Seventy-two years of “going together.” Sixty-four years of marriage. Ten children, 36 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren later—88-year-old, Georgene Reynolds considers herself the richest woman alive.
How many right swipes does it take to achieve that? Is 72 years of marriage what the makers of Tinder had in mind when “Super Like” became a button?
While Reynolds didn’t meet her husband on a dating app, he did deliver a stellar opening line—“My, you’re flexible”— as they met dancing. So some things haven’t changed.
The days of meeting guys at dance halls, sock hops and roller rinks are long gone, but I wanted to know if women like Georgene had dating advice for young women.
As Reynolds told all of her children in regards to dating, “Be good and figure it out.”
As frustratingly vague as that may seem to young women trying to discover the secrets of dating, there’s a lot more insight than meets the eye.
Sure it’s not the blue print or the formulaic response I was searching for. But after speaking with Georgene and then another group of 10 women ranging in age from their sixties to nineties, I came to quickly realize no such magic, one-size fits all potion exists. Each relationship is just too uniquely different.
Not only are the relationships unique, but also the generations in and of themselves qualify as a classic case of comparing apples and oranges.
Scratch that. It’s beyond apples and oranges. It’s more like apples and kumquats. Still in the fruit family, but an altogether different palette, continent of origin and level of exoticism.
Just comparing primetime television from then and now starts to give a bit of perspective into the cultural transformations that have occurred.
“We just didn’t know as much about sex. There was no TV like there is today. Now even 12 and 13-year-olds know it all,” a woman within the retirement community explained.
And while the discussions concerning sex were more or less hush-hush, the women explained “the sexual end of things used to be a big catalyst to get married. Now it’s gone because the sexual ins-and-outs of relationships are looser.”
Tack on an increase in higher education and career opportunities for women and it makes sense why getting married immediately after high school is no longer the norm.
As Georgene explained, past the age of 25 a woman used to be considered an old maid. Today a 25-year-old is just getting started.
While pillars like culture and education were much different, even details like the environments in which people meet have shifted.
A gleeful smile was across the face of the woman who shared how she met her husband while working as a grocer.
“A public place of work is a great place to meet people. You see them with their mothers, with their families. When you get caught up in the bar scene, it can get very dissatisfying very quickly.”
On the topic of mothers another woman quickly chimed in with, “If a boy loves his mother, you’ll be treated like mother was.”
(Note to self.)
Generally speaking, whether it was a one-on-one, group or blind date the women believed their era was greatly different in terms of safety and level of comfort.
“We didn’t have to worry as much. It was safer,” the women explained. “Walking home was not as dangerous, and men were not as aggressive.”
After years of seeing negative newscasts regarding the dangers of meeting people online, it’s easy to understand why one would develop a hesitation about dating apps and websites. But for all the negatives, these women have witnessed positives as well, citing couples they know that have had success with the sites.
As one woman pointed out, the beauty of a dating site is that it allows people to sort out their values first. Remember Georgene’s nudge to “figure it out”? This suggestion of figuring out who you are and what you want first pertains to that.
The notion of values was a common theme brought up again and again by each of the women in their own way. Many spoke of the importance of a shared faith with their partner and how their aligned values acted as a backbone of their relationship.
For another woman, valuing the same activities such as traveling and dancing made for not one, but two incredible marriages, both surpassing 20 years.
Still, while finding a partner with similar values sounds straightforward, many can attest that that is easier said then done. There’s no copy and paste button to transfer values onto a partner.
Not to mention it’s hard enough to concretely report what my favorite cereal is on any given morning, let alone rattle off my utmost prized values. As young women we are changing and growing rapidly, so it’s no surprise it’s difficult to find two people who compliment one another when their molds are still ever changing.
And considering this rapid change it’s important to keep in mind it’s OKAY if a date does not go well or if a relationship goes south. That’s what dating is for—it’s not just about finding a partner, it’s about finding yourself.
This was evident listening to another woman within the community share her experience of being married three times. While the memories were emotional to share, she explained how when she was younger her more timid personality kept her from making waves when she was mistreated in her first marriage.
The other women were taken aback in disbelief knowing this woman for the opinionated, bold individual she is today. Just because a relationship fails does not mean you have failed. You grow. You learn. You become stronger.
For all the tips and nuggets of wisdom I heard from these women one phrase was heard particularly loud and clear—“Meeting the right person is often times a matter of luck.”
If I hadn’t already given up on digging up a magical 5-step plan, this was the nail in the coffin. Luck! Centuries upon centuries of people have searched for love.
We have developed modern medicine.
We have landed on the moon.
We have the World Wide Web where most answers to conundrums are a Google away.
But when it comes to love, we are still rolling dice.
That’s why I think Georgene had it right in her simple advice of “Be good and figure it out.”
Be good to yourself and be good to others. If your heart is in the right place, that’s the first step to figuring it all out. The rest even Google can’t answer, but what fun would it be otherwise?
Image via collectors weekly