A Widow Writes Her Dating Profile

Marital Status: Widowed

It’s 4 a.m. and I’m putting together my profile for JDate, the self-proclaimed “largest Jewish dating community worldwide.” My husband, George, died fourteen months ago. George was my high-school sweetheart, the strong man I curled up next to each night for thirty-two years.

Now that George is gone, I don’t know who I am anymore. I’ve lost the me that I was when I was married, but I’ve got to come up with something to tell strange men.

This is what I put on my dating profile:

I’m a former attorney currently writing a book and gardening when I get writer’s block. I am fun, witty, and outgoing but occasionally shy, irreverent but kind, poised but occasionally awkward, with a wry sense of humor. I can talk about almost anything and am (not so secretly anymore) an eighties freak.

I’m always hearing about online scams. So best to put right up front that I’m a lawyer, never mind that I haven’t practiced in eleven years. Saying I’m a lawyer will probably turn off some people because lawyers are widely regarded as jerks. I know I was a jerk when I was a lawyer. Now that I don’t practice anymore, my days are pretty mellow, spent walking a nearby trail, taking a yoga class, writing in my journal entry, and planting a few Nandina shrubs in my garden.

I still talk to George. During this morning’s walk on the tree-lined trail that runs through town, I was overcome by the different shades of green, shimmering and verdant, pierced with red bottlebrush and orange poppies. Afterward, in my garden, the arcing sprigs of my new plants with their neat oval leaves seemed so fragile.

George, I’m sending them love, hoping they’ll take to their new home, hoping that somehow my love will reach you as well. Maybe things look more intensely beautiful, because even in a world without you I still want to live.

Of course, I don’t put any of that in my profile. I don’t want potential dates to know I still chat with my late husband. At least I no longer expect him to answer back. And that’s progress. I know I’m alone and it terrifies me, but I’d better leave that out, too. I worry I’ll sound terribly retro as I search for a man in an age when so many women have chosen to be single. And having spent over ten years working with male lawyers, I can see why.

The profile questionnaire looms.

I try to imagine the prospect of having sex with a new man. Failing that, I try to visualize going out with him for a nice dinner. Failing that, I go to the kitchen to get a dark chocolate truffle.

Me: 50 years old [a terrible age to be newly single], 5’9″, athletic build, green eyes, red hair [originally brunette, but I have a great colorist, and deeply insecure].

Location: Danville, CA.

Danville is an overpriced suburb forty minutes southeast of San Francisco. But in 1970 when I met George at his parents’ pool party it was all walnut trees and rolling hills dotted with ranch houses, just like Walnut Creek where George lived ten minutes away.

My dad and his mom worked together as nuclear physicists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Our moms cooked and decorated their homes out of Sunset, a lifestyle magazine offering “the best of the west,” which seemed to involve miniature cactus gardens and dips made with mayonnaise and tiny precooked shrimp.

George’s first words to me were, “Do you want to see my model train set?”

He was the cutest boy I’d ever seen, slender with olive skin, a pile of black curls and huge brown eyes. But he was older, eleven to my seven. Worse, my mom had just cut my bangs too short and I felt like a fat-faced elf in my navy bikini with the dorky white piping.

Tongue-tied, I followed George into the den, aware that he too was wearing only black nylon trunks. I could smell the chlorine on his skin as we stood next to each other, embarrassed when our hands touched as he showed me how the engine car worked.

I thought about him long after I’d gone home.

My past relationships: My relationship was my life. I might as well say I wish I’d died along with him. “Delete” and try again. I roll over and plop my iPad on the untouched pillow next to mine.

My relationship, singular, was great while it lasted.

George was a software developer, the technical lead on Quicken, Intuit’s personal finance program. An engineer’s engineer, he wanted to be only with me and his computer. I wanted to be only with him and my books. Both of us were introverted only children who never grew up. We lived in our own little world of two, watching the same films noirs over and over - The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep - seeing new camera angles each time.

When he wasn’t working or cooking, he was doing projects like building the home theater system that dominated our living room and which, since he was a perfectionist, he never finished. When people asked why we didn’t have kids, we always said, “We’re having too much fun being kids.” That, and our living room was an unsafe mass of wires.

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason (one of the worst things to say to a widow, by the way, as if her husband’s death were necessary to forestall a plague of frogs). There was no reason for George to die of cancer at the age of fifty-three.

