When my married friend Melissa heard that I'd left the man I'd been with for the past 20 years and, at 61, was suddenly on my own, she exclaimed, "You're single! You can have sex with anyone!"
I hadn't looked at it that way. But Melissa is a life coach. Trust her to find the silver lining.
After learning that the man I'd loved for 20 years had a secret girlfriend for the last 10, I showed him the door, turned to friends and family for emotional support, and got myself a good therapist.
I was devastated. Heartbroken. Reeling. The last thing on my mind was finding another man. But my friends had other plans. When one door closes, they kept telling me, another one opens. And Mr. Right could be standing behind that door.
I wasn't exactly eager to jump back into the dating pool. Still, Melissa's take on my situation made me smile. Sex! With anyone!
George Clooney! Brad Pitt! Bruce Springsteen! Anthony Weiner! (Haha. Just kidding about that last one.)
Of course, he has to be single. And my age-ish.
I can't have sex with adorable Scottish actor David Tennant, for instance, as much as I'd like to, because David is 20 years younger than I am and married. I'm ruling out anyone I'm old enough to have given birth to. And after my recent experience with infidelity, I'd never even think of sleeping with a dude who wasn't single.
But there are plenty of age-appropriate single men on the planet. And my friends are eager to match me up with one of them.
"Should I introduce you to all the cool 50-year-old guys I know?" my pal Amy asked when she heard that I'd left Mark. Although flattered that she thought I was merely five decades old, I feel that in dating, as in everything else, honesty is the best policy. "I'm actually 61, I told her. "But ... sure. Why not?"
Even though, to be honest, I'm still mourning the loss of the good man I thought I had.
So what's the right amount of time to begin dating after a 20-year-long relationship that you thought would last forever has ended? A month? A year? To quote that famous Bob Mankoff cartoon: "How about never?" Part of me never wants to look at another man again.
But my friends are busy talking up the guys they think I should meet. I realize that this is one of the many ways they're taking care of me and I'm grateful. I've told them that I'm happy to meet anyone they want to introduce me to.
Of course, my flirting skills are a bit rusty—the last time I used them was back in the 1980s. (There was another long-term relationship before Mark.) Although men sometimes tried to pick me up at the library where I've worked for the past 18 years, I always made it clear, in a friendly way, that I wasn't available.
But now? Although I'm not exactly ready to climb back on the horse (in a manner of speaking), when an attractive guy (who isn't wearing a wedding ring) flirts with me and I get a good vibe from him? I flirt back!
The ability to flirt, as it turns out, never really goes away. Instead, it lies dormant, just in case Mr. Wonderful turns out to be Mr. Infidelity.
So, with the encouragement of my friends and the approval of my therapist, I intend to get over Mr. Infidelity, hone my getting-to-know-you skills, put myself out there and see what the wide world of dating has to offer.
I won't have sex with just anyone. But I'll savor the thought that I can now have sex—not to mention romance—with whomever I please. Unattached means being alone. But it also means being free.
I'd planned to spend the rest of my life with Mark. That, alas, is over. But I'm 61. I'm single. And life is full of possibility.
(And if you're reading this and you happen to be a single, book-loving, 60ish David Tennant look-alike? Call me.)