Excited But Cautious

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Help!!!!! I met someone and I don’t know what to do. I’m a
68-year- old woman. I have been divorced twice and lived
alone for ten years. Frankly, I’d given up on the idea of ever
meeting anyone I’d want to date regularly, let alone
contemplating something emotionally more powerful. A few
years ago I went (for the first time, after hearing “success
stories”) on the Internet dating sites. But I saw no one and
retreated with my tail between my legs. For whatever
reason after the holidays I decided to sign on again. Last
week, out of nowhere, I got a knock knock hello from
someone who seems to really get who I am. We’ve
exchanged at least fifty emails in the last week and have a
date to meet for lunch, and maybe a movie or a walk on
Saturday. The list of topics that we have touched on ranges
from all the obvious like family, romantic history, and
professional life to spirituality, travel, creativity, books,
movies, health and exercise, and love of the arts. Clearly
there’s a lot going on but I’m so un-used to this I don’t know
what to do.

Excited But Cautious

Dear Excited:

This is a wonderful time of year and of life to meet someone.
Congratulations!! I’m going to devote a lot of energy to the
do’s as well as the don’ts because both are important. I
want to validate both your excitement and your caution. It’s
fun to fall in love, but I’m betting you didn’t get to your age
and wisdom, or your divorce history, without making some
mistake along the way. Remembering those will be part of
the exercise.

Start with safety tips. Have your first meeting in a public
place. Pick a restaurant you like at a time that will allow you
to linger if you want to. Be sure to tell a friend everything
you know now about this person, from email address to a
picture, and where and when you are meeting. Ask that
friend to call you thirty minutes in with an excuse that would
allow you to leave if you need to flee. Most such meetings
end up being fine, where that can be a so-so one-and- done
to a great first date that leads to more. But the occasional
few are occasions from which you might need a rescue. So
even if you blush and stammer while saying, My friend
needs me. I’m so sorry. Here’s my share of the bill. While
you flee, know you have an out.

Most single people have been building a list of what they do
and do not want in their next partner for a very long time:
qualities that Mr. or Ms. Unknown will have as basic part of
their core DNA, lifestyle, and character. The pretty much
standard ones (in an order reflecting any given moment) are
integrity, sensuality, intelligence, spirituality, good
communications, financial stability, and senses of humor,
honor, curiosity, and common sense. A friend one told me
one of hers was “forthright,” which I interpret in part as an
absence of passive aggressive or whiny tendencies. The
ability to disagree and not hold a grudge or desire to prove
one’s point. My own summary is Someone who appreciates
my best qualities and tolerates my worst ones with patience
and humor. (And hopefully agree on which is which.)

Take the time now, before Saturday, to very clearly identify
for yourself the deal breakers. For example someone who
wants to move in this month and put a straw in your 401(k),
or who expects you to sign over the lease to your house.
Beep beep alert!! Also remind yourself of the good qualities
you saw in your exes, before they became same. Someone
who likes to do the same kinds of things as you and whose
speed of life is consistent with yours is a good basis for
dating. Most importantly, make sure this new person
respects the life that you have built over the last ten years
and will not encourage you to abandon it or your core group
of friends. Sometime, if you do not already know them,
google traits of abusers and if you see warning signalsmove
quickly away.

As you feel comfortable, introduce this person to your best
friends. Think a series of dinner dates, not one big party that
might feel like a group interview. I’m sure you’re going to
talk about this new excitement, but one by one let them
have a crack at him or her. Listen carefully to their
feedback. They’re bound to be protective of you, because
they’ll have to catch you if you fall. But they’re also not deaf
dumb and blind to your happiness and needs. I hope this is
nothing but naches for you, and that even with your eyes
open you can allow yourself to enjoy the process of
discovering and exploring someone as they are discovering
and exploring you.