Finding another person to love is finding another person to lose
December 4, 2018 2:30 AM   Subscribe

Viv Albertine on Dating Again in Her 50s | Groundbreaking Slits guitarist Viv Albertine writes about dating, aging, and how it feels to be a woman of a certain age in a world that we never saw coming.

Why is every man I go out with so bonkers? Do I choose these men because I have low self-esteem and am scared of rejection? Because I think they’re so broken they’ll never leave me? Or is bonkers familiar because my family were all a bit bonkers? Or are we all bonkers by the time we’re in our fifties? I know I’m attracted to Asperger’s types, but is this as good as it gets?
posted by I_Love_Bananas (71 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really enjoyed this, thank you. My husband has Clothes/Music/Boys and I've been meaning to read it, but I should actually do it.
I had to retrain my eyes and brain to find older men attractive when I started dating again in my fifties. The last time I was single the men I was looking at were in their thirties and I still had that youthful image fixed in my head. It was depressing at first, choosing from a pool that’s not regarded as desirable or vital in your society. I was paddling around in that same pool myself. I’d walk down Oxford Street looking at bald men and men with grey hair and paunches and say to myself, He’s about my age, that’s the demographic I should be looking at. I realized I had a very small group to choose from: men over fifty who’d kept themselves vaguely together physically, were single, mentally stable, solvent and not gay were rare creatures. I managed to re-educate myself eventually. Now I’m only attracted to people my age. A young face looks like a blank page to me.
posted by carbide at 3:09 AM on December 4 [25 favorites]


This article hits home. The vast majority of men of a certain age are married, dead or close to it, or dating much younger women. The ratio is so low, she felt she had to work with that one guy for way too long despite that fact that he was all wrong for her.

I've been on exactly one date since I became single again at 58. Turns out the guy had just divorced his wife over political differences that they kept buried for 20 years until the current administration. I sided with his wife. A few weeks later, he was already remarried, to a much younger woman.
posted by Miss Cellania at 3:45 AM on December 4 [12 favorites]


The paragraph that ends with "I don’t know, I wasn’t wearing my glasses." is fantastic.
posted by memebake at 4:10 AM on December 4 [7 favorites]


I'm 48 and single. I'm only halfway through the article and I am already getting The Fear.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:35 AM on December 4 [16 favorites]


Nothing gives me a "men are cancelled" feeling like this type of article, where a woman who is fascinating, accomplished and young-looking can't get a fucking date. It gives you pause about every man, no matter what they seem to be like.
posted by Frowner at 4:37 AM on December 4 [47 favorites]


Relatable.

I'm 49. I divorced a few years ago after the long, slow decline of an 18 year marriage. I'm dating now and things are not nearly as bad as she describes, but. I learned the hard way that there are much worse things than being single. I am quite content to keep my standards high and put my primary investment into having an awesome life, regardless of whether I end up partnered again.

Last thought--I had a conversation not long ago with a friend's mom, widowed in her early 70s, remarried before she turned 80, about her dating experience. The memorable phrase was that men in the 65 and up age bracket are looking for "a nurse with a purse"!
posted by Sublimity at 4:53 AM on December 4 [28 favorites]


Ahhhhhh. 44. Don't look it, but don't want to date children either. Also not pretty - I think I am the woman equivalent of sexy ugly, maybe?

Golden Girls house, anyone?
posted by wellred at 5:17 AM on December 4 [11 favorites]


I'm with you, wellred. We can build our house on Crone Island. I've heard the weather is wonderful there.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:31 AM on December 4 [14 favorites]


I read Clothes/Music/Boys a few years ago, and I'm sad and angry to read that the men in her life are still causing her such pain. If women had consistently treated me the way Richard and Eryk and the vast majority of the other men in her memoirs have treated her, I'd swear them off. I mean...

“My new place is just around the corner. I’ve just done it up. Do you want to see it?” I asked.

“Are we going to have sex?”

“No.”

He took a swig of his pint. “Oh. No, then.”


How the fuck can anyone be that oblivious and cruel, and yet walk away from the encounter seemingly thinking that it was a "success" or that the other person would ever want to see them again?
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:58 AM on December 4 [14 favorites]


Oh, The Card Cheat. You are a nice person. Most people, in my experience, aren't.
posted by wellred at 5:59 AM on December 4


Right? I’ve had a guy say something almost exactly like that to me, except we were in my house. I’d told him I was feeling sick (flu-ish) and was going to bed, and when he realized this was actually the literal truth and not an invitation to have sex, he threw a tantrum about it. Dude was 43 at the time.

I still know him (I work with him, actually, object lesson in why dating coworkers is a bad idea) and he’s still a whiny asshole at 55.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:11 AM on December 4 [5 favorites]


I fucking love Viv Albertine. I also am really grateful to be asexual.
posted by Sophie1 at 6:25 AM on December 4 [7 favorites]


I am convinced that any woman over...I dunno, maybe 30 or how bad is it these days.... Well. Anyway. There are a lot of terrible avoidant dudes out there that are always in the dating pool, good ones are snapped up fast, and if you actually catch one, it's a goddamned miracle. I know a few who have done it (my mom, even) later in life, but it honestly seems like the odds are so low as to why bother meeting a bunch of shitheads just in case?

