Sometimes dating in your 40’s is like a surreal trip through time. This is especially true when you’re dealing with people who are suddenly single for the first time since their mid-20’s.
My friend Annie recently met a new guy with whom she really clicked. If you’ve spent any time dating in your 40’s, you know how rare this is…. Seriously. Knowing what you finally want is something of a mixed blessing; it makes it much more difficult to settle for less. But I digress….
So, Annie met Noah and they hit it off. He seemed to like her, too, and they made arrangements to get together for lunch or drinks or a hike. Then the call came in from Annie’s friend Candace. Candace explained that she’d noticed Annie and Noah talking, and she just felt that she needed to tell Annie that she had actually been interested in Noah for many years and cared for him quite a bit. She told Annie that if anything was going on between Annie and Noah, she’d rather not know about it.
Annie is a very nice person. Occasionally too nice. She immediately felt bad for Candace and promised to stay away from Noah. Candace was relieved and appreciative, and Annie was…. disappointed and confused. So she called me.
And I called bullshit.
What Candace had done — plain and simple — was called dibs on a man. And I had all kinds of problems with it.
Let’s start with the fact that Candace and Annie aren’t even good enough friends for Annie to have known that Candace was crushing on Noah. It never came up. Because they aren’t that close. They are somewhere in that gray area between friends and acquaintances.
Next, let’s consider the fact that Candace has had years to make something happen with Noah and to no avail. If I knew Candace well enough, I’d let her know that no single man in his 50’s is that clueless. If he wanted her, he’d have had her by now. Period.
Finally, how about the fact that we live in a fairly small community with a very limited dating pool. If we all start putting dibs on every guy that we feel something about, not much dating is going to happen.
I don’t mean to be harsh. Honestly. I feel for Candace; I really do. Crushing on someone who’s not crushing back is brutal. But it’s also life. And it’s definitely dating life. You accept it, you get over it, you move on. You don’t pee on your territory to warn off other potential mates.
So, that’s what I told Annie. And after a few other people said the same thing and Noah kept pursuing her, she was wavering. And then a second call came from Candace: Candace and Noah had met for lunch, and Noah had basically told Candace outright that he was not interested in a romantic relationship with her. It’s unclear why Candace told Annie this, but it was enough to get Annie to reconsider her position, and she agreed to meet Noah for a platonic outing, with her kids in tow. Nothing romantic, just a chance to see if there was anything at all there…
And then came the second phone call. This time it was from Annie’s friend Denise, letting her know that Candace was pretty upset by all of this and that she (Denise) thought that Annie was being insensitive. “Couldn’t you just wait six months?” Denise asked. “Why this guy? There are other guys….”
And, once again, I called bullshit.
Denise is a really lovely woman with a warm heart and a caring personality. But she is at the very beginning of her divorce and hasn’t dated at all yet. Her advice frequently reminds me of the well-intentioned and misguided advice I used to give my single friends when I was still married. It’s caring and compassionate, but not realistic.
I pointed out to Annie that I’m not sure what 6 months would do for Candace… she’d been crushing on Noah for years; what was going to be different 6 months from now? And yes, of course there are other men. But meeting someone you click with is rare enough to deserve at least a little bit of examination.
I also drove home the fact that Noah had made his interests and intentions as clear as possible. Finally, I noted that it seemed like an awful lot of people (myself included) were weighing in on whether Annie and Noah should date, when Annie and Noah hadn’t even figured that out yet. I mean, really? I was beginning to feel like we were passing notes in 8th grade geometry class.
Annie decided to give it a try with Noah, and so they are doing what unattached grown-ups do: they are spending time together to determine if there is enough between them to warrant spending more time together. Without any permission from any of the rest of us, which seems about right to me.
I am well aware that there are going to be people out there who disagree with me on this one, and I want to be clear that I respect and support girlfriend solidarity. I don’t date my friends’ exes and I don’t compete with my friends for male attention. I would never try to take a guy from a good friend, whether he liked her or not. Indeed, with besties, I follow a “no pain at all” principle: if my being with him is going to hurt one of the people most dear to me, he’s not worth it. But that is a distinction I reserve for my very dearest friends. However, even with a not-so-close friend, I wouldn’t consider dating the guy if I thought she still had any chance at all with him. In fact, even if I were out with an acquaintance and we met a guy at the same time and she let me know that she liked him, I’d step back and let her take the first run at him. But if he made it clear he wasn’t interested and the friend is not a particularly close one? Then no dibs. Men are not dresses on a rack; the “I saw it first” approach doesn’t fly with me.
Who knows what will happen with Annie and Noah, but what I do know is that they are both unattached adults with an interest in one another. And really, none of the rest is anyone else’s business.