40, First Dates

  • Downhome Magazine
  • Posted: Feb 06, 2023 10:53 AM

What Odds
By Paul Warford

“The haircut might be overboard,” I think to myself as my barber gestures to the empty seat he’s swiping clean with a fresh white towel. But no, I needed a haircut anyway and this is as good a day as any to get it done. “Don’t read too much into it,” I tell myself as he asks me what style I’d like. I eye my visage in the spotless mirror as he pumps the chair to a comfortable height, never taking his eyes from the World Cup match happening on the screen bolted to the back wall of 1949, my go-to stop for curly-hair trimmings. I do need a cut, that’s true, but deep down I know why I’m getting it done today: I have a date tonight.
Now, I’m not the sort to kiss and tell - particularly in print - but seeing’s how Valentine’s Day is around the corner and I do, in fact, find myself in the throes of “the dating scene,” I thought perhaps I’d speak the language of love this month. Not that love has much to do with dating, mind you. Frankly, there are more appropriate emotions to cite when it comes to the practice, and none of them are ostensibly pleasant. Words like “anxiety” and “doubt” more immediately come to mind, but I’m learning that that’s part of the fun.
And fun is the name of the game, here. When we were all young, jubilant and working part-time jobs whilst attending post-secondary schools dating was a giddy thrill, and so it should remain. Between work deadlines and making appointments to get your winter tires installed, it can be tricky to find the excitement in the day-to-day (even if you know it’s there). So, a little excitement can be a nice thing.
As such, I’m here to tell you that it is indeed fun to be dating again after so much time “off the market,” but I can’t help wondering if the lines astride my eyes betray the age of this roustabout bachelor. I mean, we have to address the elephant in the room: I’m 40 years old. As a matter of fact, I’ll be the big four-one before you all enjoy your romantic candlelit dinners because my birthday is in early February. I suppose my initial apprehensions about returning to the fray were age-related. Is dating still going to be fun, functioning as it does now via smartphones rather than struck conversations in line at the butcher shop? No one’s getting together in line at the butcher’s anymore, I’m sorry to say.
Instead, attraction is communicated via messages plied with twiddling thumbs, sent in an instant to be read, processed and replied to. The first steps of flirtation are often done through the same movements you might make to order a rug to your door from Amazon. Apps are specially designed for this sort of thing, and you browse photos of potential partners before “swiping” your verdict on them as though you’re a roman emperor. A “match” means you can message one another and this is how it works. The practice is as bizarre as it sounds, but is it such a far cry from a published personal ad in a 1960s newspaper? Perhaps not.
My age definitely makes me feel much like the mangy coonhound yawning contentment on the sunporch, an old dog learning new tricks. Yet, I’m often mistaken for being younger than I am, as much as a decade less in years than my driver’s licence will tell you. Though I make a point to appreciate this common misconception of my features, it almost works against me in this brave new world. If I meet a charming 29-year old on some Internet avenue, I’m quickly forced to point out that I’ve never watched Pokémon and didn’t have an iPad in Kindergarten. “I’m older than I look” is not necessarily the most alluring thing to say, but honesty is still the best policy. I’m not about to lie a decade off my life for the sake of a sitdown cup of coffee with a stranger. Besides, what if we hit it off, what then? “Oh, before we go bowling, there’s something I should tell you…”
So here I am, a baby of 1982 trying to strike flames among sparks using a rectangle of glass that houses a snake-like maze of gold and copper and zinc, rather than a match or flint. And I can do that: learn, adapt, try. I’d like to think the uncertainty and effort are worth it because the checkered flag is a smiling couple raising wine glasses while smiling, which I hope will be the case for you and your special someone this year. Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.