My local congregation announced a church dance near Valentine’s Day, for adults. I serve on the committee that plans and executes our church activities. Mostly the chair couple does the planning, and I help set up and take down. “I’ll be there to help you set up for the dance,” I offered to the chairman. “But I will not be attending.” He did not quite know what to make of me, so I explained. “As an older single man, I will not feel comfortable at a romantic dance for married couples.” And I was not about to spend the evening standing against the wall like a terrified teen. I have wondered how I ought to describe myself in conversations like these, and “older single man” seemed accurate and adequate. “Middle-aged divorced man,” would have done fine, too, but sounded stiff and stilted. For several hours I helped the committee set up chairs and tables and decorate and string high lines from which we hung glow sticks and vinyl records (the theme was “dancing through the decades,” with a playlist of old classics to match). When 7:30 rolled around, I could not help but think of who had come to the dance, and whether they were having fun—I hoped so. Mom and Dad and I enjoyed a dinner of steamed buttered vegetables—cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, butternut squash—while we watched Jimmy Chin’s documentary about the Thai youth soccer team stranded for two weeks without food miles inside an inundated cave, their oxygen dwindling, and about the group of middle-aged unmarried men, the best in the world at their solitary sport, who focused their feelings and faculties and did the impossible and brought every boy out alive.
(Image from thetimes.co.uk, used pursuant to the Fair Use Doctrine.)