I had high hopes as I made my way though the bustling streets of New York City on my way to meet the professional matchmaker.
I loved Hello Dolly (although I think we can ALL agree Barbra Streisand was miscast in the movie version) so I anticipated some big brassy diva in a feathered hat singing to me about the joys of love in front of a chorus of dancing waiters.
Matchmaking was so much more festive back in the day
Perhaps I should have felt ashamed and desperate that I had resorted to paying someone else to find my soul mate—a task that should really be my responsibility– but I was just being realistic. People of a certain age have a harder time on the dating market. When your OK Cupid bio includes phrases such as “hate when those annoying neighborhood kids play on my front lawn” and “they don’t sing ‘em like Judy and Doris anymore”, and your shirtless selfie is thought of as “brave”, you need to start getting little creative.
Some doubt crept in my brain when I entered the office–a nondescript and small space with none of the charm of a hat shop in Yonkers.
This is sadly NOT what I saw when the elevator doors opened.
The matchmaker who I will refer to as “G” was nice enough. (I will refrain from revealing his name since he owes me one more match and I don’t want to piss him off so that he sets me up on a coffee date with charming murderer in retaliation).
As G extolled the virtues of using his services instead of a depersonalized online dating site or…God forbid…kismet, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something very familiar about him.
Suddenly he stopped in mid-spiel.
“Did you live in New York in the 80’s?”
“Yes,” I replied not sure what this had to do with my attractibility but wiling to give him any ammunition he needed.
“And did you work out at the West Side Y on 63rd?”
I began to wonder if this guy was a matchmaker or a psychic.
“We met there in our twenties. You walked me home one night. I lived in the Ansonia Building on the Upper West Side.”
“Oh right. The Ansonia. In the West 70’s…”
And before that sentence was out of my mouth it all came flooding back: The friendly meeting over squat thrusts….the walk home on that balmy summer night…me flirtatiously telling him I had always wanted to see an apartment in the Ansonia…that glass of wine….
I had had a fling with this very same matchmaker over twenty years earlier.
I didn’t know how to fill the awkward silence. Should I quietly leave? Nothing says DAMANGED GOODS like a tramp from the 80’s. I prayed I was on the top of my game during our illicit encounter or he would surely make a note in my profile.
Background: German Irish
Bedroom Technique: Lazy and easily distracted by the TV
The site of my 80’s indiscretion
G smiled at me almost lasciviously.
“I remember what great shape you were in. Your body was amazing!”
“Why yes,” I replied uncomfortably. “And it hasn’t changed at all!”
I wished I had worn a kaftan to drape over the flaws of this clearly not 20-something body.
But after getting through that awkwardness, G assured me he could find me a match. For an exorbitant price I was going to be set up on three single dates and three group dates.
Like a young Jewish girl with her heart full of hope in Fiddler on the Roof I was ready for the Matchmaker to make me a match.
Beatrice Arthur as the Matchmaker in the the original Broadway production of Fiddler (no really…it is)
GROUP DATE # 1
A group date is not as lascivious as it sounds–like the lesbian party I was invited to on Gay Pride Weekend that my straight boxing trainer begged to attend with me, the title is way more salacious than the actual event.
A few days after my interview I was sent an email invitation to join seven other perfect strangers at a restaurant at 7 o’clock Tuesday evening.
The matchmaker had told me that I came off as very confident and self-assured. Maybe that was what he said to everyone instead of “you are a hopeless bitter mess but I need your money to pay for my summer home.”. All I knew for sure was if he was being truthful he may have changed his opinion if he observed me walking to diner with a churning stomach and knotted intestines.
What if I had to use the restroom in the middle of meal?? Maybe I better do a preemptory stop beforehand in a hotel restroom.
In theory this was a great idea.
Then I washed my hands and accidentally splashed water all over my crotch.
It was 7:03 and dinner was at 7:00.
I somehow had to get my crotch under the hand dryer (stupid paper-saving hotel) while looking casual as people continually entered the busy bathroom.
At 7:09 I finally got the wet spot faded enough so that if I folded my hands over my crotch demurely and shifted my hips to the left while entering the dark restaurant letting the sun backlight me, I just might avoid the label of “the guy who peed his pants” in everyone’s report back to the matchmaker
As I sat down at the table with the rest of the guys, my fears that it would either be a table of inferior reptiles or superior supermodels were quickly put to rest. It was a table of good looking but not intimidatingly so nice guys.
Things were looking up.
