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Senior Dating: Should She or Shouldn't She?©

Updated on December 12, 2013

I have a "friend." Let's just call her Katie. Katie is an interesting character. When I say character, I mean character. Now, Webster defines "character" in many ways, however the one I'm going for here is "the distinctive nature of something." Well, pretty much all of Katie's nature is distinctive and therefore her entire being could be classified as a "character," if you know what I mean. Over the years, Katie and I have discussed the pros and cons of divorced parents dating, and at what point it is appropriate to begin engaging in new relationships. Katie says never. I guess I can see her point given her most recent experience.

For the 60-something years that I've known her, Katie has always had the weirdest things happen to her. She's like a weird magnet. Maybe that's because, again according to Webster's, the noun "weird" means "a person's destiny." I think it was just Katie's destiny to have crazy things happen to her. If she was a blonde, some people would say she's a "ditz." But really she's not (a blonde or a ditz). Actually, on an intellectual scale, she's not stupid. Weird and crazy things just happen to her. Events that go smoothly for you and me end up with bizarre twists and turns that promote them to the "how could that have happened" list in Katie's life. And let me tell you, that list is pretty darn long! To prove my point, here are just a few examples.

Katie's two sons attended a private Catholic high school. (I know, coincidentally, she also has two sons.) The school wasn't known for being stodgy or stiff (Dare I say it? Well, okay—it wasn't a Jesuit school), but it was still a co-ed Catholic High School where, as a parent, you wanted to make a good impression on the administration, the teachers, etc. for your kids' sake, and in some way exude evidence of a good Catholic upbringing. Well, and I swear this is true (well, at least according to Katie), one day she was walking down the main hallway of the school heading for the Principal's office. It was after school hours so there was no one else in the hallway except for the Principal (we'll call him "Mr. Smith"), who was also in the hallway approaching the office from the opposite direction. Katie reached the office first and realized that it was going to be several seconds before Mr. Smith reached the door. Rather than stand there awkwardly holding it for him, she opted to let it close. The door was an automatically closing door, and as she passed through it she reached behind her to grab the door handle so that the door wouldn't slam in Mr. Smith's face. Because she trusted that she would catch the door handle as it closed, she did not actually look behind her when she reached for it. Now Katie is not very tall, about five foot three or so (about the same as me [again, purely coincidental]), and Mr. Smith is about the same height. As Katie grabbed what she thought was the door handle, she realized that the door handle had become the consistency of freshly kneaded bread dough with a couple of marbles in it. Unfortunately, she didn't realize this until she had given it a good squeeze. I'm not going to paint the rest of the picture for you here, but you get the idea. Her sons, to this day, maintain that every time Mr. Smith saw them at school and extra-curricular events after that, Mr. Smith would smile brightly and ask, "How's your mother?" True story, I swear. (Well, she swears.)

Sunset on Elk Lake in  Elk Rapids, Michigan
Sunset on Elk Lake in Elk Rapids, Michigan

Then there was the time that she and her young family were at a lodge for their summer vacation on a picturesque lake in Upper Michigan. It was a family place, and again, not a hoity toitey place where only the upper crust vacationed, but a laid back, sit around the campfire in the evening singing "Kumbyah" kind of place. Every evening after dinner the guests gathered around the campfire on the lakeshore and roasted marshmallows, made S'Mores, and sang campfire songs until it was time to put the kiddies to bed. This particular event happened in the late 1970s at a time when Katie was convinced that she was so horrendously fat that she wouldn't wear shorts. It could have been 150 degrees, and still she wouldn't wear shorts, even while on vacation at a lake 300 miles from her home in the company of perfect strangers. She wore wrap-around skirts instead. (In hindsight, let me just say that shorts probably would have been more flattering. I never told her this, and still wouldn't.) I remember she must have had at least 20 different wrap-around skirts for each season. Well, this was the first evening at the lodge after all the guests had arrived and after all the guests had eaten dinner. Of course, the campfire on the beach with the sun setting over the lake was a perfectly beautiful place to gather and meet the lodge's other weekly guests before the activities really began in full force on the following day.

"Oh. That chair is broken."
"Oh. That chair is broken."

For some reason or other, Katie was the last of her family to mosey down to the campfire, and by then there was only one empty chair left by the fire. The chairs were those old-timey front-leg-only metal chairs that kind of rocked when you sat in them. Because the empty chair was next to her husband, Katie assumed (and wrongly so) that he had saved it for her. Now remember, there were about 100 or so strangers sitting around the fire, talking quietly while getting acquainted. The whole "Kumbayah" atmosphere was in full swing as Katie approached. Mindful of always trying to make a good first impression (which in her mind included being inconspicuous because she thought she was so fat), Katie moved toward the empty chair quietly so as not to interrupt the singing or the conversations. Katie sat down in the empty chair and gently leaned back. Before she realized what was happening, the chair quickly sank backward into the sand. Just as her head hit the ground, her husband looked down at her and said, "Oh. That chair is broken." (No S_ _ _, Sherlock.) So that was how she introduced herself to the other guests that summer at the lodge, with her legs sticking straight up in the air saluting the stars, and her skirt around her waist exposing everything for God and everyone else to see. (On a positive note, she recalled that it was a good thing her mother had taught her to put on clean underwear every day which she still did, despite the fact that the 1970s was about the time even proper ladies were having second thoughts about even wearing underwear.) To this day, Katie still swears that for the rest of that week all the men winked and smiled at her in an unusually friendly manner when ever they saw her. After that, she was always rather vague in her response to questions about the reason that her family changed the week number in the season when they visited the lodge in the years to come, although they did continue to vacation there for the next thirty-some years. She still maintains, however, that you will never find a friendlier place to spend a week at the lake among perfect strangers!

