The Mating Habits of the Mature
Suddenly, I'm single. I'll probably never stop grieving the loss of Diane, but I've committed to myself, my son and daughter, and my best friend Bruce to get my head out of my ass, as the latter called it, and to start to enjoy the world again.
I'm very left brain – analytical, logical. I was a systems engineer for NASA, and segued into middle and then upper management, but always with large, multi-million dollar technical aerospace projects. I guess I was good at my job, because Diane and I ended up able to retire when we were both fifty-seven. We moved to Palm Winds, Florida, bought a condo near the beach with a fabulous view of the city's marina, and settled into a new lifestyle.
Diane was a schoolteacher. She taught eighth grade social studies in a suburban school. She was good at her job too. Four years ago Diane found a lump on a breast, and that led to what turned out to be a never-ending series of visits to various doctors, hospitals, clinics, diagnostic centers, and eventually a hospice center, and then Diane was no more of this world.
We were married for thirty-six years, birthed two kids in that time, and raised and launched them. They're both married now, and graced us with four grandchildren – two apiece.
Bruce asked me to write about 'my situation, ' and the first couple of tries I made read like a report on a replacement software system for at Atlas rocket. I've made an attempt in this version to be a little more humanistic instead of instructional, such as 'put left thumb in left ear.'
I did not take to retirement as well as I thought I would. I was restless. I tried a whole string of hobbies and athletic endeavors: golf, tennis, bike riding, fishing, wind surfing, kayaking, painting, piano, and there are another dozen I could list. In parallel, there were a dozen charitable and church groups that I engaged in: Habitat for Humanity, United Way, Red Cross, Head Start, SCORE, and Boys Club, to name a few. This attempt at being an author is also part of this story thanks to Bruce.
Why did I leap from hobby to hobby? At first, I was looking for my niche, and something that was satisfying and that contributed in someway to society. I took classes, went to many meetings, mentored others and got mentored, and slowly I realized I was trying to reestablish all my old office routines and schedules with new activities and under new banners. Bruce told me I was a 'retirement failure.'
Diane's illness pulled me out of my 'retirement failure, ' although I seemed to be productive and having fun. I devoted myself to her, and that wasn't hard. I'd been doing that for almost forty years. I became almost more involved in her cancer and treatments than she was. I knew more, learned more, and talked to more people. I wanted to be sure we left no stone unturned. I don't think we did, and the result was that we milked two extra years from the Grim Reaper.
Diane's death was almost festive. She insisted we all celebrate her life instead of mourn her death. We tried. When we shifted to palliative care, our kids came down, and a steady stream of friends and neighbors poured through our doorway to offer support and eventually condolences after Diane slipped away. Bruce and his wife Mindy became my mainstay. I cried a lot, they held me, and then got me somewhat whole again, and back up and running on my own. We had a celebration of life party, and many of our friends and I waxed eloquent about the high points in our memories of Diane. I laughed and cried the day was so special. After that I felt so empty.
I cried myself to sleep for month and then slowly got over the pain of loss. At first I couldn't even believe that she was gone. I'd go to the kitchen expecting to see her puttering around there making breakfast or cleaning up some dishes from the night before, but she wasn't there. After that, I got mad at her for leaving me, and then mad at the doctors who seemed impotent in what they could do for her. After that stage, resignation set in.
Mindy struck fear into my heart while I was having dinner with them with one simple sentence, "Jim, I think it's time you started to date again. Diane made me promise to get you back on the circuit, and ... it's time."
I sputtered and spit around for a week thinking about that possibility. I tried to visualize 'dating' at sixty.
In one daydream I hang out at the local 'meat market' where I've seen attractive younger women. Several of them dance with me, and eventually I invite one of them to come back to the house. She does, and we start a torrid romance. The romance turns to a sudden pregnancy, and, oh my god, I face another twenty years of child-raising. I am not a 'hang-out-in-bars' kind of guy.
In yet another, I decided to start to attend church again. This dream turned on me. Instead of hot, young women, I am suddenly surrounded by over a dozen of gray-haired women – all from the quilting circle. They vie for my attention, but elderly thinking, plump or even obese in form, vapid in intellect, I find myself in a little shop of horrors. I also am not a 'churchy' kind of guy.
