IMHOT4U: 63 year old slightly overweight, balding unemployed man who goes to the gym twice weekly, drinks moderately (translation – several sixers a day) seeks slender, fit and toned woman 40-49 who earns over 100K/year, has no children, is beautiful with sweet breath first thing in the morning, and is ready to devote her life to a relationship filled with little pills of various colors, hard work and future alimony.  If they only told the truth – this would be IMHOT4U’s real profile.

So I sound a teensy bit bitter….but I am a single woman in my middle fifties, more Rubenesque than slender but underneath the menopausal Ruben remnants is a fit person and don’t you know that I did martial arts in my 40’s, play tennis when my shoulders aren’t frozen and if I had time like kept women I could go to the gym and be fit and slender. It begins – My mind starts to vigorously defend my curves.

I boomerang from that dark place in my head to shades of Helen Reddy – “I am woman, hear me roar”. I am a reluctant “member” of Match.com. In this more self actualized place, my inclination is to walk away from the future possibility of bliss-filled mornings, sunset walks on the beach, candlelight dinners. Leave the world of online introductions and try it the old fashioned way. The bar scene doesn’t work – I don’t drink. I work long and intense hours and when I get home, the last thing I want to do is go be a prop anywhere. Church gets interesting – they are all married or really messed up and their ex spouses are in your bible study – how totally awesome is that?

It appears that the world of online dating has found yet another reluctant subscriber. Its a world of deception where there are men who say they are 57 – if they are 57, I am a slim 35. There are men who take photos of themselves in hot tubs or the swarthy shirtless shots (ewe), and others where they resemble a serial killer or an FBI wanted poster. I become alternately discouraged and terrified. In a vain attempt to take the high road, I honestly say I am 55, I am average rather than slender, I use real photos of me with and without makeup, I don’t drink and won’t join you on wine country trips….I get absolutely no response except from the shirtless 75 year olds resembling Charles Manson.

This process creates an obsession – a drive to enroll in weight watchers, cozy up to my favorite plastic surgeon and find a salon that offers just a little botox – which I have so far handily resisted. If only I had a tiny waist or had my boobs done I would be worthy. Its really a sick place that I only occasionally visit and thank God – not for long. Once in a while, a nice guy comes along which leaves me helpless and mind-tied because I am actually am a rookie at dating – and since I don’t drink, liquid courage is not an option.

I have women friends in my life who have simply given up – who defend their “NO VACANCY” signs by saying that they are happier without a life partner, that they could never get naked in front of a man again and are certain that something battery operated replaces the touch of another human being. While I understand this intellectually, I try to divorce myself from the concept that leaving my soul open to love again is an unworthy risk, an endeavor that results in desolation that I can’t bear and will cover up with “I’m FINE” (translated FUCKED UP, INSECURE, NEUROTIC AND EMOTIONAL). I see beautiful, successful women in their 50’s and 60’s that prefer their NO VACANCY SIGNS to the risk of rejection. I keep telling myself that I am in a business where rejection is a daily dish and I have very short toes – so bring it on baby. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

Match.com is a visual process – and despite what the advertisements say, its about your stats and your looks first. If you get past that, bravo – you might have an opportunity for a real relationship. Given all of this contradiction, confusion, mixed motives and messages, I remain connected to the fact that I am a single woman and that out there in the universe, there might be a guy who adores my mind and loves my Rubenesque curves, someone who wants to listen to jazz on vinyl, who can encourage and be encouraged…..I will never know if on my forehead is a bitterly blinking NO VACANCY sign.

on Grief 11 years later

Before taking his light into the next room,  Joe spent his moments here protecting, healing the sick, mending the broken, embracing the addict and me.   Grief moved in to my heart and invaded my soul that day.   A decade later, still pays me the occasional call.

Fresh as yesterday, a song, a film, a book, a memory and I fill the tub with briny water heaved up until the fresh turns to a sea of sobs and snot.

Wild, gripping, wrenching, explosive, unpredictable.  Grief has no boundaries – cares little for timing.  Leaves me full and empty at the same time.

Grief  –  insists –  exhausts –  grips.  I open the ziplock bag with Joe’s scented scrubs breathe in deeply.   On special occasions I wear them to bed.  I pick up his long irrelevant cell phone and listen  – “This is Joe – leave a message” over and over and over again.

Grief demands this.

His departure shocking, sudden, unexpected – and I am left unprepared for these demands.  With indiscriminate cruelty, I am lulled into a blissful sleep only to drift back and crash into the shattered reality of my empty bed.

Grief,  the grim teacher reminds me that living is richer with this strange bedfellow.  It demands my full exposure, my naked soul,  the gut wrenching longing and ancient wailing that I share with no one for this is a most private relationship.

Always surprised by and strangely grateful for its return, more infrequent now but still insistent that I welcome wildness, without expectation and embrace full catastrophe.

The alternative is an unimaginable desert.