I've always known it wasn't going to happen for me and thankfully I no longer care, so that's awesome.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:49 AM on December 4 [12 favorites]


It gives you pause about every man, no matter what they seem to be like.

God, yes. I'm dating again after a few years and my problems are different (because I'm a gay man) but the thing that always strikes me is how many men like to monologue. They just like talking at people so, so much and pay attention to or respond to about 20% of what I say. I've started to find it amusing in a grim way, kind of like hour 2 of being locked outside without your shoes, or something.
posted by Automocar at 6:52 AM on December 4 [47 favorites]


Automocar - those people need therapists so that they can monologue at someone and also listen to their friends/dates/etc.
posted by wellred at 6:57 AM on December 4 [2 favorites]


Honestly it seems like a strategy for...well, de facto mostly women, but probably a few queer and trans men and the occasional cis guy would be to evolve legal documents and planning so that people can readily form serious, stable households together without having to reinvent "buying a house with someone who isn't your romantic partner", "writing wills in non-marriage settings" and so on.

Because society has been organized around patriarchal relationships for so long, it seems like it's more difficult to build truly stable and long-lasting non-romantic partnerships, but they also seem like the only sensible option. Let romance come and go, build the house to last. No one should have to hope that they find a reliable man before they have a decent life.

What were those women's lay orders from the early modern period? Somewhere in central Europe? They had big shared houses? I'm picturing plaster and dark timber? A metafilter post this year some time?
posted by Frowner at 6:58 AM on December 4 [30 favorites]


I love her music but hadn't read anything by her before. This is really good, thank you for posting it; I'm going to seek out more of her writing, including the memoir mentioned above.

I'm a bit younger but not by a whole lot, and the older I get, the more depressing the dating scene looks. I'm a man, so I'm on the other side of most of what she describes, but a lot of it resonated with me. This sentence, for example, jumped out:

I realized I had a very small group to choose from: men over fifty who’d kept themselves vaguely together physically, were single, mentally stable, solvent and not gay were rare creatures.

When I was younger, it felt like my dating pool was comparatively broad. Now, when I look at friends who are dating or if I imagine myself suddenly single, that pool looks a lot more constrained, for all kinds of reasons.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:59 AM on December 4 [2 favorites]


Automocar - those people need therapists so that they can monologue at someone and also listen to their friends/dates/etc.

I have a friend with whom I trade monologuing. We both like to share All The Things About Our Latest Enthusiasm, so we just kind of trade off - fortunately, we have relatively compatible enthusiasms.

It seems like a horrible horrible sign on early dates, especially. If someone is entertaining and you have a relationship with them, a little "let me tell you All About A Thing" is sometimes okay, but it's alarming when people think it's a selling point.
posted by Frowner at 7:01 AM on December 4 [4 favorites]


I’d like to be with someone kind who can hold a conversation and is in my age group. If that’s too much to ask, I’ll do without.

As mentioned here on the Blue previously, Sara Eckel's book is a sanity-saver. One of the great takeaways is that she only wanted to find someone who a) was as much fun as one of her regular friends, and b) could get intimate with.

Increasingly, that (a) is the one that matters, and is harder and harder to find. If there is someone out there who is as right as one of your regular friends, your paths would likely already have crossed years ago. Who's left to find? Our respective paths all became so divergent and specialized the longer we went on, making that chance of commonality ever more remote.*

Or are we all bonkers by the time we’re in our fifties?

Probably. I know I certainly am, and I've got a few years to go yet.

*Or something. I have no idea. If I did, I wouldn't still be here.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:01 AM on December 4 [3 favorites]


What were those women's lay orders from the early modern period? Somewhere in central Europe?

the Beguines and Beghards.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:02 AM on December 4 [4 favorites]


Has the time finally come to create MetaDate here on the blue? I'd wade into that pool ....
posted by pjsky at 7:20 AM on December 4 [13 favorites]


Yeah this was pretty much what I've suspected. I am pretty grim on my own prospects at this point.

One of the ways I cope with my disappointment about our current reality is by remembering that we are all victims of history. Men are largely terrible, not because they can't be better, but because the world in which we grew up expected so little of them that they are emotionally stunted. And we women were raised to accept it so we're damaged too.

Future men and women might be able to live free of this limitation, just like they might get to grow new organs or live on Mars. I was born into this time though, and so this is what I have to work with.
posted by emjaybee at 7:26 AM on December 4 [27 favorites]


Oof. This hit me where I live. Even though I am younger, I spent the past 3 years slouching towards my Crone Island life as a person whose only meaningful relationship (aside from those with family members) was going to be with my dogs.

I tried Bumble and Tinder dating earlier in the year after my (second*) divorce was finalized and it was awful, so I ran far away from that. I can't remember exactly what changed in November - I think I was just bored at work - but I decided to give OKCupid a shot, and I met someone (like Met Someone™️™️™️) somehow and it is so weird and I am spending a fair amount of my time looking over my shoulder to get advance warning of whatever problem is going to ruin everything. (I am naturally anxious, so this is a default state, but there is a lot more tied up in it now.)

Things end and nothing is perfect and it is hard to be alone and that frisson of everything when you're with someone who gets you and is compatible with you is amazing and the world is full of things.

If nothing else, I am so glad that Viv shredded Eryk's shirt. Jesus, what a fucker.

