In Beloved, Toni Morrison articulated my condition before I started to date again:
…way past the Change of Life, desire in them had suddenly become enormous, greedy, more savage than when they were fifteen, and…it embarrassed them and made them sad; secretly they longed to die—to be quit of it…
I didn’t “long to die,” but years of celibacy had made me peculiar. I had intense crushes on wildly unsuitable men; my hormones were ruling my mind and that was dangerous. For my own mental health, I needed to find sex and companionship.
Women’s magazines advised me to look around at church, take a class at the local adult school, strike up a conversation at the YMCA, attend a library event, ask friends if they knew anyone. I’d already checked off the men at my church. Men at the YMCA were sweaty and didn’t want to be interrupted, and classes and library events were packed with other women who had read the same magazines I had.
One friend introduced me to a widowed doctor. The three of us had a pleasant coffee, but the doctor was set in the ways of his former marriage, happy to spend the morning with The New York Times, and the afternoon on the golf course. No place for me in his routine.
My friend Maryann was also oh so ready to date again. She asked me to go to a bar with her. Not one with booming music and microskirts, this one was in a nice hotel. We dressed as if we were traveling on business. We kept sneaking a look at the men at the bar, but they paid no attention to us at all. Was there something wrong with us (she thought there was)? Going to a bar had been a last ditch effort and even that had failed. We were depressed.
She left saying she was going to call someone she had met a couple of weeks ago, but it was twenty years since my last date, and I had nobody to call.
In 2003, Internet dating still felt sketchy, but I dipped my toe in. I discovered a dating site for people who liked classical music. Mozart lovers didn’t feel risky, though logically speaking, there is probably the same amount of weirdness among Mozart lovers as in the general population.
Through the website, I had dinner with a psychologist who asked me to the opera, but we couldn’t find an evening when we were both available. My crammed schedule had given meaning to my life, and being always busy was a hard habit to break, but I created some empty space on my calendar and in my head.
At first, I felt lost, but a couple of weeks later I had my first date in twenty years.