This is column 11 in a series I wrote for Red Deer LIFE, the Sunday edition of the Red Deer Advocate, beginning in February 2004. This column, published in LIFE on June 27, 2004, examines the trials of being a 60-something female looking for love.
Enjoying the gift of the present
Photo and text by Faye Bayko
After discovering your authentic self in your 50s, the 60s become the entrance into what author Gail Sheehy describes in her book New Passages as the age of integrity.
This stage is marked by spiritual growth with the challenge being to remove your focus from the future, or the passage of time, and move it to the present, to the enjoyment of staying in the moment. Of course, as with many theories, it’s easier said than done.
Sixty-eight-year-old Jessie has faced her fair share of challenges in her life so she was the least afraid of meeting those that participation in this column presented. She has remained clear on whom and what she wanted in a partner from the beginning and has attracted many variations on the theme while exploring different avenues of the dating game.
“I like the cowboy type,” she laughs, knowing that in Alberta that should provide her with a lot of choice, but her age has narrowed that field immensely. “I’ve gone to a couple of singles dances but there’re a lot of women.”
Roy Bannerman (see Bedtime Story) found the same when he was involved with a singles group in Nanaimo, where he used to live. “All women, except me. I called it my harem.” His wife, Ella Mae, whom he met at church, was also part of that group, he explains. “She started it up. I had it going a little before that but she rekindled it.”
When asked why so few men attend singles functions, Roy shrugs. “Well, there’s not many (left). I don’t know. I’ve tried. I think they’re scared of women. Not me.”
Being afraid would make sense. This is the generation that was not encouraged to understand the other gender. Men were expected to be walking, talking wallets and women were bought and paid for caregivers. So, what happens when suddenly one partner is set free of these restrictive roles by the death of the other?
Is there a thunderbolt flash of enlightenment? A huge leap of understanding and empathy? No, years of bitterness and repressed anger surface. Not exactly the best attitude to attend a social gathering with.
Taking the time to go through the process of healing and finding out who you really are, as a person, not as a gender role or cliché, will result in a social-ready attitude.
Ella Mae agrees, “I remember one of our church leaders advising, ‘Don’t always try to look for Mr. or Mrs. Right. Instead, become that perfect person yourself.’ That way when you do meet that special someone you’re ready to give them the best of you.”
For Jessie, freedom came when she was 37. She left a marriage of 18 years to start on the road of discovering who she was. Looking back, she laughs at how naive she was. “After a year of being on my own, friends took me out to the bar. Everyone ordered a draft. I had to ask, ‘What is draft?’ because I’d never been in a bar before and didn’t know what it was.”
Over the next 30 years the bar became the main focus of her social life. “I kind of enjoyed the bar scene, it was exciting and there was music and dancing. I met a lot of nice people over the years.”
For the last 12 years of that lifestyle she was part of the music scene, playing her guitar and singing with various country bands. But last year she pulled out. “Over the last year I decided to change my way of life.”
The bar scene provided Jessie with a lot of opportunity to grow socially but fell short in one important way she said. “I met a lot of nice men but they really didn’t have anything to offer that I was looking for as far as being supportive.”
Emotional support became a key expectation for her. “When I was at the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, I noticed people holding hands, and they’ve got their arms around each other’s waist as they’re listening to the music, you know, and it seems like it’s empty without a partner. It’s always nice to have a partner to go to different concerts with.”
Jessie has entered her own spiritual journey.
She still carries with her the joy of the relationships she developed over the years and music continues to be a large part of her life, but she feels she has to let go of the negatives from her past.
That is the challenge of staying in the moment: letting go of the past while removing expectations for the future. When successful, the gift of the present is joy.