“It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age.” Margaret Mead
Today’s post begins with a quote from Margaret Mead, the cultural anthropologist, writer and feminist. I offer this quote for a couple of reasons; first, Mead is a widely quoted and respected student of civilization, she was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. The citation read:
“Margaret Mead was both a student of civilization and an exemplar of it. To a public of millions, she brought the central insight of cultural anthropology: that varying cultural patterns express an underlying human unity. She mastered her discipline, but she also transcended it. Intrepid, independent, plain spoken, fearless, she remains a model for the young and a teacher from whom all may learn.”
The second reason I begin with Mead’s quote about aging is that I wanted this essay about dating in my sixties to have some academic weight. The idea that I was approaching this subject from the point of view of a cultural anthropologist made me smile as I write about my dating life, or current lack of one.
Mead’s research and books included, Coming of Age in Samoa, and Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, the latter became a research reference and cornerstone of the feminist movement in the late sixties and seventies. I don’t pretend that this blog post about sexagenarian dating in the Midwest will be referenced by anyone beyond readers of Mixed Metaphors, Oh My!, my circle of LGBTQ friends, family members, and of course, chuckling ex-girlfriends.
My back story: I’m a Wisconsin bred-and-born baby-boomer: I married my husband in 1971 at the age of 21, became a feminist, and formed an “open relationship” with my husband (translation: I stayed married, but had girlfriends), divorced and came out as a lesbian 35 years ago.
Like many lesbians of my generation, my dating life and relationships followed a pattern of serial monogamy. In my thirties and forties and throughout my most recent relationship of fifteen years and afterwards, I was either in a relationship, grieving and processing the end of a relationship, or beginning my next relationship. I really wouldn’t characterize my behavior or activity between relationships as dating.
This is the cultural environment I now find myself in. A feminist-lesbian in her early sixties, who some days self identifies as a “big old dyke” and other days as simply queer, while I strive to stay informed and sensitive to the evolution of gender identity, expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation.
Yes, I think it’s fair to say I feel a little like Margaret Mead, observing, interviewing populations, and researching a new society.
Since I never really dated much, I’m learning late in life. If there were remedial LGBTQ dating social groups, I would need to signup. My current dating credentials: I’m a graduate of the Lesbian & Queer Women’s Dating Seminar & Salon, in fact I was invited back by the dating coach for a refresher course (h-m-m-m-m?!). I’ve done my share of therapy: individual, couples and group, before, during and after a relationship, I met my previous long-term partner in a Healthy Lesbian Relationship Therapy Group, I’ve tried online dating, speed-dating, joined the Madison Area LGBT Women’s Meetup Social Group, I’ve been setup by friends, gone on blind dates, attended game nights and too many lesbian and queer potlucks to count on both hands and feet — both mine and yours — you get the picture. I’ve experimented with visualizing my next girlfriend by having conversations with an imaginary girlfriend. Yes, I’ll try just about anything once.
In fact, just yesterday, I attended another single lesbian potluck, this time at Orton Park, a beautiful Eastside Madison park, complete with a romantic gazebo, located smack dab in the middle of what’s commonly referred to here as “dyke heights.” The park was once the home of a famous life-size gay sculpture by George Segal.
There were just under a dozen women who attended, half I knew from other groups or gatherings. I enjoyed their company and a beautiful early autumn Saturday afternoon in the park. One friend even mentioned that she met a woman who thought might be a good match for me. Perhaps I should attend the upcoming LGBT Women’s Meetup event.
Now, in the spirit of complete disclosure, I’ve been on some dates these past five years, I’ve made new friends and learned more about myself, especially how much I cherish my solitude and some aspects of my single life. I’ve learned to live well alone and at the same time experience and understand loneliness and its function to motivate us to connect with others.
Though I miss partner sex and the affectionate touch of others, it’s the emotional intimacy of a committed relationship I yearn for the most. The irony is, that more than any other time in my life, I am physically, spiritually, financially and most importantly, emotionally ready to be in a relationship.
In some respects, as a sexagenarian living in the Midwest in my home of Madison, Wisconsin, the dating pool seems to be getting smaller and shallower. Like most environments, it’s also evolving by changes in culture and our society and to some degree becoming a dating quagmire. As the Third Act of my life is ahead of me, I don’t feel like I have much time to practice, to get caught in the quicksand of an unhealthy or unsustainable relationship. It’s time for me to finally get it right. I know the girl is out there (insert politically-correct, preferred pronoun here). Lastly, thank you Margaret Mead for the reminder expressed in your quote at the beginning of this post. I intend to both play and learn in my old age, and live to the best of my ability without regrets.
Come play (and learn) with me!
For more of my writing about sexagenarian dating, my experiences as a graduate of the Lesbian & Queer Women’s Dating Seminar & Salon, and my poetry about crushes, see below.
It made me smile, looking up
the word for a person in their sixties.
We are both children of the sixties, now in our sixties,
twice the age of those we once swore
we could never trust.
How times change and how we are changed by time,
when young, we’d act first, regret later,
now we reflect, take it slow
one step, a day at a time,
measure risk versus benefit,
like actuaries or fund managers,
protecting our investments,
paying attention to profit and loss,
return on investment.
We are both singletons, survivors of the once-partnered
looking for love and companionship.
We do the sexagenarian dance,
the “come here, go away,
I like my single life, but miss the
warm body in my bed,
companion in life, two-step.”
Yes, back and forth we go, first pretending
we have no romantic interest, then pursue and court,
like a waltz, we take it slow, to and fro.
We’ll dance until the music ends,
or we no longer hear its sweet notes.
Read more about late-in-life lesbian dating in It’s Never Too Late to Date
Explore infatuation and crushes in my poetry chapbook, Crush(ed)