BY BERNADETTE MURPHY
Some women flirt by sending pictures of themselves in scanty little underthings to the man they’re hoping to attract. Men do this, too—even politicians. “Sexting” is most prevalent though, the media tells us, among teen girls. And that’s exactly what I’m feeling like. Only, instead of texting racy photos of myself, apparently, I send pictures of homemade soup.
Or at least, that’s what I would be doing if my friends weren’t actively trying to stop me.
I separated from my husband of 25 years a few months ago. After living with bone-crushing aloneness within that relationship for a decade, followed by months actively grieving that loss, I found myself ready for some companionship. Not a relationship per se—this business of being on my own and caring only for myself is intriguing and I’m learning too much to want to abandon it. I wasn’t interested in a dating website, nor a friends-with-benefits setup. But a date now and again might be a nice thing.
Or so I thought until I went on the one and only date I’ve had (outside that marriage) in the last quarter century. As a friend of mine put it to me later, “Dating is like adding fertiliser to every character defect you possess.”
He asked me to dinner. We spent three hours chatting, making connections, occasionally flirting, a bit of hand-holding. I enjoyed myself. I found him attractive and decided he was someone I wanted to know better. But the evening ended abruptly. He needed to get home, he said, suddenly slammed with exhaustion. He’d mentioned earlier that he was afraid he might be coming down with something. A goodnight kiss so quick I hardly knew it occurred ended things and that was that. I went home satisfied and pleased with myself. It had gone well; I had experienced my first post-marriage date and had walked through it with impunity. I felt like an adult.
He posted a smiley face on my Facebook page an hour after the date; I went to sleep content. But when he didn’t call or text the next day, I started to stew. Perhaps I’d read things wrong. I soon decided that pending illness hadn’t ended the evening brusquely. The truly flawed nature of my being must have somehow become visible. He’d glimpsed it over those three hours and had high-tailed it out of there as fast as he could.
Bam! With no warning whatsoever, I was 13 again, certain that the “cool kids” would never let me join their group, listening as they said, of course they’d love to come to my birthday party while harbouring no intention whatsoever of showing up.
I was certain I’d made a fool of myself, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how or where. I came up with possibilities. He was four years younger. What had I been thinking? Who would possibly want to go out with a woman four years his senior? He was talented, smart, and handsome.
Who did I think I was to believe, even for an instant, that someone like that would be interested in me? I’d asked him some pretty blunt questions; writers are always looking for the story behind the story. Maybe he thought I’d been interrogating him. The litany went on. Had there been food on my teeth? Mascara under my eyes? Every insecurity I’d ever even slightly known began to holler like a banshee.