A lot of my friends are not concerned with being single
There are a lot of singles in their fifties and sixties. Most of my close friends are solo and I don’t know any of them who feel bad about it. Those who really pursued finding a partner have generally succeeded. Those who try periodically, like me, are a bit half-hearted in our pursuit and we’ve discussed why we give it a shot now and then but end up staying single. It has a lot to do with our time of life.
Most of us have been married and many have kids. I don’t, but that time has passed. I’m not a guy who wants a relationship with someone half my age. So, being partnered up is not about starting a family. So what is it about? In a word, intimacy.
Intimacy is an uncomfortable subject for many because true intimacy requires opening yourself up and lowering defenses that have been around for a long time. I’m not talking about sex, but don’t kid yourself- older people are horny too. Intimacy is about being close.
Physically close and mentally close. My closest friend and I are intimate friends. We truly know each other in a non-sexual way. She and I have never shared that or wanted to. We’ve dealt with the death of mutual friends, shared holidays, and worked through physical and mental illness issues.
The D word
Dating. The subject comes up, usually accompanied with a pained expression followed by a few choice horror stories. The great night followed by ghosting. The person who wants to move in after two dates. The guy who can’t or won’t pick up the check (these are usually guys, probably because most of my friends are women). The dreaded friend fix-up. On and on, ad nauseum. Sitting down with a stranger and telling them the entire (heavily edited) story of your life, is not a normal conversation.
I’ve tried the various dating apps and met some nice women, but they are seldom people that I’d naturally gravitate towards in a less formal situation. I like impromptu conversation and I’m not shy. But I’m fairly uncompromising. There’s either a spark or not. And sometimes that spark has a limited shelf life or is narrowly focused on good sex or a shared interest. The entire thing is quite mysterious.
Other than dating apps, there is the situation where you meet someone socially, through mutual friends, and one or the other suggests going out. On a date. Except, it is important that it not be a date, with all those expectations. It should be a ‘get to know each other better’ thing. But the date thing eventually looms, especially if you do this more often than once. At what point are you dating or having the just friends conversation? I think for a lot of us the ‘just friends’ conversation is more appealing.
A lot of people avoid this situation because if you’re part of a group of friends and the dating thing doesn’t work out, it can upset the friend dynamic. And for a lot of us, the friend dynamic becomes more and more like a family.
Being in love has a different meaning for me now and I think this is true for many of my close friends. I can honestly say I have been in love twice in my life and neither were any of the three women I have lived with (one marriage, two not). They were tumultuous things, these love affairs, perhaps too tumultuous to be sustainable. And there was great passion and pain associated with both of them, extremes that I seriously question are things I will experience again. But you never know.
Being in love has a broader meaning to me these days. It may be filtered through my years as a Buddhist and the understanding of universal connectedness it teaches. To me being in love means genuinely caring for the welfare of another person, with no expectation of anything in return. When you take expectations out of the picture, that pain disappears, leaving just your original feelings for a person.
It’s not typically in my nature to write about these things. But I see so much pain expressed here and it is often around loneliness or feeling unattractive. Being alone is not inherently bad or good.
For my work as a writer I need alone time, but to experience life I need companions. These days they are my close friends, though I may be about to try a new dating app a friend recommended! Back on the roller coaster…