One thing Netflix’s show “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” doesn’t cover is how to date when you are a 46-year-old woman, twice divorced, and recovering from abdominal cancer with a feeding tube in your arm. This was not the first time in the past seven years that I needed the 12-hour feedings, but it was the first time I decided to date in that condition.
My 78-year-old mother, Theresa, who cared for me, called me “foolish” for being on Tinder. She wanted me to focus on recovering — not love. I rolled my eyes and decided to meet Alan, a dermatologist from Manhattan. My mom was concerned, and looking back I can see why: I weighed 85 pounds at 5-foot-7. But I wanted to feel normal again, if only for a night.
The sweater dress I wore camouflaged the catheters. We met at a hotel near my Manhattan apartment. My mom watched me walk to the hotel, worried I might collapse.
Alan, a rotund, 42-year-old, was at the bar, having just ordered appetizers to share. I explained I had eaten dinner and ordered a pinot noir. He asked me questions about my life as the room began to spin.
When I said something funny, he hit my arm, right where the catheter was. Then he did it again, and a third time. Finally, I said, “Ouch, I hurt myself working out yesterday. Be careful.” He questioned, “You aren’t one of those skinny girls addicted to working out, are you?”
I told him I was naturally thin.
He attempted to feed me the zucchini and ricotta salata appetizer, saying, “We need to put some meat on those bones.”
Laughing, I excused myself and went to the bathroom. In the mirror I saw my face, eyes sunken, lips cracked. I wondered what he must have been thinking.
Seeming oblivious to the fact that I was on the verge of passing out, he spoke about his dermatology practice and beach house on Long Island. About two hours in, I felt my body giving out. He walked me home. At my door, he hugged me and said, “Please take care of yourself.” I never saw Alan again, but I was grateful for his affection.
I walked into my apartment crying, but also feeling a sense of normalcy. Two hours in the company of a man was something I hadn’t had in several months. I hooked myself up to my feeding tube as I lay down in my bed with my mom beside me. We talked like two schoolgirls about boys until I fell asleep, happy for the first time in a long time. I proved to myself that it didn’t matter what I looked like, I was still me on the inside.
I no longer need intravenous feedings, but I’m still looking for love. With my mom’s blessing.
Liz Montgomery is a psychiatric nurse who is working on a novel.