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I'm Cleaning Out My Love Closet

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CLOSET
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This fall, I told all my friends it's time. It's been a few years since my divorce, I have plenty of practice dating under my belt, and I figure I'm ready to meet someone new.

My timing is good. My generation - the baby boomers - seems to be getting into the swing of this second-chance thing, and not just in our careers but in romance, too (maybe we're headed for a second Summer of Love). People 55-plus are the fastest-growing group of online daters, according to the New York Times. And it's not just a North American thing: a Parisienne recently told me that fully half of her city's citizens are single.

So, I was feeling quite confident as I set out. But the fates had something in store. First, it seems, I had to clean out my love closet. In the last month I've run into half a dozen old beaus, and every time it happens I do not clap my hands with glee, but cock my head just a little, look at him closely, and weigh my options.

First, I ran into the bad boy. Oh, he was fun. Very, very bad, but lots of fun. And as soon as he saw me it was clear that he was ready for more of the same. Something in my head screamed, "Run!" We made small talk and I got away as fast as I could, thanking my lucky stars that I was no longer interested.

Then a guy I'd done business with popped up. When we met a few years ago, we had instant chemistry. I interviewed him a few weeks later for the project, and we had one of those phone calls that neither party wants to end. You know, the endless, "Bye." "Bye." "OK, bye-bye." "This was great, thanks." "Great, bye..." I figured I wasn't imagining it, so I made sure to get invited to a couple of events where I'd run into him, giving him ample opportunity to ask me out. He didn't. I figured he was married or gay - or both - and moved on.

And, then, suddenly, there he was at a public event where I was speaking. "Julia!" he said with delight, "I was just wandering through, and heard your voice!" "Really, wow, what are the chances?!" We agreed to meet for coffee, and I figured it would be, you know, coffee. As a prelude to, maybe, romance, at long last. Turns out he wanted to pick my brain. Oh, well.

The closet was getting emptied out. But one particularly large and cumbersome piece remained. The one who got away.

Last week, I went to a fundraising lunch for a charitable organization, the kind where they tell you sweetly, just as you're reaching for your handbag to pull out your checkbook, "And just remember what you paid for that purse and make your check out for the same amount."

And, suddenly, there he was. The only one of the ex-es (boyfriends and husbands alike) for whom a small flame still burned. I saw him arrive, sans entourage. Just another CEO in a great suit, slipping into his seat. "Oh, my God," I said to social media guru girlfriend, "Should I go over?" "No," she said, "He'll come to you." I was right in front of the screen, so there's no way he could have missed seeing me. But did he come over? No.

After lunch, standing in the lobby, peering out at the rain with two women friends, trying to decide how to get back to our respective offices, I turned and there he was. Leaning casually against the wall, like a teenaged boy, feigning any knowledge that I was mere steps away. He'd gotten as close to me as he could without risking being the one to make the move. Well, I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass.

"Julia!" he said, lifting his eyes from his BlackBerry when the toes of my fabulous shoes appeared under his nose.

We chatted about nothing, looking at each other intently. Then, I decided, oh, what am I doing? Just ask him the question you've wanted to ask all along.

"Did you make the right decision?" I asked. He'd married someone else.

"I don't know what you mean," he replied with a small shake of his head.

"Oh, I think you do," I insisted with a small smile.

He paused, and a sour look came over his face. "At my age, you take what you can get."

And just like that, he blew the candle out. What a thing to say about one's current wife to a former lover. It was immediately clear I'd dodged a bullet with that one.

So, now, dear Cupid, I've done my bit. I'm clean. It's time to bring it on. (And, yes, I promise to keep all y'all in the loop, dear readers, if you share you "love closet" stories with me, too.)

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Julia Moulden is a speaker, columnist, and author of "RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50", a 12-week course on discovering passion, purpose and possibility at midlife. Check out the video (a.k.a. book trailer!):

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