Fifteen years without being in a relationship was more concerning to Julia than it was to Claire. After she divorced her daughter’s father, François, Claire never really dated. In all those years, she had been seeing men she met at events, but she was too driven by her career to take the time to settle with someone.
She always told her daughter that she didn’t need a man, now that she had the only good thing he could give her: a child.
Her experience with François had been draining emotionally. He was a kind man and she liked him very much, but they simply were not meant to be together. They had married too young, too excited and too blinded by the love they had for each other.
François was a scientist and Claire was a surgeon. They would barely see each other, since they were both always working. So when they came home at night and the other was there, they were happy to be together. Two to four hours a day together was not enough for them to realize that they were not in love anymore.
Then came Julia. During the first months of pregnancy, they bonded, reconnected, both excited by the baby. It went on until she turned six. Claire and François tried to make it work for her, but it wasn't long before they realized that their time together was done. They waited until she became an adult, still trying to make it work, but then they finally divorced.
They were happier now. They were still friends, so they saw each other from time to time at birthday parties. Both had very small families, so parties only happened around twice a year.
François met a woman during a business travel in Switzerland a few years after their divorce and never came back. He moved with this woman and married her. Claire went to the wedding with her daughter. She was happy that he was with a woman who really loved him. A small part of her envied him for that.
She was alone, but she never felt lonely or a victim of her solitude. She loved to travel on her own or with a friend. She never minded until she started working part time at the hospital and realized that her retirement would be long without someone special by her side. At work, she was always surrounded by people, but retired, she would never see anyone. Julia was a successful business woman and as much as she loved being with her mother, she had a life of her own.
Julia was single and afraid to get into a serious relationship. Yet, she was always telling Claire she should meet someone and get married again, but Claire didn’t want to. Her experience with François had told her that she had had enough of marriage.
“If it has to happen, it will happen,” Claire said to her daughter at the restaurant. It was her birthday and they were celebrating at her favourite place in Edinburgh. They both had moved there ten years ago, after François moved to Switzerland.
Claire had spent her childhood traveling around the world with her uncle before they settled in Paris when she was fifteen. She had lived there for most of her life and needed a change. Julia had to move to Edinburgh for work and Claire thought she could get transferred to a hospital there.
“No, you don’t say that. You need to open your eyes to the world around you. Look at me.”
Claire laughed. “Darling, I’m not sure you are the best to talk to me about long term relationships. How long did your most serious relation last?”
“I don’t know, five months when I was sixteen,” she shrugged.
“Anyway, there’s nobody interesting, especially when you’re my age. Also, who will want an old lady like me?”
“You’re not that old, you’re only seventy four.”
“Well, men that are seventy four usually are interested in women who are maximum forty years old.”
“Eww,” Julia, who had just turned forty, said.
They laughed and clicked their glasses. They always had a special connection. Things had been different between Julia and her father. It seemed they never agreed on anything, while Julia and Claire shared a mind.
“Well, dating sites could help you find the right man,” she said, taking a long sip of her drink.
Claire rolled her eyes. It wasn’t the first time Julia had talked to her about dating sites. She had been trying to create a profile for her mother for months, but she always categorically rejected the idea, saying that back in her time, people had to talk face to face, not hiding behind a screen.
“It doesn't work for you.”
“It helps me find the right men, yeah,” she shrugged. “Come on, just try it, mom!”
“What’s the worst that can happen? Tell me.”
“Well,” Claire thought, sipping her wine, “what if nobody writes to me because I’m too old? I know it already, I don't need a reminder that I have expired,” she sighed.
“Look, I'm sure there's a seventy year old man out there who wants to meet a kind, smart and sexy seventy year old woman, but if you never try you'll never find out,” Julia said. She took her mother’s hand. “If it doesn't work, it's not because you're expired, but simply because the right man for you is simply not there, waiting for you on the internet. And yes, there are assholes online, but there are also assholes in real life. Just try and if you don't like it, we’ll delete your profile!”
Claire sighed. Maybe her daughter was right after all. If she never tried, if she was closed to the outside world, she would maybe miss her chance. “Fine.”
Julia let out a shriek of excitement, moving her hands in front of her.
“Don't get too excited. We’re only trying.”