I kept waiting for a rational daydream to arrive, but none ever appeared to me. My 'visions' were really nightmares materialized in the daylight hours. I didn't allow any of them to haunt me. I just decided to do little about dating.
Two years before our planned retirement Harry, my husband, had a massive heart attack in his sleep. One minute he was there, and the next gone. I missed him, but in a way felt glad I didn't have to suffer his long retirement. Harry was a perfectionist, and I knew as soon as he started to spend a lot of time around the house, I'd become the focus of his time and motion studies. He'd have an unlimited number of recommendations for me about improving the laundry, cooking, arranging my closet, consolidating my shopping trips to save energy, and more and more. That was what Harry did.
Thus, I found myself at age fifty-eight single, yet with many friends – most of them divorced females. Since I wasn't divorced I didn't have the bitter, anti-men, love 'em and leave 'em mentality most of them had. I'd had a reasonably happy thirty-year marriage, and figured I'd used up my allotment of happy times with a member of the opposite sex.
Harry had been not only a good provider, but also had often referred to himself as 'over insured.' Thus, as a widow I was suddenly the beneficiary of a small fortune, more than I ever realized. I would never have to worry about money again, and neither would our son and daughter.
I stopped working only a few months before I'd planned to stop anyway. I'd been in charge of running a branch of an international modeling agency. The older I got, the younger the girls we represented appeared. I was always amazed when one of them told me she had trouble parking her car; I couldn't believe she was old enough to drive. I'd look at their portfolios and drop my teeth; they were nearly pornographic.
Once I'd been in their shoes, enjoying the travel and being the center of attention as I modeled various lines of clothing or just my own skin. I'd started in my teens, and then even competed in a few beauty queen contests, ending up winning a few major contests. Those efforts were a natural segue into a modeling career. The industry changed so much over the years. For a while I did some modeling when I wasn't running part of an office, but then I eventually opted to work on the placement side of the business instead of being a model.
Despite having stopped work when Harry died, I saw men friends – most always the husbands of some of my married friends and neighbors when I'd be invited to their home for dinner, but I had no inner voice telling me I was an incomplete person without a man in my life. I was still able to hold my own in mixed company, and enjoyed the diversity in my circle. In fact, I found it odd that the women that felt needy for a man appeared to be all my divorced friends, who opined hourly about their lack of male companionship. They often wondered why I didn't feel the same way. Of course, two minutes later they'd be bashing their ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends and then generalizing to all men. If I'd been a male in their presence, I would have run the other way at top speed.
My friend Rita Styles and I had coffee at Starbucks late one morning. She was married to a really nice man, Hank, and happened to be the smartest woman I knew. I guessed her IQ had to be well into the genius range. Rita could have been a model, except she started a computer programming business and made some real dough in her career, particularly when she sold one of the businesses she'd formed.
Rita said, "Edie, you are a gorgeous woman, and I know you've become fiercely independent since Harry died, however, I think you should think about going out on some dates ... and I don't mean with your divorced friends hanging around either."
I laughed, "Why would I want to do that? I gave up dating when I fell in love with Harry. I let him get into my panties back then, and from what I hear from the girls that's what they guys still want to do despite being over thirty years older. I haven't ... well ... Harry and I weren't very active the past ten years or so. I would be panic stricken to start all that over again."
Rita smiled. "The men still want that, and if they're good, it's worth the effort. Whether you have sex or not is beside the point – well, sort of. You, my dear friend, are becoming very insulated in your thinking and in your social life. You may have regained your virginity, but I think it's time for you to lose it again."
"I'll think about it." That was my standard passive-aggressive response to things I didn't want to do. I had no desire to think about dating, but the response would hopefully satisfy Rita.
Rita said, "Oh, good. I'll think about it too, and maybe we can come up with a plan."
