When asked the question "what is your biggest secret?" on my OKCupid profile, I answer that I live my life with an open heart, and that, while I still get fucked over sometimes, it’s still absolutely, definitely 100% worth it.
That is the one single element on my profile that I get the most questions and comments on. Men in general are curious, albeit a little confused, by that statement. But why? And, most importantly, how? they ask.
There is a song by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin called "Je t’aime moi non plus" which, translated literally, means "I love you me neither". I often think of that song when navigating the modern dating world at 50 after a long marriage. There is this sense that we must not open up until there is an incontrovertible certainty that our affections will be matched, that our offers of love must be welcomed at all times with nothing but open arms and zero doubt.
Until then, we send likes to attractive strangers, talk about Netflix and fend off unsolicited offers to lick toes and sit on faces. We go on and off apps, tell disastrous date stories on secret FB groups and sincerely wonder what the universe has in mind for the survival of the human race, because, it seems, we are not building a stable environment for the next generations to reproduce and thrive.
Last year I dated a smart, attractive and all around lovely older gentleman. He was born in Latvia and grown up there under Russian rule. His mother had spent time in a work camp as a teenager and, from what he told me, had never quite recovered. His father had been imprisoned for much of his childhood, and this proud man had more or less been brought up with much love and struggle by his childless aunt and uncle. Understandably, these early experiences had defined his view of the world, and our opinions about life’s numerous idiosyncrasies often clashed. I spoke of manifestation, universal love, connectedness from my limited white privileged experience, while he just looked at me shaking his head a little sadly. Sweet kitten, he’d say, you are naïve, that is not how the world works.
I agreed with him, yet I didn’t. The "real world" may not work like that, but mine does. The people I choose to orbit my universe get all of my love right away, unconditionally. It may last 5 days, 5 months, 5 years or forever, but ultimately if I invite you in, it’s because I want to fully experience all that "us" has to offer. Some day, one of us may walk away temporarily or definitely, and there might be make-up sex and heartbreak and other lovers involved, but it doesn’t matter in the end. We will have had this time together, learned from each other, and you will always be in my heart.
I could tell he was puzzled by how much I desired him, and had a hard time sharing himself with me, as if he thought our connection would be snatched away from us at any time. We enjoyed each other tremendously but eventually, I realized that even my shiny affection for him was no match for his grim outlook. It quickly became obvious that he might never be ready for the kind of love that I wanted for myself.
All this to say, I march on. Once in a while, doubt creeps in and I wonder if I am mistaken, if by some strange turn of fate, I am the only one on this Earth to feel that there many Ones in a lifetime and that my mission is to engage, relate and connect with as many of them as possible, sexually sometimes, with great gusto always.
It can be lonely and painful, this business of offering your love to beautiful strangers. Disappointment, sadness, rejection are all par for the course, the price to pay to experience unique bliss when you do come across like-minded souls. With practice, it gets easier once you understand in your bones that we are all travellers, and that we are not always willing or even able to connect meaningfully with fellow travellers for reasons that are our own. I don’t mind. Tell me, we’ll say goodbye for now or forever, and move on to the next love lesson on our paths. You will always be in my heart.