I thought I knew a lot about men because, you know, I had a dad and I was married to one for 21 years. When I had to start dating again in my early 40s, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. It was like having my second baby. I had done it once, I knew how to be pregnant, knew how to give birth, knew how to have a newborn. I was way off. My second pregnancy, my second labor and my second child was nothing like my first. I was starting over.
It’s not by accident that I compare a rocky re-introduction into the dating arena with childbirth. It was uncomfortable, painful at times and exhausting.
Heading out into the big bad world of men, which was not dissimilar to the anxiety a baby must feel when it leaves its mother’s comfortable womb, I wondered how the hell I was going to compete with women in their 20s who colored their hair for sport (not to cover grays), whose taut stomachs knew nothing of excess skin and stretch marks and who could drink all night and still get up and function like a normal human being the next morning.
What did I have to offer the male species in comparison? Most people tell me I look about seven years younger than I am, so I had that going for me. And I also had the great new rack that I had gotten my ex-husband to pay for while we were still separated, but before our divorce (guilt can be such a great motivator). Outside of that, I felt like a dirty old lady in a trench coat leering at men.
But here is what would take me almost four years to learn. As long as I didn’t look like a fat goblin with cowgirl hair, men would be attracted to me and they would forget about all the young women around me. The reason is simple. I had something to say.
I can count the number of times my father hugged me or said "I love you" on one hand. Then I married a type-A personality who had to be taught how to be affectionate. My last long-term boyfriend took a year to say "I love you." (Of course he also turned out to be a lying, cheating a-hole.) The point is, I thought that all men were "the strong, silent type." Certainly the type I was attracted to anyway.
Since breaking up with the a-hole, and being on my own, I am astounded to learn how freakin’ chatty men are. And the thing I wish I could tell women is that men seem to want two things: someone to listen to and validate them, and someone with personal interests and hobbies. (Yes, men want sex. I’m referring to what men want outside the bedroom.)
Let me offer up a couple of examples. A week ago, I flew to a big city. The passenger next to me was a pilot. He struck up a conversation and asked me a few questions about myself. What did I do for a living? What are my hobbies? (For some reason, men seem really intrigued by the fact that I’m a writer. It must sound a lot more glamorous than it is. When they learn that I like to golf, hike and fly fish, they just about fall off their seats.)
Once we reached altitude, the flight attendant asked the pilot if he’d like to be moved to first class. He didn’t want to. He wanted to stay and talk with me. For the next several hours, he asked lots of questions about me, but spent a significant amount of time discussing a passion of his. We were getting along so well that we hit the bathroom together to join the mile-high club before beginning our descent. Ha, ha. Just kidding. I wanted to see if you were paying attention. He was very polite and asked for my number. He said he’d get in touch the next time he flies to my hometown so we can fly fish together.
On the way home, I got stuck at an airport during a layover for a few hours. I headed to a restaurant with a bar and thought I’d eke a little more vacation out of my trip. A married trucking guy struck up conversation, and he was very pleasant to visit with and intrigued by how I fill my free time. Then, a hot doctor came and sat next to me. I’m not kidding.
What was happening? Were the guy gods just feeling favorably toward me? First a pilot, now a doctor? (I should qualify that I don’t give a rip what guys do as long as they are smart, hard-working and happy — sincerely. I don’t need anyone else’s money.) I felt like the lady of the freakin’ hour by now, so I just settled into great conversation with my new doctor friend.
He was funny, interested and interesting. We chatted and giggled and he bought me a glass of wine (you know that a guy who has to catch a plane has no agenda). When we finally had to part company (which I really wasn’t ready to do, but hey, we were in an airport and had flights to catch), he said that my conversation was “very engaging,” said he was so glad he met me and passed me his email address on a receipt. I slid mine over on a cocktail napkin.
I got back home, got settled back into my affairs, and even though I thought about my charming doctor friend, I wasn’t going to email him. We live in different cities, and I figured if I made that big of an impression, he’d get in touch — which a week later is exactly what he did! I couldn’t believe it. I seriously thought he’d get home and blow his nose into the cocktail napkin I had given him.
Here is my take-away from this experience. Men have started to look at me past what I look like. The day I met the doctor in the airport, I hadn’t showered, I was rockin’ the side braid from two-day hair and my makeup was minimal. Everything in my suitcase was dirty, so I was wearing a T-shirt and sweatshirt — not my best look. But now that I have things I like to do, on my own, with or without someone else, outside of a marriage it’s like catnip for men. And the great thing is, I’m just being me. I’m not doing this stuff to attract anyone — I’m doing it because for the first time in my life, I can.
It’s been comforting to learn that men are attracted to me not just for how I look but for being me and doing things I love. And you can be certain there will be a follow-up on what happens with “airport doctor” regardless of the outcome…
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