Bruce didn't ask, he informed me over a beer in his backyard that I had a command performance for dinner at their home on Saturday evening. He said, "Look Jim, Mindy has this friend Rita, and she has this widow friend named Edie who apparently is a knock-out, and they've cooked up this dinner so you and Edie can meet. Rita and Bill are coming too, but you and Edie are the main attraction. If I don't deliver you to the table, Mindy told me I was cut off for two years; come on, man, you've gotta help me out by coming."
I feigned, "I feel a heavy dose of the Asian flu coming on."
"You have to. This is what we were talking to you about two weeks ago. You've got to start dating."
"I don't even know this Edie person. What will I say to her? What if she ... I don't know ... expects something to happen? Does she even have a brain in her head?"
"Jim, buddy, just roll with the evening. There's no preconceived notion about how things will end."
"What do you know about this Edie person?"
Bruce smiled. "I've not met her, but Mindy had Rita on the speaker phone when she was being described, so I listened in. I was ready to ditch Mindy for Edie."
I gestured for him to be forthcoming with lots of information.
Bruce said, "She's a walking wet dream – even for someone your age. She's late fifties, won the Miss Iowa beauty contest way back, was a fashion and bathing suit model, but then retired a few years ago when her husband died three years ago. She hasn't been out with anyone since – long-term marriage, two kids, etcetera, etcetera. Rita said she was still gorgeous. I gathered she's financially independent too, so she's not looking for a sugar daddy."
I stepped back, "Oh, my god, you're setting me up with a model – a fucking model. Miss Iowa? I'm just a plain Joe. I'm not worthy of a model or beauty queen. Is she a ditz? Was she a trophy wife?"
"No, she's apparently a skilled business woman and now, like you, spends part of her time working with local charities. She ran a multi-million dollar branch for the Windsor Agency – they're known worldwide as having some of the top models in the world. That's also who she modeled for. She has a good head on her shoulders. As for you, you certainly are a worthy person. In your own way you're handsome. Not my cup of tea, but I can understand why Edie might find you appealing. Mindy described you to Rita as 'previously hunky.'"
I laughed, "I'm previously everything. I'm out of touch, out of shape, out of gas, retired, dull, reclusive, and I won't know what to say to her. I do try to stay in shape." I thought a moment and asked, "Is she on the Internet ... maybe some of the porn sites?" I said, pretending some enthusiasm at finding a porn queen.
Bruce ignored my leer and said, "Let's look." He pulled out his iPad and started to punch at the screen. He muttered to himself as he typed, "Name ... Edie Emerson ... oh, wait, that was her married name. I think it was Reed before that." A minute went by.
Finally, Bruce said, "Yes! Here we go." He paused and stared at the screen. "Hoooooly shit! Wow! I really might ditch Mindy for this gal. Look." He thrust his iPad into my hands.
I gawked at the screen. Some of the photos were obviously dated, perhaps two or three decades old, but ... Edie Emerson was an absolute knockout. I think I started to drool.
I groaned. "I can't possibly meet someone this good looking, even if they've turned into a crone since these pictures were taken. Look, there's a picture of her getting crowned at the state beauty queen."
Bruce said, "Scroll down the page. See if there are more recent shots."
Another hundred photos scrolled by. "Holy shit," I declared, agreeing with Bruce. "This woman is coming to dinner to meet me? She's got to be stupid. She could have any man she wanted. She's ... the most beautiful woman I think I've ever seen." I paused and then pointed to a shot of Edie Reed nude but demurely posed. "My god, she doesn't have a blemish on her body."
Bruce gawked at the nude study and then struggled to recover his edge, "All the more reason for you to come and sweep her off her feet. She'll love you. You two are made for each other."
"I'll come ... but I'll be dumbstruck by her the whole night. I bet I can't even say hello to her. I'll babble and drool over her."
Bruce studied another nude photo of Edie his iPad. "I may be right there with you."
I sat in the back seat behind Rita. Hank drove and all but outrightly refused to be drawn into the conversation Rita and I were having about 'Over-55 Dating.'
I sputtered to Rita, "You're telling me that this man you're setting me up with tonight actually worked for NASA ... that he helped launch stuff into space and put a man on the moon, and things like that?"
