As I mentioned last week, I’m dating someone. We met online and things have progressed from get-to-know-you texting to meet for a drink to go out for dinner. Here’s the thing: dating now (with kids, middle-aged, post divorce, you name it) leads me to feel three different ages at once.
I feel 17 with the singular focus of a young adult. He and I both have kids at home which means he talks on the phone in his bedroom or car and I sit on the basement stairs, the upstairs landing or my bedroom, anywhere private. Each of us speaking in low tones amidst busy homes, one ear to the phone, one ear attuned to those walking by.
We meet for dinner and as the people and noise fade around us wonder where to go after. Home? We would each walk in the door confronted with wants, needs and curiosities from children and pets alike. We settle for making out in the backseat alongside a park fully aware that if a cop knocked I would be both mortified and annoyed. In our homes, we steal moments hoping our kids don’t look over or walk in. Aiming to be chaste personified, we are failing mightily.
I feel 33 with my life before me full of promise and possibilities. New people, new places and new experiences are just around the corner. I am old enough to know what I want and with the skills and the means to make it happen, but young enough, green enough, to be this side of jaded and quietly apprehensive of all the changes coming my way. He is still new to me and I to him. We share histories like turning pages of a book, each topic a new chapter to be explored.
I feel 50 with half a lifetime of experiences – good and hard, sad and joyful. I am wary and brave, lighthearted and grounded all in the same conversation. My insecurities are fully my own. If I want to be close, I must be willing to be vulnerable. Brick by brick I dismantle my own walls while arguing with myself. Why would I take down perfectly good walls? These walls served me well. They kept me safe and gave me time to find myself again. Why dismantle? Because I met someone who makes them irrelevant, who invites me out and waits for me to emerge, who respects my instinct to retreat and offers parley.
As I feel all these different ages at once, my writing is changing. I’ve begun to write prose and poetry – the language of awareness. One morning, he asked a single question and listened while my answer unspooled for nearly 20 minutes. During a pause, I realized how open I had allowed myself to be out beyond the wall and got scared. I was undefended and found I needed no defense.
About this morning…
You ask a question
and then you listen.
I answer openly
because I want to be honest and true
to me and to you
and then I feel vulnerable.
Exposed, I feel
the need to backtrack
and cover and hide in plain sight.
I offer an out
which you refuse.
Present and respecting.
I pose fleeting thoughts
of a simpler and lone path.
And yet you choose
to come alongside mine
in all its complexity.