I had to look up the difference between the definitions of "envy" and "jealousy" because those words were creeping into my head. I was curious to learn the specific emotion I had been feeling, when I watched a married couple -- a few years older than I -- exchange easy banter.
"Is that what you're wearing?" she had said, her voice interested, but not the least sarcastic. Her look towards her husband carried tenderness, concern, and admiration shaped during a solid marriage of nearly 60 years.
My new friends live in a condominium with a grand piano, captivating views of Grant Park, prized books and artwork, framed photographs of family vacations, and mementos of foreign travel. But none of this abundance was what I envied. They will grow old together, I thought. I had no ill will towards them, but I wanted what they had, and that is what is called "envy."
"Jealousy" on the other hand, is when you feel the threat of losing someone, a fear you might be replaced. But since I had already lost Tommy, and it was unlikely he had found another me in his afterlife, I could scratch jealousy as the sensation that had me musing about my friends' coupled life, and my single one.
In the three-and-a-half years since my second husband died, I'd occasionally wake with the notion I wanted a new man in my life. There'd be some void, some bit of the blues, and I'd focus on finding a fella as the salve.
"A companion," I would claim to friends, "not a husband. Just someone for an occasional early dinner, theatre, and perhaps travel. And spooning." I remembered how Tommy and I would fall asleep cradled together like newborn pups.
But whenever I'd toss that notion to friends my age, or to those who witnessed the years of my caregiving of Tommy, they'd return the volley with, "Men your age are not in great shape. Why would you want to take on that burden again?"
"You're right," I'd say, recognizing that my male cohorts aren't as sturdy as their female partners. So, I'd check off, "find a guy," and sign on to multiple interests that would replace that entry.
The hiatus would hold for several months until I'd get the itch again, which led to forays on online dating sites: JDate, Our Time, and Match.com. Bright-eyed, confident, and optimistic, I'd create an honest profile, upload flattering photos, exchange a few witty conversations, meet a handful of men for coffee/lunch/dinner, and eventually flee to "Do not renew" on the membership page.
On the first two sites, I fudged my age by five years, and that brought interested would-be suitors, but none with the glue that survived beyond our first face-to-face audition.
With my latest, Match, the sign-in required my date of birth --1938 -- and instead of fibbing; I fessed up, which became part of my profile. The men in my selected age range: 72-82, appeared to have slurped from the fountain of youth, for their desired females landed in the 55-65 age group.
So now I've decided -- despite my love for all things techie -- to forgo online dating and stick to a less deliberate method of pairing up. For example, I met my first husband when I was in college and he was dating a friend of mine. He took a shine to me, my friend never spoke to me again, and our marriage lasted 30 years before we divorced.
I met Tommy in 1996 -- as the song goes -- on the street where we lived. Rather than an online profile, we easily matched when we learned we were both divorced; and loved dogs, TV, and nights at home. We became a couple after just one date. Before he died in 2012 at the age of 77, his thin brown hair was just starting to show strands of grey; his face just barely creased, and his arms freckled by the hours of golfing rather than age.
If he had lived, Tommy would likely complement my current landscape of lined brow, white hair, and beige dots. And, I'd like to think I'd adore all of his matching emblems. I'd be content seeing us both unvarnished, and blessed with the gift of growing old together -- even with its challenges and complications.
But since that is not to be, perhaps God will place a male in my path. I just hope She doesn't take too long. I worry Her script might have us meeting "cute," something like a collision of our metal walkers as we tap our way to an early bird dinner.