Dating After 40

At the age of 42, owing to two long relationships that tailgated each other, I found myself single for the first time since I was 20-something.

A lot had changed.

In my 20s, I thought dating was hard: One had to find a mate who was attractive, single and not just recently single but single long enough to not still be in love with their ex-lover. They had to be relatively drug-free, "relative" being the operative word, since 20-somethings are allowed to dabble and still be considered a good catch. When I went out, the bars were filled with singles around my age. It was a 20-something smorgasbord. Sure, there were a few ancient 40-somethings who wedged themselves against the wall and stared like hungry wolves, but they were just sad.

I would never find myself in a bar at 40 looking for love. Nothing could be worse!

When I found my 42-year-old self nursing a Cosmopolitan on a bar stool in the West Village, I knew where that hunger came from. Hello, 40-year-olds actually need to eat something besides pretzels!

As a 40-something babe, I now understand that dating was easy in my 20s. Forty-somethings have to find someone who not only meets all the 20-something requirements but is not all the things that decades of ex-lovers were. My list started with: They must not have a fear of intimacy, be a liar, be a cheater, be a drunk, be boring, be broke, be un-therapized, be selfish in bed, have bad breath, hate their job, wear dirty socks to bed -- my list went on for another two pages.

I had the average mortal checked off as a "no" at "hello."

But more fundamentally speaking, how did a 40-something get that first date?

At the bars, I had the pleasure of watching as a slew of women I was old enough to have birthed paraded before me. (Gay bars are just as bad as the straight ones.) I felt like a guidance counselor on prom night. Packing a protein bar and some dried apricots helped soak up the alcohol but certainly didn't enhance my hip factor.

Finally, I buckled down and signed up for -- yikes! -- Internet dating.

It didn't seem too hard: Put up a profile of yourself and find a title that says it all. "Not-so-nice Jewish girl" worked fine for me.

After 16 dates with 11 women, here are the highlights: a woman who drooled when she ate (I'm talking St. Bernard here), a woman who would rather have eaten glass than make eye contact, a woman who said she was 47 but was well past collecting her first Social Security check, and a woman who made Clint Eastwood (pre-chair) seem a little femme. I was becoming what you might call jaded.

I was no closer to finding love but a whole lot closer to finding an imaginary friend I might talk to in public.

Ultimately, I did go on a date with a ginger-haired lady who did not turn out to be the love of my life but did turn out to be a safe, kindhearted person to spend time with. After our split, I went to Provincetown, Mass., for a vacation in the summer sun. There I ran into a therapist with whom I'd gone on a few failed Internet dates, and she introduced me to her good friend L.

That was more than three years ago, and L and I are still going strong. As it turns out, we have lived five blocks from each other since the '90s and probably walked past each other dozens of times over the years. We needed to go to Massachusetts to meet, through someone I met on the Internet. So I guess in a roundabout way I met my girlfriend on the Internet, kinda, sorta.

So what's the moral of this story?

Oy, the moral. That's too much pressure! Hmm. I guess it's that you can search long and far, but what's really meant for you might be just at the bodega on the corner, buying four-for-$1 bananas.

By the time I went to Provincetown that summer, I no longer wanted a relationship. I was having too much fun writing, painting and spending time with great pals.

Life is funny that way. The moment you're no longer thirsty, someone offers you a glass of water. Hey, that can be the moral of this story too.