I’ve come to dread summer. Watching everyone else have somewhere to go and someone to do it with gave me major league FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
So this summer, I adopted the Gen Z “Main Character Energy” (MCE) attitude — living like the main character of my own life. I’d be Marlo Thomas in That Girl, wearing thick false eyelashes and running through Times Square. I’d be like Carrie Bradshaw except I’d be a bit more graceful avoiding busses barreling through puddles. Or Mary Tyler Moore tossing my hat and living the belief that, “it’s me, girl, and I should know it.” In other words, I focused on being with myself rather than by myself.
Oh, I had gone out to theater and restaurants on my own before, (see these posts here and here), but I had been doing it inconspicuously — slipping in and out, hoping no one would notice me by myself. ‘Oh she must be a loser without a man or friends.’ I fulfilled the myth that middle-aged women are no longer seen by acting small.
Now post-menopausal and Covid-19 pounds heavier, I am no longer that small. Looking into the mirror, trying on my favorite outfit, I reprimanded myself like a judgmental parent, ‘that’s what you get when you keep that delicious Van Leeuwen earl grey ice cream in the freezer. You eat it and then have to live with the spare tire around your waist. You should know better at this advanced age.’
“Fuck you,” I said to the voice in my head.
It was time to make steps toward MCE. First, I worked on letting go of that negative shit, including those clothes, and added a few new pieces that emphasized my best assets — my strong, muscular legs and my sexy décolletage — and made me feel sexy. Next, I sat at my laptop and combed the city for events (many free) at places I’d always wanted to visit but couldn’t find anyone to join me. I mapped out an itinerary on Google maps. I wore that sequined skirt with a T-shirt and platform Converse. I blew out my hair and put on thick mascara. I was going to date my independent, confident, joyful, expressive self.
On the way out, I took an OOTD selfie and hummed the Mary Tyler Moore theme song, “With every little glance and every little movement, you show it.”
I left my house wanting to be seen. I am the center of my life and I curated it with stimulating experiences without compromise or accommodations for anyone else.
I went to a museum, followed a museum tour, and then explored a bit on my own.
A man I matched with on a dating app sent me a text.
What are you up to tonight?
I texted back, Come meet me in Chelsea for a drink.
He flaked out. I considered going home. But I wanted to check out the new hotel bar that opened nearby. “Fuck it, I’m going.”
Walking like I had the confidence of a woman on camera, I pretended I had memorized the script, and knew my stage direction.
I thought about the time friends ask me, “Aren’t you anxious going by yourself?”
“Yes,” I answer. “But I do it anyway.” It’s taken me divorce and living on my own to learn that this is the very definition of bravery.
At the bar, I sat on a conspicuous stool, I chatted with the bartenders about dating. I posted a few pictures on Instagram. A message popped up in my DMs.
You still there? I’m in the neighborhood, a friend texted.
Ha, ha, yes I am, I texted back, thinking he was just teasing.
I’m walking in, he replied.
And suddenly my evening had a supporting cast.
I hummed, “You’re gonna make it, after all.”