The moment I became single, the strangest thing happened. Suddenly, men were paying attention to me. It’s like I unknowingly sent up a weather balloon with a neon arrow pointing at me that said “Come and get it!” I was married for 30 years, and I swear, I never once got flirted with. But now, newly single, it’s happening all the time. But to be honest, it had to be pointed out to me. After being married more than half my life, my signal receiver was broken. Or at least, that’s what I’m told.
Scenario One: Bicycle Guy
I was telling my daughter, aka Turtle, about my latest adventure. I had decided to buy a bicycle, so I went to a local bike store. There, I met the man who worked at the bike shop. He was so nice and went above and beyond to help me find a bicycle that was right for me.
Since I’d gone in with only a vague idea of what type of bike I wanted, it took a lot of questions and a lot of answers to finally get me to the point of even knowing what I wanted. But when I mentioned a bike I’d ridden on vacation, he quickly went to the internet. I told him the name of the hotel that loaned bicycles out to their customers. He scrolled through the photos, as he told me about his first bike, and the local bicycling club. He asked if I’d ever considered joining one. I hadn’t.He narrowed it down to two bikes; each fit the description of the bike I’d ridden.
Somehow the subject turned to WWII and I told him that I was a writer and had written a book about my dad. His grandfather was a WWII veteran who never talked about that period of his life. It was a nice conversation.
I started to open the glossy catalog to the page with the sticky note.
But Turtle interrupted. “Did he have a ring on?” she asked.
Daughter: Did he have a ring on? As in – was he married?
Me: I don’t know.
Daughter: How can you not know?
Me: I don’t know. I didn’t think to look.
Daughter: What? Mom! That’s the first thing you need to do!
Daughter (exasperated): Really!
She went on to explain that the man was flirting with me. I wasn’t completely buying it, but I did wonder at that moment, are there dating rules I didn’t know about? How could I possibly not know when someone was flirting with me? So, I made note of the first rule.
Rule #1 = look for a ring!
What I really thought: Wait. If I look for a ring, that means I want to look for a ring. And if I want to look for a ring, I’m looking for a potential mate. And I don’t want a potential mate.
Knowing what I did, that this man was flirting with me, I couldn’t possibly return to the bike shop. He’d be there. And that could lead to…something. And I’m not ready for…something. Forget going to the bike store again. In fact, forget the bike. I don’t need a bike. This is all just too much pressure! No bike for me. I’ll never ride a bike again!
Scenario Two: Mr. Car Guy
Next… the automotive store. I needed a battery for my automatic car door clicker thingy. And yes, that’s what I asked for. And the guy knew exactly what it was. Well, maybe that’s because I had it in my hand. But still, I’m a writer; a wordsmith. Automatic car door clicker thingy was one of my best literary achievements. My friend, Shari, graciously agreed to go on this very exciting errand with me; she pretended to be interested in the guy gadgets by the check-stand.
He opened up the back of the clicker with a special little tool and got the battery out. Then he led me to the battery isle and gave me a choice of two batteries. Shari, trailed along. Somewhere in our back-and-forth conversation, he mentioned the clicker for his alphabet-sounding car; Z28…no SX something…. Oh I don’t know – cars aren’t really my thing. I chose the battery he recommended. After purchasing it, he put the batteries in the clicker and then went with me outside so he could make sure it worked OK. Shari was now looking at me funny. The clicker still wouldn’t lock or unlock my door.
Car Guy: I’m so sorry about that. It obviously wasn’t the battery.
Car Guy: It’s probably a fuse.
Me: What do I do about that?
Car Guy: Replacing a fuse is really simple.
Me: Maybe for you. I, on the other hand, am automotively challenged.
He smiled and laughed a little.
Shari raised her eyebrows and looked a little goofy.
Car Guy: Let me take a look.
So, in the end, Car Guy found the fuse box and replaced the fuse, but didn’t charge me for it. I thanked him and told him that I admire mechanics. It’s definitely a gift and one I don’t have. I was totally serious and being genuine. To me, working on a car is like being a surgeon. I’m amazed that the complicated thing I drive every day can make sense to anyone. We said goodbye and he said to be sure to come back if I had any problems. It was then that I remembered rule #1. I noted he didn’t have a ring on. But he’s a mechanic, so he probably didn’t wear one to work anyway.
Driving home, Shari gave me her interpretation of what had just transpired.
Shari: He was totally flirting with you!
Me: No. He was just a nice guy.
Shari: Karen! Open your eyes. He likes you. You should go back, alone.
Me: What for?
Shari: Oh my gawd! Karen, he practically told you he wants to date you!
Me: You can’t be serious. He was just a nice guy.
Shari: Really? Nice guys don’t go as far as he did just to fix your key remote! And he didn’t charge you for the fuse. He probably paid for it out of his own pocket.
Me: That’s not what happened. He was just doing his job.
Shari: OK, then what about you?
Me: What about me?
Shari: You were flirting with him.
Me (emphatic): I was not!
