Reading: Dating at 70: Learning to Let Kindness In

Memoir

Dating at 70: Learning to Let Kindness In

Her 38-year marriage ended when she was 63. Then she met someone who wanted to nurture her

By Jane Pollak

man and woman at sunset
Photo by Ibrahim Fareed for unsplash

“Would you like a foot rub?” was a question my husband of 38 years never asked.

Don, the man I fell in love with a year after my divorce, made the offer the first time I arrived at his house in Connecticut. I was bowled over by his sweet suggestion after my long drive. I’m not sure I’d ever had a genuine foot rub before, other than the perfunctory manipulations of an underpaid salon practitioner. It was heavenly.

Growing Up Un-nurtured

I did not grow up in a family where men nurtured women. I did not wed into a family where men nurtured women. My mother and mother-in-law exhibited few needs and were rewarded with few being met.

Thank goodness I’d been working on myself through much of my marriage so that I would be able to accept this kindness when it arrived. The old me would have said, “Nah, I’m fine!” But after years of therapy, self-help programs, and the growth-producing rooms of recovery, by the time my marriage ended in 2011 and I was 63, I was ready to receive.

I’m not sure where Don learned to be a giver, but for the first time in my life, I felt taken care of. Two weeks after we’d met online and then in person, I came down with a bad cold. I had to travel to Boston for a professional conference. Don offered to “scoop me up” into the backseat of his truck and drive me there. For someone whose longings had never been acknowledged, let alone met, his proposal opened my heart.

Allowing Myself to Receive Kindness

My focus on self-care — my decision to give myself what I desired —deepened when I began practicing macrobiotics a few years before my marriage collapsed. Included in the art of this ancient tradition is a body scrub that detoxifies the skin at the deepest level. When I met Don, I mentioned this routine. On my next visit to his home, he had purchased a bale of white cotton washcloths at Costco and had the hot water ready to go when it was bedtime.

He gently massaged the folded terry square across my forehead, circled each cheek, my nose and chin until my skin tingled. He articulated the digit of each finger and toe and scrubbed my shoulders, back, arms, and legs.

Years earlier, on a wish list I wrote to the Universe, I’d included a “weekly delivery of fresh flowers” to my home. I’d long coveted the overflowing vases in the Met Museum lobby. To me, this is the height of luxury. Don, who mowed lawns for income and had access to the flourishing gardens of Litchfield County, brought bouquets of seasonal hydrangeas, black-eyed Susans, or zinnias each time he came to see me, often extracting a nosegay from his jacket pocket, a small glass vase, and a baggie of water fastened with a rubber band. Another longing fulfilled.

Chaucer said, “All good things must end,” and this relationship did. I began to notice invisible strings that were attached to these gestures, and a diminishing of regard over the six years we were together. But, I take away the knowledge that I deserve to be treated with generosity and kindness and will never settle for less again.
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  1. Beth

    I can appreciate this for sure. Sorry it didn’t work out, but what an incredible gift and lesson as the outcome. This gives me a lot to think about, so thank you.

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