In my thirties, at an age when many of my friends felt their lives were just beginning, I felt mine was over. I was a man who had found love at a young age, got married in my early twenties, and thought I had the perfect life. I was a rock critic who got to spend every waking moment listening to the music I loved, living with another writer who shared all this music and joy with me. It all changed abruptly, when she died suddenly, in May 1997. Without her, everything was different.
When I started dating again, after three lonely years as a widower, I learned that I did not know much about how to be a boyfriend. Let me rephrase that. I knew nothing about how to be a boyfriend. I have no idea why I was so shocked about that – after all, I'd spent my twenties married. But I was devastated to learn that (brace yourself for a surprise) starting a new relationship is hard. Being a boyfriend is much, much harder for me than being a husband. There isn't even much overlap in the skill set.