"Well, yes, although I don't think he did the first moon landing. Now he's retired. He's doing all this volunteer work for charitable organizations."
"But he's brilliant ... and he had a thousand people reporting to him. My god, he was the Big Boss. He's so important, and I'm just a nobody. He'll think I'm an airhead that could only make it by selling my body."
"Edie, you are gorgeous and smart, and you are distinguished in your own way, and you didn't just sell your body, you managed the southeast branch for your agency the last twenty years. Jim's retired. He's not into that NASA stuff anymore. He'd just a nice guy, and according to my friend Mindy – who you'll just love – he's as nervous about meeting you as you are about meeting him. Just go with the flow."
"What if he expects me to ... do something?"
Rita laughed, "He's not going to try to make love to you tonight in the middle of the living room rug."
"No. No. I mean, what if he asks me on a date?"
Rita implored, "Then you say, 'I'd love to. How about next Saturday night?' and then you give him your address and phone number, and suggest six-thirty. Here, put this slip of paper in your pocket. I've already written down your key data that you'll want to give him. I'll give one to Mindy too just in case he loses the note." She held up two pieces of paper about three-by-five inches.
I rolled my eyes. I had let myself get dragged into this dinner – an obvious set-up to meet some man. I wondered what percent of blind dates 'clicked.' I was betting that it was one out of a million. At least we wouldn't be alone. Mindy and her husband Bruce were hosting, plus Rita and Hank were known quantities to me. I'd just converse with them. Maybe this Jim character would leave me alone except to say hello.
I also had this image of a blind date as something only losers did. They couldn't go out on their own to meet a member of the opposite sex, so ... and then it dawned on me that this man Jim might be thinking that I was a loser. I sat up a little straighter.
Hank announced from the front seat, "We're here." He rolled the car to a stop in front of the upscale suburban home. The three of us got out and walked up to the house. Hank rang the doorbell, presented two bottles of wine to Bruce – a nice man who seemed preoccupied with helping us inside and taking our coats, and then there was a lot of hugging and welcoming going on.
Suddenly, another man appeared in the archway to what I could see was the living room. He smiled at me. He was what I instantly called tall, dark, and handsome – so distinguished looking with his salt and pepper hair, and the way he was dressed. He looked so important, and I could instantly see why he'd been a leader of so many people in his career. He oozed importance, élan, grace, and know-how. I felt the butterflies in my stomach all start to fly at once. I felt my whole body flush.
I watched as he got introduced to Hank and Rita. Mindy then turned him to me, and I thought I'd melt into a puddle right then I was so embarrassed.
Mindy said, "Edie, this is our friend Jim. Jim. Edie."
I watched as the corners of his mouth twitched. He was nervous. I was nervous. My hands were shaking and near absolute zero they were so cold, but I put out my hand to shake, and he took it. We held each other's hands a long time, but neither of us said anything. We just kept looking the each other. It was dumb really, and I kept trying to think of something to say, and my mind was totally blank. My motor functions had shut down. I was frozen in position, holding this man's hand as I found myself lost in his deep brown eyes that seemed to absorb me. I liked being absorbed by him.
"Ahem!" Bruce, our host, got my attention – and Jim's – and suggested that we all go into the living room for a glass of wine before dinner.
Jim and I stopped shaking hands. His hand had been so warm and soft. When we stopped touching, I felt a loss as we drew apart. I followed Bruce into the living room, trying to reestablish contact with the linguistic center in my brain so I might say something intelligent. I wisely remained mute lest I babble or just make unintelligible sounds. Jim silently followed behind the rest of us.
Bruce gave me an empty wine glass, and then presented me with a choice of a Chardonnay or a Merlot. I chose the white wine; afraid that if my hands started shaking I'd slosh red wines all over the furniture and carpeting. After he filled my glass, he gestured to Jim who stood beside me.
Jim spoke to his friend with a smile, "Chardonnay on ice please."
