What do I want? What do you want?
In the dating game, those are, perhaps, the two most important questions to ask. Because, while most of us say that we want to find the right match for the right time, I am beginning to wonder whether that is really true.
I am as guilty as anyone else. As I near the fifth anniversary of my wife’s passing, I am really beginning to question what it is I am looking for from a relationship. If you would have asked me a year or two ago, the answer was simple: To meet a great woman and have a long-term relationship with her that could, but did not have to, lead to marriage. I envisioned the ideal partnership. We would be together all the time, sharing laughter, common interests, intelligence and, of course, great sex; having that proverbial glass of wine as we chat up a storm eating oysters and lobster in the south of France.
Today, I might say those same things. But I am beginning to realize that while I love the company of women and would like to meet one person who stands above the crowd, I also greatly value what I call my “alone time.” In fact, I cherish doing what I want to do when I want to do it.
Selfish? Absolutely. But true too. And, I don’t think I am alone. In fact, I think the problem many of us have on this second go-round is that while being with another person sounds fantastic, it is pretty hard to pull off, especially after spending 50 or 60 years on the planet without that other person in your life.
Where did this idea come from, you might ask? Well, last Sunday, my regular doubles tennis partner and I were having breakfast after our latest match. Always inquisitive about how single people are getting along and my adventures in Dating Wonderland, he asked a great question: Of all the women I have met in nearly four years of dating, how many are now in serious relationships with other men?
The answer, since I have maintained good relationships with many of these women and kept tabs on some others, is very few. Outrageously few, in fact. And, with all the tools available to us, from the Internet to old-fashioned dating like meeting at bars and events, to set ups, that just does not make any sense.
So, I have narrowed it down to two conclusions. One is that these dating sites, and the easy access to hundreds, even thousands, of people of the opposite sex, makes it too simple to just keep on looking, hoping that the ultimate Superman or Superwoman (definition: rich, handsome/beautiful, smart, fun and, most importantly, leaves us alone when we want to be left alone) is right around the corner. The other one is that while many of us crave companionship, we value our own free time and the lives we have built over decades even more.
Yes, we want the boyfriend or girlfriend. But, he or she need only be available when tennis, or mah jongg, poker or yoga, are not are in session and maybe on a Saturday night when it seems that everyone else is not available.
Obviously, I will keep right on looking, confident that my mom’s words to me all those years ago will still ring true today. “You only need to find one,” she said, confidently. “And that could happen at any moment on any day. So make sure you wear clean underwear.”
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.