Jun 01, 2012
By Howard Barbanel
Among the many variated “pleasures” of being single in one’s early 50s are the sundry invitations by friends inhabiting a similar lifestyle to go forth into the wilds of bars and parties – on weeknights — in the hope of potentially meeting eligible social partners.
You never realize just how tired you actually are until you have to somehow muster the energy on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening to extricate yourself from the couch, upon which you have fallen into a recumbent position owing to the 10 hours of work you recently returned from. Bones can feel old mid-week, but, really, more often I find myself mentally exhausted more so than physically. Irrespective of one’s source of fatigue, changing and pushing oneself out the door at that time and day of the week is no easy feat.
There are, so help me, scores of singles in their 40s and 50s who make a regular habit of visiting, drinking and flirting in bars on “school nights.” How these people a) make it home by car and b) manage to get up in the morning after more than a couple of drinks is beyond my imagination. That many of these people look as fried as they do is no surprise.
You would, however, be surprised at the large number of divorced people living here in The Five Towns. A very large percentage of these folks are Jewish and traditionally observant. You’ll generally not meet them here because especially for upscale, professional Jewish singles of a certain age, Bridie-O’s, The Willow Tavern and Back Stage are just way too close to home. There’s really no happening upscale watering hole in the vicinity, so folks are either trucking into Manhattan or to the North Shore. Places like Great Neck and Manhasset are deemed far enough away from the neighborhood yet close enough so as to avoid traffic and a long drive into and out of the City — and posh enough to make people feel comfortable vis-à-vis the demographics. The North Shore enables many to escape the cultural confines of our Five Towns “ghetto,” but anyway, there’s really no place for middle-aged Jews to go in our area. Back in the day (I’m talking about the 80s here) we had places like A.J.’s, Justin’s and Cartoons. But we were young and that’s ancient history.
The other evening I got dragged out to a place in Great Neck that has a karaoke night. I would say that I do most of my singing, alone, in the shower or in the car and the specter of actually grabbing a microphone in front of living, breathing people is mortifying to the extreme and no amount of alcohol-fueled courage could get me up to the stage – but – this establishment fills the room and has no shortage of folks imagining that they’re auditioning for American Idol.
About half this place was full of Five Towners – many of whom to my amazement, I’d never met. A lot of the guys wore resplendent smiles across their faces along with their minimal or receding hairlines and prodigious protrusions that could be called their waistlines. (Note: I’m no Adonis at 53 either…). Many of the women are doing their utmost to stave-off the inexorable march of time and gravity thanks to endless spin classes, personal trainers, Botox, nice clothes and makeup. The women are generally in better shape physically than the guys. Fair or not, guys are evaluated in great measure by the heft of their wallets, not their quantity of hair, wrinkles or pant size.
In these environments everyone does their level-headed best to pretend as though they’re still 25 or 30. Guys are optimistically on the make and many of the women in their skin-tight outfits are looking for the adulation from men that they enjoyed in their heyday. On the QT, many of the middle-aged singles (you can’t call them “middle aged” to their face – the self-denial of this actuarial fact is intense) will tell you, as I will say for myself, that they’d prefer not to be there, not to be going out on a Tuesday, not to be looking for love in all the wrong places and would so much rather be in a committed relationship.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of angst, alienation and anomie in our society today. People are leery of making connections or commitments. Many are intensely attracted to and concurrently repelled by the glow of prospective connection based on both their need for companionship and their concurrent fear of being hurt yet again. People in their 40s and 50s have eaten from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge – they know what life means and this can significantly dampen one’s ardor – but often to effectuate any romance of any kind, the glare of pragmatism and reality needs to be shunted aside in favor of candlelight and some naïveté or it will never happen. Often middle-aged singles are sweating out huge personal and professional responsibilities and this in and of itself makes life wholly different from the way it was 25 years ago.
Many married friends ask me voyeuristically if I’m living La Vida Loca – thinking that my life must be some kind of nonstop Hefner-esque escapade (they think their lives are fantastically dull) but despite a lot of first and second dates, I’d trade all the running around in a heartbeat for a night on the couch in front of the tube with someone you’ve been looking at for 20 years and I daresay that most of the folks in those North Shore watering holes would concur wholeheartedly. Make it work with your spouse if you have one because what’s out there is a lot of dimly lit karaoke, random encounters and meaningless small talk. Bring some flowers home – it takes a lot less effort than going out on a Tuesday night.
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