Dating over the age of 55 is different than when you’re 25, 35, or 45. You’re not looking for a parent or stepparent for your children. You are less dazzled by flesh and flash than you are about conversation, values, great stories, and resilience.
I’ve tried online dating websites with apt addresses including howaboutwe, plentyoffish, match, eharmony, and silversingles. Every couple of years I join one of them during their New Year’s specials. (Who can resist a bargain, even for boyfriends?)
By the time I was 55, my 84-year-old mother was still making suggestions on how to find a great guy like my dad. “You could go to the big band ballroom dance at the Seattle Center on Saturday nights. That’s how your Aunt Betty met Dan. Or is it Dave?” She was getting a bit forgetful. I told her I was searching online sites for suitable white knights.
In fact, I had been flirting online with a guy named Bob. We nudged, winked, poked, and emailed for two days, then made a phone date for 6 p.m. I phoned Mama to tell her I’d met a guy online and that he would be calling in a few minutes. She asked how I knew he wasn’t a “raper.”
“I don’t think he can hurt me over the phone, Mama. Oh, I’m getting a call on the other line. That must be him. I’ll call you later and tell you everything. Bye, Mama.”
I loved the way he started the phone conversation: “Tell me about what you did last weekend.” “I went to dinner with friends I’ve known for 30 years, then on Sunday I went to a movie.” He said, “Tell me about one of your oldest friends.” This was more palatable than the typical 20-questions-grill-fest.
In the first 15 minutes, we even shared a few chuckles. It felt good. I began choosing china patterns and cemetery plots. Then my doorbell rang and someone POUNDED on the door. I went into the living room and through my window I saw a policeman on my porch. “Bob, can you hold on? There’s a cop at my door.”
With the door still closed, I asked through the window glass, “May I help you?”
“Are you the homeowner?”
“We got a call about an intruder.”
Just then another cop joined him on the porch and said it was “all clear in the back.”
Cop #1, looking through the window from the porch, scoping out my living and dining room: “Are you OK, Ma’am?”
“Yes,” I said, but then I began to get scared. If there was a criminal running around the neighborhood, maybe they should check out the house.
Cop #2 craned his neck through the glass. I realized they may have thought I was under duress; perhaps someone behind the front door was holding a gun to my head. (Yes, I watch Law and Order). “Is there anyone else home?”
I asked, “Can you show me some identification?” As they showed their badges, I realized I have no idea what a legitimate Seattle Police Department ID looks like, though I could easily recognize an NCIS badge. I opened the door a little, but stood in front of it.
Cop #2: “Would you like us to check out your house?”
“What’s going on?”
Cop #1: “We got a call from an elderly woman who gave this address and said a man was coming over right now to hurt her daughter.”
Mama. Dementia. Damn.
“Oh … no. I’m so sorry. My mom is 84 and has a little dementia. She loves me so much she worries. She must have gotten confused. I told her I had met a man online and was going to have a phone conversation with him at 6 o’clock and that I had to go.” I held up my phone, as if they could see Bob. Then I threw open the door so they could see there was no one behind it. “Do you want to talk to Bob?”
“No, that’s fine!” They chuckled.
“If my mother calls 911 in the future, you’re not going to ignore the call, thinking she’s a demented nuisance, are you? She did this out of love.”
“Oh no. We wouldn’t do that.”
“OK. Well, thanks. Good night.” They started down the steps. Cop #1 looked over his shoulder, “Call your mother!”
I closed the door and held the phone back up to my ear. “Bob, did you hear any of that?”
“Would it be OK if I called you back in 10 minutes? I think I should call my mom and reassure her.”
“Dori, we just had a great conversation and I’d love to meet you in person. Let’s email to set a coffee date. You have something more important to do right now.” What a guy.
I dialed Mama right away, realizing she’d be frantic until she heard from me. She answered, “I’ll bet you’re mad at me.”
“Oh, Mama, I’m not mad at all. I am lucky that I have a mother who loves me so much.”
“Well, I’m sorry I did that.”
“I know it’s been a long time since I dated, but I didn’t think I needed a police escort!”
We laughed. I told her about Bob and that we were going to coffee soon, but that I wasn’t going to tell her where or when so the SWAT team could be on call for bigger things.
Bob and I had an intriguing coffee date which extended into lunch. We laughed easily and weren’t parading our careers, possessions, or accomplishments.
He said I was one fun lady and he’d like to see me again. But he was clear that since he lived in Bremerton, he only ferried to Seattle every couple of months, and I’d have to come to him if we were to date. (What happened to “ain’t no mountain high enough?” The Supremes had set me up.) I was working full time and caregiving part time. Taking an entire day a couple times a week to ferry over and back wasn’t possible.
Despite our rapport, it turns out Bob was GUD (Geographically Un-Dateable), so I did not see him again. And I still wonder: Is there a guy for me who would swim the deepest ocean, climb the highest hill, or at least drive in Seattle traffic to see me? Or should I take Mama’s advice, practice up on my fox-trot, and check out the big band dance next Saturday night?
Dori Gillam speaks on aging well, aging in community, and planning for a good death. A Seattle native, she has a bachelor’s degree in educational psychology and has worked for Sound Generations, AARP, and the Bayview Retirement Community. She is a hospice volunteer and board president for the Northwest Center for Creative Aging.