*To this point, my personal life has been an unmitigated disaster.
posted by minsies at 7:32 AM on December 4 [13 favorites]


Reminded again of Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body, which begins with the line, "Why is the measure of love loss?"

I am in a weird way living in the midst of lost love. It's better than no love for me right now. WHYYYYYY
posted by wellred at 7:52 AM on December 4 [3 favorites]


I started reading this because I'm 50 and getting divorced and I thought it would be a melancholy sort of read that I'd relate to but which would lead me to mope around for a few hours afterward. Instead, it was sad and funny and melancholy and somehow triumphant and I wish she and I were pals. I feel kind of empowered in a weird way.
posted by Occula at 8:25 AM on December 4 [22 favorites]


My mother divorced the day the last of six kids moved out of the house, never dated after that.

That is, until she was 88, and had been set back by disfiguring cancer, and a disabling stroke that left her unable to speak. Then she met Richard, age 89. He was tall and still handsome, had his hair and teeth, and still drove around in his nice car. He was a resident at a different nursing home, and my mother caught his attention by being the person that always won the nickel and dime card games that the ladies played in the day room.

He courted her, brought her flowers every day, arranged to eat dinner with her every night at her nursing home, sat by her bedside and answered her phone like a private secretary. "She's sleeping now, can we call you back when she wakes up?"

They had five years together, he died two weeks after she did. She and my father had widening incompatibilities on political, social, and cultural issues. She stuck it out for the kids. But now there she was 40 years later, 90 years old, and found the love of her life.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:33 AM on December 4 [96 favorites]


I've been thinking a lot lately about how hard but how freeing it is to stop seeing "is attractive to men" as any kind of measure of your worth. I mean, women are raised to think that's pretty much our only measure of worth. Which is so nuts that it kind of hurts your brain to try to comprehend it.

But also so deep in everything we do and think, as women. We are in a perpetual beauty pageant from the day we are born, and are supposed to care and agonize over the fact that being too x or not enough y means losing points with the judging committee, which is comprised of literally every man on the planet. From Supreme Court judges to street randos; they are all qualified to look at me and decide whether I am hot or not, and I am supposed to care about that, a lot. More than anything. And I am so well-trained that to not care what some rando dude thinks of me takes a tremendous amount of will.

What the fuck even is this shit? I ask myself that question a lot.
posted by emjaybee at 9:02 AM on December 4 [70 favorites]


I've never done any intentional dating or search for romantic companionship. My few relationships all arose out of a group of friends and were a surprise to me every time. Now that I'm widowed the through of trying to find someone else seems pointless and exhausting, and that's just finding someone, then you have to open up and figure out how compatible are your world views and emotional needs, and share your pasts, and just ergh. The though of doing that with anyone I haven't known since my 20s is just overwhelming, how do you even do that?

I actually met my current roommate in the same group of college friends that I first met my husband, and can't imagine cohabiting with someone who was not part of my life for that long.
posted by buildmyworld at 9:07 AM on December 4 [7 favorites]


I’ve been seeing a lot of long marriages end recently, as the kids move out. Surveying the cishet single scene in my fifties, in a liberal city, among a fairly financially comfortable and well-educated demographic, I’m mostly struck by the fact that the women are much better at relationships than the men. As a group, privilege didn’t do us any favors. Moderate power corrupts moderately.

I never want to date again. It’s hard enough just to find friends to occasionally have a decent conversation with.
posted by panglos at 9:16 AM on December 4 [2 favorites]


If you ever needed proof that sexuality is not a choice, here it is: I am still attracted to men, in spite of my father, in spite of my dating history, in spite of the internet and its blatant horribleness.

If something happened to my husband, or if we divorced, I would not marry again, nor even co-habit. I suppose it's possible that I might date again, but it would have to be a miracle. I am entirely over putting up with men's shit.
posted by corvikate at 9:21 AM on December 4 [17 favorites]


Has the time finally come to create MetaDate here on the blue? I'd wade into that pool ....
posted by pjsky at 9:20 AM on December 4 [+] [!]


I turned 35 yesterday, and while I'm a man (or callow youth at heart still, perhaps), yes, please. God, it sucks out there.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:27 AM on December 4 [2 favorites]


MetaDate

While I would love to meet more of you, you know/have access to SO much of my business that it'd be one of two things: absolute magic or unmitigated disaster. Possibly both?
posted by wellred at 9:35 AM on December 4 [19 favorites]


Ah her writing is delightful. I don't quite agree with this bit but I definitely snorted audibly.
Perhaps ‘defective’ is a middle-aged person’s default setting. Like the life cycle of a pear we go unripe, unripe, ripe, off. Except the men I meet seem to go adolescent, adolescent, adolescent, old, with no ripe bit, no wise bit, no emotional maturity before they wither.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:36 AM on December 4 [11 favorites]


On the topic of knowing people's business, wellred, OkCupid always had all these VERY specific sex questions (or other topics) and it always seemed odd knowing if someone likes anal sex or has made a sex tape before you share an awkward hello or goodbye first date hug.

