Reentering the dating world in your 40s is a scary, scary thing. It mostly makes me want to give up and get a cat. Things have changed since the last time I dated (in high school!). Online dating makes me hyperventilate. The couple of times I tried it, I was certain I’d encounter some psycho who wants to make a suit of my skin. (“It puts the lotion in the basket,” anyone?) But as scary as it is, there are some benefits of entering the dating pool at an older age. Most of us “middle-aged” daters have learned a thing or two along the way. We’re older, wiser, and not so caught up in the superficial garbage of our younger years. We know ourselves and what we want, and we’re not willing to settle for anything less. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about love the second time as supported by evidence from my absolute favorite movie genre — the romantic comedy.
1. Sixteen Candles: Never give your undies to a nerd.
Don’t take off those undies for just anyone. If you’re going to lose your drawers make it count. You’ve done this before and have learned from your mistakes. This time around, you’re waiting for the right one.
2. What’s Your Number?: Be yourself.
Like Anna Faris says in the movie, “I’m happiest when I’m being myself, and I’m myself when I’m with you.” At one time I may have been prone to act like the perfect (whatever that is) woman in order to catch a man. But now I let my imperfections hang out right from the start: I have a bit of a stubborn streak, I’m a grammar snob, and I can’t dance (think Elaine on Seinfeld. Only worse.) I have an incurable lead foot and I tend to fly by the seat of my pants as I’m not real good with the whole planning thing. I don’t like people who use or abuse others. I hate sushi, shoes, math, and mornings. I don’t care about politics, money, or reality TV. I cry like a big baby at movies and when I see someone hurting. I spend a lot of time daydreaming and writing my next story in my head (I’m pretty sure that’s an author thing and not an “I’m insane” thing). I scream like a little girl when I see a bug and I sometimes give a very unladylike snort when I laugh. That’s me. Take it or leave it.
3. Pitch Perfect: Don’t push people away.
Yes, it is easier to push away the people who try to get close to you, especially if you endured a bad marriage. After all, you can’t get hurt if you never let anyone in. But you never really live that way either. If you open up, you may experience some heartbreaks along the way, but you may also just discover the love of your life. Also, don’t eat a big meal before going on stage in front of an auditorium full of people.
4. When Harry Met Sally: You can fake it, but why on earth would you?
In the famous diner scene, Meg Ryan pulls off a very convincing fake orgasm. Sure, we can fake it if we need to, but why, oh why would we do that? We’re mature enough to ask for (and get) what we want, ladies!
5. The Proposal: Sometimes you need to make the first move.
Now, I’m not suggesting you threaten to fire your employee if he doesn’t marry you because other than this movie, I don’t know of a single time that’s actually worked. Plus, it kinda screams of desperation. But it’s okay to be strong and independent and not have to rely on a man for your own happiness. And it’s okay if you’re the one to reach out and make that first move. Finally, if you ever get the chance to dance around a fire with Betty White, do it! It looks like a lot of fun!
6. Warm Bodies: Love can transform even the deadest of hearts.
In this movie, R is a zombie who comes back to life with the love of Julie. In fact, that love is so infectious that it revives the entire zombie population. I’m not saying that love can bring back the dead. Or the undead. (If someone is trying to eat your brains, running for your life is probably a better option than giving them a hug.) But love is a pretty powerful force with the ability to transform. Sometimes those rough edges can be smoothed out with a little TLC.
7. Pretty Woman: Hold out for the fairytale.
Now, I’m not saying you should push aside every guy you meet while waiting for Prince Charming to ride up on his white horse and rescue you, but you shouldn’t settle for just anyone. Wait for the man who treats you like a princess.
8. Frozen: Don’t get engaged a couple hours after meeting someone.
If all you know about a guy is that he likes sandwiches, you probably shouldn’t rush into marriage with him. You may feel like you know a guy after a few weeks, but it takes longer than that to really get to know someone. I have friends who rushed into marriage before the ink was even dry on their divorce papers because the thought of being alone was so terrifying to them. I can understand that on some level, but what’s the rush? If he’s the perfect guy for you now, he’ll still be the perfect guy for you in a few more weeks/months/years. If it turns out that he isn’t quite the perfect guy you thought he was, then you’ll be glad you waited. Also, listen (with a grain of salt) to the “love experts” in your life.
9. The Princess Bride: There are many different ways to say “I love you.”
Open your eyes and you may find that the man who “never does anything romantic” for you has actually been showing you he loves you every day by filling your gas tank, taking out the garbage, and fixing the kitchen sink. So, he’s not the kind of guy to buy you flowers or take you out dancing. There are many different ways to say “I love you.” Also, true love is the greatest thing in the world except for a nice MLT: mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky.
10. Beastly: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Don’t rule out every man who doesn’t look like Captain America. You may just find a hidden gem if you look beyond the surface. Looks fade over time, hair falls out, people gain weight, and what are you left with? If you’ve chosen wisely, you’re left with a person you can talk to, who “gets” you, who treats you well, who makes you laugh, and with whom you want to spend the rest of your days.