Introduction: The fishing expedition begins

Greetings. I'm not sure how to start here, but it seems best to start with explanations. My name is Jackie Connolly and this is my attempt to describe my experiences with dating again at the age of 50. If anyone wonders, “fishing for chocolate” is my goal for my love life: to find a relationship as sweet and satisfying as chocolate. I believe that most people want to be in some kind of relationship involving two loving creatures - human partner or pet – and for me that means a man with whom I can do everything from shopping for groceries to traveling the world, a relationship including disagreements with lots of great making up.

At this point, though, that chocolate relationship is way out of reach and I'm pretty much stuck in the Necco Wafer stage of intimacy: dry, crumbly and only remotely resembling my idea of candy. Not all that long ago, I was sure I was happily married – I mean, truly happily married – to the man who was my soulmate, my heart of hearts, my definitive sex god … you know, my best friend with the ultimate of benefits! Then one day, after 26 years of this happiness, he announces that he’s tired of it all. He wants out, wants to find his True Self. WTF, right? Hadn't we just celebrated our 25th anniversary the year before? Weren't we excited that we survived hard times and our rocky 22nd year when communication and sex all seemed to break down – I mean, wasn't that a sign we were supposed to be together? Apparently not. Somewhere we lost a common goal. Long story short: after a lot of crying and swearing and questioning and pleading (mostly me), we found ourselves listening to a judge announce that our marriage – that commitment we had promised to keep ‘til death do us part – was over.

I now think we did fulfill our vows; that day was a kind of death, for certain. Anyone who has really believed in marriage and then watched their own fall apart knows what I mean. It doesn't matter how much both people feel the divorce is the right thing to do, when you read "dissolution of marriage," it feels like the worst vertigo imaginable. Nothing like a divorce to bring home the real meaning of the word “failure.”

A part of me still feels like I failed, but I make myself remember that there were two of us involved. I've even come to a place where I can see how the marriage relationship had grown toxic. The “we” had become just “me” versus “you” – not a both/and but an either/or existence. Kisses hello had given way to waves out the window as we passed each other on the road, and somehow personal wants took priority over mutual needs. Since the divorce I have even told John that as much as I wanted the marriage to survive, I see now his leaving gave me my life back in a way I didn't realize it had disappeared.

But enough about that. I have taken time to look inside and find more personal strength than I ever thought I had and have plunged into the search for my own True Self. When the reality of the separation sunk in, I decided I had a chance to remake those things about myself that hadn't developed as I wanted. I keep trying to be conscious about my actions, and despite the fatigue and frustration that comes with that awareness, I have more pride and self-esteem. I also have discovered that despair and depression make an unparalleled weight-loss diet - also known as Left Behind Spouse Diet - and the forty pounds I needed to lose have fallen off and stayed off. (If I had known this was how to lose weight, I'd have had John leave me years ago.)

Then came facing my uncertainty about jumping back into the dating pool. It's tough to swim with confidence when I’m also dealing with midlife issues: menopause, hairs on my chin and upper lip, grey hairs … down there, wrinkles where I didn't know I could wrinkle, a new belly that struggles to flatten out – many of you know what I'm talking about. I’m supposed to compete in the meat market known as singles dating? The last time I dated, I was in my late teens. What changed since then? I'm not sure I wanted to know.

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