His voice was so decisive yet friendly. He knew exactly what he wanted. I felt so impressed by him. I kept sneaking looks at him as Bruce served him. He sipped the wine, obviously savoring its quality, and that reminded me that I should do the same. My nervousness made me want to chug my entire glass down in two seconds, and then do the same with two or three more glasses until I felt the liquid courage kick in.
I tried to smile at him, but felt that I probably ended up looking like a lost waif or a panic-stricken loser on a blind date. I think I over-smiled and showed too much of my gums. Why was I so nervous? I'd met hundreds of other people before and was never quite like this even when I was a teenager.
Mindy suggested we step outside, as the sunset was beautiful. There were several cloud layers, and the way the setting sun was hitting them turned them various shades of pink and orange, and then deepening reds to dark grays. The sunset seemed to rush to completion as the six of us stood on their back patio.
I got a chill from the evening air as I stood with the others and watched the sky. I must have shivered, because suddenly a warm jacket wrapped itself around my shoulders. I whirled around to see that Jim had taken his blazer off and wrapped me with it around my shoulders. How chivalrous of him. We'd barely said a dozen words to each other yet he impressed me again. Jim just smiled kindly at me and then gazed at the western sky again. I smiled back with my warmest of looks. I noted that I was wet between my legs about that point in time.
I got to Bruce and Mindy's about fifteen minutes before the others were expected to arrive. I was a basket case. My throat was dry, I could barely talk, my knees were knocking together so loudly I thought I had car problems, and I kept having to pee.
Bruce pulled me into the backyard. "For god's sake, calm down. Think about what's making you nervous."
"I am, and that just makes me more nervous. This woman you've invited – Edie – she's an angel and beauty queen, and here I am a devil in disguise. She'll think I'm the biggest buffoon in the state. I'm a terrible blind date as anybody can see."
"Will you just chill out? She's human. She's been married for a long time, and that alone means she's developed some tolerance for other people. She ran a business that called for her to interact with lots of people. She's nice, and well educated. She's your kind of person. Just think of her as ... well, the woman who serves you coffee at Starbucks. She's the girl next door."
"She won friggin' beauty contests! The girl at Starbucks is cross-eyed, has buckteeth, terminal acne, and lost a hatchet fight. Why did I let you talk me into this dinner?" I asked rhetorically.
"Because you know we care about you and want to see you have fun instead of hibernating in your house as you are prone to do. We wouldn't put you in harm's way." Bruce paused and asked, "If you were the person you think Edie wants to meet, what would you be like?"
I thought for a moment, "I like hibernating and being a recluse; it's safe."
I thought about what Bruce and Mindy were trying to do for me. I bend a little in their direction. I pledged, " OK, I'll be suave and very aware of Edie's needs, both for conversation and for silence. I'd be attentive but not overbearing. I'd be kind but not in an ostentatious way. I'd be James Bond. Oh god, I'm babbling bullshit again."
"No, you're right on. Now, you just have to act the part, and since you're that way anyway, all you really need to do is just be yourself. You can emphasize that by pretending to be that suave, debonair person. Put the nervous person aside; he just left the house. Act 'as if' you're the perfect person for Edie. You be tall, dark, and handsome, and have just the right personality to wow her right off her feet."
"I'll try ... I guess." I know I sounded doubtful about the prospect for success.
Bruce cocked an ear towards the side of his house, "I just heard a car drive up. Come on in, and let's welcome them."
I followed Bruce inside. As I shut the door to the patio, I heard the sounds of welcoming taking place in the home's foyer. I puffed up my chest, took five deep breaths, and sauntered to the doorway to the foyer.
Oh, holy craperoo! There she was – Edie. There was no doubt which woman she was. She looked even more beautiful than her photographs we'd found on the Internet. She was truly an angel and a work of art, and I was sure there was a halo above her head. The gods gave the best of their best to her. She had a softness about her, and an air of eternal beauty and serenity. She oozed love. She was Aphrodite ... and I felt like a clod.
Mindy introduced us. I know my entire face was twitching with nerves. My whole body was about to go spastic, but I suppressed the urge to race past everyone to the street and my car screaming that I had to get home for some unknown emergency.
