The Beatles were right. In matters of the heart, sometimes we need a little help from our friends. I’ve gotten more direct in asking people to help me make connections, as I broach dating in these years. I mean, that phone isn’t going to ring itself.
I’m in the office of my financial advisor, Gary, for the annual retirement assessment, figuring out how I’ll be able to keep myself in high-end shoes in my widowhood.
“Gary,” I ask, “Ever think about having a party for your clients? Perhaps a Valentine’s Singles Get-Together? I’d like to meet a guy who uses his money wisely. And by that, I mean buys me stuff.”
I’m already imagining the party refreshments. Hearty apps, heart-shaped, I think.
Gary looks pleased. And nervous.
“I’m not sure my boss would approve it,” he says. “However, here’s a hint for meeting someone. The men with more money don’t dress up as much.”
“Casual? I like that,” I say. “Well, if you can’t throw a singles bash, could you set me up with one of your clients?”
He looks everywhere but at me. Game over.
The following Sunday at Mass (sincere apologies to God), my focus wanders. Somewhere between the opening prayer and the collection, during which there’s a plethora of reciting and a couple of hymns, my gaze wanders to a gentleman in the third row, across the aisle.
He’s cute…ring or no ring…hard to see…oh…ring…darn it.
After Mass, I approach the priest.
“Father,” I say, “what do you think about having a special place up front where widows can sit? Or, widowers. You know, we’re a neglected group.”
“And by that, I mean it would be fun to create a church dating service. You know, Father. As part of the new ideas for the parish. What d’ya think, Father? Huh?”
He says nothing. Just continues to smile.
This man can speak eloquently in front of a crowd for 20 minutes. Now, he’s speechless. Maybe he’s praying for my soul. I’m beginning to see a pattern here. I’m batting zero. Onward.
The truth is that the thought of an actual date scares the heck out of me. I’m not at all sure what I want or need.
For instance, there’s a small club down the road from my house that has live music. On one particular night, a musician I’ve met and chatted with before is playing. I think about going there to meet people and mingle. I visualize a late-life Hallmark romance springing up just two miles away, so I get in the car.
When I get to the club, I’m as self-conscious as a preteen at her first school dance. It’s crowded, and I bump into people while checking to see if my various layers of clothing are in place as I head toward the small stage area. I pass the musician and wave. He nods and smiles. There’s a high-top table off to the side. I’m hoping to sit in obscurity until I get my bearings, otherwise known as a drink. Once seated, I realize that I’m directly under bright track lighting. Oh, great. Might as well have floodlights on me. I’m not much of a drinker, so I order a “very, very tiny, very, very weak” screwdriver. Then I wait. I look at the singer, tap my fingers in rhythm for four measures, and glance at the bar eight times. I repeat it, in different combinations. I make myself breathe and try to look hip, crumbling inside, wondering how to make the spotlight go out. This was a bad idea.
As my baby-sized drink arrives, I worry that I’ll choke, or have an anaphylactic reaction, and look like an idiot. It occurs to me I’ve forgotten to breathe. Eventually, I relax.
Then the singer starts singing “Helplessly Hoping.” Tears hit my eyes. Under the bright spotlight, I sneakily dab the tears away. I’m so not ready.
I’m just regaining my composure when he starts up the next one—a bawdy bar song—with the entire room, except me, beginning to join in the refrain. Well, that’s better. I’m grateful that people are ignoring me.
And it’s at that point, my first moment of reassuring myself that I can handle this, when I hear the singer’s voice, full volume:
“EVERYBODY, SING!” he bellows.
I’m so relieved. I’m nothing, in this sea of happy, carefree people. Then he catches my eye.
“COME ON, KATHY!”
And everyone turns.
I look around at all these perfectly nice people, including some men, possible single, and I realize something important, right then and there.
Next time? That baby drink is going to be gigantic.
Kathy Eliscu, a retired RN, received a National Society of Newspaper Columnists Humor award in 2012 for her Maine Women Magazine column. She is the author of “Not Even Dark Chocolate Can Fix This Mess,” a humor novel. She blogs at kathyeliscu.com and lives in Westbrook.