Trying to catch up I pulled this from a collection of unfinished projects.
Around the table, heads leaned in and nodded in agreement as Nan, with her usual matter-of-fact, no-nonsense attitude, explained the “rules of engagement” to Clotilde. Five women had gathered for a Girls’ Night In at Lily’s house for community meal prep and drinks; followed by deep conversations about life, liberty and the search for happiness. Clotilde was new to the group, and the friends were advising her to prepare and get ready for the dating scene while the ink on her divorce papers was drying. They knew it would not be an easy thing for a shy, middle-aged woman with limited experience in the real world but they were here to help.
Nan and Lily had been friends for a long time. They were closer than with their siblings. They were both strong, independent women who had worked their way up to become well-respected professionals in their fields. They had supported each other during their upward climb as they raised children, got post-graduate degrees, loved and lost. When she was good and ready, Nan finally said “yes” to Ralph and consequently married her companion of 19 years.
Lily’s work had become her life since her fiance moved his things out while she was at work. He only left her a note saying: Sorry it didn’t work for us. She started traveling all over the country facilitating self-help workshops in colleges and universities to address the needs of underserved communities. She was the co-author of a book about the same topics which empowered persons to be assertive and speak up. Sometimes Lily found it a challenge to carve out space for friends and family.
Jane felt she had been married to her husband Al, forever. They married right out of high school. He went on to get his undergrad degree while she became a full-time mom. They managed to get over the initial hurdles and had a beautiful family. Jane loved her family. She had a devoted, loving husband and her children already excelled in academics and sports; and yet she often daydreamed of what could have been if she had made different choices.
Raisa was the youngest in the group. She was still looking for love in all the wrong places, and her house was filled with proof of her trials and errors. Despite her experiences, Raisa continued to believe in fairytales. She had already kissed a boatload of frogs trying to find The Prince, but so far no luck.
“At this stage of the game,” Nan continued her lecture, “dating is all about the practicality of the matter. It’s not about Disney princesses or Hollywood’s love stories. That doesn’t happen in real life and much less at our age. Before you step into the labyrinth called dating, ask yourself why do you want him. Do you want entertainment, part-time companionship, just sex, financial security? Determine that first, and then go after what you want…”
Examples and testimonies followed, but Clotilde had stopped listening. She sipped her wine and chopped the vegetables as her mind wandered to places where her friends could not imagine.
That night she wrote in her journal:
“They tell me that there are no castles in the clouds, nor do valiant princes exist who ride on white stallions and risk their lives for fair maidens. They tell me it’s all a question of convenience, the practicality of the matter. They say that the years pass us quickly and if we don’t act with discernment now, we are besieged by life.
I was a lonely, caged dove unable to spread my wings, imprisoned by fear. Your eyes sparkled with mischief, and I said “Who cares! Let’s fly!” With you, I believe there are indeed places where dreams come true. The soft touch of your breath caresses my cheek, and your kiss awakens the sleeping beauty of my soul. My spirit flies like an eagle! The years fall away. I transcend the clouds safely nestled in your arms to find that castle where dreams become a reality.”
Nan and her friends were too late with their intervention that night; for Clotilde had already crossed over to the land of unicorns, rainbows, and pots of gold.