By Patrice Wynne
Originally published in The Blog on huffingtonpost.com (Feb. 10 2016)
I live in one of the most romantic towns in the world, San Miguel de Allende, and I had not had a single date since I arrived 15 years ago.
I arrived depressed, hoping to disappear into the life of an expat in Mexico, after closing my beloved independent bookstore in Berkeley and filing for divorce. By the following decade, I was Reborn on Cobblestones, the name of my memoir-in-process, a story of a woman in her 50s losing and finding herself abroad. Lost and found in Mexico.
By my sixth decade, I was happier, more energetic, healthier, and the owner of a growing homewares and clothing business with wholesale accounts all over the world and a boutique on one of San Miguel’s most charming avenues in the heart of the historic center. My life consisted of daily trips from the home I designed in the hills above San Miguel to my store, Abrazos, to meet the seamstresses, interspersed with frequent business trips to Mexico City — all companion-free.
Between work, travel, friendships and freedom, I’d stopped hoping for more. It didn’t help that I was involved in a complicated long-term relationship with a renowned American icon, nor that there was some ambiguity about my sexual preference by people in town. It took a life threatening illness, a burst appendix, to wake me up to my own desires.
I was running out of decades. And I wanted someone to share them with in this country that I’d grown to love. Months in recovery from the near death experience gave me time to compose “104 Qualities I Want In A Life Partner.” Once I started writing it, I couldn’t stop. I carried that little list everywhere, from dinners with friends to long bus trips to every bed I slept in, alone. I wrote everything down that turned me on, things I couldn’t live without and couldn’t live with, memories of great loves and observations of friend’s marital discord, profound longings and embarrassing needs. It all went on The List.
And when I couldn’t write any more I organized my list into categories: Fundamentals, Sensuality, Well Being, Spiritual Development, Character, For Me and Sharing Our Lives. When I showed the list to a friend who lived alone, she declared, “The chances of finding a man who matches that list is the same as finding a Unicorn.”
OK. Meet the Unicorn.
Years before, I’d been fascinated by a Mexican man involved with a jeweler in town. My eyes were drawn to that man: the way he leaned quietly against the stone pillars, the numerous ways he attended to her during exhibitions, his rakish, elegant, very Mexican style of dress. I knew nothing of substance about him, but he was on my mind. At the top of my List? 1. Mexican man 2. Gentleman 3. Dignified.
Three years ago the jeweler posted photos on Facebook of her wedding band collection. I wrote, “After 15 years of single San Miguel living, I’m ready to marry myself.” We met, we designed my personal wedding band, and we drank tequila late into the night in her studio. I asked about the mysterious, dashing Mexican man. “Living in Guatemala now,” she replied.
Two months later, the man from Guatemala and I are having lunch at Cafe Rama, introduced by Carolyn who knew that I was one of the few foreign women in town attracted to his kind of Mexican man. While sharing a three-hour leisurely meal and conversation, he’s describing his two-and-a-half-year bicycle journey, after retiring from law, that restored him to himself. And I’m mentally checking off the List: adventurous spirit, takes care of himself, speaks kindly of others, not a snob, lack of self pity, good listener, easy conversationalist, riotous sense of humor, touches me frequently, as passionate about Mexico as I am.
I’d met my match. Six days later he proposed.
We’d been living together less than a month when I read him The List. He panicked, thinking it was his death march. But no, it was the Magic Carpet that brought him to me, or a Great Synchronicity. I sometimes muse that we lost 10 years but he assures me. “I’m a better man now. I wouldn’t have made The List.”
We had our first big argument at a friend’s home in the country. He found me, curled in a ball on the sofa, with severe nausea. He wanted to get me home quickly but I rejected his act of love. Fiercely independent, I said in a snarky voice, “I don’t need anyone to take care of me!” “Oh, that’s too bad,” he replied kindly, “that’s what I do.”
The next morning, in his quintessential style of problem-solving with heart, he offered, “Next time I’ll ask you first what you want me to do.” I stared at him for many long minutes while, in my mind, I played a movie of my life. I saw all those years that I yearned for a man to attend to me. All those years when I wanted someone to be aware of my needs, too. All those years when I longed to be tended to as I lay sick. And I realized that standing in front of me was an attentive man offering the gift. I only needed to open my closed heart.
On The List: Not a processaholic. Perfect.
On our bedroom door hangs a quote that’s been a lifeline for coming back together through every disagreement that used to make us withdraw from previous partners. At this phase of life, in our 60s, we prefer to be happy than to be right. And we share a core belief. Since we’re running out of decades, let’s make every moment together precious, loving and delightful. The Quote? “Forgive Quickly, Kiss Slowly.”