“I know, I know.” She assured her mother. She took a sip of her drink, studying Claire’s face. She was seventy four, but she didn't look like it. Her hair was still dark and curly, with a few silver locks. Her whisky eyes were alive and alert, round and ready to learn new things everyday. Her skin was glowing and her body looked ten years younger. Working part time at the hospital helped her stay in shape. She had only one weakness: she enjoyed drinking alcohol. Martinis and glasses of rosé were often an option after a long day, but when she reached sixty and saw that her body would betray her if she kept her old habits, she started drinking only once or twice a week. She was a gorgeous woman and Julia was happy to look like her, to have her round lips and curly hair. She hoped that when she’s her mother’s age, she'll be full of life like her.
When they got home, Julia opened her mother’s laptop while Claire poured them another glass of wine. Tonight was her birthday, there were no rules or restrictions.
“So?” Claire asked, sitting next to her daughter on the couch, handing her the glass.
“Well, I’ve entered your phone number so your account is created.”
“Sea of Love,” Claire read the site’s name, smirking. “Cute.”
“So, name: Claire Beauchamp,” she typed. “Age: 69.”
“Sixty nine?” The Englishwoman exclaimed. “We can't lie!”
“I thought you said you didn't want people to reject you because of your age!” Julia lifted her hands in the hair.
“No, but I won't lie about it either! I'm not ashamed to say my age. Why? Do you lie about your age on dating sites?”
“No…” Julia chuckled.
Her mother eye sided her. “That's not how I raised you.”
In her head, she chuckled. The situation was ridiculous. She was maybe a little drunk, creating an account on a dating site. When she thought about it, she had to admit that the thought had crossed her mind more than once. She wouldn't admit to anyone, not even to herself, but she had considered the option when she met a man and didn't feel any connection. It was tiring and she was too old for this shit.
“So I'll write that you are an Englishwoman based in Scotland, because it's very important. You don't want to scare them off on the first date when they hear your accent.”
Claire looked over her daughter’s shoulder as she created the account. As she read the text Julia was writing, she felt tears veil her eyes, touched to learn what her daughter thought of her.
Both of them were not very expressive of their love for people in general. They loved each other very much, but hugs and ‘I love yous’ were not how they told each other these things.
Adventurous woman who traveled the world, studied at medical school in Paris. Works part time at the hospital and spends the rest of the time with her cat.
“Don’t talk about my cat! What do you think I'll sound like? I'm not a crazy cat lady.”
“Well, I can't not talk about your cat! You love it more than you love your own daughter.”
Claire rolled her eyes. “Oh, please!”
They both looked up at the Persian grey cat looking over at them from the opposite couch.
“Alright, no talk about the cat, then,” she sighed, erasing that part of the text.
Works part time at the hospital and spends the rest of the time reading and traveling.
“That's better,” Claire smiled. “I look like a real classy woman.”
“That, you are.”
They completed the first part of the profile. Claire was started to get excited by this. It was a new experience, an experimentation, and she felt like she was doing something rebellious, crossing a line she had drawn in her life.
“Now, what do look for in a man?”
“He has to be a feminist,” Claire said. “I was not president of the feminist and anti-patriarchy committee in High School for nothing. He has to be open to the world and love Bette Davis’ movies.”
Julia looked over at her. “Mom… Something more… I don't know, general? You can talk about your love for the silver screen on the first date, but maybe not here.”
Claire sighed. “Well… What do I look for in a man? Clean teeth and fresh breath. No hair in the nose.”
“Eww, come on! You can't write something like that! Just let me,” Julia said. She sounded annoyed, but she was actually smirking.
Looking for a gentleman who shares my passion of traveling and reading. A man interested in different cultures and politics.
“Oh no, not politics,” Claire said.
“You are obsessed with politics.”
“Maybe, but I don't want that in a man. No, say a man who stands for his opinion.”
Julia smiled, typing her mother’s words. “You sound like a real snob.”
“I'm not a snob!” Claire pretended to be offended. Julia liked to mock her mother’s British snobiness.
“Now, we gotta find the perfect profile picture that will show off all your assets.”
“Not all, we want to keep a surprise for the first date,” Claire joked.
“I imagine you don't have pictures in your laptop.”
“No, they're in my room! Give me a minute.”
Claire walked up the stairs to her bedroom and came back a few minutes later with boxes of pictures. “I think I found the right one!”
She opened a box, showing pictures in black and white, from when Claire was thirty. “Look how pretty I was!” She exclaimed. “So gorgeous.”
