It hit me like a ton of bricks.
Two weeks ago, a very close male friend and I were having dinner. We brought up our summer plans and I told him that, at this point, I had none. My two boys—one in college and the other living in New York—were being difficult to pin down. Frankly, after a 10-day European trip with them last year, I would not mind a vacation with people my own age this time around. I am certain my boys would understand—that is as long as I keep paying their phone bills, gas charges, and Starbucks.
After a few minutes of chatting, my friend invited me to join him and his wife, along with another couple who are also good friends, on their European vacation in October. Prague, Budapest and Vienna were the cities selected for the 8-night trip. He practically insisted I go, saying that everyone—the women were very close friends of my wife who passed away four plus years ago– would love to have me come along.
The next day I called him and said to count me in. Since my wife passed away from lung cancer in October 2014, I have done my best to stay friends with the people we were closest with. I am also dating in search of meeting someone for the next chapter. Frankly, I think I do my best on all accounts, though dating has become a second, very time-consuming and expensive job for me. This was the first time, though, that I was actually invited to a specific event, outside of the big parties and get-togethers in town, since my wife died. I was actually looking forward to it.
Oh boy, did the shit then hit the fan.
Within 24 hours, I was told by my buddy that the wives did not want me to tag along. Including a fifth wheel on this trip, it seems, was not what they were looking for. So I was unceremoniously dropped.
Frankly, I do not know whether to be angry or not. Yes, I could see their point. A single guy tagging along on an European vacation could upset the apple cart a bit and it would create a potentially strange ratio of three men to two women. I can only guess that the women were worried that their husbands would spend more time talking to me about various things than paying attention to them.
On the other hand, what difference would it really make? I am pretty self-sufficient and easily entertained by my own antics. I figured I would tour with them during the day and do my own thing at night. And besides, I am an equal-opportunity talker and am always eager to yap away with men and women. Plus, like most married couples of 25-plus years, I am pretty certain that romance was not what anybody was thinking when booking this vacation.
So, I am not going. I will find something—or nothing—to do this summer instead and will still be pretty happy.
But, I learned an important lesson from this event.
Though I have rarely, if ever, been invited over to homes for even dinner over the last three years or so, it took this incident for me to learn that it is pretty tough being a single in a world of married people. Our goals and interests are much different and, frankly, some people do not want me around to potentially influence their spouses. It is probably not personal, though sometimes I feel that it tugs at my heart.
In the end, it makes me one big step closer to leaving my home of 27 years to search for a new place to live near people in similar situations. Not sure where that place is as certain issues—such as my job location, kids, amount of living space and affordability—also need to be considered. But my eyes are a little more open now than just a few weeks ago.
Kind of sad, but not unexpected.
Seth Mendelson is the father of two sons, 24 and 21, and lives in Montville, N.J. He is an award-winning journalist covering business, politics and sports and has been published in such publications as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal in addition to his full-time job.