After nineteen years of marriage, my husband and I amicably parted ways. Within months my ex found a mate, a blonde health enthusiast who genuinely seems to love both him and my children. Although I’ve tried, I cannot convince myself to hate her.
So, there I was, forty-six, separated, mother of two, fresh on the single’s scene. Word of my newfound social status spread fast. Girlfriends suggested I camp out at the deli counter in grocery stores to find single men. My Mormon neighbors attempted a marriage intervention. Acquaintances threw me pitying looks. Friendships were divided, some lost, some gained. I didn’t feel bad for myself; I felt rejuvenated. Being single after twenty-three years was a journey I was ready to embark upon.
But this story isn’t about me. It’s about them. The good men. And yes, such people exist. You just have to look.
So, where to begin? My first stop was the internet.
Overnight, my computer became my obsession. Social networking sights such as Facebook and LinkedIn connected me to like-minded individuals. There were single and not-so-single men who enjoyed casual flirtations. After a while, I realized, most internet “hookups” had a shelf life of processed cheese. Six to eight weeks, max. Nothing panned out, so I quickly moved on.
Next stop, Match.com. Match wasn’t too awful. Aside from the seventy-year-old that predicted we were soul mates, and the employment-challenged twenty-year-old who couldn’t understand the difference between their and they’re, I found a few decent people on Match. Trouble was, I didn’t feel connected to any of them. Frustration set in. Was there a Mr. Right out there? Or, at least, a Mr. Right Now?
While flipping channels one night, I saw an ad for cougarlife.com. I arched my brow and cranked up the TV volume. Was this real or a joke? I ran to my computer and checked the web. It was real. I decided not to venture into that territory.
While looking for love in seemingly all the wrong places, I made a friend on Facebook. The man had similar taste in music, had attended the same nightclub back in my home state, and, like me, he was getting over a long-term relationship. I felt bad for the poor schlub. He was depressed and downtrodden, so I made it my mission to build back his confidence. In time, we became close. Hours lamenting over our exes and sharing secrets without the pressure of romance paved the way to a deep friendship. It was safe with him, he lived a thousand miles away.
“Be careful,” my best friend warned. “He’s falling for you.”
“We’re just friends,” I said. “He’s nice.”
I remembered how Mr. Long-Distance had once mentioned that nice guys finished last. Nice wasn’t a death sentence. I had married a nice man. But was I still attracted to them?
I continued searching. There was the married man who had hidden his wedding band and later confessed his sin through crocodile tears while lounging on our sweaty bed sheets. There was the college kid who sexted me pictures of his massive-sized “organ.” There was the older gentleman with beautiful white hair and ruddy complexion who courted me. We frequented bars and concerts together, traded stories of our youth, shared songs on Spotify. Was this one a viable candidate? We were polar opposites, but I enjoyed his company, loved the way he treated me like a queen. He held the door, pulled back my chair, held my umbrella when it rained. Could a May/December relationship work? I wasn’t sure.
My best friend sent another warning.
“You’ve been with the same man for over twenty years. Concentrate on having fun.”
I heeded his advice and continued dating.
Long-Distance man proved to be a good friend. It was refreshing to learn about the opposite sex’s point-of-view, especially when there was no pressure for hooking-up. Day-by-day, we chatted frequently. Was he the one?
A writer in a nearby town entered the scene. He had light brown curls, cherubic dimples, and a sharp sense of humor. I accompanied him on a few dinner dates and when he invited me back to his place and swore he’d behave like a perfect gentleman, I trusted him.
To my chagrin, I learned that not everyone takes stock in pinky swears. Not every man is a gentleman.
I charted it up to experience and plugged on with my search.
Match led me to a young man who had graduated from my college. He was sweet and easy to talk to. After five dates, he continued to treat me with respect. We argued over the restaurant bills, took turns paying for entertainment. He didn’t pressure me into bed, but I realized he wanted something more.
Long-Distance Man and I were getting closer. One night, after coming home from a date, I called him.
“Do you ever think of me as more than a friend?” I asked.
“Yes,” he confessed.
It was the moment of truth. Cross the line, or remain friends? What was hindering my choice?
Long-distance relationships usually don’t work. Did they have an expiration date longer processed cheese? I’d only known this man for six months, but already he knew me better than my partner of nineteen years.
I decided to try. No strings attached. We did what we could in spite of distance. We emailed, texted, used Facetime, and had the occasional face-to-face visits. Phone conversations were drawn out when my children were away.
My older gentleman friend became inquisitive.
Who were these others, he queried. I was vague with my answer. Did I owe him an explanation? I cared for him, but I wasn’t ready for a serious relationship. I wanted to enjoy my single status. Wasn’t that okay?
Things were getting complicated.
Secrets have a way of wending themselves into the light. Soon, my long-distance and older gentleman friends found out about each other. Facebook can be so transparent. I was harboring feelings of guilt but still held my position: I wasn’t ready for commitment. My older gentleman friend “unfriended” me. My heart ached.
The college lad didn’t seem to mind, but I wasn’t sure he knew of the others. He and I had our differences. He was younger, didn’t have kids, didn’t own a houseplant, but he was good company and he never pressured me.
I felt like King Midas hoarding gold. I didn’t want to give anyone up. Each man had a unique quality. Each brought something different to the table. All were kind and generous. They doted on me. They made me feel alive.
One day, my long-distance friend asked for more. Commitment.
Ugh, I thought. Timing is a bitch.
I wish my story had a happy ending. I wish I could tell you that everything worked out and we all lived happily ever after. But life is not a Disney tale.
Last week, the older gentleman and I reconnected. We are delicately traipsing back into the realm of friendship. We started slowly, a Facebook “like,” a song I played on Spotify. It’s good to have him back in my life, even at arm’s length.
The local guy and I continue to see each other. He never asks if I’m dating other people nor do I ask him. He’s still a perfect gentleman.
So, it’s true. Nice guys don’t finish last.
What about Mr. Long-Distance? The commitment?
I can’t give you the answer. We’ve been taking everything one day at a time. What I can report is yes, there definitely are good men out there.
Am I a good woman?
Only time will tell.
Reprinted with permission from The Good Men Project. Want more?