Edie and I shook hands. Her hand was cool to the touch, just right. I didn't want to let go, and I guess she didn't either. We both stared into each other faces, and I found strength I didn't know I had. We kept holding hands until Mindy nudged me to go back into the living room.
Bruce served some wine, but I wasn't tasting anything. I was studying Edie. I was trying not to stare, so I sort of kept looking at everyone else, and then stealing a long glance at Edie. I wanted to soak up her beauty, and just the feeling of pleasure I found being in her presence. I knew even then that sometime the evening would end, and I'd probably never see this wonderful creature again. I wanted lots of camera shots with my mind to view later. I wanted to soak up every photon bouncing from her in my direction.
I got a smile from her, and it lit up the sky. We went outside to watch the sunset. As we all stood and talked, I saw Edie shiver from the chill of the night air. I had my jacket off and around her shoulders in two microseconds. I wanted to be her servant – that was all I felt worthy of. When I reclaimed my jacket later, I'd know that this beauty had worn it for a few minutes, and I'd treasure that memory.
I tried to act like Mr. Cool, and someone who was always giving his jacket to needy beautiful women. I looked back at the sunset, thinking of that scene in the movie The Great Gatsby, where Robert Redford gazes out at the setting sun from his Newport mansion, showing his suave and mysterious sides all at once.
Eventually, Mindy herded us back inside and to the dining room. She seated the table, and I had Edie to my left. She returned the jacket and thanked me for my kindness. I brushed off the comment, but secretly treasured her words. I held her dinner chair for her, and I even got a laugh from her when I put her napkin in her lap the way I'd seen a maître d' do in an upscale restaurant. Mindy's friend Rita saw me do that, and gave me a conspiratorial wink.
Dinner eventually got us all talking about various subjects: books, movies, our work – past and present, and what our children and grandkids were up to. I could feel Edie's aura as she sat next to me. I sent her mental messages of acceptance and gratitude that I'd gotten to meet her. I wondered if there was such a thing as ESP. If there was, she was getting some nice messages from me.
Edie actually touched my arm a few times to make a point about something we were discussing. Each time she did, I felt like I'd just stuck my finger in an electrical outlet while standing in salt water. My whole body went into shock and trembled. I was sure she could see it and feel it, but I tried to keep my cool. One time I actually put my other hand over hers to show acceptance. She lit up with the nicest smile and kept her hand on my arm under my hand for an extra long time – like ten seconds.
We all lingered over dinner and the light dessert Rita had brought. I think I downed four cups of coffee as we sat around continuing to chatter about one thing and another. I realized I was trying to prolong our evening together before we parted forever.
Eventually, Bill and Rita made noises about leaving, and that meant that Edie would be going with them. I also thanked our host and hostess, and soon we all filed out the door with more goodbye noises. I bid Hank, Rita, and Edie goodbye as we neared our cars. I got to shake Edie's hand again, only this time I tried to act a little more suave. I used both hands to hold hers, and I told her it had been a real pleasure to meet her. After that we went in different directions.
Bruce called me the next morning at nine-thirty. I could hear Mindy in the background giving him instructions on what to say to me, and that made me laugh. Bruce was being the dutiful husband.
He said in an instructional tone, "You are supposed to call Edie and ask her to dinner. The 'powers that be' have decided that you two made a good couple last night, and that it would be ashamed for you not to see her again without the rest of us around to divert your conversation."
"Dinner? I barely met the woman, attractive as she is. What makes you think she's even interested in going out with me?"
"Look," he said, "I'm just the messenger. Do it or we're both toast with Mindy and Rita."
I gave my passive-aggressive response, "I'll think about it."
Just thinking about calling Edie gave me mixed emotions. On the one hand I found her exceptionally engaging and probably the most beautiful woman on the planet. On the other, I might just as well call the White House and invite myself to dinner. I felt so intimidated by her: her beauty, her intellect, and her persona.
Finally, about six o'clock that evening, I pulled out the scrap of paper that Mindy had given to me the night before with Edie's phone number on it. I took one last glug of liquid courage from my wine glass and then dialed the number.
Edie answered on the third ring.
