There is a look that formerly single moms give to friends announcing their divorce. It’s partly pitying, partly supportive, and partly one that says, “Hold on, because I am about to give you some unsolicited advice.”
And my middle-aged single friends, here is that advice.
Dating men after 40 is like shopping at a thrift store. Most of the stuff is trash that nobody else wants. If you happen find something new with tags still on it, it’s because it is outdated and gaudy. Occasionally you might find something that fits you and looks good, but it won’t last after a few washes. Sometimes you find the perfect sweater, only to get it home and realize it’s defective – one sleeve is longer than the other, or it’s missing a button. Or two.
There are no places to find “new men”, at least not after a certain age. In college, sure. There they are, fresh and new, smelling nice. Full of hope and idealistic visions, waiting to be future husbands and fathers. These new models aren’t for you. Don’t be a cougar. I am quite sure that any one of these young men who wakes up with a 40 year old woman after a night of bar hopping says the same thing – “Dude, how much tequila did I drink, anyway???” No, no kid wants to date someone old enough to be his mother, and no self-respecting woman wants to date someone young enough to ground for staying up too late playing video games.
Men your age or older who have not been married are off limits, as well. They’re either gay (whether they know it or not…) or very, very strange (also whether they know it or not.) Maybe they’ve spent the last 20 years in prison (red flag), or they have just been sleeping with 20 year old girls for 20 years (another red flag.) Possibly they haven’t found someone as interesting as their computer screen (yet another red flag) or their mother (bright red flag.) Whatever their story, it’s as basic as this – if no other woman for two decades has wanted to marry this man, why should you?
On the other end of the spectrum is the man who is quite familiar with the inside of a wedding chapel, who has been married multiple times. Wives number one, two, and three are out there somewhere laughing hysterically at the thought of some other woman being stupid enough to become wife number four. It’s like finding out that the purse that you bought at a yard sale once belonged to your friend, who got it from her cousin, who bought it at a second hand shop. Something about that purse isn’t right, or at least one of the respective owners would have kept the damned thing. Or maybe the guy has really bad taste in women, which doesn’t bode well for you, if he’s dating YOU.
Most single men your age fall into the category of simply “previously worn.” Married once, long term, hurt very badly. Put through the wringer again and again until threadbare, colorless, and falling apart. They appear comfortable and broken in, but when you get them home you realize they were comfortable and broken in by someone else, and don’t exactly fit your curves. Or maybe there’s a loose string that when pulled will cause the whole thing to unravel. Sometimes the damage done by someone else is beyond repair. They are afraid to be themselves, afraid to be honest, and afraid of rejection.
God doesn’t make new middle-aged men, so the best you can hope for is “gently used,” and not dry clean only.
Before you give up and buy nine cats, take heart. Gently used men are out there. I found one, and I think there were more in the back. It takes being in the right place (not a bar) at the right time (not while he’s still married), and this requires much patience. It also requires a readjustment of attitude, which includes maybe accepting a type of man you aren’t used to being with, because Honey, your type ain’t workin’. Look beyond a certain physicality, as passion that follows respect is a hell of a lot better than respect that follows passion (because that rarely happens.)
Lastly, and most importantly, learn from your mistakes. Start a list of “red flags” that you have encountered, and heck, even the ones your friends tell you about. Notice patterns, so you don’t make the same mistakes twice. I, for one, learned to check medicine cabinets for psychotropic medications as soon as possible. Trust me on that one.