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The Reason Married Friends Are Jealous Of My Single Life

What I get to have that they don't.

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lip shaped suckers on a pink background
Shana Novak (Prop Stylist: Megumi Emoto)
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When I got divorced at 50, leaving behind a 19-year marriage, a friend said something that shocked me.

“I’m so jealous!” she said. “You get to have a first kiss again.”

A first kiss? I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about how was I going to support my kids, and how to find decent health insurance, and how I felt overwhelmed at being single for the first time in decades, and how maybe I should have tried even harder to make our marriage work. I was sad and angry and frustrated and scared and overwhelmed — and in no place to even imagine a first kiss, much less desire one.

But as I worked through my emotions, rehabbed a tiny, beat-up but affordable house, secured expensive yet subpar insurance, survived the four-day stretches the kids were with their dad, ramped up my ghostwriting career and started doing things I’d used to enjoy (playing pool, doing tarot cards, reading murder mysteries), the idea of meeting someone began to sound more appealing.

So, I did what any 50-something single woman does. I tried online dating. Tinder. Bumble. Match. Zoosk. I dutifully created profiles, uploaded pictures where I looked good — but not too good so as not to disappoint a potential suitor should we actually meet — and thought about what I was looking for in a man. Someone … well, attractive. Smart. Funny. Minimally damaged. Optimistic. Someone open. Honest. Self-actualized. The longer my list became, the more I realized I was likely hunting for a unicorn.

I started corresponding with random men, trying to suss out who had potential and who did not, and went on at least a dozen “dates” without finding someone I clicked with. All of the men I met were reasonably attractive, reasonably smart and reasonably successful. But I didn’t laugh very often, and never went out with a man more than once. Do I have to mention there was absolutely no kissing?

Until a guy named Walt messaged me, mentioning Peter Gabriel and Seinfeld, two things I’d written about in my profile. When we talked on the phone, I wasn’t sure whether we were a match. He was slow, measured, thoughtful, while I’m … not. I talk fast, walk fast, react instead of responding. When he asked me out, I hesitated. I knew our energy levels were different.

Walt ambled into the restaurant and took his time deciding what to order. But he made me laugh five minutes after meeting him. By the time I ordered a second glass of wine, I knew I liked him. He was open. He was easy to talk to. He was comfortable in his skin — a trait that grows increasingly attractive as you grow older, and his eyes crinkled when he smiled. He pulled out my barstool when I came back from the restroom, and his hands were big and rough and scarred from the construction work he does. He asked permission to kiss me before he did so (finally! A first kiss!), and texted me later that night to tell me what a great time he’d had.

Walt made it easy. He texted or called me every day. He reached over and held my hand when we were driving somewhere in his truck and showed up with tools to repair my laundry tub, my storm door, my overhead fan, even my electrical outlet. He remembered what I told him, and he continued to make me laugh. “You’re going to think I’m crazy,” he said one night before he left for home. I was leaning against the kitchen counter and he had his hands on my hips. “But I think I’m falling in love with you.”

I laughed and kissed him. “Then I’m crazy, too. Because I’m falling in love with you, too.”

You remember this from when you were decades younger — the excitement, the butterflies, the supercharged energy you suddenly possess, the awareness of what an amazing place the world is, the way the lyrics of every love song speak just to you, the appreciation for the wonder of your lover’s eyes, the warmth of his body against you in bed. The sense of potential rolls out before you like a thick green carpet of fresh grass. And somewhere deep underneath, the niggling fear. That this will end. Because you’re not a 20- or 30-something. You’re, ahem, “seasoned,” and you’ve been in love before — more than once. You’ve had your heart broken, more than once. Hell, you’ve been married before, and divorced before, more than once. You know that with love comes loss, and with love comes pain, and with love comes heartache.

You know all that. And yet you close your eyes, hope you’ve had your last first kiss, and feel lucky to do it again.