I can't imagine dating beyond where I'm at now. Everyone is divorced with children already, and I assume I'm mostly judged to be a mutant just because I'm still single. This article is making me very happy in a sad commiserating way.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:39 AM on December 4 [4 favorites]


this makes me want to write stories that represent the over 50 folks of all persuasions finding love. The way our culture normalizes the male gaze on youthful beauty is an overwhelming representation and yeah it's hard to overcome that but maybe we can chip away at it here and there and provide some kind of narrative that runs counter to the bullshit that slowly kills us on the daily.
posted by nikaspark at 9:42 AM on December 4 [6 favorites]


OnTheLastCastle: maybe that's why I never met anyone on OKC, lol. Also, happy birthday!
posted by wellred at 9:51 AM on December 4 [2 favorites]


Everyone is divorced with children already, and I assume I'm mostly judged to be a mutant just because I'm still single.

I'm in a long-term partnership, with two kids, in my 40s, and I'll say this:

I have never been less judgmental about other peoples' fates or life choices WRT dating, marriage, and parenting than I am right now. If the work of keeping a marriage together, raising kids, and just dealing with the slings and arrows of middle age generally doesn't slap some compassion and open mindedness into you, you're a fool.

I strongly suspect all those other people are far more preoccupied with their regrets or what they need to get better at - fast, somehow - than with judging you.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:54 AM on December 4 [13 favorites]


I more meant other single people I meet on dates, for the record. I have three wonderful couples who are the loveliest, most compassionate people I know that I spend most of my social time with and I don't worry at all about their judgement or societies at large (much!). Anyway, I finished the article and lost it giggling at a very key part right at the end. Fuck Eryk.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:06 AM on December 4 [5 favorites]


On the topic of knowing people's business, wellred, OkCupid always had all these VERY specific sex questions (or other topics) and it always seemed odd knowing if someone likes anal sex or has made a sex tape before you share an awkward hello or goodbye first date hug.

It's possible to make your responses to those questions private. They still use them for algorithm purposes, but your potential matches won't see them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:28 AM on December 4 [5 favorites]


My mum and the writer were in adjacent hospital beds back in the early 80s. They were both dealing with lung problems at the Royal Brompton in Chelsea, in a quiet sunny ward where they used to let patients stay for ages and visitors weren't allowed to bring flowers, because of the pollen.

My mum, the photographer, made Viv pose for pictures outside, as she did whenever she thought someone looked interesting. After she got better and came home she printed a very nice black and white 16x12 of Viv leaning against a wall that wouldn't have looked out of place on the cover of the NME. She told us kids who it was, and we were surprised that our respectable old mum and the legendary punk guitarist from The Slits would become friends, but we were just underestimating both of them.
posted by w0mbat at 10:34 AM on December 4 [54 favorites]


Honestly it seems like a strategy for...well, de facto mostly women, but probably a few queer and trans men and the occasional cis guy would be to evolve legal documents and planning so that people can readily form serious, stable households together without having to reinvent "buying a house with someone who isn't your romantic partner", "writing wills in non-marriage settings" and so on.

I have a friend who has kind of done this. I'm not sure of the details, but she bought a house with the intention of living it in long-term with several roommates/friends who would also be there long-term, and they have a contract that spells everything out and gives all of them rights and some say over what happens with the house. She is planning on becoming a single mom by choice, and I know she only feels like that's a possible path for her because she has created this really strong community of friends around her that can absorb a lot of the roles that would otherwise be taken on by a partner.
posted by aka burlap at 10:41 AM on December 4 [8 favorites]


MetaDate

While I would love to meet more of you, you know/have access to SO much of my business that it'd be one of two things: absolute magic or unmitigated disaster. Possibly both?


You're all lovely people, but I make it a general rule never to date at my watering hole, for fear of spoiling it, and MeFi is very definitely my watering hole.

That said, quidnunc can come get it anytime he wants, but he knows that.

posted by Capt. Renault at 10:48 AM on December 4 [15 favorites]


What a great, well-written article. Completely got it. Especially this part:

Except the men I meet seem to go adolescent, adolescent, adolescent, old, with no ripe bit, no wise bit, no emotional maturity before they wither.

It's frustrating that so many people my age (52) are still only listening to the same music they listened to in high school. They look so much older than I do (in my head at least),they don't take care of their bodies, and, they're all old fuddy-duddies!

I recently had a former co-worker 20 years my junior interested in me. Quite flattering, but the article completely explains my refusal to pursue the relationship.

I could have dated younger men during the last five years, but lovely as some of them were, I didn’t want to keep wincing inwardly whenever I referred to something that called attention to my age. Or not be able to share the difficulties of growing older, or have to keep explaining references. I’d like to be with someone kind who can hold a conversation and is in my age group. If that’s too much to ask, I’ll do without.

Sigh, had to give up a cute boy, but I don't require arm candy.
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 10:48 AM on December 4 [3 favorites]


It's possible to make your responses to those questions private. They still use them for algorithm purposes, but your potential matches won't see them.

Back when I still had an OKCupid profile I deliberately set all of my answers to private. I kept anything that could directly identify me out of my public profile and I didn't post a picture (this was before OKCupid changed things to make you basically invisible to other users if you don't have a profile picture). And that's how I found out that there's a certain subset of guys who feel entitled to your information.

