I was having a real Weight Watchers “Oprah Loves Bread” moment with myself. A real “OK, this is fine! I might actually end up alone in life and everything will be fine!” moment. There I was, 42 years old, envisioning Future Me watching Bravo alone in a Jewish retirement home, my furniture covered in cat hair and Reese’s wrappers, while Liza and Geraldine gossiped downstairs about how I’d never found The One.
Here’s the thing, though: I was in a pretty good place as far as I was concerned. I was attractive, I owned a beautiful home and made a living as a successful writer. I had two wonderful children, plenty of friends and an abundance of sass. I felt like a catch — and I was! — but dating held as much appeal as those leftovers you find in the back of your fridge that you end up tossing without opening because you won’t be able to unsee what you found inside.
I had endless conversations with my girlfriends about why I wasn’t looking for a guy. I was happy with my life the way it was. I didn’t want to experience yet another interview-date, wishing I hadn’t worn a firm control shapewear thong while sitting across from a guy who had conveniently left “I have an acute neck tic when I get nervous” out of his dating profile, and man was he nervous that night. But I couldn’t escape the painful truth, no matter how much I fought it — in it crept, like the smoke monster from Lost that never was fully explained: I wanted love. Companionship. Real connection. Intimacy. Commitment. Fine. I wanted a man.
But as I got older, the dating pool had become shallower; figuratively and literally. Where were all of the emotionally available men who were ready for the real thing and not just looking for that recently-separated ego boost? Why did men seem to all be starring in their own janky version of The Bachelor? And not like nice-guy Sean’s season — it was more like dating 100 different Juan Pablos.
The more I dated, the more disenchanted I became; there were the fizzling texts, the one-good-photo guys, the three dates that seemed promising but went nowhere, and the good-on-paper relationships that lacked any real chemistry. It was exhausting! Frankly, I much preferred a night on my couch with a bag of Lay’s and a Real Housewives reunion I’d already watched twice.
But coming to terms with my truth — that I did really want to find someone wonderful to share life with — helped me put aside my past disappointments and ultimately led me to love. I forced myself out into the Tinderverse armed with good hair and supportive undergarments with a new goal to date four men in four weeks. I didn’t make it to four because on date number two, I met My Guy; handsome, funny, thoughtful, bright, introspective, strong, communicative, a great listener. He was everything I’d hoped to find. Our chemistry was red-hot from the second we started texting and we’ve been in a ridiculously happy, exclusive relationship like none other I’ve experienced ever since. I’m grateful it took me until I was 42 to find him. Here’s why:
1. The laundry list changes
The list of qualities I want in a man has evolved over time; what I wanted at 30 was different than what I knew I needed at 40. My deal-breakers have changed; no longer did I care whether he made more money than I did, but instead whether his outlook on life was more optimistic than negative. I’ve found that my list is more evolved now than it was in my past, that the things I know I need — and that I know I don’t want — are based on a deeper self-understanding in my 40s than I ever could have had as a younger woman.
2. Appreciation factor: High
Had we met 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be experiencing the level of gratitude that I do now for the man I love. I had to go through the muck and the mire of dating the wrong men and being involved in relationships that ultimately failed, to truly be thankful for the man I met at 42. How would I appreciate everything he is, the fact we can have a great date just hanging out on the couch, the way he makes me laugh or the ease of our communication had I not experienced the opposite of those things before? It’s kind of like shopping for a house; after looking at house after house for months, one finally hits the market that is completely perfect for you.
3. I care less
I care less. About certain things. Like, whether he knows that I have an entire drawer full of SPANX. Or whether there are dishes in my sink when he comes over. Or whether he likes Project Runway or So You Think You Can Dance. I just don’t care about some of the things that mattered much more significantly in my younger years; I’ve found bigger, tastier fish to fry in my 40s.
4. I like me a lot more
In my 30s, I was in a corporate job I didn’t love. I was constantly stressed about my job, about living paycheck-to-paycheck, about whether I’d ever own a home. I was focused on raising my son, on supporting my daughter as she prepared for and started college. I was in a much different place in life, then. These days, I’m self-made. I’m accomplished! There’s an authentic, infectious confidence that’s borne from living life and getting to a place where you’re proud of who you’re becoming, of what you’ve done. And when you’re there, maybe love comes more naturally because you really do love yourself more. You emit that energy, that sense of pride, of self-appreciation, and that has the buy-one-get-one-free effect of being attractive to others, too. Bonus!
5. I’m louder now
Remember when you hadn’t yet found your voice? When you didn’t ask for what you wanted in relationships, whether emotionally, sexually or physically? So many times and in so many relationships, I shrank into myself, ultimately cutting bait and leaving because I just couldn’t get comfortable expressing myself for fear of hurting someone’s feelings: like telling a guy he was becoming too clingy for me, or that his downtown technique could use a little re-jiggering. Maybe I just came into my own later than other women do, but my relationship is so much more fulfilling now that I own who I am, that I respect myself enough to ask for what I want. My grandma Pearl always tells me, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” Wise woman.
So, fret not. Love is there, yours to experience, no matter your age — and not only that, it’s better than you dreamed. Figure out who it is that you’re looking for and get back out there if you’re ready. Get your favorite pics out and get on Tinder. Date! Disregard your disappointments, but know what you want. Be you, genuinely you. Be optimistic.
Oh, and Liza and Geraldine can suck it.