Dating and Gender Roles

There is a slight chill to the air, a hint of future cool weather to come, and I am unprepared. After years in Florida, my wardrobe is primarily sundresses and flip flops. I do have some sweaters and a coat, but not much. With my weight loss, my stock of clothing has been decimated. I hope that I can find some warmer alternatives.

It was a cold February morning when I made the final decision to leave SC, so many years ago. I was sitting at my desk in my house, bundled up in sweats, a fuzzy sweater, and thick socks. The cold air was coming up through my hardwood floors, and the windows felt icy. I had enough. I ran away and never looked back. Now, though, I find myself remembering a long ago fondness.

My dance with Charleston has been lifelong and complicated. I get frustrated with the slow pace, the native conservatism, the (at times) religious oppression. I find myself shaking my head at the patronizing responses to so many problems. At times, I just want to scream at the top of my lungs.

There are comforts, though. Much like the feeling of laying my head against a strong, warm, male chest, I love the security of powerful arms wrapped around me. After years of negotiating gender roles, I enjoy the protective assuredness of Southern men. It is almost a mantra that I hear over and over again here, “Be safe,” “Be careful.” I enjoy doors being opened for me, dates being planned, not having to calculate and split the tab. I love the fighting and rebellious spirit that responds to threats with passion and vigor. I have never felt as protected and womanly as I do when I am here.

I am not particularly religious, yet, I find that I love to slip into a church to pray. I find comfort in the ornate walls, the stained glass. I dip my fingers in the holy water, and cross myself. I inhale the scent of patchouli that permeates the air. I kneel in the padded pews, and just absorb the energy. It is the feeling of just knowing your place, your role. It is thoughtless and automatic, and a great comfort to me.

I was chatting with a friend about dating in your 40s and 50s. If you find yourself single at this point in your life, it is a complicated matter. You find comfort in companionship, but you also enjoy your own routine. I feel as though courtship has been short-circuited, because we only take the comforts, without the responsibilities. We go on dates, talk, laugh, make love, and hold one another. It is tender and passionate. Then, we go our separate ways until the next time, which could be a week or more later.

At this point in our lives, we have had past loves, possible families, heartbreaks, and reconciliations. We know that there is only so much time before our bodies betray us, and we do not have the options that are available now. We consider, and perhaps actually desire, a soulmate, but we also like our peace and quiet, too. Even as I am writing here on this quiet morning, I know that if I had a lover with me, I would not be able to write. We would be chatting, drinking coffee, perhaps enjoying one another physically. Or, perhaps we would be arguing about silly things like you do when you grow tired of one another. Do I choose a partner? Do I stay single? Gilded cage or limitless freedom? Security or experience?

I know that I have decisions to make. I know that I could move back to Florida. I know that South Carolina is here, welcoming back her wayward daughter. I know that there is a wide world out there calling to me. Which will I choose?

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