First-date etiquette; talkin' too much

Everybody's talkin;' nobody's listenin'

Shannon, 51, an Orange County, California, divorcee of nine years, prefers to date men her age, but she finds getting past the first date challenging.

"Do you have any insight into why older men want to talk about themselves until they are blue in the face?" Shannon asked.

She explained: "Men around 50 or older feel compelled to tell their entire life story in the first meeting. It will last for more than two hours of their steady one-sided conversation. Last night, the gentleman went on and on about his grandmother's knee cartilage deterioration from the 1970s.

"This happens to me pretty much every time I am with a middle-aged man. The stories go on until I am mentally exhausted. When I excuse myself early just to get a break, I always hear the same thing, 'I feel like I could talk to you for hours. What was your name again?''

"These men appear to be functioning and stable otherwise, but seem to have just arrived from solitary confinement and want to talk endlessly."

"So far, I have never accepted a second date. I am just too drained. Why would they not prefer a two-sided conversation?"

When I asked Shannon if it was okay to use her first name, she said "Absolutely! I don't think any of the men would remember my name, even if we were in the same room.

Shannon added, "There is so little (conversational exchange) on both the male and female side that everybody's talking and nobody's listening."

Shannon's comment made me think of words from Harry Nilsson's 1969 song Everybody's Talkin' from the movie Midnight Cowboy:

"Everybody's talkin' at me; I can't hear a word they're saying."

It's not just men who don't "get it," that being good listeners and conversationalists are endearing dating qualities. Women can drone on too long as well.

My friend George had a blind date with a new divorcee. As they were sipping wine, supposedly getting to know each other, George observed that the divorcee couldn't stop talking about her ex-husband Harry.

George said she kept repeating, "Harry did this; Harry did that."

"She never asked about me. I could have left the table and she wouldn't have noticed I was gone," George said.

Instead of leaving, he summoned the bartender, "Three more glasses of wine."

"Why the third glass?" The divorcee asked.

"There's one for each of us and one for Harry. You've talked about him so much; I feel I know him as a friend. If he comes walking through the door and pulls up a chair, I want him to feel welcome," George said.

He added that the comment went right over her head; she resumed talking. They did not go out again.

Advice to singles who talk endlessly on first dates: You will get more second dates if you zip your lips and engage your date in conversation. Besides, it's just plain-old, middle-aged dating etiquette.

© 2010, Tom Blake

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Tom Blake is an expert on dating after 50. He has appeared twice on the "Today Show" and has written more than 500 columns on dating and relationships. His "Single Again" column appears in The Orange County Register in southern California, is read worldwide and is often featured on msn.com. He is a professional speaker. He spoke at the national AARP convention in San Diego in 2002, and in Chicago. His book, Middle Aged and Dating Again, is a humorous account of his first year of dating after his third divorce. His second book is Finding Love After 50: How to begin, where to go, what to do. His latest book is titled How 50 Couples Found Love after 50. To ask a question or receive Tom's free weekly column on middle-age dating and relationships by e-mail, click on www.findingloveafter50.com or E-Mail.

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