Highs in the Low Fifties
Globe Pequot Press, 2013
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As soon as I posted my profile, I started hearing from prospective suitors. Some wanted to "challange" me to a game of "Scrable." Others were more romantic: "marion, I am going to be up front with you. I want to become your man in life. I am not kidding. So what do i have to do to date to you, date you and start hangout with you for fun. so please talk to me marion. I could be yours."
Unfortunately, the 40-57 age group seemed to be full of 70 year olds. Hair was rare. Guts were expansive. Complexions were pasty or suspiciously rosy, and spelling was surely a lost art. I learned to scout the background of the self-taken cellphone photographs for the rigging: In Baltimore, the sailboat is everything.
Even after ruling out the grammar abusers and other non-starters, including the three people on earth who don't enjoy walking on the beach, I found myself skittish. Just being over fifty seemed to have reduced the pool to a puddle, and a scary part of it was composed of twenty-one-year-old perverts. The screen names alone, Passion4U and SuperGrande and BBQRavensMan, scared me off. I was easily spooked by phrases like "Christian/Catholic" and "I'll tell you later." But people were skittish about me, too. Several times, after I'd told a man I was a writer, and he looked at my website and read my life story, he would stop writing to me altogether. It might have been my resume. It might have been AIDS or atheism or Jane. Still, I found myself unable to withhold the information. I was already such a public person that withholding details seemed coy. I couldn't grasp the fine line between advertising and self-exposure.
The first man I made a date to meet had many good points. He was not only an excellent speller, he was a doctor. He had graduated from Brown the year before I got there. He was a dog-lover who lived just a few blocks away. Before we met in person, he wiped the floor with me in a game of online Scrabble, playing words like HM and FEAL, both legit as it turned out. It was hard to set up a meeting due to his professional responsibilities, golf games, and stringent TV-watching schedule, but we did finally manage to schedule an 8:00 a.m. breakfast before his Sunday tee-time, at a restaurant down the block.
My pal Martha chose my outfit for the occasion—actually Martha supplied the outfit, since she had all that retired First Date-wear. She gave me a pair of hip-huggers, a wide leather belt and a soft, heather cashmere sweater. Dressed as Martha, I strolled into Miss Shirley's and found the man I'll call Uncle Norm.
Though Uncle Norm was only six years older than me, my first impression was that he was from a different generation. He reminded me so much of my parents' friends, the funny, amiable Jewish golfers I had grown up with—i.e., old people—that I panicked immediately at the thought of us as a couple. Within moments of sitting down I had enthusiastically blurted, "Oh, we can be friends!"
Excerpted from High in the Low Fiftes, Marion Winik (Globe Pequot Press, June 2013). Reprinted with permission of the author.