"Errr, Edie, this is Jim. We met last night at Bruce and Mindy's."
"Oh, yes, I was hoping you'd call. I had such a nice time talking to you."
I thought, 'Oh my god, she's friendly and inviting, and she apparently liked me.'
"Well, I was wondering if you'd ... like to have lunch somewhere next Saturday. We could meet anywhere you'd like."
"Oh, yes. That'd be perfect." I thought I detected a tremor in her voice. Maybe she was as nervous as I was. She went on in a tentative tone, "How about at Lloyd's Restaurant at noon. They have outdoor seating if the weather is nice, otherwise we can eat inside."
"Perfect. I'll see you there – noon on Saturday at Lloyd's."
We rang off, and I sighed in relief. I'd done it. It had taken me all day to work up sufficient courage. My knees turned to Jello, and I had to sit down. I backed away from a dinner date because I'd have to plan something for the whole evening. Lunch was much less committal – only forty-five minutes if things turned out to be painful. Further, I'd suggested that we meet there instead of me picking her up. That way, we could leave and go in different directions without further recriminations. Meeting there made it seem like less of a date. I sure was avoiding commitment.
A date? My god, I hadn't had a boy-girl date in over thirty-five years. What was I thinking? This was not like high school or college. I knew what was expected of me back then, but now ... I wasn't so sure. I had no idea how a sixty-year-old male was supposed to behave on a 'date.'
I texted Bruce, 'Lunch next Saturday with Edie.'
He immediately texted back, 'Good. I'll let the authorities know.'
A few minutes after that I got a text from Mindy. 'Coward. You were supposed to ask her to dinner and make an evening of it ... even ending up back at your house for romance. Oh, well. Next time.' A moment later I got another text from her, 'Seriously, congratulations. I know that took courage. We're behind you on this. M and B.'
I didn't respond to Mindy because I thought there was a gentle prodding there that I was choosing to ignore.
I saw the Caller ID on my cellphone light up with Jim's name and number. My heart leapt into my throat, and I'm sure my body went into a state of shock. I had to cough a couple of times to be able to speak before I pushed the answer button. I felt tears of panic hit my eyes. Was this nice man really calling me for a reason? Had he liked me?
A couple of sentences later, and I'd agreed to go to lunch with him at Lloyd's, my favorite place. What was I thinking by accepting? What does he want from me? He was so suave last night, but then here and there I detected some nervousness. He's an oxymoron – nervous yet confident. He was so kind.
I immediately started second guessing myself. I hadn't been on a real 'date' for decades except sometimes when I made Harry do a 'date night.' We were married and a 'date night' when your married is nothing like this was going to be.
Harry used to remind me that I intimidated people because of who I'd been and what I did in my career. I'd been a top fashion and photography model, pulling down tens of thousands for a single photoshoot, and then I'd even been on the cover of some well-known magazines. Even now my older photos were splattered all over the Internet, some of me in the nude – not porn, mind you, but more artistic studies by one of the leading photographers of the time – thirty years earlier. Oh, my god, had Jim seen those? Was that why he was after me? If I intimidated him, how come he was so 'smooth' and poised most of the evening? I was pretending to be that way myself, when I really wanted to kick off my shoes and go barefoot.
Saturday! Shit, that's only six days away. Why was I swearing? I need to wear something that will signal to him that I'm past all those years in my life where I was in demand and intimidating and sexy. I was pretending back then to be so sophisticated. I'm just a country girl blessed with good looks.
Hell, even now I'm getting signs of old age that take the edge off what I looked like in my youth. I'm broader in my hips. I have crow's feet at my eyes. My skin is a little blotchy with what my mother called liver spots – not many, but a few. My breasts sag. My butt sags even more – I think. I have cellulite forming on my thighs. My eyelids droop. I die my hair. I'm a complete mess, why would Jim even think of being seen in public with me?
As I wandered around the house I suddenly stopped in a panic. What will we talk about? Oh, crap. I need to brush up on the latest movies and books, and ... the news. That's it; I'll watch the news. I can't just veg out all day long watching Home and Garden TV like I've been doing since before Harry died. I've got to get back into the real world. When did I travel last? Oh, it was last year and I went to Italy for a week with Rita. Do I still have the photos on my iPhone to show him? Am I trying to upstage him by talking about that trip?
