Title: Middle Ageish
Author: Shirley Goldberg
Genre: Romantic Women’s Fiction
Sunny Chanel's marriage is circling the drain when her husband marks his colonoscopy on the calendar and ignores their anniversary. With divorce papers instead of roses on the horizon, she says "au revoir" Paris and croissants, and "hello" cheap New Haven apartment and ramen noodles.
With the encouragement of her friends, Sunny jumps into online dating, twenty-three years and twenty pounds after her last date. To her surprise she discovers dating might require a helmet, and occasionally armor to protect her heart, but after years of being ignored, her adventurous side craves fun and conversation. She’s middle-aged not dead. Then suddenly, on the way to reinventing herself, life takes a left turn when the one man she can't forget calls with an unexpected request.
On my second glass of wine––we’d hit the early bird special, Donald’s suggestion––at a new fish place on the water, The Fin and Tater. The air held the briny scent of fresh tuna and their specialty, fifteen potato dishes, from sweet mashed to curly and deep fried in olive oil.
“One minute, almost done here,” Donald’s thumbs operating at warp speed on his phone, an oversize smart phone.
I salivated. An appetizer, however small, would do the trick.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “Don’t like to be unavailable to Johnny. So. Where was I? Oh, did I tell you he just turned twelve?”
His phone dinged, signaling another text. “Sorry, one second.” He moved away.
The urge to gulp the wine was almost overwhelming, but I forced myself to sip slowly, realizing my whole face was clenched.
And here I was in the shortish red skirt to my red suit, feeling pretty jazzed. For what? So Donald could text-date his son on my time?
Plus, there was the hunger factor.
My phone pinged with a chat alert from the dating site. Some guy named José. Might as well send him my phone number. Twenty seconds later, he texted.
Hi, I’m intrigued. Thinking you have more online match-type experience than I have but I do not want to presume. Wanna talk?
Dinner wasn’t materializing, as our menus sat in the middle of the table where Donald had left them when he got his latest text. I breathed in the unmistakable, mouth watering aroma of freshly-delivered garlic potatoes at the next table. If I could catch Donald between texts, I’d lobby for a potato appetizer, plenty of garlic, since for sure there wouldn’t be any kissing.
A glance over at Donald, still texting in a corner of the lobby. The server appeared with a basket of rolls wrapped in cloth.
“Did you get a chance to look at the menu?” she asked. The early bird deadline was upon us.
“Not yet,” I said, afraid she’d disappear with the rolls. I peeled back the napkin, inhaled the scent, the warm goodness radiating from the basket. Before the rolls, I’d considered leaving, but the rolls weren’t crappy, white doughy rolls.
“I’ll be back to check on you.”
Nope. They were dark and seeded, three different kinds, popovers and crisp crusts, a couple with raisins. I grabbed a raisiny one, tore it in half and smeared it with butter. Took a generous bite, geez. Heaven. Took a healthy glug of wine. That second glass was going to my head in a good way.
Donald reappeared and set his phone aside. “Sorry, can’t help myself when it comes to my son. You have kids?”
Donald’s phone rang as I started to answer, and he disappeared again. Never mind. I finished my roll and grabbed a popover, tore off a piece, savoring the buttery smoothness. I pulled my phone out, figuring to get some business done while Donald was busy being rude.
My bank account was down to $989.56. Nothing new there. My phone rang with a caller ID I didn’t recognize.
“Hi. Sunny? This is José. Figured talking was better than texting.” His voice was a purr, and my whole body reacted in a jumpy adrenaline mini-rush. I headed for the door, waving so Donald would know I was stepping outside for my own phone call.
The restaurant, at the end of a small street that dead ends at a boatyard, hosts a sailing club. Boats of all sizes, from Sunfish to two-motor jobs. I stood listening to the slap of the waves as José waxed on about a bad date.
“I yearn for normal,” he said.
“You didn’t have normal?” Fascinating, his word choice. Normal. Normal was for the very young. Wasn’t normal mostly over at our age?
“Well, it depends.” He paused. “I know this sounds dumb. I feel I can talk to you.” His voice lowered. “Lots of sex early on. If there’s nothing else, it all fades away. And you start the next one.”
“Well,” I hesitated, “I have this naïve idea that as we mature, we realize that sex is important, yes, but not the most important element in a relationship. Unless it’s missing.” José was better company than Donald, my so-called date.
“Shouldn’t it be that way?” he said. “When you get older, well, you look for more.”
José talked the talk, but it irked me that he might be feeding me a line. I tried to truly listen to the voice, the breaks and pauses. Listen for the sincerity.
“Do you look for chemistry?” I asked, knowing the answer before he said it.
“Of course. Absolutely essential.”
“Gotta go,” I said, turning back to the restaurant. The smell of rotting fish from somewhere on the docks overpowered me. “I’m on this lousy date,” I blurted.
“Leave. He doesn’t deserve you. You’re too polite.”
“Yeah, I am a polite person.” José had no boundaries when it came to offering advice to strangers.
“Nice talking to you. I’ll call you again.”
Inside the restaurant, Donald bent over his phone in a classic text-neck posture. I plucked the remaining half of my popover, wrapped it in a napkin.
“Hey, I’ve got to get going.” Donald looked up as if unsure what was happening. A wave of irritation mixed with impatience washed over me. Not my place to tell Donald what women want.
“Good luck, Donald,” and I gave a little two-fingered wave, headed out.
Later that night, in my comfy pajamas, I went online, determined to start over, be more positive. Three emails from José hit my inbox. I skimmed the first two, and read the third email three times.
What do you dream about? I have one life to live, and while I want great sex, I want a real romance and a sense of closeness. Let’s meet soon.
I crawled into bed, smiling. Great sex, huh? Does anyone want crappy sex?
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DHHGVSD
Amazon CA https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08DHHGVSD
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08DHHGVSD
What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
My first binge-worthy read was Gone With the Wind. I was around thirteen years old and remember sitting in the living room chair for hours, unable to put the book down.
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
Sunny Chanel’s life is most women’s worst daydream. Her stingy husband prefers the dog’s company to hers and wants a divorce. But who knew she’d date a truckload of men on the way to starting over? A binge-worthy read because you don’t want to be in her shoes, but you keep turning the pages because you want to be in her shoes. Maybe. You can’t make up your mind.
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Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete, and Casablanca. She writes about men and women of a certain age starting over. Her website http://midagedating.com offers a humorous look into dating in midlife and beyond. Middle Ageish is her first in the series Starting Over.
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