Saturday, June 06, 2015

Fear and loathing in SF and MSP

Another bid for love, another broken heart. 

Louise Erdrich wrote in The Painted Drum:

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.
Love is my driving force, the impulse that guides me to make love connections with friends, family, lovers. And the quest for that elusive partnership with a kindred spirit who can love and accept me as I am now, with all my contradictions and unfathomable depths, as well as inspire me to evolve to a higher self. Yet as a woman of 55, a living my life alone is ever more likely. 

In a bar in Chinatown last November, I met a gal who managed a dating service. I love Chinatown and savor those narrow, cluttered streets, scouring the novelty shops in search of special gifts for friends or a bauble for myself each time I visit the beautiful pastel city. On a recent trip I made my usual stop for a Mai Tai at Li Po, a fabulously kitchy dive bar on Grant. After greeting my neighbor on the stool beside me and learning her line of work, I shared my observation that the dating pool for women my age is shrinking. Instead of reassuring me, she agreed. She said studies have found that most men want to be with a woman at least 10 years their junior. That means men my age are not looking for me. If I'm lucky, I'll pique the curiosity of a game 65- to -70-year-old.

Add to that fun fact the state of most men my age: fat, unambitious, uninspiring, inflexible. As women are gaining insight and talent with those grey hairs, men are becoming more insular, stodgy and unkempt. And so many of them can't get it up or keep it up. Or they get knocked out after the first round. 

For three years I've lamented the scarcity of men who fit my criteria for an acceptable partner. For one thing, let's be honest, he needs to be physically attractive to me, preferably sexy as fuck. Of course he must be reliable, responsible, compassionate, intelligent, a good and loyal friend, generous with affection, respect and praise. He needs to work hard as well as play hard. He must be ambitious - for success or learning or travel or wisdom or experience or all of the above. Also, I want him to want me and be willing to put in some effort to get me. So, when I met a guy who fit this fairly fussy description, I was so excited I literally bounced and clapped for joy. Goody! A unicorn!

Fast-forward to the day we ended the romance. As if the heartache and anger and regret and longing and the disappointment of unrequited love weren't enough, there's the existential anxiety that accompanies the realization that this may have been my last shot.

What's the one line you're loathe to hear but can't avoid? "You will meet someone else." He says it, your friends say it, your mother says it. But they know and you know odds are not in your favor. What's more, now that you're over 50, most likely you won't

It's different for men. For the guy I just broke up with, the unicorn, there are hundreds, probably thousands of delightful, intelligent, lovely, soulful women who would welcome his attention; he has only to turn his head in their direction. 

But unicorns are rare. And that awareness presses down on me with the weight of the ocean, and feels like what water flooding the lungs must feel like, what drowning must feel like, adrenaline spurting through your body, head pounding, limbs flailing, desperate for air.

Before I met him, the ocean was calm; I floated blissfully atop the soft waves, kissed by the sun of a contented life and many close friendships. But the break-up caused the sea to swell and crash and pull me under. As a kid in Hawaii and L.A., I was pulled down and spun around by the undertow. It's frightening and hard not to panic. But you have to stay calm and trust your instincts to guide you back to the surface. At last you surface and crawl back onto the beach, gasping for air, clutching the sand for dear life.

I've been pulled down by the undertow too many times. But fear of the undertow is not enough to keep me off the beach.


Enjoy this stroll through Chinatown (these images haven't been retouched. My photog friend Jew would cringe at the sight.)