One guy in particular, without any prior interaction, sent me a screed about how it was UNFAIR that he couldn't see my answers when I could see all of his. Safe in my anonymity I wrote back and pointed out OKCupid wouldn't actually show me his answer to an individual question unless I a) answered the same question, and b) set my answer to non-private too. And, even if that wasn't the case, making his answers non-private was an individual choice he had made for himself and didn't obligate me to do anything whatsoever. He didn't like that response. He sent me another long angry message bossing me about, which I ignored. Did I mention my profile was very clear that I was only interested in monogamous relationships and his profile included a paragraph about how stupid he thought monogamy was? Yeah. So, from then on when I spotted him on campus or about town I'd point him out to whatever friend I was with and say "That's the asshole who..." and tell my story. I like to think I was performing a public service
posted by Secret Sparrow at 11:53 AM on December 4 [20 favorites]


I've been thinking a lot lately about how hard but how freeing it is to stop seeing "is attractive to men" as any kind of measure of your worth

Possibly the best part of lesbianism, honestly.

This all sounds hard. But you get used to the minuscule dating pool and the whole hunting for gems amidst a sea of bullshit. I’ve never had a broad dating pool in my life, but, you know. You manage. You get out and live your life the way you want and you meet as many people as it feels good to meet, and you accept that you don’t have control over the rest. And it’s ok. Sometimes it’s even pretty great.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:42 PM on December 4 [11 favorites]


Big mood.

And I can't seem to manage to find a date or partner, why?

I'm sensitive, engaged, present and interesting and I actually listen and have conversations. I'm also very body positive and never looking for traditional male-gaze beauty. I believe in and practice emotional labor and I'm naturally, breathtakingly romantic and...

Oh, right, duh. I almost forgot. I'm almost totally bonkers. I'm also not actually cis-het male and I'm frequently a broken, glitchy piece of human garbage and I didn't realize my heart would actually get more sensitive and even less resilient as I got older, so I'm even more guarded about sharing it with anyone at all because owch, it's that sensitive and I've had a couple of pretty seriously broken hearts, and it's just awful. The title and thesis of this thread resonates very much.

I've also even been in the very stupid throes of fragile masculinity, and in hindsight that's some really dumb bullshit that I definitely regret, even if I learned from it and to be less fragile and stupid.

I've also done horrible, unspeakable things to my psyche with art, experiences and a weird life (in addition to, because of, or in spite of a history of trauma, ugh) and I know I have a lot of weirdly fractaled crenelations, fjords and facets that can be difficult if not just outright strange to navigate.

Frankly, at this point I would just like an honorary transfemme hut on Crone Island somewhere near the witch circle and a lot of close femme-brained friends.

Which is basically what I have now, and it's actually really good, there. I actually have friends at this late age, and they're good friends, and am always making new friends. I am very thankful for this, because socially I'm not at all lonely.

I would also like a best friend, partner and lover, but where I shine at being a creative and interesting weirdo and faithful, committed friend and lover - I often suck at being an adult.

It hasn't been easy, but I have learned to accept that I'm very unlikely and strange partner material, so I might as well be my own best friend first.

I also wish someone would actually pursue and woo me for once instead of being inevitably forced into the stereotypically masculine-ish role of being expected to be the lead. I had a good friend drunkenly propose marriage this year and it was actually remarkably, surprisingly upsetting because she was just horsing around. I remember blushing furiously at the bar and barely mumbling "Oh god, don't do this..." but she didn't know how much I actually wanted something like that, and how much I yearn to invest a lot of EL in a real partnership.

This is one of the many known reasons why the patriarchy needs smashing. I would like to live in a world where it's totally normal for women to actively pursue someone like this without all the stupid patriarchal baggage and real risks of having that attention mis-used or abused. I want those doors blown wide open right off their hinges and burned in a hearty, warming bonfire of full equality and normalcy.

posted by loquacious at 1:05 PM on December 4 [30 favorites]


My Crone Island includes loquacious.
posted by wellred at 1:10 PM on December 4 [20 favorites]


I think a transfemme hut is absolutely essential to Crone Island.

loquacious you are NOT garbage!
posted by supermedusa at 1:13 PM on December 4 [8 favorites]


but I make it a general rule never to date at my watering hole, for fear of spoiling it, and MeFi is very definitely my watering hole.

Yeah, good point there. Do we want to deal with the drama of the inevitable breakups and "one person likes the other one better than the other" sorts of crap? Do mods want to deal with that? (Nope.) I kind of regretted inviting an ex into a previous watering hole of mine after the end and he had to leave after he broke up with me, for obvious reasons.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:18 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


[A couple comments deleted. "What if the genders were reversed" is meant in the spirit of fairness I know, but in practice almost always goes badly, since the real-world context isn't easily reversible. It's fine to just say you think the author shouldn't have done that thing. Gonna also ask that we not run off into how some women are crazy or just need to read some evolutionary psychology; please believe me those won't be productive or interesting directions. We have a lot of threads that aren't about women's experience of dating after 50.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:39 PM on December 4 [17 favorites]


...evolve legal documents and planning so that people can readily form serious, stable households together without having to reinvent "buying a house with someone who isn't your romantic partner", "writing wills in non-marriage settings" and so on. [...] What were those women's lay orders from the early modern period?

This is essentially what I've been wanting and working toward for years, but I still have no idea how to make it happen. I'm a 51-year-old polytheist hermit monastic-in-training. I'm happy with my solitude and I'm married to my thriving creative + spiritual life; I'm no longer interested in romance and I have no intention of dating again. The Beguines are one of my biggest inspirations.

