He wore a brilliant turquoise knit shirt that emphasized his broad shoulders and barrel-like chest. There was a diamond stud in his left ear. Natural silver curls enhanced his youthful, tanned face. His name was Joe—that’s been a problematic name for me in past dating episodes. This Joe was charming.  And married.

Attraction is a funny thing.  What we look for in a partner is often not who we might be attracted to in real life. I met this man at a book reading. When he got up to read I was immediately charmed by his storytelling, his energy, the twinkle in his eye. And his story, beautifully read, interspersed with personal vignettes. If I’d passed Joe on the street I probably wouldn’t have looked twice. Yet, when he began to talk he radiated energy and intelligence. His compact body grew in stature, his smile lit up his face. I found myself leaning forward in my chair, taking in every word.

The main character in his short story was an Italian man with a history of loving women. And in that moment I understood how a woman could fall for this man—in his reading of the meeting of man and woman I wanted to be that woman. 

We had a nice chat afterwards, as he was sitting in front of me, and I asked him to sign the book. I’ll check out his website and take him up on the invitation to write after I’ve read the rest of his story. There are things I can learn from him as a writer and as a person who clearly has a zest for life. 

The other lesson for me, as a single woman, is less obvious. I wonder sometimes when I’ll meet my Mr. Right—or whether I’ll meet him at all. Maybe there will be dozens more men who cross my threshold. Or maybe there will be just the one. I’ve met more than a few divorced women who found that next husband and married quickly. It irritates me sometimes and leads to a moment of self-doubt. 

I’m not on a quest for marriage—I’m not sure what I want out of a relationship. I’m guessing other women and men my age have similar thoughts.  The longer I stay single the less inclined I am to think about marriage. 

I’ve done the dating sites, successfully and not so much so. I’ve met a couple of men recently around town, neither of those panned out. I try to be open but in yesterday’s experience I realized that my conceptualization of  ‘my’ ideal man in might be keeping me from appreciating the unexpected.

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What’s really important when we’re looking for a mate? Is it looks or something less obvious? Does wealth matter more than integrity? Do we set such rigid standards that we risk overlooking someone who could delight us—for a few minutes, a whole night or even the next 15 years? 

Dating coaches and advice givers often tell you to know what you want and then in the next breath tell you to be open to a wider range of possibilities. I do a little of both, as we all do. I don’t want to date a smoker and I won’t go out with a married man—no matter how compelling his excuses are. I would prefer highly intelligent men who aren’t eggheads, taller than me (5’7”) and well dressed. See, how easy it is to get stuck in a rigid pattern of thinking!

Knowing what turns us on emotionally, intellectually and sexually is important. No matter what we think we want, there are core values that we need in our relationships. We want someone trustworthy and respectful. From there our wants diverge as we take into account individual interests and personality. I want a man who is optimistic and open to exploring life in his later years. A sense of purpose, emotional stability, creativity, humor, and a willingness to be open to others are important to me—more than looks and money. 

Being open about our wants and open to the people around us is helpful in all aspects of relationships—romantic or otherwise. I may not have found a potential date Sunday afternoon, but for a few short minutes I was transported, seduced by words and swept away by this man named Joe. 

Walker Thornton is a writer, sex educator and public speaker, with a Masters in Educational Psychology and over 10 years experience in the field of sexual violence against women. She is a strong advocate for midlife women’s sexuality, encouraging women to ‘step into their desire’. Kinkly.com ranked her blog, WalkerThornton.com, #17 in their top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes of 2013. Walker is the Sexual Health columnist for Midlife Boulevard and writes about sex and the older adult for Kinkly.com. You can connect with her on her website (www.walkerthornton.com ), Facebook (https://facebook.com/AWomansPage )  Twitter  (http://twitter.com/WalkerThornton)  and Google+ (https://plus.google.com/u/0/+WalkerThornton/posts ).