Look – We gotta have a sense of humor about this.  Some of us (like me) find ourselves in positions we never envisioned.  When in my early 30’s, I couldn’t imagine being one of those people who was saddled with a husband and kids and living in a suburb.  And then I hit 38.  I suddenly realized that my clock was ticking and I had no prospects.  No prospects and I wanted a kid (I think) but wasn’t really sure I could handle it.  I felt like life was passing me by and I was destined to become a single, crazy cat-lady.  But since I’m allergic to cats it would have to be dogs.

And you know what they say about people starting to look like their dogs.

I never planned on being a 40-something, childless, never-married kind of gal.  But nevertheless, that was me just three years ago.

I read about a hundred books about meeting men and dating over 40.  Not sure it helped in a direct sort of way, but I would say I gained some perspective.  If nothing else, the sheer fact that so many books are written on the subject gave me a feeling of belonging… at least I wasn’t alone in this.  Other people have been in this lonely “never-married” club.  Why is it that this is such an embarrassing thing to say about oneself?  The immediate reaction of most people is, “what’s wrong with her/him?”  Even if they don’t say it out loud, the look on their face says it just as clearly as words.  I’ve seen it many times.  I was talking to a friend who moved here from Europe when she was in her 20’s.  She says that social standard just doesn’t seem to exist over there.  Perhaps it’s a carry-over from America’s puritanical roots or just a narrative made up by the media or religion.  Whatever the reason, this expectation to get married is very much alive.  It seems that without this rite of passage, a person is labeled as being unworthy or somehow damaged in such a way that no one would want to marry him/her.  And even more disturbing than that, despite my aversion to this way of thinking and the fact that I was in that very position for many years, even I secretly held that belief which caused me to feel unlovable and unworthy.  That’s pretty f’d up.

I’m happy to say that despite my feelings of unlovability, I kept putting myself out there and going on dates.  I went to meetups alone, did speed-dating, and went on about a million internet dates.  I got pretty good at it.  And then one day, he walked into my life.  I broke my usual rule of only doing coffee for the first date so I had an easy escape route if needed.  I didn’t want the pressure of eating a two-hour dinner together and then going through the awkwardness of paying (if he pays, do I “owe” him something?  Will he expect that?  Should we go dutch?  Ugh).  But I went ahead and said yes to dinner with this one and we met up at PF Changs.  The second date was to a play and dinner afterwards.  Then we were off to the races.

I don’t necessarily believe you need a specific guide to find a mate, but there are things a single lady should definitely try on for size.  I for one loved speed-dating.  It was so much easier than I thought.  It’s really the men who struggle since they think they are the ones who have to do all the impressing. I didn’t feel like a loser because everyone there was in the exact same position as me.  I just came prepared with one or two interesting questions and that’s all I needed to get the conversation going.

Internet dating is also pretty much the standard these days.  There are so many sites to choose from.  And what I found is that many of the sites had the same people on them.  So I eventually figured out that I don’t need to be paying for access to the “good ones”.  Those same guys were on the free ones, too.  In fact, I met my fiancé on a free one.  So no matter what your age, it’s definitely worth your while to try it out.  The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find the right one for you.

And there are some great books out there, too.  The ones I like don’t condescend or make you feel like a loser for being single.  And they tend to stay away from call-backs to “The Rules” (which I find to be a very manipulative way to go about dating) in favor of a more positive and practical approach.  One in particular is called Keys to the Kingdom (Alison Armstrong) which tells the story of a woman whose marriage is in trouble.  It’s a short book and is essentially a parable, teaching women how to be in long-lasting relationships with men.  I recommend this one for its sweet message and authenticity.

Another great one is How Not to Stay Single After 40 (Nita Tucker).  Yes I know; the title is a little too “on the nose”, but I like how it really gets to the point and gives practical advice about making it happen for yourself instead of waiting for Mr. Right.  The writer’s position is that it’s basically just a numbers game.

So here I am… 43 and engaged and will be getting married in a few months.  It still feels a little unreal to me.  I had a child with this man last year and I love him very much, but oddly, the marriage part seems like the real commitment.  Having a child that ties us together for life?  No problem.  It’s the piece of paper that has me spooked.

So now I’m in the midst of wedding planning and it seems like a young woman’s game.  I find myself asking questions like ‘Am I too old to wear a big fancy wedding gown?’ and ‘Should I really go all-out on an expensive wedding at my age?’  ‘Maybe it’s best to have a small affair.’  But what I really want is a big affair and a big, fancy dress.  So damn it, that’s what I’m doing.  I hired a string trio for Christ’s sake.  Because I’m older and work hard for my money, I feel especially irresponsible spending lots of it on a single day.  But I also think I deserve a day to remember.  So here goes nothin’.

Okay.  So now what do I do?  I don’t want to spend a fortune on a wedding planner but I was starting to freak out about coordinating the details of this event.  I pretty much have all the pieces in place, but there are bound to be hiccups and last minute decisions that need to be dealt with and I won’t be able to handle all that on the big day.

I can’t imagine having to talk to the rental company about the chairs arriving an hour late or god knows what else while I’m getting my hair and makeup done.  Nightmare.

Then I discovered this great new thing… a day-of coordinator.  Hats off to whoever thought up this brilliant idea.  Their level of involvement ranges, but generally they get involved just a week or two prior to the event and deal with the vendors so that you don’t have to worry on the “day-of”.  Genius.  So I went and hired one of these fabulous people and immediately I felt the weight drop off my shoulders.  The prices range as well, but generally they work for about $500 – $3000.  Just depends on how much you want them to do.  Do yourself a favor and hire one of these people.

The rest of it is just making a list of the major things and then crossing them off the list one by one.  The heavy hitters and the things you want to book immediately:  Venue.  This is number one and generally the date of the wedding depends completely on the availability of the venue so do this first.  Then its caterer, photographer, DJ or band, save the date cards (if you’re doing those).  Set yourself up on The Knot – a website that will give you and your fiancé a unique website address so all your invitees can look up the details.  The rest of the stuff can be decided later on (hair, makeup, officiant, rentals, flowers, decorations).

So that’s my two cents.  Best of luck finding your ‘finally’ man, like I did.  Totally worth the wait.