I met my husband on the beach. We were teenagers, and we did everything together, even sneaking off to Sinai from our hometown of Kiryat Yam when my parents thought I was on a scouts trip. We got married after my IDF service, just after I turned 20.
We continued traveling, and we became parents to two girls in 1994 and 1997. When, in 2008, a relocation offer came from Seattle, we didn’t hesitate to take it. We bought a rustic house in the Tiger Mountain area of Issaquah. But three months after we moved in, the man I had been with for 32 years asked for a divorce.
In truth, it wasn’t a total surprise. We had grown apart. Nevertheless, I was devastated. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. A mediator helped us divide up our dream house, and 10 months later, the decree was final. I cried a lot and started to see a therapist. It helped a little with the breathing.
When I was ready to get out and socialize, I decided to join a women’s group, and with their help I started to breathe a little deeper. As time went on, though, I missed going out as a couple. I missed the intimacy of having a partner. But how do you date after more than 30 years in a monogamous relationship? And who would want to date me? All of my insecurities looked me straight in the eye. I was turning 47 and could not even imagine flirting with another man. I didn’t think that I was attractive; being curvy felt like being overweight. I was sure I would never have a partner again.
I opened my first online dating account — and I’m saying first, because there’s always more than one. Two hours later, I was bombarded by messages. Oddly, most of the guys were named Mike.
I started going on dates. There was Mike #39, who met me with his dog and did not stop talking about himself while we walked along Seattle’s waterfront. When we finished the walk, I kissed the dog and ran to cross the street. Only an hour later I realized that I never said goodbye to Mike #39, but just to his dog. Ouch.
I met Mike #70 in a famous dive bar. I liked Mike #70 from the minute I saw him, but something wasn’t right. I had a gut feeling that I chose to ignore.
We walked around Seattle a lot. Mike #70 was very smart, and we had fun together. He was born in Seattle and knew a lot about the city’s history. He had spent the last 10 years in Europe, which made him a world traveler, like me. Our relationship got closer, but still something felt wrong.
Two months later, Mike said we needed to talk. We met in the dive bar, where he held my hands and told me that he had been homeless for the past five years. I found it hard to breathe again. Flashes of discussions came back to me and made sense. Mike was sleeping in a church that accepted walk-ins. This was why he never wanted me to drive him home. There was no home. On nights when he couldn’t get a bed, he spent the night on the street, next to the garbage cans. I kept seeing Mike #70, but things went downhill, and we broke up.
I decided I needed to trust my gut more. My next dating profile was very blunt and direct. I posted a picture of my ear so men would have to read my profile.
I met Mike #80 on one of the hottest days of 2015. We had a picnic on Lake Washington and spoke for three hours. We had a lot in common. We saw each other for a few months, and then we decided to move in together.
A year and a half after we met, we got married in a Jewish-Indian wedding on a decked-out ferry on Lake Washington. Before the ceremony, I got locked in the dressing room. Rather than stress out, I spent those 10 minutes thinking about what had happened over those three years. I giggled, and I even shed a tear. I felt a little like the phoenix, the bird revived from the ashes. In Latin, my name means “to be reborn.” I felt loved, supported, strong, and very sexy, too. At our wedding, our four kids, all girls, held up the huppah. I could breathe.
Renata Lubinsky is the author of Around Seattle in 80 Dates. renatalubinsky.com