By Grace Cooper
Suggested listening while reading: Bird on the Wire by Leonard Cohen
LATE DATES has been MIA for a few weeks—my apologies. It’s the forced frivolity of holiday Sparkle Season after all, and not to be outdone, I scheduled a flame-out finale to 2022.
In early October I purchased a new home. I sold my former home for a tidy profit, but then overpaid in the peak of the housing market frenzy, for a place that needed major renovations. That questionable decision necessitated expensive purchases at a time when the supply chain links for building materials and appliances are clearly broken. My nest egg has been cracked wide open to pay for feathering the new nest. Does that make sense to you, because daily I question myself on the wisdom of all the above?
So, while demolition crews are doing their thing at the new place, I paid a king’s ransom to rent my home back from the new owners for a few months. Magnanimously, during my renovation and packing chaos, I also hosted Thanksgiving weekend for my favorite 13 loved ones. Within a day of the annual feast, one by one, we all fell ill to a nasty rotavirus. With a houseful of puking adults, this Thanksgiving I was most grateful for four working bathrooms.
My loved ones recovered and on the road to their respective homes, it was my turn to fall apart. On the following Monday evening, dehydrated and overwrought, I was admitted for an overnight stay at the hospital right smack in the middle of my three-day moving adventure. While medical angels of mercy worked to restore my health, all my earthly belongings were being packed into hundreds of boxes and loaded onto a truck. On Tuesday, I was discharged and told to go home to rest . . . in my unfinished new home, decorated now with towers of boxes piled high in every room? And did I mention it’s Sparkle Season again? That means gifts and parties and forced frivolity at a time when I’d rather hide in a dark closet and drool on my sneakers until well into 2023.
It will be at least another month before I’ll have a kitchen, functional bathroom or even a bed of my own. Daily, my subcontractors ignore me and respond only to the direction of their boss, who unfortunately for him made a remark that didn’t exactly sit well with this woman on the verge.
“Just be nice,” he said in response to my complaints about the delays and all the unforeseen changes. “You told me you are a nice girl.”
I could feel the fury rising—up, up, up from deep within my solar plexus, rising like a hot swell towards my throat chakra.
‘This is a familiar feeling,” I thought. Typically, I’d swallow hard at this point, forcing the molten lava of dark emotions to remain contained until it cooled off a bit. Then I’d talk myself out of speaking, because—well—nice girls—enneagram type-two helper codependent girls—don’t say anything that might offend or challenge the reality of anyone else, especially not a man. Nice girls swallow it back down. Nice girls smile and purr appreciatively when a man treats them like empty-headed, fragile creatures. A nice girl knows her place.
Let’s just say I blew my cork. And he huffed and puffed and blew back. When the dust settled, we’d both said some unfortunate things, none of which I am willing to retract because I spoke my truth for once. Ever wonder what happens to nice girls after a lifetime of repressed honesty? They get sicker and sicker, manifested as physical or emotional illness. That’s the not-so-nice truth.
And who do we gals have to blame for this? It begins with that sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice pablum recited to all baby girls, who are then taught that someday their prince will come . . . if they primp, plaster on a bright smile and wait patiently for some dude to pick them. Then if we have a family, typically we learn that it’s next to impossible to truly be a good wife, mother and employee because competing agendas at home or in the workplace rarely lead to satisfaction in any of those roles. And then we have the audacity to age, which renders almost every woman over the age of 50 relatively invisible and irrelevant.
So what does this have to do with late-life dating? Everything.
Dating websites are all about illusion, which for women hoping for more satisfying future relationships, is a setup for more frustration, if not outright failure. There’s an implied promise of new beginnings—just trade in the old model and start anew with someone else. Then the game begins—“I’ll make you feel young, important, loved, and you do the same for me.” But like any game, sooner or later, reality intrudes, both desire a deeper commitment, and the time comes to fish or cut bait.
Dating website profiles, or any occasion that leads to an in-person date is an opportunity to remove the veil and see one another in a more realistic fashion befitting your mature station in life. Look for the guy who will look beyond your false eyelashes, fake breasts, or stiletto heels—whatever hides the real you. The goal is to find some bonafide male feminist who will cherish the worst versions of you as well—unbrushed teeth, crazy morning hair and a range of unsuppressed and uncomfortable emotions. Honesty is the name of the game now. We all deserve what was denied our foremothers. This is a time of great opportunity for a woman to claim her power just as the aging male is losing his. Meeting in some place of mutual respect and sensitivity trumps the sexist roles we were assigned at birth.
And in the spirit of Sparkle Season —and also full disclosure – this same man who made me pop my cork recently, also sent me a movie suggestion: Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, based on this review by Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian.
Accordingly, the British film Institute and Sight and Sound Magazine announced the results of their decennial “Greatest Films of All Times” poll, and this movie came in first place. Together we watched this three-and-one-half-hour, odd, yet brilliantly effective film, and afterwards I gave him my interpretation, for whatever he internalized.
I am not certain any modern man understands what most women on this planet experience during their entire adult lives. Without giving away the plot, I assure you that the theme of Jeanne Dielman is as timely in 2022 as it was when it was filmed in 1973.
Late-life dating is an opportunity to change the script, rewrite the roles and finally achieve some degree of equanimity regarding the inequality of power among the sexes. But every now and then, forgive yourself for losing your cool when it comes to dealing with men. Who knows? One of these days —fresh batteries in his hearing aids, or even angry words of protest screamed in his direction— the nice-enough girl might just change his-tory.
—Grace Cooper (a nom de plume) left her long marriage a decade ago, and with it went all sense of her identity—but not for long. Now 67, she has begun chronicling her tales of looking for love in all the wrong places, and unexpectedly finding herself.