It was one of the hottest days of the year. Without air conditioning, all I could do was try to pull in cool air at night with my whole house fan and use a small fan in the kitchen, where the heat tended to gather by late afternoon. I hoped John wouldn’t mind, and I thought he wouldn’t. He was an outdoorsman and no wimp. By 7:00 p.m. or so, it would cool down a bit, so eating outdoors would be pleasant. I planned to eat on the lower deck, then retire to the gazebo.
I suspected that John was a multimillionaire, from old money. His mother was related to one of the richest nineteenth century families in America. And while it hadn’t occurred to me, a friend pointed out that his last name was probably attached to one or more businesses that were household names. If any or all of that was true, it did not put him at an advantage with me, but it also did not put him at a disadvantage. I’m comfortable with people at every level of the social strata. I interact well with the rich, the poor, and all levels in between. Income and social standing mean little to me. What matters is what people are made of. That said, I also knew that the old rich have closed ranks. But I was just dating the guy, nothing more. Like many wealthy people, he maintained a low profile. He wasn’t into flashiness. He was into making a difference in the world. I could embrace that.
John was used to being in charge, something obvious in the most casual of interactions with him. I found that humorous when it came to interactions with me because I cannot easily be controlled, managed, or made inferior. During my corporate days, at least one boss had said (with affection) that I was unsupervisable.
If a worthy opponent is someone who, by virtue of who they are, challenges you to be at the top of your game and keep growing, then John and I were likely worthy opponents for one another.
Once the food preparation began, I discovered that John really couldn’t cook, but he was a good student and willing to give up control in the kitchen. He helped prep food, and I had him grill vegies. I grilled the salmon on a plank I’d soaked for the better part of a day. The dinner conversation was easy and pleasant.
When we moved to the gazebo, the conversation continued. He had questions about shamanism and my mystical way of being in the world. I had questions about his work and the nonprofit for which he was planning to raise tens of millions of dollars over the next few years. I also wanted to know something about his family and his life in general. He had brought his sweet, well-behaved dog with him, and the dog quietly sat nearby while we talked.
During a protracted part of the conversation about the ways in which we each move through the world, I moved to sit close in front of him to make a point. Looking him in the eye, I told him that being needs to precede doing. Being a lifelong doer, this is something I understand well. He seemed unconvinced and a bit mystified.
Later, he moved to kneel close in front of me, leaned in, and kissed me. We hadn’t really touched one another in a teasing or affectionate way to this point, so I was not quite ready to get physical with him. And though his kisses were pleasant enough, I avoided anything deep or prolonged. I liked him. I respected him. But he wasn’t Edward Cullen. I doubted I was Bella Swan for him either, though I wondered who would be. He seemed a bit elbows and knees with a woman.
When he left that night, our connection felt a bit like a failed experiment. He was about to leave on an annual fishing trip. I didn’t expect to hear from him before he left, and I rather doubted I would hear from him once he returned.
Another man, equally bright and equally committed to doing important things in the world, also caught my attention. A former university professor, Simon was now consulting around the world using a theory and methodologies he had developed to improve communication and mitigate conflict. We traded messages, switched to e-mail, and scheduled a place and time to meet. Before the meeting, I watched a YouTube video of him discussing his theory. I was fascinated by his approach, and if nothing more, I thought the meeting could produce some interesting conversation.
It did. I was definitely attracted to his mind, if not his physical persona.
I had begun to realize that it was important for me to be open about my blog and reassure any man with whom I met that I didn’t necessarily write about every man I went out with, that I would not write about him if he didn’t want to be written about, that I used fictitious names when I did write about men, and that it would be a mistake to think the latest post represented activities from the last week, or even the last month. I feared I was already scaring off men before we had a chance to meet, and if a man actually made it to the meeting stage with me, I wanted to be transparent about the blog. So we talked about it.
Talking about the blog quite naturally flowed into the subject of dating, and we discussed what might be considered the phenomenology of dating past the age of fifty. We agree that, contrary to popular thinking that we must compromise on our requirements as we get older, we actually narrow the field of what we consider potential partners. He likened it to visually scanning a small movie theater in which a hundred movie goers of the opposite sex are seated.
“At twenty or thirty,” he said, “we might see ninety of the hundred as possible partners. But at sixty, it is more like fifteen or ten.” We’ve had more life experience, know ourselves better, know what we want, have different priorities, and understand that we don’t have unlimited time to sort through endless possibilities.”
I thought it a useful way of describing what I had, myself, experienced. And while I thought I could enjoy his company across numerous meetings, I knew he would not be one of that ten for me.
We parted a bit hastily and awkwardly after two hours or so. A couple of days later, I received a kind and thoughtful e-mail from him. He had enjoyed our conversation, and he liked both my energy and interests. In another place and time, he thought we could be friends, but I wasn’t quite the match he was looking for. He wished me the best.
Though he made no request that I not write about him, I suspected he might have been concerned about that. He surely would not see an appearance on a dating blog as helpful to his work, even if I did disguise him by not using his name or too many details about his life. There was no way of knowing if he actually had that concern because even if I did ask, he might not admit that it was a concern. And I didn’t see myself asking.
That I was finding bright, accomplished men to meet was something of a relief. That they were actually on the dating sites was surprising and even more of a relief. They weren’t simply going to matchmakers, though I was sure that any of the last three men could have afforded to hire a matchmaker. No, they were personally engaged in seeking out a woman within their own generation.
There were at least a few good men out there. If the fates connected me with one, it would be wonderful. And I was willing to wait for the good man who would bewilder and delight me.
Note: The names John and Simon are fictitious and have been used out of respect for the men involved.
Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall