Middle-Age
Relationships
Archive
2003

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 will speak at the AARP convention in Chicago this September. His book, Middle Aged and Dating Again, is a humorous account of his first year of dating after his third divorce. His new book, Finding Love After 50: How to begin, where to go, what to do, is hot off the press. 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

Beware of Buffalo
Decidng to Marry in 3 Days
Finding Love After 50: holiday questions for older singles
Finding Love in Chicago
For men, sex needs to be more than just taking a pill
For Singles, Now is the time to prepare for the holidays
How Tom Met Greta
How to tackle talking on first dates
If your spouse has Alzheimer's, is dating okay?
In Dating, Trust Your Instincts
It's all in the attitude
A Long-Distance Relationship That Worked
Readers from Chile to Glastonbury to Heidelberg
Remembering a special woman
Single men’s advice to single women
Single Readers Discuss the Challenges They Face
Singles' Survey Reveals Dating Information
Stop Blaming Others
10 Principles to Improve Your Relationships
A Tribute to Johnny Cash
A very, very Romantic Thanksgiving
Was Joe Monge right or wrong?
When Approaching Men, What Words should Women Use?
When older people date, who pays?
Where are the Men?
Will your lover stand by you in difficult times?
Your High School or College Reunion
See
Books, Issues

Stop Blaming Others


In the last three columns, we’ve shared exciting experiences and disappointments of single adults. Naivety and blame were often attached as explanations.

Comments like “The guy was a jerk. He stayed at my house and lived off me for weeks without paying for anything.”

Or, “He told me he was in great demand and wanted me to be the lucky one. He was in demand alright—by the sheriff.”

Or, “She lied. Her photo was 20 years old and she didn’t mention she was six foot five. I'm five feet five.”

Why do intelligent adults get caught up in these hurtful and often ridiculous situations?

Are we naïve because we’ve been out of the dating scene for so many years? Does loneliness cloud our decisions? Do we trust too much? Do we ignore our instincts or not listen to our friends, who say “This guy or situation is too good to be true?”

Some of the problems stem from the Internet. Sarah Lee, Indianapolis, says, “The web is so wide open, how do we know the person we think is single isn’t married? Go lightly, you can tell a lot by reading between the lines, given time.”

Jan Phillips, Tustin, Ca., says, “The Internet is never a substitute for face-to-face relationships, it’s just another source to meet people and like all sources, there’s a need to weed out relationships that don’t work.”

Jan’s right, even face-to-face encounters need scrutiny, as we learn from the following story.

A Florida woman agreed to be a bridge partner of a widower of five months. Then, the widower asked her to help him make some changes to his home. Then, they started to date.

The widower told her his marriage had been unfulfilling for the final ten years and he was ready for a new relationship. He asked her to marry him after three dates. She thought it was too soon for him but rationalized that he was ready. They married in less than a year.

She didn’t realize she’d made a mistake until the honeymoon. You read me right, the honeymoon. He scheduled a trip to Aruba, without consulting her. Only problem, the destination had been his wife’s favorite island. He showed his new wife all of the places he and his deceased wife had enjoyed together, including the spot on the beach where they’d made love. Can you imagine? “Is was right here on the sand, honey.” Isn’t that romantic?

From there, the marriage went down hill. There were little things she discovered—like his impotence and his making her pay for everything. Eventually, he told her he had never loved her.

She wonders why his friends didn’t warn her about him. And yet she admits she likely wouldn’t have listened anyway. She asks, “Why didn’t I raise more questions and why was I so trusting?”

The Rev. Carmela Vuoso-Murphy, Boonton, NJ, said, “People need to take responsibility for the ‘issues’ they bring to a relationship. How many people are aware and honest about what’s going on within them and what they want? The answers lie within, not in someone else.”

Alla Johnson, formerly of Yoshka-Ola, Republic of Mari-El, Russia, now living in the Washington, D.C. area, says, “There’s an old Russian saying: Don’t blame the mirror if your face is crooked.”

Singles need to stop blaming others and being naïve. For only they are responsible for their actions.

Reader Comments:

Pat, Little Rock: “Wanted to let you know how much I enjoy the newsletter. I’m 57, recently divorced and would like to find a single guy or gal near my age who likes to scuba dive. It’s great fun, but I need a diving buddy. Most dive vacations are priced and contingent on double occupancy.” Response: Do you scuba in the Lake of the Ozarks? A newsletter reader is a diver in Laguna Beach, Ca., maybe he’ll respond.

Jeanne, Corona del Mar, Calif., “Just subscribed to your newsletter. I’m a young 70, but scared to venture out into the dating world. I’d just like to meet someone to share movies or dinner. Dutch treat!” Response: Wow, that Dutch treat part might pull a couple of guys out of the woodwork.

Important new book: “Powerful Mate Syndrome: Reclaiming Your Strength When Your Partner is the Star of the Relationship.” Written by Angela Wilder, former wife of Lakers star James Worthy. Recommended highly if you're in a relationship with a powerful mate.

A very, very Romantic Thanksgiving


Peter Cohn and Barbara Bloom of Petaluma, Calif., entered my life five years ago, shortly after I started dating Greta, Peter's sister.

They've been a couple for 23 years--since they met in 1980. Both are in their mid-50s. I was curious why they had never married, but didn't ask because it was none of my business.

