What happens when a newly divorced, monogamous, family-oriented baby boomer gets trapped on the Internet dating superhighway? That’s what New York City’s Jed Ringel has written about in his debut memoir, Stuck in the Passing Lane. Jed describes himself as “an Ivy League dropout who’s been a failed sculptor, a morally bankrupt Wall Street lawyer, and the founder of an IT company,” the sale of which allowed him to retire at 50. And now all he’s looking for is a relationship as intimate and intense as he sought in his 20’s and 30’s. Here’s an excerpt. Good luck, Jed.
I’m boiling in my own oils in the hot tub behind the tract house I just hastily purchased. I’m not sure buying this house was a great idea because, with the twins leaving for college shortly, and the youngest opting to stay mainly at her mother’s, soon I’ll be plodding down this split-level’s low-ceiling, resoundingly empty hallways alone, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
I’m turning up the jets, wondering about all my failed attempts at coupling. Being alone seems so much easier. I recently read that the monogamous relationship may have been designed to last only for the duration of the once drastically shorter human lifespan. Maybe we simply age-out of relationships now that we live so long. If so, when that period ends, with novelty receding and pesky routine setting in, do the more mature among us just double down with the devil we know, perhaps the only person in the world who one day may be willing to push our wheelchair and change our diapers?
Perhaps, though, the problem is just me; that I’m picking the wrong women. I decide to talk this over with Steven, a 52 year-old friend who divorced long ago. Steven’s experienced; he’s practically a founding member of online dating’s Match.com. I dial from the hot tub.
“You just caught me. I’m heading for San Francisco,” Steven answers.
“Why San Francisco?” I ask. His trip seems a little late, what with Jerry Garcia dead, Haight-Ashbury gentrified, Mama Cass having succumbed to the ultimate weight-loss plan.
“I found her.”
“In San Francisco?”
“Yeah. We’re inseparable. I’m going out to meet her.”
“How can you be inseparable when you’ve never met?”
Steven doesn’t answer. I assume that’s because he doesn’t want to consider whether, as with most Match dates, his ballooning infatuation is about to meet reality’s cold, cruel pinprick.
“Who is she?”
“She’s thirty-nine. A psychologist with her own small practice. No kids. Never married but some long relationships.”
“How did you find her?”
“I did a nationwide Match search, and there she was.”
“A nationwide search for what?”
“I just put it all out there. Everything I want: Jewish. Graduate degree. Under forty. Doesn’t want kids.”
“That’s it?” I ask, wondering how Steven used Match’s limited search capability to exclude women who listen to Suze Orman? Read Eckhart Tolle? Think the New York Post is reading material? Have spiritual lives that are active, like yeast?
“There she was.”
“Well, good luck,” I say.
Not willing to throw in the towel, I switch on Match and begin culling women by age, height and body type, then selecting divorced nonsmokers not wanting kids, looking through the photos that even slightly appeal to me. I chastise myself for being so thoughtless and shallow in picking women. But then I remember the sculptor Henry Moore saying something about his art involving “chipping away at what isn’t.” That’s my method too, I think, as I hone in on an attractive woman who doesn’t live far.