In early 2009, my then-sponsor suggested I write a list of all the qualities I wanted in a man. I was to put the list in my god-box and wait.
I can’t tell you what was on that list.
I threw it away after my second date with Jack.
I suppose he had things on the list. He must have, or else I wouldn’t have wanted to go out with him.
[Aside: Jack used to tell me that by the third date a man knew whether the woman he was with was someone he wanted to (a) sleep with without commitment, (b) let go, or (c) marry. I think about that a lot—that by our third date he knew he wanted to marry me, and that the feeling was mutual, weeks before we'd ever sleep together.]
Jack was intelligent, which I never would have guessed. (The day after our first date, I called Uncle Eddie. “You didn’t tell me he was so smart!”) On the outside, Jack was a regular middle-aged guy with a career in sales: he sold concrete and coatings to contractors; he wore khaki pants and polo shirts; he always had a Bluetooth in his ear and a Blackberry in his pocket; he smoked too much and drank too much coffee; he was perpetually cheerful with a side of smirk. But he’d once made millions on the trading floor using advanced mathematics — I still have the first lottery tickets we played based on a silly conversation we had about number theory and sequences — and could carry a conversation about almost any topic. That mattered. It still does.
Beyond intelligence and the ability to banter playfully without mean intent, I can’t imagine what else was on that list. I know I probably had some idea of what I wanted a man to look like, how he should dress, what degrees he had, what sorts of books and movies and music he liked.
Jack? Well, he taught me that none of that matters.
Which makes it odd, now that he’s dead more than two years and I’m feeling mostly ready to start dating again — “dating” as in “with the intent of being in a relationship,” not “dating” as in “something to pass the time and feel less like a middle-aged loser lady” — that I’m stuck on a different sort of idea of what “that man” would look like and do and say and et cetera. I’m stuck on finding myself someone who reminds me of Jack. Which isn’t to say much; almost every man from 45 to 60 who works in a white-collar industry and is single and halfway intelligent reminds me of Jack. One experience of falling in love with one guy like that, and my brain is convinced that’s my type.
And I don’t know whether it’s because of Jack that this has become “my type” or this was “my type” all along and Jack just opened my eyes to it.
Really, it doesn’t matter. What happens will happen. But I’m in a pickle over this person whom I met online who’s wanting to chat. He’s nice enough, lives in Brooklyn, has similar ideas about life (vegetarian, spiritual, whatever) and such. But he’s tall and skinny and blonde. And the same age as I am. And he reminds me of my brother (who is very attractive, mind you, just not in a “I want to date someone who looks like him” sort of way). He wants to know if I still want to chat — I was supposed to call him, like, last week and have been stalling — and I honestly don’t know. Am I pushing someone away now because of what I think “my type” is, the same way I might have pushed Jack away had I adhered to my complete “list” of desirable attributes?
I probably won’t call him. I may not even respond to his question, which I know is really not very nice. I try to be a nice person. Sometimes it’s just too hard, though, explaining why even though “no” is a complete sentence but you find it insufficient given the circumstances.
What it all comes down to is that I have an idea in my head of the sort of person who would be a sufficient addition to my life, if not necessarily a replacement for Jack. It’s been so long without Jack, truth be told, that I can barely even remember what it was like to be with him. I barely remember what it’s like to be anything but alone — sex has been so rare and fleeting the past few years that I don’t even know if I remember how everything happens, outside of the obvious. Whoever comes into my life — if they ever do (I’m beginning to think it’s unlikely, at least) — will be that person; Jack will always be someone who came before one or five or a dozen new someones, just like the Beatles said.
In the end it comes down to things that no one ever knows: will I love again? what will he look/taste/smell/laugh/smile like? will he be older or younger, bigger or smaller, stoic or expressive? will he love me enough? will I want to let him in?
Oh, how I wish I had the answers to even one of those questions. I don’t. No one does. I can do is sit around and wonder whether my standards are too high, too low, too specific, too wishy-washy, too Jack. But I also need to remember that the list I made before dating Jack wasn’t any indication at all of what that relationship ended up being, what Jack ended up meaning to me. It’s just a list. Put it in a god-box or stick it on the fridge, but there’s always a chance it won’t mean a thing when the right person comes along.