The day of her first date after divorce, she parked a couple of blocks away from the restaurant in order to walk undetected for a bit. Taking a few deep breaths and telling herself she had survived worse, she propelled herself through the door.
Fortunately, she was not the first to arrive. She was shown to a table where Kevin, her date, was already seated. He half rose to greet her, smiled, and took her hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
She tried to get a good look at him while they talked about the restaurant. How did one judge the looks of middle-aged men? She tried to imagine him as a twenty-two-year-old but couldn’t. Gray, thinning hair, bifocals, clear eyes with deep circles underneath, a thin physique, maybe six feet tall. No instant jolt of electricity signaled love at first sight.
“I’m a banker and always have been. I graduated from college in business and have worked for only two local banks since then.”
Well, if he was trying to sell her on consistency and reliability, that was the ticket. Did that matter to her? She didn’t really know.
“I work in the health care field,” Jess said. “I’m divorced”—she cringed as she realized this was the first time she had said that aloud—“and I have two college-age children.”
Jess didn’t see a ring mark on his finger, then remembered that his profile mentioned two divorces, the most recent only a year earlier. Can’t blame a guy who keeps trying.
They ordered. He was not a conversationalist. Jess decided to play this like a business lunch and made small talk about the food, the weather, hobbies. He didn’t ask much about her at all. He did like to talk about golf. A lot.
“Do you golf?” he asked. When she shook her head no, he gave her a subtle shoulder shrug in response. Evidently, “no golf” was a nonstarter. She wondered if that was a deal-breaker and whether she cared.
“I love to travel, mostly adventure travel,” Jess said. “My favorite trip was to a rain forest in Costa Rica. I really liked the hiking and whitewater rafting there.”
“Wow, that’s too far for me, and way too hot,” Kevin responded. “I couldn’t stand to sweat that much.” Then his eyebrows shot up and he looked at her with what Jess imagined were his bedroom eyes. “At least not while upright.”
Jess swallowed and held his gaze out of curiosity, then looked down quickly at her plate. Nope. Don’t ever want to get sweaty with this guy. When the check arrived, they each proffered a credit card to split the bill. It was pretty evident that this would be their only lunch.
As she walked back to her car, Jess wondered if she cared. She breathed deeply and said aloud, “Absolutely not.” She laughed, lightened her step, and congratulated herself on having jumped the first hurdle. She realized there was a lot to think about if she wanted to date. Although she surprised herself with the realization that she did have preferences after all; she knew Kevin didn’t make the cut.
This article has been edited and excerpted with permission from A Better Next (She Writes Press, 2019) by Maren Cooper. A healthcare consultant and wife learns her doctor husband’s intention to take a prestigious new job on the other side of the country―and relocate with-out her… “Both sprightly and deeply felt, A Better Next captures the losses, trade-offs, and rewards of the contemporary career woman/wife/mother. Many are the women who will recognize themselves in Jess’ story.” -Faith Sullivan, award-winning author of Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse. Available at Amazon.com on May 28.