Since there are no existing monastic orders who would take someone like me (I've been looking for a long time, to no avail), I've written up a "monastic personal ad." I don't know what else to call it. The idea is that if I somehow put myself "out there" more often, I might find a religious hermit platonic life partner of some sort to help ease the burdens of daily life upon both of us. Adulting can be super exhausting when you have to eke out a living and organize everything for yourself on a shoestring budget without any backup. (Especially when just about everything in the U.S. seems to be set up to drain maximal time, energy, and money from workers.)

I'm struggling to even come up with the right language for this. It's not just a roommate I seek. It's not a date or spouse. It's a type of friend, yes, but a committed friend with solitary inclinations who can responsibly, reliably, and legally co-manage the adulting duties that spouses are typically expected to share (breadwinning, cooking, shopping, cleaning, holding down the fort when someone is sick, financial planning, etc.) Business partner is closer, but not accurate; I already run a solo business and I'm not looking to make it a partnership. I like the Crone Island-ish idea of feminist retirement homes, but they lack the explicitly religious aspect, and they're few and far between anyway.

So I'm interested in an...adult interdependent platonic religious hermit partnership? Man, that's a mouthful. Closest thing I've seen to it is the Beguines and Sisters of the Valley.

In theory it seems like it ought to be easier to find something like this than it would be to find romance, but that hasn't been my experience.
posted by velvet winter at 3:21 PM on December 4 [10 favorites]


I didn’t think I could do better.

Every time I read one of these articles, this line or something similar is in it.

I think it's really important to internalize the idea that sometimes, 'better' is easily available. For example, her local animal shelter probably contained a lot of better. A nice body pillow to hug at night might have been better.
posted by Ahniya at 3:25 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


A recently touring comedian whose name escapes me berated his audience for believing in the love/soulmate paradigm.

He noted the astoundingly high percentages of marriages (55%) and relationships (90%) that fail before one partner dies and bluntly asked whether anyone would choose to undergo life-saving surgery if presented with the same odds of failure.

He summed up, "You may think you are in love, but statistically, you're probably not. "

Because of his routine, I now choose to look at my long-term singlehood as success at avoiding bad relationships rather than failure to establish and maintain good ones. And, knowing how tenuous a relationship can be makes me appreciate even more the connections I make with those I love, no matter how brief, defective and impermanent.
posted by zaixfeep at 3:49 PM on December 4 [7 favorites]


This essay by Anne Lamott about online dating at age 58 is in a similar vein, and hilarious. Postscript: she got engaged recently! (Not related to essay)
posted by bearette at 5:29 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


loquacious you are NOT garbage!

Sorry, woah, hey I'm fine. That was strongly worded and not about my actual self worth but and a lot more self aware, tongue and cheek over dramatic "No seriously this is why you're single because: complicated knapsack and baggage." kind of way.

Because even if I didn't have the baggage, the cultural knapsack itself is heavy and complicated because of the trans politics inherently involved.

I'm not going to unpack the whole thing here or even suggest it matches the FPP and actual thesis of the article or women's experiences in dating men - especially since I've been a man that was at least somewhat fragile/toxic, and I don't date men - but on the other hand I've had plenty of experience with women who did want to date me if I was actually a man and taking it as read as though I were one based on my shell and appearance.

Even after coming out and trying to be authentic, and finding very real pushback (like don't start HRT, don't have surgery, etc) that would mean the end of the relationship in most of my personal experiences in the partnerships I've had.

And more than once or twice, out of fear of being alone, I ignored it and retreated - and that wasn't ok.

I've talked about this a bit before, but this all makes things incredibly complicated for dating or even being available for it.

My serious LTR dating pool is basically limited to post or pangender bisexual women (including trans) that aren't into me specifically because of my physically masculine parts, but in spite of it. Because if they're into the masculine side of me I'm trying to escape from and erase - I am myself being erased.

Yeah, there's a hell of a knapsack full of knots, yay. Sure, there's probably someone willing to mess with those knots, but then there's all the other logistical ticks on the checklist for a healthy long term partnership, like compatible goals, education, values and so on and that's even before you get into chemistry and attraction.

I'm fine, but pretty stoic and realistic about this. Love is grand. I know what it is.

And I'm going to be quiet now, because I'm really here to listen and learn some things. This thread definitely isn't translesbian queerdo dating 101.
posted by loquacious at 5:34 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]


Finding another person to love is finding another person to lose.

That is a big part of dating in your 50's. Not even looking at the long-term of growing old together, but having the willingness to put energy into put into dating or a relationship when the odds are that it won't work out, long term.

I'm a 56 year-old straight guy and I have so many single friends in their 50's, both male and female, whose attitude towards dating and relationships has become, "I'm tired of trying." It takes a lot of emotional energy to really try and make a relationship work. And some times you get tired of investing that energy again and again.

You can always pay to enter the rodeo, but at some point you don't want to, because you've just had enough of getting bucked off and stomped on.
posted by ITravelMontana at 5:43 PM on December 4 [6 favorites]


Thanks for posting. Love Viv Albertine. I'm only 40 but I'm single and... Expect to be. Maybe she needs a drummer?
posted by SystematicAbuse at 6:33 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


...evolve legal documents and planning so that people can readily form serious, stable households together without having to reinvent "buying a house with someone who isn't your romantic partner", "writing wills in non-marriage settings" and so on. [...] What were those women's lay orders from the early modern period?

