I am a cancer conqueror. I prefer the word “conqueror” to “survivor” because of the active role I played in my battle against the disease.
I was diagnosed with a type IV cancer over 15 years ago. They gave me 6 months to live, yet here I am. Note to doctors: people don’t come with expiration dates.
About 3 years ago, I was diagnosed with a secondary cancer. I had to have a mastectomy.
A few months later, my husband left me.
I was crushed. I cried, I raged, I went through boxes of tissues. I eventually made my way back to normality.
Yet that’s when I suffered a severe identity crisis. I was a one-breasted woman of “a certain age” who was once again single.
It had been over twenty years since I’d last been on the open market. Times had changed and I was confronting a Brave New World of dating apps and social protocols.
I wasn’t sure how I would navigate it, but that wasn’t the scariest part. No, the thing that frightened me the most was that I only had one breast. Not only that, I was overweight and “past my prime”.
After all, it is common knowledge that men are visual people who only go for cute young hotties. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but I remembered from my dating back in the Stone Age that appearance counted. I had that push-up bra from Victoria’s Secret. I wore cute dresses with my special red heels.
So I decided I’d put myself out there, take the risk, get rejected and then go join a convent. I went into it expecting to fail, and fail spectacularly.
To my great surprise — men turned out to be way less superficial then I had feared.
Maybe it’s an age thing. Just as I had matured, so had the men who were my target audience. It turns out that by the time they hit their mid years, they have realized that a special connection is more important than a perfect body.
Or maybe I’d been unfair to men all along. After all, looking back, there have always been women who haven’t fit society’s norms of beauty who still find a connection to someone who can be their best friend and lover.
What is really strange, but wonderful — I enjoy dating now more than I ever did before.
Maybe it’s because I am no longer worried about my biological clock. I don’t feel pressured to find the man who will be my baby’s father. Instead, I just want to date people I enjoy talking to and doing things with.
Age doesn’t really matter. I have gone out with younger and older men, though about +/- 5 years seems to work best. But it’s not a hard and fast rule.
What is weird is that several of these dates have turned into friends. We decided, for whatever reason, that we didn’t feel a spark, but we liked each other enough to want to hang out once in a while.
I’m not saying there haven’t been some bad experiences. There have been men who were obviously “off” — the guy who showed his controlling streak after the third date, the one who wanted to “mansplain” everything to me, the one who was a racist… plus there have also been men who just turned out to be bad fits. The one who wanted to explore polyamory, for example.
For women (or men) who find themselves in my shoes — single again and inhabiting a body that has had some wear and tear — my advice is to go ahead, take a chance. You may or may not find “the one” but you can have fun, enjoy the search, and make a few friends along the way.
This post was previously published on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credit: Shefali O’Hara