Authors: Robin Roseau
I stared at the advertisement. "Do I really want to do this?"
SWF, 32, Seeking Strong, More Mature Woman
Me: intelligent, moderately successful professional. Attractive, very femme, long blonde hair, green eyes.
You: also intelligent, professional, successful. Strong. Mature. Kind. Ready to treat me the way I want to be treated.
Us: playful and adventurous.
I read it again. And again. It didn't say everything I wanted it to say. It certainly didn't mention everything I wanted in a potential partner. I was trying to write between the lines, so to speak. I read it again.
"Shit," I said out loud. "It sounds like I'm looking for a sugar mama." I didn't need a sugar mama. I wanted someone to take care of me, but not
. Financially I could handle. Emotionally, now. Yes, I had emotional needs, and I wasn't very good at satisfying them myself.
Hey, no one's perfect. I know we're all supposed to stand on our own two feet, and for the most part, I do. But aren't all people a little broken in some way? Maybe not, but everyone I knew was. I certainly was. Broken, that is. I have attachment issues. I have fear of abandonment issues.
At least I recognized them.
I wasn't looking for a mama, neither of the sugar variety or any other variety. But I didn't know how to say that.
But I realized something. It didn't need to be perfect. The posting was anonymous, and replies were via email to a gmail account I'd created specifically for this. If I didn't care for the responses, I wasn't exactly putting myself out there. I wasn't posting a photo or my real name. I could walk away at any time.
I hit "Post" and went to bed.
* * * *
In the morning, I considered checking to see if I had responses, but I forced myself to wait and went about my day. But by dinner, I couldn't stand the wait any longer. Over a bit of pasta chicken, I sent my browser to gmail.
Okay, maybe it wasn't that startling, but I thought I'd get a few responses, not 34.
I scanned through them. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised. Ten were hate mail: "Lesbians are going to burn in hell," said one way or another. The first one hit a little hard, but by the fourth I was laughing. They weren't very creative. I reported each as abuse, blocked their accounts, and moved on.
Of the remaining 24, seven couldn't form a proper sentence and six were advertisements for a variety of services and products. I deleted the six and crafted a brief "thanks for your interest" letter for the seven. Maybe that made me a word snob. Okay, I knew I was a word snob. I could live with that.
11 more. Three didn't understand "more mature woman" meant "older than 32", although they were nice letters. I held onto them. Maybe I wouldn't find what I was looking for, but I might find a friend or someone fun for casual dating. I could use a little casual dating, I supposed.
8 left. Five thought "strong" meant physically. Three included photos. The other two relied on descriptions. I had already weeded out the ones who couldn't write, so I was a little surprised to have been misunderstood with that word. I wondered whether I should have anticipated that, if I should have phrased it differently.
I considered, then set them aside.
I had three remaining. The women were ranging in age from 35 to 60, and if she admitted to 60, I wondered if that meant older than 60. All three letters were well-written, personal letters, making specific references to my posting. These three women had taken the time to craft a response specific to my advertisement.
Yes, she actually addressed me as "Dear". I thought that was sweet.
You asked for a more mature woman. Perhaps 60 is a little too mature. But I was intrigued by your ad.
I'm laughing at myself, wondering what this old woman is going to say to a sweet girl like you. Oh, I don't think of myself as old, but I suspect you will. Nevertheless, I believe in grabbing life by the horns. I hope you don't mind if I mix a metaphor or two.
You've asked for intelligent, professional, successful, kind, strong, mature, playful, and adventurous. Perhaps I can address those. Please forgive my clinical nature.
I was in advertising. I worked for a variety of firms around town before founding my own company when I was 38. I sold it last year to a consortium assembled by my employees. I believe that addresses successful and professional.
Since then, I have found myself at loose ends, but I've explored ways to fill my time. I took a cruise -- the Caribbean. It was my first cruise, and I had such a good time I took another to the Mediterranean. It was on that cruise that several couples talked about Alaska, so guess where I went this past June. I went white water rafting, saw Denali by air, and walked on a glacier. I want to go back.
Perhaps that's not the sort of adventurous you meant. May I suggest I've never believed in thinking inside the box?
We're left with playful and kind. Those are harder to address, but perhaps that leaves something for future discussions.
Have you even read this far? Did you stop when I confessed my age?
I read it three times, smiling. She sounded sweet. Maybe I was projecting her voice. I didn't know. But I couldn't stop smiling.
I crafted a reply.
Perhaps 60 is older than I meant, but I must admit something. I can't stop smiling after reading your letter. Three times. Your trips sound fabulous! I haven't been to Europe or Alaska, but I loved my own Caribbean cruise a few years ago, and I spent a portion of last winter sitting under a Mexican beach umbrella with my laptop. My job is portable.
And you're right; that wasn't the sort of adventurous I meant, not exactly. But I wouldn't want someone afraid to take trips like yours, or someone afraid to step outside her comfort zone. Life is meant to be lived, after all.
Then I stared at the screen for a while. I didn't know what else to say. I'd never written a letter like this. I didn't know if I should talk randomly about myself, or what. In the end, I kept it simple.
I don't know what else to write. But then I remembered something. You wrote to me. And I don't like to take the lead.
PS. Yes, I know Sable is a strange name for a woman with blond hair.
