also, photos of you with other women, or those taken twenty or more years previous aren’t your best bet either, just saying.
But I digress…
After about a week of this terrifying experiment I was ready to hit the convent, so overwhelming was the lack of dating opportunity. I did have one gentleman ask to meet me for a drink, which I reluctantly agreed to. He seemed ok, but I just got a weird vibe from him. Three days before our appointed meeting I got cold feet, apologized profusely and politely canceled the meeting. He kinda freaked out and said some not so pleasant things, only serving to confirm my hunch that he was not going to be a good choice. After that and a few other overwhelmingly not so fabulous people insisting that I meet them, or chastising me for daring to post what I actually desired in a partner, because you know, who the hell am I to ask for what I want, I decided to pull the plug on the site. Again, I’m not claiming to be the answer to everyone’s prayers either, but I knew who I was and what I wanted and these guys were not ticking any of my boxes.
Interestingly enough it turned out to be a whole lot easier to join than quit. As in, every time I went to the site to see if they had complied with my request to be dropped, it automatically signed me back up again. About the sixth time I’d gone through this insane and massively frustrating ritual, I happened to notice a message from a new man. It was pleasant and not creepy, so, out of curiosity I clicked over to his profile. There I found a funny, well written and maybe just a tad snarky diatribe on the travails of Internet dating. Further investigation uncovered photos of a very nice looking man my exact age who was of requisite height, intelligence, fitness and apparent fiscal responsibility. Sadly, a reality check quickly ensued in the form of his location, Las Vegas, Nevada. Well, crap. If you listed a thousand places I might NEVER consider moving to, much less visiting for more than a long weekend, Las Vegas would be at or near the top.
On a whim I wrote back mentioning that I found him intriguing but considered the geographical challenge greater than I was willing to undertake. He responded (almost immediately) that one of my listed interests was travel and what the hell, for all I knew he might just be the man of my dreams, or something equally cocky and amusing. His retort made me laugh and began a flurry of back and forth exchanges all of which further piqued my interest.
Eventually the written communication led to phone conversations that were most entertaining. In spite of some small political, philosophical and spiritual differences (and those were mostly semantic in nature), there was an undeniable and burgeoning mutual interest. Now what?
Already hatching was my plan to head west to our house in Utah in order to have a place to call my own for a while. I wasn’t relishing the idea of starting over in a rented place, buying a house was definitely not on my radar, and as much as I appreciated the offers from various friends to host me till I figured out my next move, I really wanted to unpack for a while and spread out. As the plan grew to fruition I started to consider the relative proximity of Las Vegas to Salt Lake City.
I made a plane reservation for Salt Lake City to leave after Thanksgiving. In the mean time it became clear to me that in spite of being somewhat hopeful that my marriage might be able to continue, that was no longer a viable option for me. Plan A had been to decamp to Utah till February and by then I certainly would have decided one way or the other about my future. As it happened, a combination of factors told me that my decision had arrived much sooner than February. After a few visits with my therapist it was decided not to put off communicating that I had come to a conclusion. I asked to meet with my soon to be ex for the purpose of telling him goodbye. We shared a very cordial conversation and yes, a few tears. After that it seemed silly and awkward to wait till after Thanksgiving to head west.
In the mean time, Mr. Las Vegas and I continued to write each other. He had been divorced for a while and could certainly relate to the alternatively exhilarating and dark mindsets I was now finding myself alternating between. Letters eventually led to phone calls that were equally enlightening and entertaining. Everything in my head was screaming at me to stop, that it was too soon, that I wasn’t out of one situation, how could I possibly even consider hopping into a new one? But then there was this: I’m not eighteen, or twenty-eight, or any other the other eights, I’m fifty-eight, and realistically, how many more opportunities were out there waiting for me? What if this guy were the real deal? Or as just likely, what if he weren’t? What was I going to lose either way? If it went well, I’d be happy and in a positive and uplifting relationship. If it went badly, I might be embarrassed or lose some dignity points, but really, no harm, no foul.
It was with these thoughts that I altered my destination; no more Salt Lake City, I was now heading to Las Vegas. I committed to going there for three days; then it was on to Utah. I would stay in a hotel, this man and I would meet, and if there was mutual interest, great. If not, fine, we’d part as friends. Besides, either way, how bad could three days in Las Vegas be? I had only visited once before, for a mere 36 hours, and had barely scratched the surface of the place.
OK, here’s where the hard stuff starts. No, I could not exactly gather my friends and family members and share my new plans. I had no idea how things would turn out, and it had not occurred to me that there was even a possibility that I might stay longer than the agreed upon three days, but knew that either way, my marriage was over and I wasn’t going to be in Florida for a while. I told myself that the rest of the details didn’t matter. Also, I justified my position to myself, thinking that I was practically, if not legally single and it was no one’s business where I went or with whom. Yes, I didn’t actually know this man, nor had I ever physically met him, but I did some Internet research and determined he was who he claimed to be, and yes, I did confide in a friend so just in case things got weird, someone would know where and with whom I was.
Off I flew with some trepidation and much excitement. I would never claim that this was the best possible plan for me or for anyone else, for any number of obvious reasons, but I did it. Ultimately this decision confused and hurt some people and for that I am truly sorry. Was it selfish? Absolutely. Was it rash? Of course it was. Did it turn out to be worth it? Well, I guess you’ll have to stay tuned to find out, that is if you don’t already know the answer…