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a report from the front lines of datingWhen I was 50 I bought a pair of jeans with the brilliant brand name, “Not your daughter’s jeans”.  I bought them because I liked the name and the way they fit: Rather than being made out of a handkerchief and designed for the micro pelvis of a teenager, they were still low cut, snug, and well, I admit it, “sexy.”

Later in my 50s, when I became single after three decades of marriage, I realized that I had no idea how to “date,” and that any available men would not only be nothing like my daughter’s boyfriends, they would also be nothing like the boyfriends I had dated in my 20s, before my marriage.

Now, several years after my divorce, I am ready to report back to my fellow mature single women from the front lines of dating.  The difference between dating men in my own age group and my twenty-something dating experiences fall into four simple categories: 1. Food (Romantic dining while keeping out of the emergency room); 2. Dating Activities (Maybe it’s time to hang up the hand gliding); 3. Sex (Alternatives to the little blue pills); 4. Ghosts of the past (Time to finally let them go).

1. Food (romantic dining): If you like to cook, as I do, how do you make a romantic meal for your mid-life honey? Well, if he has diabetes, watch the honey and freshly baked bread. He may also be gluten free, lactose intolerant, vegan, or go into anaphylactic shock if he eats shellfish or nuts, requiring a trip to the ER. He may be unable to digest tomatoes and other “nightshades,” or certain kinds of fruit. If he has a history of kidney stones, even the holy grail of dark leafy greens may be off limits (oxalic acid). Add to these dietary requirements things that he may actually hate, and you have a real challenge.

So light those candles, open the wine, and try these dinner ideas: wild-caught salmon with a (non-oxalic) salad, rice or roasted red potatoes (except perhaps for the nightshade thing). If he has a fish problem, and is not vegan, you can try a grass-fed steak (or buffalo—if cholesterol is an issue and if he can deal with the home-on-the-range, playing with antelopes national nostalgia). There is also always politically correct free-range chicken.

Dessert is a gastronomic minefield of potential disasters, and will require a follow-up article.

2. The Dating Activities category is filled with hopeful news, at least for me, born with a genetically non-Amazon body: Vigorous outdoor activities were never in my wheelhouse, so to speak.  The good news is that many men of my age, even if they were once athletes, seem content to dial back the muscle-flexing now, so concerts, theatre, romantic nature rambles on the beach, low-key hiking or kayaking seem to suit quite nicely. One formerly avid skier took me up and down a mountain in a cable-car gondola, just to show me the spectacular view.

3. Moving right on to Sex. This is a big category, since women in our generation, especially if we have been in long-term monogamous marriages–or at least thought we were–have had no youthful experience with the reality of STDs. So when we become single, we have to learn the very information that our children learned in third grade. But I’m a quick learner, and here is what I have discovered from my own recent dating experiences, augmented by frank discussions with other women my age:

The near-constant television ads during football games touting male sexual performance pills seem actually like overkill.  Yes, a man in his sixties or beyond may not be sexually the same as he was in his twenties, but many such men have so much more to offer: They can be patient, tender, skilled lovers who respond well to enthusiastic encouragement. Instead of “performance”, we should be focusing on the emotional connection, the realities of our bodies, and the delights of discovering mutual pleasure. There are many creative ways to enjoy satisfying intimacy, even when dealing with illness, chronic disease, cancer treatment, or serious injury. At least this is what my co-author and I found when we interviewed couples and experts for our book, http://www.insicknessasinhealth.com .

4. Which brings me to Ghosts of the Past. I would wager that most people in our age group have suffered pain—emotional and/or physical; deep regrets, loss, grief, disappointment, or other “slings and arrows” of life. But after five or more decades of life, it is time to finally drop the role-play and bravado of youth. We can come together to support each other with understanding, acceptance, and kindness. We can help each other feel safe at last, within the haven of nurturing relationships that help heal body and soul.

After all, if we can’t love each other, why else are we on this planet?

Roanne Weisman blogs at thewritewaytohealth.com

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