Lest you get the wrong impression about Katie, she is actually a very conservative person. She is liberal thinking, but reserved and old-fashioned when it comes to personal relationships. I recall that she was adamant in her belief that following her divorce she wouldn't date or even become involved in any relationships until her boys were grown. Because they were 7 and 10 at the time she and her husband separated, she knew that she had about eleven years before she would even think of such a thing, so she just put it out of her mind. In fact, the idea was so ingrained in her brain that she really didn't even think about it again until her oldest son was 40. Talk about time flying! It was so much easier to say that she was waiting until the kids were grown than to put herself out in the "dating jungle." When she finally did admit that, well yes, her kids were grown, she maintained that she'd better wait until the Grandkids were grown, because after all, what kind of example would it set for the Grandkids if they saw Grandma was carrying on like a teenager?

The years passed, the kids continued to grow, the Grandkids continued to grow, and lo and behold, a fourth generation has made its debut (in her family as well as mine!). Katie doesn't talk much about dating, but I know that she still thinks about it. Well, I got an e-mail from her the other day and she told me that she'd thrown in the towel as far ever even considering putting herself "out there." It seems that as a trial run, she decided to have dinner with a new friend of hers (just a friend she insists) who invited her out to dinner last week. It was NOT a date (she reiterated). Her friend was scheduled to pick her up at her son's home where she has been staying with him & his family since she had a non-disabling stroke back in January. (Can you believe that? She also had a non-disabling stroke back in January!) She reports that life there is very chaotic with the son's two tween-age daughters and their many activities, a Grandson & Granddaughter-in-law and their two children (both under 2) who visit on an almost daily basis, and various other frenzied every day affairs. For these reasons, she wanted to make sure that she escaped from the house before her friend had a chance to come in and fetch her. Unfortunately, that weird magnet once again reared its ugly head.

It seems that while she was putting on the final touches of her lip gloss (in order to set the "guaranteed to 'stay-on-forever' lipstick"), she heard the front door open and her friend's voice introducing himself to her Granddaughter-in-Law, who was breastfeeding her two-month old infant in the living room. It was also at that exact moment, for the first time since she'd been getting ready for her "not-a-date," that she heard the television in the living room blaring "Sesame Street™ Silly Songs" at a volume that the Space Station occupants probably heard, her two tween-age granddaughters shouting at each other about whose turn it was to sit in the front seat on the way to softball practice, and her two-year old Great-Granddaughter running around while shouting unrecognizable words and throwing LegoRs. Figuring that by that time the jig was up and she might as well take her time, she did just that and changed what had been a perfectly suitable outfit three more times. Finally realizing that she couldn't stay in her room all evening, she eventually emerged, gazed around the toy-strewn-breastfeeding-diaper-only-wearing-screaming-two-year-old-and-shouting-tweenagers living room, calmly smiled at her friend and said, "Well, I guess you've met the family. I am really looking forward to a nice glass of wine. How about you?"

She reported that things looked up after that. The dinner was lovely, the seafood was delicious, the conversation flowed smoothly, and she had her first taste ever of an Irish Canoli. Of course, she also had several glasses of wine and a few after-dinner drinks (although she is usually not a drinker) before it was time to return home. She was quite relaxed by the time they pulled into the driveway. Being the gentleman that he his, her friend walked her to the front door and after several moments of the usual courtesies of "Thank you; It was lovely; We'll have to do it again," they engaged in what she described as kind of a lingering embrace. Predictably, it was at that precise moment that her son burst through the front door and almost fell on top of them. She claims she doesn't know who was more shocked—her son, her friend, or her. The visibly startled son turned red and immediately began apologizing, "MOM! I'm so sorry. . . I thought it was the Pizza Man!" Abruptly, the embrace came to an end. the friend coughed, and Katie claims she didn't miss a beat when she looked at her friend and asked, "I don't know. Are you the Pizza Man? What's the special tonight?"

Katie swears it was fortunate that it wasn't a real "date." She indicates that that would have been disastrous. Instead, she regards the evening as a portent of the future, should she decide to "put herself out there." She also regards the experience as Reason Number 322 on her list (1) why Senior Dating is not a good idea, and (2) why adults were never meant to live with their grown children if they plan on ever having any kind of a personal life. I tried to explain to her that the chances of that ever happening again were slim to none. But with her record of experiencing everything in the most bizarre way possible, she disagrees. She is adamant that it was a sign and that it would probably be best if she just "waits until the Great-Grandchildren are grown" to even think again about putting herself out there. Just in case, however, she said she's planning to move back to her own place by June first!

©2013 by Kathy Striggow

This article may not be reproduced or reprinted in whole or in part without the express written permission of the author.

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