In 2004, I was successful in pitching a weekly dating column to Carl Hahn, the editor for Red Deer LIFE, the Sunday edition of the Red Deer Advocate. I had to keep the main column to half a page (approx. 800 words) and half that (400 words) for the Bedtime Story companion column. The first column was originally published February 8, 2004:
Lighthearted look at The Search
By Faye Bayko
I no longer remember how old my father was when he made the comment, all I know is I was too young to understand it at the time. When I hit my mid-40s I finally understood what he was trying to say.
He’d caught his reflection in a mirror one day while walking by and was shocked.
“Who’s that old man?” he said.
You have to realize my father has always looked young for his age, and acted even younger.
This is the man who used to come home from work and join us in the backyard for a game of baseball, his antics prompting the neighbourhood kids to ask if he was Jerry Lewis (the comedian, not the singer). So, his words came back to me as I found myself staring into the mirror New Year’s Eve, every wrinkle magnified, crows feet etched in stone and I could feel the waterworks starting.
“What am I doing?” A year away from 50 and here I was trying to decorate myself up to go out with a group of 30-somethings to celebrate the new year as I hadn’t done for over 10 years. Fear welled up inside and I turned and walked downstairs to tell my son I’d changed my mind about going out.
From a 17-year-old’s viewpoint my fears seemed silly. After a short attempt at offering comfort, he pulled out the tough love and informed me that no matter what I said, he was going to drop me off, as planned, and drive away — which, he did, leaving me standing outside the Blarney Stone Pub with everything inside me wanting to run after the car screaming, “Take me home!”
I felt like a child left on the steps of the school the first day of Grade 1, knowing I was there to take the first step toward my future but terrified I wasn’t ready for it.
Taking the first step is what this column is all about. This column will discuss issues surrounding the problems, and solutions, in finding love in the new millennium.
I will also include what I call a bedtime story once a month because we all need to be reminded what’s possible when we’re in the trenches alone. These will be real-life fairy tale about local couples and how they found true love.
I will also include the popular reality element to this column by following five women, each representing a dating decade (20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s) as they try various methods of finding that elusive soul mate. The participants who have agreed to join me in this experiment are extremely brave. It was not easy finding willing people because, unlike television competitions like Fear Factor, the challenge I issued had nothing to do with facing external fears. My challenge involved going inside and facing one of the greatest fears of all, ourselves.
There was also no money involved. These participants stepped into this challenge with no thought of a fat paycheque at the end. Their only reward will be in the experience of opening themselves up to the possibilities life has to offer.
Over the next few months we will be discussing some of the issues particularly relevant during each of these decades and how they relate to the relationship choices we make.
As well, we will look at some of the dating options available in Red Deer and Central Alberta.
When describing the participants in this column I will not be using their real names. I’ve done this to protect their privacy and to keep the experiment clean. The only exception will be if a participant finds a mate and wishes to tell her story in the bedtime story column.
There were, of course, some ground rules.
Participants had to be ready to meet their mate. This meant, I thought, that old issues had to have been dealt with. But, this proved to be a learning experience for me too and I found sometimes it is only after we have entered into the process of opening ourselves up to new opportunities that wounds heal and we are able to discharge the ties that bind us to old relationships.
The participants also had to commit to six months and be willing to try at least three different methods of finding a mate. This was another challenge for me as participants started then pulled out.
The column will run every two weeks and cover such topics as becoming clear about what we want, promoting ourselves, the invisible wall keeping our dream mate away, speed dating, dealing with children, chat rooms, personal ads, blind dates, singles clubs, and age-discrepant relationships.