When my husband left me, I was 49 years old, fat and had only one breast. Plus I was an emotional wreck.
I spent a month dumpster diving through the heartache of my emotions. Anger and grief consumed me.
I allowed myself to go as deep into the negative as I needed. I gave myself permission to feel as deeply as was necessary. Snot dripped from my nose in streams and filled vast piles of Kleenex.
Then, my catharsis over, I emerged renewed.
I decided to date again. Why not? He’d left me for another woman. I’d find myself a newer, better man.
I realize this sounds sorta like revenge — not the best motivation for finding true love. However, it got me out of the house.
I joined meet-ups. I checked out possibilities at church. I flirted with men in the supermarket and when I went to pick up a rental car. I smiled at the cop who stopped me for speeding. This didn’t result in a date, but it did get me off with a warning.
I was having fun, but so far no dates.
The big elephant in the room, at least to me, was the way I looked.
When I’d met my ex-husband, I was 28 years old and shapely. I still have a shape, but it’s quite different than what I had back then.
I used to live in Colorado. I hiked 14’ers, and my body showed this. Plus I was fertile and I’d had two breasts.
Harlan Ellison wrote a story entitled “I Have no Mouth but I Must Scream”. Well, “I have one breast, but I must date”.
So what did I do?
I took a hard look at myself and decided — I need to change my attitude.
When I had been diagnosed with cancer 15 years ago, they had given me 6 months to live. My attitude made the difference between their prediction and my experience. I talk about that in this article about how Viktor Frankl inspired me to survive.
I decided to try the same tack with my love life.
Maybe you can’t change your circumstances, but you can change your attitude
I decided that the most important thing vis-a-vis my love life was not the way I looked, but the way I felt.
Yes, it would help if I lost weight. And maybe some new clothes or a new haircut would help. If there was a way to regenerate a new boob and knock 20 years off my age…
But all those things took the time (weight loss), money (new clothes) or a miracle… none of those things could possibly help me TODAY.
So, what did I do???
It’s going to sound silly, but… I started dancing. Every day. In my living room. To the 80’s music, I’d danced to when I was in high school.
I spent more time on my art. Not trying to come up with beautiful pieces for sale, but just whatever lifted my own spirits. Most of the time the art ended up in the circular filing bin in my studio. That was OK. The act of creation put me in a good headspace.
I spent more time loving on my dog. And playing with my cat. I gave my mother more hugs. I prayed more. I called up the friends who had supported me through the mastectomy and the abandonment and suggested we do something fun together. Something light, not heavy.
I started going to meet-ups with the goal of just enjoying myself, rather than meeting people.
All of a sudden, when I smiled at men in the grocery store, they smiled back. When I flirted with the mechanic who fixed my car, he gave me a discount, without my asking him. This is the type of thing that used to happen to me when I was in my 20s…
OK, it might also have helped that I started dressing better.
My friend Judy got the ball rolling. She and my friend Joan, two stalwarts who had seen me through the long stream of misery that had traveled like a juggernaut through my life over the past year, decided I needed a photoshoot.
We had a slumber party.
How cool is that? Three “mature” women acting like teen-agers???
I mean, there is a Wiccan meme about the stages of womanhood — maiden, mother and crone. I’d bypassed motherhood, but I was now definitely in the crone stage. I hate to say this, but since they’re older than I am, my friends are there too… but hey, who said crones can’t have fun? We poured the wine and partied…
Then we woke up the next morning and they did my hair and make-up. Judy pulled out a top she just “happened” to see in the store and bought for me.
All of a sudden… I was inspired.
Judy directed the photoshoot. Joan kept me in stitches so I always had a natural smile. After several shots in full color, Judy decided I needed an “art shot”. So, we shot me in black and white.
They sent me all the pictures. I love living in the age of technology.
I decided to get my profile up on online dating sites.
I kept it honest. I used the recently shot pictures of me which, while flattering, did not hide my weight. I mentioned my cancer.
However, I didn’t focus on these things. The main focus on the profile was — I’m a fun person. I’m alive. I’m vibrant. You’ll have a good time if you go out with me.
Guess what? It worked.
The thing is, as much as everyone thinks men are superficial — and they are, don’t get me wrong. Still, the one thing they want, which all of us want — a connection. And some fun.
Life is serious. There are bills to pay and toilets to clean and maintain. There is nothing more serious in life than a non-functional toilet!
When people date, they don’t want all that. Dating should be fun.
I put myself in a guys’ shoes. Unless he’s a total nimrod, in which case I don’t want him, wouldn’t he rather be with someone who might be less physically attractive, but who he could laugh with?
That’s what I told myself, anyway. And it worked.
I had fun. The guys I dated had fun. Some of them asked me out again. Sometimes I accepted.
At one point, my friends joked I had a revolving door of men. I was dating a gardener who looked like Thor (OMG!), a Jewish lawyer (queue the stereotypes), an Indian IT guy (definitely queue the stereotypes!), an American Indian D&D buddy (who was 10 years younger) and a Hispanic restaurant owner.
I joked with my friends that I was dating the United Colors of Benetton. My friend Joan sent me a clip of “It’s Raining Men”.
This wasn’t my end goal, but it was a good place to be after having been dumped by my husband of 18 years.
The positive energy fed on itself. I lifted my attitude so I could date, then the good times I had with some great guys lifted my attitude even more, which made me more productive in other areas of my life.
So, my advice to you if you’re fat, or old, or think you’re ugly (you’re not!) — focus on your attitude. Sure, you can diet and exercise if you think you need to. And if you think botox will help you, who am I to tell you not to do it? But… the most important thing you can do is to make yourself happy.
When you’re happy, you will be more attractive. Plus, well, you’ll be happy. Which is ultimately what you want anyway.
Previously published on Medium.com.
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