I had an unexpected gift of time last night. My laptop, on its last legs, was taunting me with its increasingly frequent spinning rainbow. I’ll stop any moment,...promise. My TV decided to mimic its techie cousin, my Netflix show suddenly freezing before going dark, a spinning outline of a red circle hijacking the screen before some message appeared, inviting me to try again later. I pressed buttons on my remote. Power. Netflix. The same show, the same message. Tried my geriatric show of the moment, “The Kominsky Method” only to get the same result.
I glanced at my clock radio. 8:49. Although sleepiness was kicking in from my meds, I blinked hard a few times to buy another ten or twenty minutes. I’m not eighty, even if half my TV friends are. Earlier in the day I’d pushed through to the end of one novel and I wasn’t ready to start the new one, the massive brick on the floor by my bed. I turned off the lights, shuffled to the living room, opened the blinds and plopped on the sofa to gaze at the twinkles lighting up the periphery of False Creek. Thinking time.
My aborted TV picks became an easy jumping off point. The Aussie show I’d been watching, “Offspring”, was a series in which the main character is an in-control doctor who has no control over her dating life. “The Kominsky Method” has its own premise but I confess to often being sidetracked, wondering how and when Michael Douglas got all those wrinkles. My own thoughts became a TV blend. What has happened to my dating life as I’ve just past the official midpoint of my fifties?
Cue spinning rainbow in my brain.
Working on it...working on it…
Finally a message: No results for “dating life”.
In the past, this would have been dangerous territory, a sure shot at a rapid descent. Woe is me and all that. Perhaps it’s on account of the aforementioned meds, but I knew I’d stay even keel. Feeling like December had somehow snuck up on me, I thought back on all of 2019 and counted my dates this year.
One! No. Not really.
Another not really.
Counting down. No fingers raised on the second hand. None on the first either. Zero dates.
It’s true that too much of this year was spent in unsuccessful treatments for my eating disorder. Large chunks of the calendar were blotted out. Call it a hunch but telling a guy I’m living on the fourth floor of the local hospital for the next six weeks is not something to slip into a first date conversation. Three months in a group home will also send him running. Yes, some large dating breaks but how did the whole year get away from me?
I’ve obsessed plenty this year about growing old. It hit me hard realizing I’ve lived in this province for twenty-five years, feeling I have nothing to show for it. By gosh, I’d moved here fresh-eyed and eager at the ripe old age of thirty. “Old age” has a whole new context now. My treatment programs immersed me in a world of twenty-somethings where all their talk of podcasts, tattoos and Disney movies left me feeling ancient and out of touch. There have been moments of sheer panic this year.
The clock won’t stop ticking!
The best days are behind me!
Why does my “best” seem like a Christmas stocking full of oranges and practical gray mittens?
Ancient and dateless. It was a dangerous one-two punch to hit me so close to bedtime. Oh, the angst! The despair! The onslaught of self-hate! The most I could muster up was, Zero dates...huh.
This was a new way of thinking, if it was thinking at all. I couldn’t stoke anything. I shifted slightly on the sofa and basically flat-lined. No emotion whatsoever. This after decades consumed by dating woes and no-gos.
Maybe I’m done.
Maybe this is when I bring home a couple of Boston ferns and hang them in a couple of macrame hanging pots that I make myself. I give the plants hot names like Gunnar and Nigel and I talk to them about my latest muscle aches and the days of KC & the Sunshine Band and a TV show where a character named Jack Tripper pretended to be gay in order to live with two women. “Zany stuff, Nigel.” All that conversation helps them grow, right?
Maybe I dig out my binoculars from my storage locker, buy some gumboots and wade into marshy ditches, seeking to spot the elusive Ivory-billed Woodpecker or the Kirtland’s Warbler. In the evenings, I could search YouTube videos to help perfect my bird calls.
Maybe I get a newspaper subscription again. Not to read, but to start building an obstacle course of towers in my condo, something to freak out my niece if she should come visit ten years from now. Planning ahead pays off.
It’s an eerie feeling to realize the whole year has been a romantic write-off and to simply look at it matter-of-factly. This morning, I revisited the situation. Prolonged datelessness. Reaction? Reaction...?
Still, nothing. My responses in the past have been unhelpful, even dysfunctional, and yet weirdly I missed them. What happened to my pity party invitation? Where was that sense of panic, triggering me to go back online, search the dating sites and find a new profile or one that I’d somehow overlooked. At times like this, I always forced myself to send off a message or two. It was my way to stop whining and wallowing and to tell myself I was actually doing something.
If this is indeed my Done-with-Dating moment, don’t I deserve a response greater than a shrug? I’ve pined for half a century, ever since I picked up a crayon and drew a castle for me and my future princess. Okay, there was some confusion to work through, but my happily ever after always included a Plus One. Where’s my ice cream day, a collection of open pints spread out on the kitchen counter, not a single tear dropping into the already salted caramel? At the very least, where’s the sense of relief? There’s a whole chunk of my brain freed up to think about (or fret about) something else.
I suppose it hasn’t settled in yet. Too new, too foreign. I need to give it more time to see if the shrug sticks. In the meantime, I’ve got some bird videos to watch.