What if he's a sports nut? Does he have a favorite team? Should I memorize batting averages or football scores or something? He looks in good shape. Does Jim do tennis or golf or something else? Does he run? Might he jog with me some day? I wonder if he likes yoga.
I paced around my living room with my heart beating fast, my brain in a truly spastic condition, and in a near panic. I could feel the adrenalin surging through me. Another wave of panic washed over me. What will I wear? Lloyd's can be anything from very casual to practically formal attire. If I dress down and he wears a suit, I'll feel like a tramp. If I dress up, and he's in jeans or shorts he'll think I'm a snob and trying to upstage him – that intimidation factor again. Maybe I need to go through my closet and see what jumps out at me. I love colorful, but what if he has a favorite color like blue, and I show up wearing red. Will that turn him off?
Why am I trying to impress this man? I only just me him, although Rita and Mindy both assure me that he's a rare catch and that we'd be perfect together. What does that mean? Do I even want to live with another man ... or get married again? Wait! Why do I suddenly have us married? We haven't even been on a date yet. Is Saturday a date? He's not picking me up; I'm meeting him there; it's just a casual lunch. Right?
The weekdays passed with agonizing slowness. As each day passed I worked myself into a frenzy of worry about my Saturday 'date.' I talked to Rita three times a day during the week, and she calmed me down each time. She even had Mindy call one day to give me more details about Jim. The more I learned about him, the more impressed I was with who he was, what he'd done, and how he thought. How would I remember everything the two of them told me, not only about Jim, but also about how to behave on my lunch date? Mostly, they told me to be myself.
I lost sleep Thursday night. I ended up pacing around my living room at five-thirty in the morning talking out loud to myself. In a stern voice I said to no one, "Edie, you're almost sixty years old. You have faced all sorts of demons, devils, and bastards in your life and career. Jim is a nice man, and he just wants to have a casual lunch with you. You are working this date thing into a huge deal, and it's not. Just roll with it. Relax. Get a grip."
I sat beside my backyard pool as the sun came up meditating, but my monkey brain was all over the map. When I stopped meditating, I sort of woke up to the thought, 'No, this is an important date. If everyone sees us as so great together, maybe there's really something there.' I found I had tears running down my cheeks.
By Friday lunch, some internal clock started to count down to Saturday's lunch. I'd had an appointment in the morning to get my hair done, and in the afternoon to get a pedicure and manicure. I'd been to Saks Fifth Avenue the day before and bought a new outfit to wear – designer jeans and a lightly flowered top that looked mostly off white except for the delicate pattern; I though the combination made me look feminine, played up by best parts, and ducked the favorite color issue I'd worried about on Tuesday.
I also tried on every pair of shoes I had, trying to find the pair that was 'just right' to wear to our lunch. Should I wear some three or four-inch heels, or just sandals. The former were more formal, and gave me a younger and sexier look. The latter were comfortable, convenient, and would show off my new pedicure. In the end I chose my sandals – the ones with a few rhinestone studs to decorate the straps.
Saturday morning, I was up early again, and dressed and ready to go at nine o'clock. Lloyd's was only a ten-minute drive from my house. Why was the clock moving so slowly? I kept touching up and retouching my makeup, at one point removing it all and starting over again to emphasize the more natural me. This wasn't a photoshoot; we were just having a casual lunch.
I sat in my car just outside my garage at eleven-forty-five, starting the engine and checking to be sure I had enough gas to get to the restaurant. I had a full tank because I'd filled the car the day before to be sure. I didn't want to arrive early. I waited, futzing with the radio. I wondered what kind of music Jim liked.
At five minutes of twelve, I drove to Lloyd's. I found a parking space and as I walked past the patio, Jim intercepted me. He said in a friendly tone, "It's such a nice day, I got us a table outdoors. I hope that's all right. We can go inside if you think it's too chilly or sunny or anything."