Bra Clasps and Dating at 51

10/18/2011 10:26 am ET Updated Dec 18, 2011

I used to be able to undo a bra clasp with one hand. Without looking. That's right, reach around the back with one hand while the other was occupied, lift it up off the skin, squeeze it together and then release. It wasn't something I intentionally practiced, nor was I some modern day Casanova, but somewhere in my mid-twenties there had been enough girlfriends, enough evenings, enough attempts at undoing that unique clasp that it just happened.

Then, for a brief period it was kind of my thing. Didn't brag about it, just knew I could do it. A couple of women noticed, one of them became my wife. Of course, once I was married it quickly became a useless skill. I'm guessing its now sort of like my Italian. If I go to Rome tomorrow I might be able to ask for a table for two, but I might just as likely insult the maître de.

Still I find it ironic that I of previous bra clasp release-ability have now gone without touching one, bra or contents, for a long time. But then I'm also no longer in my mid-twenties, and I'm no longer married. 51 and widowered 5 years ago, and having quite a hard time getting back on the horse, or in the saddle, or whatever metaphor doesn't sound too suggestive, or too pathetic.

Basically, I suck at dating. Maybe I waited too long. I was wrecked by the loss of my wife, and had young teens at home I was suddenly raising on my own, so despite friends and professionals pushing, I waited. About three and a half years I waited. Which means I've been at it for about a year and half, and it's really kind of miserable. For those of you unhappily married in your 50s, forget about it. Get help, make it work, get happy, or stay miserable -- all better options than get single. Sorry to the many I'm about to offend, potentially including Ms. Right I haven't yet met, but we're just not supposed to be dating in our 50s. It's meant for younger, dumber, hornier people. You know, mid-twenty year olds that marvel at their ability to undo a bra clasp with one hand.

Not that I don't try. I've dated about ten women over the last year or so -- all introductions from friends, plus one from an online service. Five turned into second dates. Only one has gone beyond the second date, and I really blew that one. It was when I'd just started dating, and on the third date the opportunity to kiss her was incredibly clear, but I was just too rusty to recognize it. We went out again but the moment was gone and she lost interest. I rebounded by making out furiously on the next second date I had with someone else, realizing about halfway into it I wasn't attracted to her at all.

And that's it right there. That's why dating isn't for 50-year-olds. At twenty something, I'd never have missed the moment for the kiss on that date. If anything, I'd probably have gone the other way -- moved sooner, before the right moment arrived. And on the rebound make out session, which seemed like it could've gone much further, in my twenties I'd never have stopped when I realized I wasn't attracted to her. In fact, in my twenties I'd probably have slept with over half the women I've dated the last year. Again, not that I was Casanova, just that I was younger, dumber, hornier.

If you're wondering about the equipment, Doc checked the testosterone level and I'm good. And no blue pill required here, the elevator still moves up and down with ease. So horny, while not what it was at twenty something, is still there. Younger, however, really is gone. One of the smaller but real things I grieved when I lost my wife was knowing I was always about 27 years old in her eyes, as she was in mine, and that was never going to happen again -- not with her, not with anyone else. I've accepted that younger is gone.

But it's the dumb that's really missing. I've gotten too damn smart. I know myself like I didn't at twenty something. Comfortable with this guy now too, so there's less that's likely to change. I was married for twenty years, so I know what a relationship is and I've met a lot of people and done a lot of things, so I also know who and what I like. My life is built, as are the lives of the women I date, so the hoop has gotten higher, and it's hard to be dumb about it.

I've got a second date this Saturday night. We're opposed on politics, religion, and most social policy that stems from those two hot buttons. My kids are almost all grown while she's still got one in single digits. And in the all-important geography of Southern California traffic patterns, she lives at least two bottlenecks away. It's hard to be dumb about all that. But she's very bright, very attractive and has an easy laugh. And if I did go to Rome tomorrow, I think "un tavulo por due, per favore" is pretty phonetically close to "a table for two, please," which means my Italian isn't as rusty as I thought.