The fire dance had inflamed my resolve but it was clear I needed some direction, if not some serious HELP. Marshall, a mutual friend of Wekka’s and mine from ye olde martial arts days, heard my tales of woe and offered to meet and chat about dating. It meant a dinner with a man; how could I say no?
He’d been traumatized, too. With the same zeal with which I was developing my “baseball scores” date into stand-up material, Marshall had polished a quirky story about bailing out his younger son. He worked a lot and was in a serious international relationship. Marshall was still flummoxed by his wife abandoning him, burnt by his sons’ difficult teenage years and discouraged that none of them were doing anything worthwhile.
Over margaritas, we shared stories and caught up on gossip about our circle. I was a more frustrated dater than he was, having not been a whiz back when I was single. We talked about men and what they’re looking for. I was finding that in their 40s, divorced men who responded to me were mostly looking for a second home. They’d been hurt, some felt financially exploited, they missed their kids, and they wanted someone to accept them. I liked these men. But I didn’t feel I could take it so slow any more.
“So what are you looking for?” he asked me.
Well. At first I figured I had to look for someone to join our household, someone to co-parent Short Stack with me. But now I know that I have to burn off a bunch of energy first before I start looking for anything serious. In some ways, I’m enjoying shopping for men, except that… Well. It has something to do with grieving, the hormones are overpowering. I’m so horny I can’t think straight.
I know what that’s like, he said. He stared at his enchiladas.
But I have to be careful and safe because I’m a Mom now.
You’re definitely in a tough situation.
I feel like I have a widow cherry. I just have to get rid of that second virginity, get past that barrier, before I can really deal with anything else. I’m hot and free but super responsible. I had to be to get through the past few years. And I’m skittish. I know it’s going to be intense the first time. Not anyone can handle that, and certainly not someone casual.
Marshall had ideas. I could look at “adult dating sites,” although they are probably not so good for safety. I could consider married guys in open relationships. They’re more common than you think.
We were drinking a lot and I took a break to powder my nose. As I walked back to the table I caught his eye. Marshall was at ease, leaning back and laughing a little.
What are you laughing at? I asked, feeling the sway in my hips as I sat back down.
Bad thoughts, he said.
Oh, good. That’s good. I like that. I need to hear things like that.
He ordered another round.
So, your turn… what are you looking for? Marshall was weary of adventure and drama. His current relationship was not going to last. This girlfriend wasn’t providing home or any peace. She was exciting but needy, destabilizing areas he’d built back up after divorce.
Hmmm. I’ve never understood women like that. I guess I’m low-maintenance -- is that the right word?
He liked his bachelor pad, even though it had zero personal touches. When there, he was self contained, with a world-class gym and a grocery store that sold beer in the building. After years of domestic chaos, he was comforted to come home from every trip and find everything just as he’d left it, no drunken teenagers lying around, nothing broken. It looked like a hotel, one without even any pictures hanging.
Oh. I don’t think I could live without my stuff … we have so much art and so many memories. But it does sound like it has been a relief to you.
His needs were simple. He’d eat at restaurants, or frozen meals, stock up on deli for lunches.
I said, we’ve been eating a lot of frozen food for a while, but I’m looking forward to starting to cook again. I can’t eat like this (pointing at plate) every night. My cholesterol has gotten kinda high, and I cook a lot of stir fries, so it should settle together nicely. That is, once I get this other thing out of the way.
Marshall said it was important for him to feel that someone had his back, was helping to keep him safe. He liked to take risks, and then return to something solid. Family life hadn’t been like that in a dozen years. Single life was better than being responsible for a bunch of slugs, but there wasn’t much upside.
Huh. I know how you feel. I keep my home life stable, but I’m super social: even with a kid I still like to go out dancing and have dinner parties and stuff. But it’s more rewarding to have a consistent companion no matter what’s going on.
We finished our meal with many awkward silences.
After I dropped him off at his door I turned on the radio. My first boyfriend greeted me singing “You can’t always get what you want…” Why, hello, Mick. You don’t sound like you mean that, I thought.
“But if you try sometimes, you just might find…" The classic words built to a crescendo, paced with percussion, and the angelic choir came in on a swell: "you just might find... you get what you need.”
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