“Yeah, but mom, we can't put a picture from 1970! It’s 2019, for Christ’s sake!”
“1978,” Claire corrected. “And I know it's a bit old, but don't you think it shows all my assets?”
“Yes, it's a beautiful picture, but Christ it's like forty years old!”
Claire realized just how much time had passed since the picture was taken. Forty years. She was shocked once more by how fast time passed.
“And no offence, but your boobs are not as firm as when you were thirty.”
“I know,” she sighed.
Julia turned to face her mother, her hands on her shoulders. “Look, Mom. Yes, you're fucking gorgeous on this pic, but don't talk like you stopped being at forty. You are still very beautiful and I'm sure - no, I know for sure - that there is at least one actual picture in these boxes where you look as stunning as you do on this one,” she said, putting the photograph in the box.
“You really think so?”
“Of course. How many times do I have to tell you?”
Claire sighed. “I'm sorry if I'm annoying.”
“You're not,” Julia said, taking a box of pictures. “Where are your pictures from your trip to Cambodia?”
“In this box, I think.”
Julia looked at the picture from Claire’s travel with her best friend Joe, the year before. In every picture, Claire looked very happy, always smiling and her eyes shining. She really was an amazing woman.
“Look at this one,” Julia showed her a picture where Claire was standing in front of a temple. Her hair was tied in a ponytail, untamed curls escaping around her face. She was looking at the camera, a big smile on her face. She looked beautiful.
“I don't look so bad, don't I?” Claire admitted. “But I'm not sure it's the type of picture you use for a dating profile?”
“No, it's perfect.”
They finished creating her profile and Claire realized that she was proud of the woman she had become. Looking back at her achievements, she couldn't help but smile. If a man was not interested in her, then it was his loss.
“I'll probably regret this tomorrow,” she chuckled.
“Probably,” Julia admitted. “But not the day after. And you try it and if it doesn't work, it's fine.”
Claire let out a sigh. It was very late and all this excitement had drained her. “Thank you for helping me. I couldn't have done this on my own.”
“I know,” Julia smiled. Her eyes were small and Claire saw that she was tired too. It was late and they had drank a lot of wine.
“Why don't you stay here for the night? It's getting late. I don't want you to drive back home, especially with all the wine you've had.”
“I'm too tired to decline,” she admitted.
They got ready for bed and Claire went to visit her daughter in the guest bedroom. Julia was already asleep. She kissed her daughter’s forehead. Before leaving her room, she looked at her and thought of François in Switzerland. She was truly happy for him, that he had found the one even at an old age. She hoped soon it would be her turn.
The morning after, Claire was in the kitchen, making pancakes when Julia walked down the stairs. Her hair was a mess like her mother’s. She yawned and sat by the counter. “Mm… It smells so good, what are you doing? Crepes?”
“Pancakes,” Claire said, serving her some coffee.
“Thank you,” Julia said and sipped the burning beverage. “So? Did you check the site? Any valentines write to you yet?”
“I didn't check and I won't for the day.”
“Aren't you curious?” Julia smiled.
“I am, but I don't want to look too… Hungry for attention, checking too often.”
She put a pancake in her daughter’s plate and sat next to her. “Are you busy today? I need to go to IKEA.”
“I'll never say no to a chance to go at IKEA. And we can eat the donuts afterwards!”
“I thought you were doing a diet?” Claire asked, taking a bit of her pancake.
“I am, but not this weekend.”
They finished their breakfast and got ready to go at IKEA. They spent the day shopping around town and came back at time for supper. Julia had to leave, because she was working early the day after, but before, she wanted her mother to check Sea of Love. “It's been long enough,” she said.
With a sigh, Claire sat at the kitchen counter and opened her laptop. She pretended she didn't care, but she was actually excited, feeling a strange knot in her belly at the idea that someone might have written to her. She knew she would probably end up being disappointed, but she had hope.
“You have a notification!” Julia exclaimed.
Claire couldn't help but smile. She clicked on the notification and her breath was caught in her throat at the sight of the man who had written to her.
“O. M. G.,” Claire whispered, blinking several times to make sure she wasn't dreaming. “O. M. G.”
“What? What's wrong?”
Julia looked over her shoulder. “Oh, he's cute.”
“I know him,” Claire looked at her daughter. She could see the shock on her face.
“You know him? James Fraser,” she read over a shoulder. “How?”
“He was my first love,” Claire smiled, tears veiling her eyes.