Thursday, May 30, 2024

Dating in your dotage

Flirting at 40 is fun, but what happens when you’re 50 and being single hasn’t yet lost its tingle? – by Vidya Heble

Being single in your 20s, 30s and even 40s is fun. You’ve got the spring in your step and you can step out in spring as in any other season, confident that soon if not too late, you could be in a relationship that you never want to get out of.

But there are those of us who somehow find ourselves on top of that hill called 50, beginning our slide down or maybe halfway down already, all by our lonesome selves. I know there are plenty of people who don’t want to have another relationship – and some who don’t want one at all to begin with – but let’s talk here about us thirsty totterers. The senior singles.

We need support when getting up from a sofa. We worry about loo breaks – and then we worry about whether the loo is a proper Western one or that dreaded Indian one. (In the latter case, we are equipped with a series of exercise postures that won’t find their way onto these pages.) When it comes to dating, we worry about what to eat so it won’t affect our digestion. If it’s a lunch date, we think about how much time we will get for a nap afterwards. If it’s a dinner date – oh, the questions! What do we do after dessert? Should I drop a hint or wait for him to drop me home? What if he says “your place or mine” because my place is a mess and frankly I’d rather just go to sleep.

It’s good to meet people online, but be careful not to get

And that’s after you’ve crossed the swirling rapids of Getting Ready For The Date. The clothes, the skin, the hair – women and possibly some men will know what that’s all about. Hair is greying, you have to colour it at the right time so that the roots don’t show and it doesn’t look “freshly painted” either. Nails have to be done – dark colour or light? (Passing thought: Is anyone going to look at my nails?) You have to look smart but you can’t wear something uncomfortable. No fidgeting about wishing you were in a salwar kameez on your best behenji behaviour. If only they made pyjamas fashionable. Come to think of it, that’s what palazzo pants are – hip pyjamas! Ok, that’s the outfit sorted.

‘Have you met…?’

Of course, that’s when you reach the dating stage. Before that is the whole rigmarole of finding someone and making the connection. The lucky ones among us have friends and family who help us to hook up. For the rest of us, it used to be a not-too-desperate-seeming glance through the Personal ads in the newspapers… until the advent of that glorious invention, the internet.

Though the early years of online dating and matchmaking sites were focused on younger people, it became clear quickly that age was no bar to e-hookups. Neither, apparently, was honesty! We’ve heard plenty of stories of people getting conned by online suitors – the victims are often older women, but senior men to get hoodwinked. When you can’t see who’s at the other end, it’s a risk one has to take.

Safer, then, to stick with “matches” in your own city. Alas, society is still so blinkered that many women are hesitant to meet on their home turf for fear of being misjudged in case “someone sees”. Still, times have changed quite drastically, and almost no one looks askance at an older couple who don’t “look married”, going out together. Stories such as the news of actress Suhasini Mulay getting married at the age of 60 are massively encouraging, of course.

Catching the match

How does one find, and catch, that date? All things considered, I would say that honesty and frankness is the best bet. While taking care not to put yourself in a vulnerable or compromising position, of course. And a dash of unexpected humour can help, as I discovered when I met someone – oh, ages ago. When I mentioned being divorced he asked, “Kids?” “No,” I replied, and added on the spur of the moment, “but I have lots of books.” He haha-ed, and was apparently hooked by that. We had a very nice relationship for three years, which ended with a change of location. There were no promises and no expectations, so we parted (and remain) friends.

Togetherness is that elusive quality in a relationship

Perhaps a relationship without promises and the related baggage is the ideal one, after all. But the natural instinct of the human mind is to seek constancy, which is often a scary prospect for those of us who have been burned once, or more than once. So we dither, seeking commitment and yet afraid of it, dancing around the edges of might-have-beens, haunting chatrooms and social media sites.

Of course, the drawback of chatting is that there is a gap between those of us who use complete sentences and those who resort to shorthand, often unnecessary and sometimes confusing. I know someone in Mumbai who was chatting with a woman who said “m in krla”. He was thrilled, as he lives in Ghatkopar and he thought she said “Kurla”. When he suggested meeting, she said she meant the state, Kerala. Poor guy felt as if he had bitten into a krla (karela).

You can cook up something interesting at any age!Home alone

It is indeed, at times, bitter – the feeling of loneliness and needing a companion. At the same time, taking that step into a relationship is such a big move that people increasingly prefer a solo life. One of the newspapers, in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, featured such singletons-by-choice. What is sad is that they’re all young. One young woman said she is 23 and feels jaded. I don’t know whether to laugh or despair. At 23, my life was just beginning!

Not just in print, online too I see 20-and-30-somethings talking about being tired of the relationship chase. Ah, but the fun is in the chase, I long to tell them. Except that they’ll probably scoff at this aunty giving them gyaan. Somewhere in the social media maze, a chap talks about a dating attempt and mentions being an “old guy”. He doesn’t seem that old, so out of curiosity, I message to ask him his age. He replies “33” and I laugh, both to myself and in the chat. “I’ll be 34 in a couple of months,” he says helpfully.

Hell, maybe we seniors are the really young ones, after all, I think, and begin Googling “dating sites for seniors”. Never say die!

You can cook up something interesting at any age!

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