Shari (mimicking in a high voice): Oh Mr. Handsome Car Guy, you’re so gifted. Oh, I’m just a poor automotively challenged damsel in distress.
Me: That is not how it was.
Shari: Yes, it was! You’d better go back and see him. He practically begged to see you again. You have to follow up. You have to go back in!
Me: No I don’t.
So, in the end, Shari gave me Rule #2.
Rule #2 = If he asks to see you again, he means he’s interested in dating you.
What I really thought: I have super-female powers that release themselves on the unsuspecting male-race without my knowledge. I was now totally freaked out. I was flirted with and didn’t know it! And I flirted without knowing it! A week later, my automatic car door clicker thingy stopped working. But I couldn’t go back to Car Guy. It was all just too much. This whole being single thing is too complicated. And it’s too much pressure. So I did the only thing I could do; I opted to go old school. I don’t need a clicker thingy anyway.
Scenario Three: Mr. Khaki’s
Next, I was in the grocery store. I was having friends over and wanted to purchase some unique flavored vodka or rum. Washington State is one of the states where you can buy distilled spirits at grocery stores. A good looking man in khaki’s was talking to the store’s alcohol aisle connoisseur. I heard him say candy apple vodka to the clerk as I waited my turn to have a case door unlocked for me. I made my way over to them, hoping for a recommendation. Mr. Khaki’s noticed right away.
Mr. Khaki’s: What’re you looking for?
Me: Something unique for a party I’m having.
Mr. Khaki’s: Well, I really like this candy apple vodka because this time of year you can use it in hot drinks. But it’s also good for shots.
Me: Mmm…sounds good. Does it really taste like candy apple.
Mr. Khaki’s (smiling): Yes it does.
Me (blushing at stupid question): Well, I guess that makes sense.
Mr. Khaki’s: Yeah, but you never know. It is good though.
Me (to clerk): I’ll take one of those too.
Mr. Khaki’s (handing me bottle): Here. You can have mine.
Me: Thanks. Have a nice evening!
Mr. Khaki’s: So, where is this party?
Mr. Khaki’s: Do you have room for one more?
Me: Well…it’s just my girlfriends from high school. We get together before Christmas every year. It’s hard to get us all together. You know, everyone has a busy life and…
Mr. Khaki’s: Well, you have a great time with your friends!
Me: OK You too. Well, um… have a nice night.
As I walked away, I could feel him watching me. Oh gawd. What was I wearing? Did it make my butt look big? Did I have a wedgie? Did I comb the back of my hair…because sometimes I forget to. What if I trip? Why did I wear these slippery boots? Should I turn around? I was curious if he was still there, and if I was right about him watching me. I got to the end of the aisle and glanced over my shoulder. Yep, still there. And yep, still watching. He smiled.
Oh gawd. I raced to the checkout, so I could buy the alcohol before he had a chance to get to the checkout line. I waited a few minutes in line and then put my purchase on the belt. The clerk looked at it. “Is this stuff good?” she asked. “I’m not sure. But there was a guy back there who…”
Mr. Khaki’s: Yeah, it’s really good!
Oh gawd. He was in line behind me.
The clerk raised her eyebrows. Was everyone conspiring to make awkward single moments for me?
Mr. Khaki’s (to me): Last chance to invite me to meet your friends!
Me: Have a nice night.
Mr. Khaki’s: You too.
I was finally getting the hang of this. Or maybe it’s just that Mr. Khaki’s was straight forward. He wanted to come to my house. He wanted to drink with me. How do I know this? Well, it’s not because of some secret code I deciphered. It’s not because someone interpreted the situation for me. No, I knew this because he came right out and said it. Maybe I can get the hang of this afterall!
Rule #3 = Never talk to a man on a Friday night, in the alcohol aisle unless you want to invite him to your party.
What I really thought: Is it really not possible for a man to be nice, just because he’s a nice guy? And if not, how will I ever know if a guy who wants to date me is a nice guy? If he’s being nice because he wants to date me, then he might actually be a mean guy. This just got way to complicated…again.
Admittedly, there’s a lot I don’t know about dating these days. But there is one thing I am absolutely certain of; I’m not ready to date. I don’t want to date. I don’t want a man in my life. Others may think I should want to date. But I don’t. I just don’t. Right now, I can’t imagine even wanting to date, let alone actually dating. Awkward single moments continue. I don’t seem to be able to control that single signal I’m apparently sending out. If I could, I would. I think I liked it better when I hadn’t been educated; it was simpler. Now that I’m conscious of it, it pervades my thoughts when I’m around someone of the opposite sex. Ignorance is bliss. So, for now, I am firmly shoving my head back in the sand. I like it better that way.
Starting Over at Mid-life
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Karen Alaniz is a writer, published author and a home renovation expert now that she’s remodeled an old farmhouse on her own. She strives to help women who are scared it may be too late to start over after a certain age and she encourages empty-nest women to invent a new, prosperous and full life–just like she has done.