My mother, who I mentioned upthread, was working with 9 other friends, towards just such a communal establishment. Then she had her stroke. Had the community been established, it would have accommodated for that, but in the setup process the ataxia and aphasia were disqualifying.

The basic idea was 10 people get together, each puts in $200,000, and they purchase some land and build their complex. They worked with an architect on the layout, which was something like this:

A circular compound, with half the circle divided into 10 wedges, each one being a self-sufficient efficiency apartment. Each has a small walled private garden on the outside, but on the inside they connect to a portico that includes a large industrial kitchen, a formal dining area, communal gardens, a laundry, and a recreational room.

Meals would be shared and prepared by a schedule, but you could chose to stay in your room and microwave something. The apartments would have 40" wide doors, and absolutely no bumps or inclines in the floor. There would be a couple small apartments on the second floor, so that rooms could be offered to live-in help, to defray the cost.

I find myself tweaking that layout in my mind pretty often, guess I need to set aside the $200K and keep collecting friendly candidates in the back of my mind.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:33 PM on December 4 [11 favorites]


"CONSIDERING ONLY AGE: The dating pool peaks in your late 40s if you look at the 14 and older population as a whole." From Peak Non-Creepy Dating Pool.
posted by squink at 7:04 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


My mother, who I mentioned upthread, was working with 9 other friends, towards just such a communal establishment. Then she had her stroke.

Sorry to hear that. That's basically my biggest fear spelled out right there in cold hard text: that my health will fail somehow before I'm able to establish the kind of monastic life I've been diligently and tenaciously working toward (but consistently failing to achieve) for over a decade. I yearn to leave some kind of legacy behind for future would-be feminist polytheist monastics so they won't have to flounder as much as I have.

A circular compound, with half the circle divided into 10 wedges, each one being a self-sufficient efficiency apartment.

Sounds structurally similar to Our Lady of the Redwoods Monastery in Whitethorn, CA. I also recently learned that there is a monastic structure called a skete or a lavra, which is a blend of eremitic and communal ways - a lavra is described as "a type of monastery consisting of a cluster of cells or caves for hermits, with a church and sometimes a refectory at the center." That sounds pretty similar to my ideal living situation.

Finding nine friends in the same location who are both willing and able to commit to getting that built, though? That's impressive indeed. I haven't even found one!
posted by velvet winter at 7:11 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]


Finding nine friends in the same location

Location was a floating variable. Based on three criteria: 1) Near an airport, 2) Near a hospital, 3) Near a source or attraction for service labor.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:35 PM on December 4


Yeah, my mum has pretty much given up on me finding a partner. That's cool, I entertain her with unflattering pictures that I threaten to put on my dating profile.

My boys (17 and 13) have never known me to be in a relationship, apart from ones that ended before their memories begin, which must be a little confusing to them but they neither push nor discourage nor give me a hard time about it, which I appreciate. I think I'll probably get the forever alone feels when they've grown up and moved on but for the moment I'm happy enough. I remember what I'm like in a relationship (welcome to doormat town!) well enough just to not even bother.

I had a FWB thing happening a few years ago which got really ugly and annoying, although it was nice to feel someone else's skin next to mine for a while (the skin just happened to be occupied by a terrible, terrible manchild whose final text to me was WEAK BITCH!! So charming). Thankfully I'm well skilled in the arts of self-pleasure so it's not like I'm missing out on orgasms or anything. In fact, when I think back on 36 years of mostly dud roots I'm better off on that front.

In my little secret heart, though, I'd still like to meet someone who loved me and who I loved in return. Failing that it's just freaking out my oldest son by acting like a teenager when I see pictures of Vance Joy and Montaigne, although they look like incredibly gorgeous babies to me, and being awkward in a 51 year old way.
posted by h00py at 11:42 PM on December 4 [6 favorites]


StickyCarpet, your mom and friends sound like they were basically reinventing cohousing. I'm sorry that her health stuff threw that for a loop, what a bitter irony.

I loves me some Anne Lamott, and that essay was wonderful. But there's one point where I depart significantly from what she describes, and that's sex. It may well be that the women she knows are totally over sex, but I don't see that among my women friends, and that's sure as heck not true for me.

I love sex, always have, and great sex has always been really important to me. During long and discouraging breaks in dating I have sometimes wondered if I'll ever have sex again. If I didn't that would be sad, but I'd deal. Like a woman she quotes in the essay, I've had enough sex for a lifetime--but I mean it in the sense that I've had a lot of really fantastic, nourishing, adventurous, colorful sex. Those experiences still enrich and enliven me, and always will. I'm not desperate to make up for something I think I missed out on, and I have zero need for validation from sexual attention. I can make my own orgasms. If I were solo from here on out, I'm good. My own irony may be that I'm solo from here on out because a good fit sexually is important to me and I am not finding it in my dating pool.

Being a sexually enthusiastic and empowered women makes for some interesting challenges when dating. I have zero interest in hooking up; I don't want junk food sex, I want five star restaurant sex. It's basically impossible to screen for this in online dating because the signal is never, ever going to stand apart from the noise. On OKC I answer questions honestly but privately, which I think helps some but it's always going to be hit or miss.

