You’ll find us in the piano bar at a ‘long established’ restaurant in town, or eating at an
upscale tapas bistro on any evening of the week. Small, tight collectives of two or three women, a sprinkling of solo men, we are single midlife boomers, out for a night of good food, wine, music, conversation, and a certain feeling of possibility. We might meet new friends or potential lovers, enjoy a new jazz combo, or discover a good classic rock venue. At the end of the evening, we retreat to our comfortable paid-for homes, often in the same suburban hamlets where marriage and children flourished.
Our parents’ generation would have tagged us with the one-word-says-all pejorative: ‘divorcee’…no longer included in dinner parties where married couples fill out the even numbers at the table, we represent the dangerous allure of singledom in a room full of safe couplers.
While representing more than half the demographic of the country, older singles socialize in a kind of vacuum, planning vacations with one or two unattached friends we’ve managed to keep throughout the intervening years of marriage. Weekends are filled in with family activities, grandchildren, book talks, perhaps a class in conversational Italian. Dating for us is sporadic– the occasional evening arranged by well- meaning friends. More adventurous souls sit in the reflective light of the laptop monitor, scrolling the dating sites for a compatible partner, or someone presentable to take to a nephew’s wedding. This is a largely disappointing endeavor for most, as we sift through the poised smiling faces of photos taken 20 years ago, gross height/weight miscalculations, and inevitable hedging of other personal profile material. This virtual 24/7 cocktail party is initially invigorating but eventually tiresome, yielding precious little for the time and energy involved in the search. Three-dimensional personas can be shockingly different than the on-screen correspondent…and one knows instantly across the table, what could not be realized after weeks of emails.
After six years of a happily single existence, a couple of great relationships, strong family ties, and good friends–mostly from my married life….I decided what would really make this fine picture even better would be a community of people with a life dynamic more fitting with my own solo course. I didn’t know the first thing about how to locate these potential compadres, if they existed at all. I decided to find out, and shortly thereafter, I heard about a group in my area; a singles ski club .…described in their website as an ‘activities based club for singles 21 and older’, which meets weekly in a local restaurant bar. The actual age demographic of this group was reputedly between 40-60. I knew something of ‘activities’ clubs before; that they are ‘meat markets’ for the lonely and the hyper-aroused boomer set. People would cruise the meetings looking for their latest hook up or brief infatuation. There would be high turnover as people moved on to newer more novel venues. Creating community, and certainly finding lasting love, was not part of the equation. But one Halloween evening, feeling curious and adventurous, I decided to drop in on their annual costume party, which, though not highly publicized, was open to guests. What I observed that evening was unexpected. The room was full of friendly, relaxed, smiling people talking and laughing with each other, depicting a setting of easy familiarity of the kind that only shared history brings. This was not a typical nightclub scene. These people apparently cared about each other. Furthermore, I felt very comfortable being in the room. As I sat near the end of the bar near the live music, two or three people came up and introduced themselves, and before long we were all on the dance floor, moving to familiar Motown sounds. There was a feeling of safety and acceptance from the beginning. This was a pleasant finding, and decidedly not typical of the usual club scene.
I started finding time for the weekly meetings on a somewhat irregular basis, learning more about this group and what it had to offer its membership. The main emphasis is skiing and ski racing, along with various other outdoor activities, social events, and club charity fundraisers planned throughout the year. In this busy chapter, there is one or two things planned every week for any and all who wish to participate. I showed up at a couple of activities that interested me, and my attraction to the club and its people grew from there. I made acquaintances, some of whom became closer than others. I eventually served on the Board of Directors, seeing folks come and go, but mainly stay…and over the past three years have come to realize how this friendly unassuming group has profoundly changed my life. Never would I have imagined that I would start developing significant friendships at this stage! After living abroad, raising and launching two great kids; coming out of a decades-long marriage; and a midlife career change; this life is an astonishing revelation. I had assumed that most significant events were behind me.
If there ever was a poster child for life after fifty, it is me. Although my calendar was typically filled even before I discovered this community, the ensuing days and nights have been further enriched over the many seasons of skiing, hiking, camping, cycling, dancing and parties. Yes, there are still the serial daters, and the few looking for quick hook ups, but where else does one find fifteen people spontaneously show up at 8:30am on a Saturday to help a female member move house? The stalwart support and love I received during my brief but serious brush with cancer only confirmed these relationships as heartwarmingly genuine. I cannot imagine these people not being in my life.
The boomer generation may be most identified as the target demographic for the latest pharmacological developments for joint pain, or being on the short list for babysitting grandchildren, and looming AARP membership eligibility. But if we remain open to life, there continues the possibility for unique experiences, new deep friendships, even love, that we could never have imagined.