I flew with a woman this week, my age—give or take. Waiting in the hotel crew lounge for our room keys in Paris (yeah . . . I know, rough life), I overheard her say, “I’m now taking applications for my new boyfriend.” I laughed. I loved her joie de vivre. But more, I loved her brand of brass—that clash of class and sass that bespeaks confidence. Her outlook on life—and post relationship dating—was more than admirable. It was enviable! And eye-opening.
I can write (and no doubt have) 100,000 words on the topic of starting over, wanting more, refusing to settle for less and learning overall and most of all to love the self that stares back at me in the mirror. The truth is, it’s not easy for me. (Those who can, do. Those who can’t, write?)
One pretty standard bromide that abounds on chat sites and Facebook pages (and in self-help books by so-called “experts”)? If you can’t love yourself, how can you love someone else? You need to work on you. Then the right one will come along. I have no problem with the advice—hell, I’ve probably said it here! But let’s be real. It’s trite and unoriginal, a feel-good remark intended to soothe and create the illusion of problem solving. Again, I have no issue with the counsel, per se. But sitting in that lounge, I realized a hair-splitting truth. Like good writing, starting over is not a technique about telling. It’s about the skill of showing. In other words . . . Babe, don’t spew the right platitude. Sport the right attitude. Repeat after me. Attitude! Not platitude!
So here’s my story in a two-part nutshell. #1 Like the blog title says, I’m single at 60 (ok, 61 now) and it sucks! And #2, like my book title avers, I still want fireworks. I want them because I had them. And I miss them. The last guy I was with . . . suffice it to say, he delivered. Though he’s now water under my bridge, he set the bar pretty damn high. At the risk of yet another cliché . . . he’s a hard act to follow for 2 reasons. He was not only actually attracted to my intellect, he was not intimidated by my strength and independence. In fact, he came out on top (no pun intended, but yeah . . . he did). Trust me . . . a rare trifecta. He made me feel ALIVE, desired, cherished, appreciated and confident . . . for a woman who was married for 36 years to a passive aggressor who took her for granted and who needed to undermine her sense of self in order to bolster his, it was a drug! But as I’ve earlier written here (see “Candyland”), dude doesn’t do relationships. Yep. The problem with fireworks . . . they go bust after they burst. And they burn.
Cue now my colleague’s comment. And the epiphany it inspired.
In as much as I most definitely nowadays have a vacancy, I realized in that moment in Paris, I’ve done next to nothing as far as advertising the opening. In fact, over the past 6 months I’d metaphorically hung out a “closed for repairs” sign. In all honesty, my age is doing a number on my confidence. Add to it my insistence upon fireworks (read “It’s in His Kiss”) and my proclivity toward young, dark-haired, exotic (albeit dude was a definite against “type” although still 9 years younger) and what we have, ladies, is a pessimistic attitude that has surely created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Short and not so sweet: I wasn’t likely to find anyone—so why the fuck bother? Truly, in the last 5 years, I’ve only encountered 2 men who checked off those subconscious (or not) boxes of mine. Both subsequent relationships lasted 9 months—give or take. Neither a great track record nor cause for hope. Again, why the fuck bother?
So back to Paris . . . that evening . . . well . . . don’tcha know? . . . ‘cause God has a sense of humor and life is a freaking circle that turns on itself . . . Walking through the Latin Quarter with that self-same colleague (with whom I have now bonded and call “friend”), we passed an Italian restaurant. As is the custom in Europe, a waiter elegantly dressed in a white shirt, black tie and long red apron stood at the entrance, greeting passersby in an attempt to entice them inside.
“Happy New Year,” he said, in French.
I responded the same, politely gave a nod and a smile—and was promptly hit with a jolt. Damn! Tall, salt and pepper beard, dark hair and amazing eyes . . . Eyes that were locked on mine. Or were they? He smiled and there it was again! The same jolt. And a rush of conscious realization now catching up to my subconscious.
I think he asked where we were from.
“Americans,” my friend replied.
“You?” I asked, knowing the answer before he gave it.
“Italian,” he smiled.
“My mother was Italian,” I said.
He switched to Italian and asked where I was going.
“Yes. Tomorrow to America.”
He titled his head and affected a frown. At that point, I didn’t care. I’d never see him again. My Italian pretty much exhausted, I patted my heart and then gestured to him. I told him I found him quite handsome. Again he smiled. His eyes remained locked with mine. You know . . . that “silence speaks volumes” thing? I sighed in regret and wished him a happy new year. And off we went, my friend and I.
We hadn’t taken a step when she exclaimed, “He was so flirting with you!”
I laughed. But now my common sense was returned and my confidence gone. I figured he was just trying to drum up business. “Was he?” I asked.
Yes!” she answered. “He was. I didn’t know you spoke Italian.”
“A little,” I said. I had picked it up in college, having lived in Florence for 4 weeks with a couple Greek architect students when my study abroad program in Germany ended. My brief immersion had given me a slight acquaintance with the language and a full appreciation of the merits of Greek men over American college boys. (Note and FYI: Not only were they men—having all served in the Greek army prior to beginning their college studies, they were all uncircumcised. TMI for sure. But one hell of a fun fact, regardless.)
“Damn!” I then said in an admission more to myself, “I could have fucked him in a New York minute!” We laughed and starting looking for our Metro.
In hindsight I should have taken a card for the restaurant, or at least a picture with its very attractive waiter. But neither is of import. In that brief exchange I realized hope. It’s not over for me, not by a long shot. Not only do I still know how to flirt, to perceive interest and in fact, to actually attract it, there are still men out there who light that spark in me. Who knew? Few and far between, I’ll grant you. But thanks to that lone Italian waiter standing in the Latin Quarter of a French city, I am officially declaring my repairs done. The vacancy sign is coming down and a new one going up. I am now open again for business . . . and yep, you guessed it. I’m taking applications.
Remember. Attitude not platitude, ladies. Show. Don’t tell. Oh . . . and does anyone want to sell me a Paris trip?