When I do hit it off with someone well enough to date them, I've found a pattern like this: at first they think they've hit the jackpot because here's a woman who loves sex! With them!! But in time some challenges arise that they've probably not encountered before and difficulties ensue. Like: not being the initiating partner all the time; most guys have such a scarcity mindset around sex that they have a hard time saying "no". They don't realize there are challenges in being the one who's desired, not just the one who's desiring. Or: guys in general get so turned on by the idea of a woman who has and shares fantasies and desires...but then it's threatening to their sexual confidence when the things she desires are way outside their own experience or comfort zone. And of course often they can't bring themselves to be sexually forthright in return.

At this point I pretty much expect the "this is great/this is more than I bargained for" trajectory every time I date someone new. I figure it's part of the screening process. I just plain would not be well matched with someone who doesn't meet me where I am, or rise to the challenge.

Speaking of rising to the challenge, I'll just say it: yes, I am disappointed with declining virility in my dating cohort. I always get a lot of pleasure out of any sexual encounter, I am always warm and appreciative, I am GGG, I am never a jerk about it but... I just don't know if I could sign on to a partnership where PIV was essentially completely out of the question.

What's the bottom line? Different strokes for different folks? Things are tough all over? I gotta lot of nerve for being so demanding and judgmental, as a pudgy single mom pushing 50? Guilty as charged; no regrets, whatsoever.
posted by Sublimity at 4:15 AM on December 5 [15 favorites]


"CONSIDERING ONLY AGE: The dating pool peaks in your late 40s if you look at the 14 and older population as a whole." From Peak Non-Creepy Dating Pool.

It's fascinating how different the age curves are depending on whether you select "has job" or "no job."
posted by Dip Flash at 7:06 AM on December 5 [1 favorite]


The way our culture normalizes the male gaze on youthful beauty is an overwhelming representation and yeah it's hard to overcome that but maybe we can chip away at it here and there and provide some kind of narrative that runs counter to the bullshit that slowly kills us on the daily.

Zackary Drucker's putting together an archive of interviews with pioneer trans women of a certain age and one of the photos is of Sandy Stone and I damn near cried it's such a cool and beautiful picture.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:30 AM on December 5 [1 favorite]


Also, Viv Albertine is the greatest.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:35 AM on December 5 [1 favorite]


[Sublimity's entire comment]

Preach it, sister!!
posted by Melismata at 7:40 AM on December 5 [1 favorite]


I justed turned 60. I've always been bad with relationships, I could never figure out what other people wanted unless they explicitly spelled it out. Usually the people who spelled it out wanted things I wasn't prepared to offer. I was quite surprised at thirty to find myself married, and much less surprised at forty to find myself divorced. In the course of the last twenty years I've been in several relationships and dated on occasion and honestly, I mostly still don't get people. I come with a moving van full of baggage and I honestly just prefer friends than romance. I know I'm a mess, but I've decided I can be ok with that as long as I remain honest about it and don't force my mess on others. I've got great friends, I refuse to allow loneliness a place at my table, however, that's not the same as being alone. Usually I feel lonely when I'm in the middle of a crowd. Life can be awesome, even for folks who don't get relationships. It's your life, refuse to let it be less than great. Do that thing today, whatever it is.
And thank God for Viv.
posted by evilDoug at 8:58 AM on December 5


I'm 59, divorced in 2001, the love of my life died suddenly in 2005 and my last date was in 2012. This article really hit home with me. I have a good life, lovely friends, lots of interests, but I still yearn sometimes to have a partner. But, as Viv says, the majority of men in our age group are dating much younger women. And even if they're not successful in finding someone younger, they'll only consider dating women up to the age of 35. In doing so, they cut themselves off from the realistic prospect of finding someone they might actually be compatible with.

I met a smashing bloke on OKCupid, 8 years ago. He was interesting, funny, principled, engaging, with lots of friends and plenty of interests. But at the age of 48 he'd never had a girlfriend before. It had just passed him by. He liked the idea of having a girlfriend, but didn't want the thing that changes someone being a friend who's a girl into a girlfriend, i.e. intimacy. He was, I think, still a virgin. I remember once when we were out trying to take his hand, and he reacted as if I'd set him on fire. He couldn't let his guard down and in the end it was all too much effort.

Then there was the man I ditched on a date after a 15-minute monologue from him with me not getting a word in. I stood up and walked out as the words "I'm not a racist but -" left his mouth. He texted me afterwards saying what a pity it was I had to leave, and how well he thought the date had gone.

My last date, who I met for coffee one Sunday, had no teeth. Now I'm no Charlize Theron, but I at least make an effort to look my best when I go on a date.

And every time I've thought I could go back out there and I set up a profile on a dating site, the unsolicited dick pics from someone whose profile seems potential makes me die a little more inside each time.

So, yeah, I just adopted a cat and sometimes I sit and cry at the Christmas adverts, because nobody's going to buy me a special gift, or whisk me away to Paris on the Eurostar, or even make me a cup of tea when it's taken me 3 hours to get home from work. I'll continue with my life, my friends, my interests, but the idea I might one day find another partner has been filed away in the 'never gonna happen' box.
posted by essexjan at 11:14 AM on December 5 [7 favorites]


As a result of a FPP, I recant my comment that The Card Cheat is a "nice" person and redub him a decent person. (this is a good thing)
posted by wellred at 11:40 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


Great article! I think what I like least about relationships is the drama.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:02 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


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