Long Walks on the Beach

22 May

 

Long Walks on the Beach

By L. Stewart Marsden

If you are my age and single, it’s probably not a particularly fun time in your life. There are those exceptions of course (some of whom I know) who feel like a kid in a candy shop, and are sampling from every shelf in the store. 

An aside: it probably isn’t a factoid, but I heard the rise in STDs among senior citizens in Florida is eyebrow-raising! Tuck this tidbit in your memory as you read further. Or check out this article about The Villages in Central Florida (https://nypost.com/2009/01/25/)

Used to be you met someone at school, or at a sock hop, or a ball game; or your best friend set you up. I remember the days before cellphones when someone would come up and say to me “So-and-so likes you! Do you like her?”

Ah, the sweet days of innocence!

So I find myself at an age where meeting someone is — to say the least — challenging. When you’re single and your friends aren’t, you are the odd-person out. You sit at one end of the table. Your lawn chair is at the very end of the row. People to either side of you in the theater talk to people on the opposite side of where you sit.

The tennis couples are coupled. The golf foursomes are foured. The pickle ball couples — well, I don’t play pickle ball. My sciatica, you know.

Bars, karaokes, trivia night and going to hear the live music at a dead restaurant are one-is-like-the-other experiences. The “girls” you meet are wide-eyed, a bit tippled on martinis or Pabst, and altogether impatient. That one magic moment is somehow buried in the social muck and mire of knee-deep you-know-what.

Which leaves online matchmaking sites. 

I know. The epitome of failure in the life of a person who never imagined ever having to pick up a nose-hair clipper again.

So, you sign up for the free services at first. Sounds reasonable. Until you find you can do absolutely nothing without subscribing. And the add-ons! Never-ending they are.

You upload the most flattering pictures of yourself (if they exist), and you tell your story, again enhancing the good and skipping the bad. You are either woefully terse, giving only one or two word bullet points, or, you suffer from logo-rhea (which I do) and find that the character limitations are a hindrance at explaining all kinds of stuff.

Then you pick a handle — a name tag. So you filter through a variety of suggested names, like MachoMan and Fast&Furious and MountainStud — which are not you at all — and finally land on a name that better suites you. You can’t, by the way, see any of the other male handles if you are male — unless you include males as your target. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Now the female names run the gamut. FinallyFree is one I saw and wondered, if you’re finally free, then what the hell are you doing on a dating match site? BeachBitch. That’s who I want to meet! NoUnderclothes. Remember the article about STDs? WaitingJustForYou. Keep waiting, then.

The default descriptors are also a bit restricting.

Like Body Type: 

The choices are slim, athletic, average and stout. That’s it. I picked stout only because I was none of the others. See, I figure I ought to help filter out anyone who has a problem with someone overweight. A better and more informative medical description might be to provide BMI, latest blood pressure, along with a list of medications someone is taking.

Children:

  • Yes.
  • Yes but they don’t live with me.
  • Yes, but only part of the time.
  • No.

I always thought there needs to be one more category for men: No, that I know of.

Education:

  • High School.
  • Attended college.
  • Graduated college.
  • Advanced degree.

Fairly straightforward. But what if someone considers Advanced Macrame and Beading as an Advanced Degree? And, when you attain your degree, do you shut down your ability to learn throughout the rest of your life? Sadly, some do. I would ask, yes or no, do you want to learn to love to learn? I mean, the best education is knowing where to go for the many pragmatic question that life tosses at you. But that’s just me.

Religion:

  • Agnostic
  • Atheist 
  • Christian (I suppose that’s all-inclusive)
  • All of the major world religions
  • Spiritual 

I’m somewhere between Agnostic and Spiritual. I grew up Presbyterian in a church where the pastor had a strong Scottish accent, and where litany dictated the order of service. Later I was “born again,” and associated with the saved speaking-in-tongues hippy Christians while I stayed away from all other denominations that were either cults (Catholics and LDSers, Bahia, etc.) and those who tolerated apostates. Huge sanctuaries and organized programs were to be disdained. Long hair, bell bottoms, and non-liturgical monotonous rock worship songs that go on for hours were the order of the day.

That changed, thank goodness. I gradually came to a place where my own personal religious views and faiths have become clearer over the years — not nearly as restrictive in terms of tenets and observances and what the afterlife will be. So that space between agnostic and spiritual would be, what? Finding myself? That should be added. As well as two other religious  categories: Power and Money. Just to be fair. Either way, a one-answer for religion is insufficient.

  • Smoking (yes or no), then ethnicity, and Relationship Status (or Marital Status) round out the information.

Sounds simple. But is vaping the same as smoking? Is use of marijuana the same — or is that considered recreational/social mind-enhancement? And if you are currently living with someone without the church/state stamp of approval, what’s that?

And where are the questions about how many alcoholic drinks you consume a week? Or whether or not you are on probation, or house arrest, or have been banned from Facebook?

It’s like Roseanne Rosanadana’s frustration over Sax and Violins.

Then you say what you are looking for in the Perfect Match. Those are interesting reads. Of course, many give a disclaimer, “There ARE no Perfect Matches,” and it takes work and all of the other blood, sweat and tears stuff to make a relationship go. And while I hate to generalize, a lot of women talk about trustworthiness, dependability, conversation, touching, reassurance … A lot. Almost like the Boy Scout Twelve Laws of Scouting. Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

It’s not difficult to peek behind their veiled pasts to see what their experiences might have been before casting their lot to an algoritm-controlled yenta. And when I read that repeatedly, it’s sad to me. No doubt I’m part of the problem. Those things really should go without having to state them. Is it the culture? It can’t be inherent to men, can it?

They also talk about healthy lifestyles (oops, there go the Cheetos!), adventuresome, spontaneous, virile (yes, some do say that). A few mention intelligence. Some reject Liberals while others reject Far-Righters. Many (not all) mention FINANCIAL STABILITY — although it’s not capitalized. Haven’t heard Vegan-only … yet.

Then there are those who reveal a desire to be rescued, swept off their feet, and carried off into the sunset by a blue-eyed, long-haired handsome and ripped man with a tan on the back of a white stallion. Like in The Princess Bride or Like Water For Chocolate.

Of course, I fit more into the Shrek image than the Handsome Prince role. 

Finally — the Perfect Date

Tea. Talk. Coffee. Talk. Wine. Talk. That’s the first course. Somewhere quiet. Ever really try to find a quiet cafe or restaurant? What?! Maybe a movie. Really? Not so conducive to conversation, and definitely mood-impacting. He wants to see The Avengers: Endgame at the multiplex, and she wants to see the vintage film  Room With a View at the artsy bistro/movie theater. She wants a Brad Pitt-type in loose-fitting linen pants and shirt — opened at the chest. He wants Marlene Dietrich who turns and whispers in a sultry voice, “It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”   Not that there’s anything wrong with that (my favorite phrase, by the way).

Call it what you will: illusion or delusional — it’s a hard measure for gravity-prone men like me to live up to, who are no longer endowed with youth, looks or hair — and whose inner qualities will probably be overlooked. Like those blind dates with great personalities. Nobody wants them.

I suppose this turnabout is fair play. Men have historically favored looks and youth over intelligence and character in their fantasies. Not that these are mutually exclusive traits. Certainly Hugh Hefner went for youth and looks. But I won’t blame that tendency on others like Hef. It’s a fact I must deal with now — at my age — with the hope I may discover a gem, and also be a gem for someone else.

If not, then I will rest (however uncomfortably) on the words of Charlotte Brontë in Jane Eyre: 

“I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”

And even though Brontë penned it, and it sounds like a woman thing to say (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I trust it will be true for me.

__________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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