Woman looking at a beach with palm trees.
Me in Maui on vacation together.

I fell in love with my current partner over a dead air conditioner. Mine specifically, which had died during a summer heat wave after eight years of never working very well in the first place. Widowed for five years, I knew I wanted someone who cared about me. Which I defined as caring about what I cared about.

And I cared about things not working in my home. My late husband had been a do-it-yourselfer and a perfectionist. He started a lot of projects but stopped working on them while he tried to finish his plans. But why would some new guy care that I wanted working garden lights?

I wanted a gentleman who cared that I got home safe, and picked dates he thought I’d like, and wanted love, not the thrill of being a middle aged Lothario. Remember when the character Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, says to her friend Linda (Phoebe Cates), “I finally figured it out. I don’t want sex. Anyone can have sex. . . I want a relationship. I want romance.” Yup.

By now, my fellow and I had been dating for a few weeks And I mean real dates, where he’d pick me up, we’d go to martinis and dinner, talk a lot, then kiss chastely goodnight. (Part one of my story is in my prior post).

I Wanted Someone Who Cared.

Then my air conditioner broke. I took it badly, attributing it not just to faulty wiring but to the curse of that guy who’d left me in Europe. I was certain he was still exacting his inexplicable revenge from afar.

My new guy took me to dinner by the water in Oakland, freeing me from the heat. That evening he suggested we go to Carmel for an overnight early in the week. Separate rooms. He’d read my blog post on going by myself to recapture the times I’d gone with George, but how I’d left early that evening when I couldn’t bear to be alone in a place where I used to be happy.

I said yes, let me know the price of my room. He said he’d use his points, not to worry. He was investing in our future. We walked on the beach for hours, my favorite thing to do there. He took me to George‘s and my favorite restaurant to make new memories. He said George would always be a part of our lives.

And best of all, he consulted with me on the estimates I was getting for a new air conditioner. “This one is from the principal of the company,” he said, “You can trust that.”

”Well I did appreciate when the owner’s wife called me on Sunday night to tell me they had a cancellation and see if I had questions.”

We had these conversations during walks through the lovely town of Carmel. Apologetically, I took a few calls from contractors. He didn’t mind. He cared about the problem. That night, I got another kiss goodnight and no attempt to come to my room.

He was invested. He cared about my air conditioner because I did. There were no strings attached. I’d found a gentleman.

And I hadn’t met anyone like that since losing George.

I felt like I was on a middle-aged version of The Bachelor. But it was all real. He wanted me to be happy and he cared about what I’d been through, widowhood, dead appliances and all.

I Don’t Know When Dating Became Not Caring

I was unpleasantly surprised when an adult man’s idea of a second date was “come on over to my place and not tub.” I’d never intimated that I wanted casual sex. Or I wound up staying out later than I expected with a guy who planned to drop me off alone at an empty train station in the middle of the night. (I got him to wait with me for an Uber). Or the guy I’d kissed all of once who expected us to share a room on an overnight hike.

I don’t know when dating meant being less invested than any other kind of relationship. I don’t know when things changed to expecting physical intimacy as a given.

After a year of dating online, I realized I was an anachronism, a person who wanted a loving, long term relationship with someone who was invested in our future. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. And I am so very grateful I found someone who didn’t think so either.

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