When a marriage is over, decisions have to be made. Whether by divorce, death or other means, the end is met with a tangle of emotion and eventually a question about the future.
What comes next?
Pauline Lavallee and Annemarie Kinsky were in that same situation recently. Lavallee is divorced, and Kinsky is widowed. Both had been married 30-plus years. And suddenly they were single.
The two friends weren't interested in staying home alone. They wanted to go out. They wanted to date. They wanted to be around people their own age in their same situation. So, they started Suddenly Single, a social group aimed at singles ages 55 to 70. They plan to meet regularly to get drinks, go on outings and socialize. And, if a couple hits it off, all the better.
The group is supposed to be fun. But in a way, it's therapeautic. They know there are other people like them. They're not alone.
Lavallee and Kinsky, both Hilton Head Island residents, discuss what it's like being suddenly single.
Kinsky: You have to start over. I realized I've never met someone on Hilton Head who's single. There's only couples. It seems like everybody's married in the plantation.
It's hard to go out with a couple because I feel like I'm a third wheel. Even spur-of-the-moment stuff, like a concert. Before you'd see it in the paper and say to your spouse, "Let's go." Now you have to find someone to go and plan ahead and all this.
Lavallee: You have to avoid becoming isolated. You can do that easily and you lose interest in life.
Back into the dating life
Kinsky: I tried to think back to college and how I met men. But it's so different. Back then everyone's single, and everyone's looking. You're more open to what you're looking for. Now it's much more narrow.
You bring a lot of history with you. You're set in your ways. You have your interests. There's a certain expectation of conduct and manners.
Now you go out and you pay your own way. Totally different. If you haven't dated in eons, things can surprise you.
Trying online dating
Lavallee: Through some of these sites, we discovered there's a good number of single men on the island.
It's funny, some of the stories you get. Some of these guys they put up photos of themselves from the '60s or '70s. That's great, but what do you look like now? Or they put themselves in with a group of friends, and you have to guess.
I met this one guy. He said he was 64. I first looked at him in person and thought, that's not true. He finally came out with it. "I'm not 64, I'm 69."
Kinsky: It really depends on the person. You can meet a young 69 or old 69. But to lie about it makes no sense. Eventually it will come out.
Lavallee: Everyone's insecure. A man says bring your bathing suit, it's like a stab in the heart. It's like you're 13 again. It's not just the women; it's the men, too.
A first date after 30 years
Lavallee: I had my first date. I was a wreck. What do I wear? What do I talk about? It's difficult. You're nervous.
Kinsky: With a spouse, you have history. You have things to talk about. You know the same people. If you have children, you talk about them. It's different with someone you don't know.
Starting Suddenly Single
Kinsky: We wanted our social life back. I think that's what we really miss. I didn't have single friends until Pauline got divorced.
Lavallee: Many people find in their 50s and 60s that they're starting over socially. It's daunting. But there's a lot of people in the same situation. That's why we started the group.
Kinsky: You have to adjust.
Lavallee: I have to hire a handyman now (laughs).
Kinsky: That honey-do list is gone. It's all adjusting to being single.