Lately, I’ve been doing some thinking about dating at this age, and I’ve come to a conclusion: I have more fun with my dog and my grandson.
For years, other single friends of mine have basically told me that they have “rich, full lives without men.” I never believed them. I thought how could they not miss having someone to eat dinner with? How could they live without sleeping with a man? How lonely must they be traveling without someone to share the scenery, someone to grab a suitcase when they’re tired, someone to do half the driving? But every time I came up with one of those questions, the answer would be: I don’t miss having to cook what someone else wants. I don’t miss someone snoring and farting in bed. I have plenty of friends who are fun to travel with and share half the driving. And, inevitably, the friends also had companions of the four-legged variety.
My friend Jenna travels all over the country in a small mobile home accompanied by her dog, Sandy, and a cat, Mittens, both of which she adopted sometime during the last ten years. Sandy isn’t her first dog and probably won’t be her last. Mittens isn’t the first cat either, but she might be the last since dogs travel better than cats in mini-mobile-homes. Jenna has been single for all of the years I’ve known her (we met back in the mid-1980s when we were at a writer’s conference). Only once during that 30+ year span has she had a relationship. It lasted less than a year, and she practically threw a party when it was over. I could hear her relieved sigh all the way in Florida, where I was living. She was in Maine.
Greta moved from Massachusetts to Florida when her long-term relationship disintegrated because the guy she had been living with for 23 years was arrested for pedophilia. Good reason to say goodbye and good riddance. I thought she’d find another, better, man at one point, but she has always insisted she’s been quite happy with her two cats (sometimes one) who are quite independent and reflect her persona. She travels with friends, works from home, visits her grandchildren in Seattle, London, Boston, and has come to the point of being happier at home in her seacoast town than she has ever been elsewhere. Her question to me has always been: why do you need a man? I always insist that I haven’t “needed” one, I just liked having one around, especially one I loved.
Julie pens children’s books and teaches at a liberal arts college. She lost her husband, the man with whom she was truly in love, several years ago. Her dog, a rangy and adorable mutt, has kept her company and staved off an unbearable loneliness. I think that, in many ways, that dog saved her from dying of a broken heart, much the same way my Izzy did with me. She dates on occasion, but the last time I saw her, she said that she would be fine if she spent the rest of her life walking her dog, visiting with friends, traveling to see her daughter, and being happy that she had the time she did with her precious husband.
The women in my family who lost their husbands always ended up spending the rest of their lives alone. Some of them had animals, others did not, and I think that the reason why most did not is because the majority of them lived in apartments (which might not have permitted pets). Those who had animals were happier, I think. And that supports the research that’s been done on older single people who live with pets — they have less heart attacks, less stress, and get more exercise than their counterparts who simply live alone. I suspect they are also warmer during storms like the ones we’ve had during this (not-over-yet) winter. Nothing better than having a cat or dog cuddle up with you on the couch or in bed when no amount of quilts seems to be enough to keep you warm.
Perhaps I’ll be like this woman in the picture who probably talks to the dog and cat who have been her companions for most of her life. It could be worse. At least she’s smiling! I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better to have the contentment I have with my silly little dog (and my grandson and my friends and my writing) than to have knots in my stomach because I’m wondering what the man who lives with me will find to critique at dinner tonight. I’m not crazy. And I’m not alone. I’m a dog lover who happens to be over 40 :0)