* * * *
It took another hour and a half to respond to the other letters, all variations of the letter I sent to Josie. During that time, four more letters arrived, and I handled them. Then I pointedly closed the laptop.
"Enough for tonight."
In the morning there was a reply from Josie. I scanned the rest of the waiting email, but hers was the one I read.
What a lovely name. I'm so pleased to have received your reply.
Oh dear, that sounds entirely too formal, but for the life of me, I'm not sure how else to say it. Perhaps I should simply move on.
So, you want me to lead. And you will follow? What a lovely thought. Well then, might I acknowledge something obvious to us both. You are wondering if you will give me your picture and perhaps you wonder what I look like. And so, we must get to know each other.
Attached are three photos. One is from when I was about your age, but the other two are more recent. The one is from a lovely Italian restaurant taken during my cruise. I am the woman on the left; the man and women are a couple of friends I made during the trip, Jean and Davis. The last photo is a show of my vanity, a photo I had taken for my 60th birthday. As you can see, I have hazel eyes and short hair that I have dyed religiously.
Now, we will play a little game. You said you were playful, so perhaps you will enjoy my game. I will ask three questions. You will answer. I will also answer my questions. And then you will ask three.
And at some point, perhaps you will share a photo. Perhaps you will share a phone number so that I may call you. For now, I will not mention either again.
1. What is your earliest clear memory?
2. Have you ever intentionally hurt someone?
3. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
The earliest memories I have are about the space race. Do you know of it? My memories are murky. The Russians launched Sputnik on October 4, 1957. I was barely two. I remember excitement, but I don't know if it was specifically Sputnik that had my parents talking so loudly. But I definitely remember when Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space.
Have I scared you yet?
I do not believe we can go through life without occasionally hurting someone. Good people strive to cause the least harm, but I can't imagine anyone exists who has never said a harsh word in anger, a word designed to hurt. Discounting childhood instances of hair pulling and one past girlfriend whose private nickname was Spankee (I'll let you figure out why), I have never physically hurt someone.
My guilty pleasure is midnight ice cream, usually vanilla but laden with chocolate sauce. I warm the chocolate sauce just a little, offering a contrast to the cold ice cream, and then take it to bed with me. There I plump up the pillows, lie back, and slowly indulge.
And now, lovely Sable, I have shared, and so now must you.
I read the letter twice before scrolling down to the photos. Wow! She was a hottie half a lifetime ago. Then I studied the newer photos. In the first, taken in the restaurant, she is laughing with a joy that filled her face. But it was the third picture I looked at the longest.
Staring out at me was an intense pair of hazel eyes framed by a kindly face. The corners of her eyes held the crinkles of age, and laugh lines edged the corners of her upturned lips. Her hands were visible, clasped together, the fingers curled, so it looked like she was lightly kissing one of her knuckles. I found the pose endearing.
I read her letter again before crafting a brief reply.
Good morning, Josie,
I do not have time for a full response, but thank you so much for your letter. I'll write something longer this afternoon.
Attached is a photo of me. A friend took this photo during a particularly intense discussion of, if you can imagine, the heavy topic of whether brownies should contain nuts. I argued in defense of nut-free brownies.
More later. I need to decide which of my guilty pleasures I should share.
* * * *
That afternoon, before I could craft something longer, I received a simple note from Josie, praising my appearance and making sure I didn't forget her. I had also received a few more replies to my original advertisement and a reply from a woman named Vic. Vic was very butch, but her original letter had included the phrase, "Take care of you." Twice. I liked that. I read Vic's letter and sent a reply, although we weren't to the point I was reciprocating with a photo.
Then I crafted a reply to Josie.
Good afternoon, Josie,
I admit. I had to look up what Sputnik was. That was such a different time. No, you haven't scared me.
Spankee, hmm? I am left wondering what her pet name was for you.
Midnight ice cream sounds lovely.
All right, my moment of truth. My earliest memory may be of my father watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on television. I remember being scared by Lieutenant Worf, but my father pulled me into his lap and told me, "Sable, Darling, you can't judge the quality of a man's character by his appearance." I know that seems like an awfully adult thing to remember from three or four years old, but it was a phrase he likes to repeat. He told me that Worf, while scary sometimes, was a good man, fiercely protective of his friends and family, and that I would be lucky if I ever had someone like Worf I could call friend.
That might not be my earliest memory, but it's amongst the earliest.
I've undoubtedly hurt people the same way you have. And I used to play soccer. I'm not a big woman, and so I've always played with finesse. But there was one opposing player who liked to cheat, and she was good at not getting caught by the officials. The second time she dragged me off my feet by my hair, I caught her with my cleats. Soccer cleats aren't sharp, but I put a lot into it. I was evicted from the game, but a teammate's girlfriend caught the entire thing on video, and the woman in question was evicted from the league.
I've been hurt -- physically. I had a knock down, drag out fight with an ex-girlfriend a few years ago. We were both trying to hurt each other. Someday maybe I'll share the details. I will only say she got physical first. And, unfortunately, last. Enough on that.
Guilty pleasures. I had to think about this one. Yours wasn't that revealing, and so I offer this. I enjoy binge watching The Gilmore Girls. I love the interaction between Lorelai and Rory, and it's by far my favorite role for Melissa McCarthy. Sometimes I watch the kitchen scene from the pilot, over and over.
So according to the rules of your game, I now must ask three questions and then answer them. All right.
1. Do you like to cook?