Continuing without him is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I didn’t think anything would be harder than what I went through when my mom died, leaving me alone at ten to be raised by my dad. See “nuclear physicist,” above.

I thought my memories would be enough to sustain me, but they’re not. They’re like looking at pictures of food when you’re ravenous. Perhaps looking at photographs of men on JDate will be more satisfying. I might even find someone to ask me about my day.

My ambitions: To sleep through the night. That way, I might not follow through on dumb ideas like this one, typing my dating profile in the dark like some kind of stealth operative. I want to be sleeping next to someone I love, not hunched over an iPad at 4:30 a.m. trying to market myself to strangers.

In the movies, the middle-aged widow played by Diane Lane mourns with spunk, as if she’s just lost an argument instead of a husband. Surrounded by dear friends at a seaside restaurant with a golden sunset as her backdrop, the wisest character, usually played by Morgan Freeman, tells her life is still worth living.

An attractive guy keeps staring at her because she still looks stunning; there are no bags under her eyes (basically, she’s just wearing less eye makeup). We know she’ll see him again because he’s played by a big star like Richard Gere. Within a year, she opens a cute new dog-grooming business, fulfilling one of her dreams, and in walks Richard with a dirty labradoodle, fulfilling another.

They move to a renovated cottage in the Hamptons as her grieving is compressed into a short montage. Her late husband is transmogrified into the shooting star that flies by offering its blessings. #secondchances

I watch movies about widowed people and throw cocktail olives at the screen. I’ll be like that guy in Sideways who winds up by himself in a crummy restaurant chugging the wine he’s been saving for a special occasion because he has no one to share it with.

My ambition is to find someone I can fold myself into so I’m not alone anymore.

Delete - that sounds mega-needy.

So, my ambitions: to find someone who gets my sense of the absurd and to master the crow pose in yoga. What goals would anyone list on a dating site other than that they’re trying to find someone special? That’s why I picked JDate. It looked pretty clean, so I hopefully don’t have to hear about someone else’s wish list if it includes Roman orgies and ketchup.

Things I could never live without: My late husband.

Duh. But that’s not going to attract any men. When I googled the most popular words used in dating profiles, “friends and family” popped up. I never bothered to make friends when I was married, so when George died there were no concerned calls or bereavement casseroles or people I could lean on other than my dad and stepmom.

George used to say he spent so much of his time working that he wanted to his free time to be for the two of us. At the time, it seemed like enough.

I limited my world to just one person, and despite the fact that my mom died young, I’d forgotten that people are mortal. Trying to sound lighthearted and carefree, I write that I could never live without Neil Young on vinyl, irony, chocolate frozen yogurt, and vinyasa yoga.

I’m looking for: A time machine to take me back to when George was alive.

Another loser answer. So, here goes: I’m looking for someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously but is not flaky, who is smart with a sense of humor and a little edge. I have to accept that no one will be George.

My ideal relationship: I’ll know it when I see it.

Like pornography. At least, I hope I will. But after getting up to eat another truffle, I find that the evil dating site has obliterated the soothing powers of raspberry-infused dark chocolate.

On Saturday nights I’m typically: I read lots of other profiles before answering this one. Evidently, most people are barbecuing home-cured salmon with their many close friends on teakwood decks they’ve refinished themselves, drinking a rare unoaked, single-vineyard Chardonnay - even though my hunch is that they’re alone watching Netflix, eating a desiccated tuna fish sandwich left over from yesterday’s lunch.

Why lie? We’re all looking for someone to be with or we wouldn’t be on this site. Let’s be honest. On a typical Saturday night I’m surfing the internet just like everybody else.

My perfect first date: Has me really looking forward to the second one. Obvious, right?

Online name: Let’s try song titles. “Sweet Little Ramona.” Too coy. “Cherry Bomb.” Too sexual. “Suite Judy Blue Eyes.” Doesn’t apply to a person. “My Sharona.” Pronoun issues. Being my own Sharona doesn’t make sense and being your Sharona sounds too forward. I’ll be “Lady Writer.” It’s fitting, and online dating feels like being thrown into dire straits.

Marital status: Widowed.

Posted. Now what?

Excerpted with permission from Available As Is: A Midlife Widow’s Search for Love by Debbie Weiss (She Writes Press). Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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