Conversation flowed easily and I felt I held my own as I peppered it with witty bon mots tossed from my side of the table (this is a skill I honed by growing up in a sarcastic family of five where you had to keep up with the cleverness or be chewed up and left behind in the dust) As the evening progressed I mentally checked off each guy’s datability as I scanned the circle from left to right…YES, YES, NO, MAYBE, NO, YES. It was kind of fun—like a game—until I realized they must be playing the exact same game on me.
Surely I was on all of their YES lists right!?
Oh how sad that I would have to reject some of them. I hoped they’d recover and eventually find love of their own. Damn this curse of being funny and sexily charming.
Suddenly one of the guys (my number one YES) asked what each of our Chinese New Year signs were. This seemed like an innocent “what’s your horoscope?” type ice breaker until I announced I didn’t know mine and was told the only way to find out was to reveal the year of my birth.
All eyes at the table peered at me intently I could lie but what would be the point? I believe that on a date you should be yourself warts and all. Why try to make yourself seem better when you want someone who likes you as you are? These guys were lucky I hadn’t shown up in my long johns—the outfit they would be see me wearing the most if things worked out.
So I took a deep breath and blurted out the year I was born.
I’m pretty sure there were audible gasps.
Now look….it’s great when people tell you you don’t look your age and that they just cannot believe how old you are. But by professing they can’t believe how old you are they are also saying they can’t believe how old you are. After the fifth or sixth “I can’t believe it” you start to think they are expecting an orderly in a white suit to approach the table and feed you Cream of Wheat while wiping your drool.
The only secret to my fairly presentable appearance at this advanced age is my mother insisting to her gay son that no matter what happens in life one simply must moisturize every day. Whether I was depressed, terminally ill or a POW I must never forget the importance of Oil of Olay.
You can bet these girls moisturized even in prison
Finally the table calmed down and I left dinner looking forward to the busy social dating calendar I was certain lay in the future.
Not a single one put me down as a match.
Maybe I chewed with my mouth open?
Maybe I had body odor or bad breath?
Maybe I’m not as funny as I think…or too loud…or my crotch spot was noticed?
Or maybe I am too old.
The youngest in the group was in his late 30’s and the rest were in their 40’s but I had the gall to creep over that 50 mark.
It is an ultimate betrayal to many young people I know—getting old. It is a scary reminder that no matter how much we pretend we won’t…we are all going to die one day.
Not a sexy reminder on a group date.
But that’s okay. They are of course allowed to date someone their own age. Maybe it’s just my issue with growing old.
On 4th of July weekend I was in the Pines area of Fire Island– not a place you would expect to find me.
First of all it is an island, which sounds to me like one big party you can’t easily leave.
Second of all it is loud, crowded and drunk which are three things I spend most of my time trying to avoid.
And finally most of the boys on the island are barely clad with flat washboard stomachs.
I know I shouldn’t hate guys with washboard abs. I understand that it takes a lot of work and discipline to attain them , but it’s just not what I look for in a guy. I see bodies with zero percent body fat and think of all that gym time that could have been spent reading, or volunteering or calling your mom….so yes, I suppose I do judge them.
My work is not to judge—I get it—and when I’m in that world I start to judge myself more than anyone. These 50-something “abs” are never going to resemble a washboard unless I either dedicate every waking hour to this goal or do some creative shading with body paint.
I’m reminded of when my mother in her later years was for all intents and purposes immobile and she lamented over the fact that she could no longer go for walks with my sister and me. “You had your time….” I tried to helpfully tell her. I guess my stomach had its time as well.
The frustration of these Fire Island gatherings is that if you don’t have the “perfect” body it is very hard to get anyone’s attention. “I’m currently reading Shakespeare’s Henry the IV Part 2” is not going to get me lucky.
So is this it?
Is my value diminished past the point of no return?
Deep in my heart I know the answer.
Aging is not failing.
It is sometimes scary but from what I can tell people who face their fears lead the most interesting lives.
And my value does come not my body.
And every damn lesson I have learned in life boils down to one thing: Let go.
And believe you me aging is just one big effing letting go.
I just saw Life As It Is about Roger Ebert (a beautiful film about life, love, movies and death). Ebert met his wife at the age of 50. He told her he had spent half his life waiting for her and he wasn’t going to let her go.
A friend of mine met her husband in her late 40’s. She said she had seen what was out there during her long years of dating since the demise of her first marriage and wasn’t ever going to be wondering if there was anyone better.
I saw the groundedness in both of their relationship and knew that if I were to have one more love of my own it had to be that or nothing.
So maybe too old for some is just right for others.
And maybe the Native Americans were right about revering the wise elders.
Is that a peace pipe in your pocket or are you happy to see me?
And possibly there is some silly man out there who will have the chutzpah to find me by hook, crook or matchmaker.
Until then I will enjoy being exactly where I am.
And of course moisturize every day.