I find myself in the middle of a Lifetime movie: Middle-aged woman leaves long-term abusive marriage, goes broke, wins a scholarship, stumbles into an unexpected career – and finds a man who’s perfect for her.
A man who’s smart, kind, funny, well-read, musically talented, astoundingly physical and – bonus! – extremely handy around the house.
A man who only gets her jokes but embroiders on them, and who wrote a smutty double dactyl in honor of her birthday.
A man who wants her for who she is, not for the person he thinks he can turn her into.
The experience has been startling, and humbling, and oh so gratifying. I never knew emotions came in this size.
The man in question is an old friend who’s become much, much more. I will not identify him in print, or reveal too many details of our courtship, in order to preserve a bit of mystery and at least some of his privacy.
Obviously anyone who lives here could discern his identity pretty quickly. Anchorage is the biggest small town I’ve ever lived in, and sooner or later we’ll be spotted at the symphony or on a cross-country ski trail.
‘A quiet concept’
But on my website he’ll be identified only as “DF,” for “dearest friend” – one of his terms for me. That’s how he began some the letters he sent before I completed my move to Anchorage.
“I keep returning to that name because I cannot think of a more correct endearment. Friend. Second self. Honest reflection. Helper unsought, undemanded, unpresumed and unpresuming.”
I like his other endearments, too: “treasure,” “beloved,” “principessa” (princess) and my personal favorite, “goddess.” (“You are my goddess on this earth, the spring solstice in the early autumn of my life, the person I would most like to have present at any moment of the day.”)
My friend is the most masculine metrosexual I’ve ever met, a guy who has favorite operas and favorite shovels. He cooks, cleans, bakes bread from scratch, cans salmon and plays a mean classical piano despite the permanent handyman’s calluses on his fingers.
He’s not afraid to open up about how he feels. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves; he wears his on his face. Half a dozen times in an evening I will look up and see him smiling at me. “I adore you,” he’ll say. Or, “You’re so pretty.”
I’ve never considered myself attractive. But with him as my mirror, I do feel pretty. There’s not much room for doubt, since he tells me often and eloquently how beautiful he finds me.
From another letter: “Beauty is a quiet concept – it’s form, not glamor. It’s what gets reflected of the truth, not masqueradery. It’s Brahms, not the Beach Boys.”
Life is unpredictable
My reasons for writing this are both practical and personal. It’s necessary to introduce a guy who will likely show up in future posts. (Hint: He’s extremely frugal.)
When I’ve written about topics such as leaving a marriage, going broke, midlife invisibility, paying off debt and seeking a work-life balance, readers have left comments and sent e-mails along the lines of, “I needed to hear this” or “I’m facing similar issues — thanks for writing.” That’s why I’m sharing this latest chapter: to emphasize once more that life is just so damned unpredictable — and sometimes it’s unpredictable in a good way.
Why did I wait? Because I wanted to see how it shook down. I’d have hated to write about a grand romance only to find that it really wasn’t.
Initially I wondered if one passionate, late-in-life crush could be my way of making up for the pain I’d swallowed my whole life. Yep, that’s cynical. So was my initial resistance to call this by its right name: Having spent years trying to ward off heartbreak, I was afraid to open myself up to the possibility of love. To me that meant opening myself up to the possibility of loss.
Fortunately my heart overruled my head.
So yes: Midlife love rocks, and not just because it pushes loneliness out of the picture. It’s because we’ve lived long enough to understand how important this kind of connection is – at any age – and how blessed we are to have found it. And since time is a precious and increasingly finite commodity, we’re less inclined to play games and more inclined to ask for what we want.
I waited so long for someone worth holding. Now I’ve found him, right where he’d been for a couple of decades: a good friend, a good listener, a good man. And a good roommate: I am in the process of moving in.
My only regret is that it didn’t happen sooner. But we were different people then. It wouldn’t have worked because I would have been too afraid to allow myself a chance at a miracle.
He says I saved his life. I say we saved each other’s lives.