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Dating in the age of COVID

I want to talk about dating. Older people. Not bumbling or Cupiding or fishing or hooking up. But mature adults, looking to make intimate connections.

Are there rules? Is there a playbook? Where do I get one? I went to graduate school — I know where to look things up. Why then do I so suck at this?

Organic, natural connections are hard to make these days. I guess this has always been true for a closet introvert who works in a female-dominated profession and spends her free time on yoga mats and horses. Yet now, in the age of COVID, it seems harder.

There is also, the invisibility factor. Something magical happens to women at a certain age. Some say as early as 40, but for lucky me, it was closer to 55: No matter how fit we are, we’re invisible to men under 80. Unless, perhaps, we exert an enormous amount of effort. And who has time to make that effort when just staying fit, fed and smart takes half your day?

So we join online dating sites. And the messages start coming. At first this feels pretty exciting. Maybe Al Gorithm becomes your new best friend. And then reality slowly sinks in. Some of these guys just want possibility in their pockets. They’ll text you each day building up what they must think is amusing cyber foreplay. Clearly this is going nowhere anytime soon, and at 64, soon is all I’ve got.

Others talk your ear off on the phone. Soliloquies of self-aggrandizing prose, while great at curing insomnia, aren’t great for much else. There was the actor with the great voice. He couldn’t believe I’d never seen him on screen. Because my profile includes a picture of me on my horse, he was sure I’d be a fan of his westerns. I’m not.

On the phone he was great. Same politics, vegetarian, funny … wanted to meet right away. And when we did, the fact that even with his lifts he was shorter than me wasn’t nearly as disturbing as the fact that he was a racist and anti-Semite. Somehow that hadn’t come up on the phone.

Moving on. A nice Jewish man contacts me. On the phone we hit it off. He’s smart, funny, divorced, and definitely neither racist nor anti-Semite. The fact that he’s a cardiologist shoots him up to the top of my newly created scale. Has fate finally led me to a man who can doctor my broken heart?

We meet. We walk happily along the Venice canals maintaining prescribed social distancing. Then more meetings. Gardens, Shabbat dinners, candle lighting, long talks. Till I learn that he’s obsessed with drugs. Lots of drugs. Hallucinogens to expand his consciousness, but still drugs.

Onward. I move out of state for a bit and update my profile. The countless responses I attract are puzzling to me. What part of my Jewish city girl vegetarian profile appeals to hunters and fishermen raving about their RVs and cabins in the woods? I try to upcycle them to like-minded ladies. That fails.

So I give up on the online quest and agree to meet friends’ friends. One scares me off with his story of anger management. He had a perfect relationship with his last partner except when he drank and became violent. He drank daily. And she left. Another charming prospect fizzles when he insists we split a $9 taco bill.

Then finally I meet a seemingly splendid fellow. A good friend’s neighbor. We laugh together. A lot. We agree on much, but not everything, keeping things interesting. Drinks, concerts, dinner at his home. He’s smart, retired, attractive. When we hike I love that we seem to walk in the same stride.

Yet I quickly recognize his surprising ability to craftily sustain conversations and reveal nothing personal about himself. I leave each of our meetings feeling sadder and sadder as I sense that this is going nowhere fast. And I wonder, what am I missing? I’m an open book, in person and on this page. How is it that I can spend more than 20 hours with someone and still not have a clue about them? And then there’s his Tinman demeanor. No kiss, no embrace, just hugs when we greet, and even those seem like a ritual.

He's been steering this ship into platonic waters so smoothly, it hadn't even occurred to me to take the wheel; perhaps I'll give him another chance and be a little more direct, as is my usual nature.

At 64 I’m not too bad at being alone. I’ve got my home, animals, friends and work. My emotions ride smoothly on cruise control; there are no ups or downs or sudden lurches. No thrills of anticipation nor terrors wondering what may or may not happen next. I don’t miss the high highs followed by the awful lows of complicated relationships. I’m never feeling euphorically happy nor dreadfully miserable. So I looked for something sweet and simple. Uncomplicated, intimate, transparent and fun.

But perhaps it’s not to be just yet.

At my age we are all a little bruised and rusty. Some may be broken toys best left alone. But others just might need a little dusting off, a coat of polish, a gentle adjustment. I don't know what exactly it will take, but I'm not about to give up.

Danielle Drosdick lives in Jacksonville.

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