They are caring, considerate and thoughtful-loved by family and friends. I've the utmost respect for them and the way they treat each other. I treasure our friendship.

Because their families live in Southern California, they usually come south for holidays. Peter is known as "the pie guy," always surprising the families with a half dozen freshly-baked pies. Trying to guess what kind of pies Peter is bringing is a part of the holiday dining tradition with Greta's family.

Last Thanksgiving, in San Clemente, Peter and Barbara announced they would like to have the 2003 Thanksgiving meal at their home in Petaluma. They promised it would be "memorable." So, this year, 48 family members and friends converged on Petaluma. Most drove, some flew, all from afar.

Four came From Salt Lake City; two each from Palm Springs, Encinitas and Oceanside; three from San Clemente; four from San Juan Capistrano and 30 from Long Beach.

Tables were set throughout their home, including on their outdoor deck, which was enclosed by a white catering tent.

Before the meal, we all gathered under the tent for grace; Barbara emphasized the dessert would be "historical." I figured that meant no pies, but something more exotic like baked Alaska or flaming cherries jubilee-something whoop-de-do-ish.

After the main course, before the "historical" dessert, Peter and Barbara disappeared upstairs, which was a bit out of character, but no one thought much about it.

I saw them reappear holding hands-Peter dressed in a suit and tie, Barbara in a beautiful floral dress. They were grinning ear to ear. Something was up.

And then, guests were summoned into the dining room. I thought, perhaps for a Thanksgiving toast, a pronouncement of family love and the unveiling of the "historic" dessert.

Peter and Barbara faced each other and took each other's hands. The music of "Here Comes the Bride" started to play. Puzzled eyes and glances darted about the room. What the heck was going on?

In front of 50 of the most surprised Thanksgiving guests in all of Sonoma County, including Peter's five siblings, they exchanged wedding vows and rings.

When nice things happen to people you love, tears flow. There wasn't a dry eye in the place, including mine.

There Peter and Barbara stood, loved so dearly by the people in that room, confirming marriage vows, which they had actually exchanged in June, and kept secret until that special moment. The only people who knew were her parents and her son and his wife.

I asked Peter and Barbara why they decided to marry after 23 years. Both agreed "it was simply the right time." Each said they were marrying their best friend and admitted an awareness of their mortality influenced them.

The "historical" dessert was a white wedding cake. No one complained that the "pie guy" didn't provide his usual after-dinner treat.

Reader comments

Tom O'Keefe, Dana Point: "I don't understood men who say they can never find a date. Women are everywhere. All it takes is that special look or interest from them and then ask them out." Response: I say go for it even it they don't give you that special look.

Claudia Lucas, San Diego: "I'm 58 and wasn't actively looking (for a mate) anymore. At the Ramona, Calif., rodeo, a cowboy approached me. Our relationship is one day at a time and no rushing. My cowboy is 22 and ½ years younger than I. Both of his ex's were older than he and both of my ex's were younger than I." Response: Let us know how the age difference works out.

Mary Pat Wylie, Irvine, "Your column about your Mother and Greta brought tears to my eyes.

Finding Love After 50: holiday questions for older singles


Ah, it's the holidays again. The time of year when well-intentioned friends and family members ask questions or make comments that remind people that they're "still" single.

The comments usually come during those dreaded cocktail parties, when too many eggnogs fog brains and loosen tongues.

Six Questions

Here are six questions and comments older singles might hear and suggestions on how to respond.

"Have you found Mr. or Ms. Right yet?" is the favored zinger, which usually comes from Aunt Zelda, after her third cocktail.

When Marty Rexinger of West Hills hears that question, she simply says, "No. I'm not looking for him (and not looking for love)."

Mary Morales, Lake Forest, says, "It's never easy to explain singlehood or lack of a 'significant other' or any of those thoughtless remarks nosey people make. However, being a fairly independent lady, this has been and will always be my first response: 'Happy starts with me.'"

With a straight face, Norman Joseph, Hazel Park, Mich., says, "I got divorced for religious differences. She thought she was God and I didn't. And how does one replace God?" Norman's reply usually causes the subject to change to something other than finding love after 50.

Why aren't you married?

The next questions, "Why aren't you married?" or "Why are you still single?", are usually asked by people close to us--who feel they can get away with such intrusions--or by people themselves in miserable marriages.

Sharon Ashford of Bloomington, Ind., says her favorite reply comes from the book, "Kiss My Tiara," which is, "I'm dating somebody married, does that count?"

When Carole Gould, Garden Grove, hears either of those two questions, she says she's tempted to reply, "So, why are you still married?"

"Prying questions can be sidestepped with a little humor, a giggle, a twinkle in your eye, it keeps 'em guessing and adds to your mystique," said Carole.

"Plastics"

And then there's your dad's business partner--Mr. Robinson--who's at the cocktail party and oiled to the gills. Instead of saying, "Plastics," he whispers, "I've got a year's supply of Viagra--care to share?-if you know what I mean."

When his wife happens by, you casually mention, "Your husband just told me he has a year's supply of Viagra."

The wife says, "He does?"

Comments about, how easy dating must be, suggest to older singles that they're doing something wrong or not trying hard enough to find love.

"I can't believe women aren't falling at your feet," is what John Mauger, Westminster, hears from friends. John says, "It's easiest to reply, 'I'm having fun,' and leave it at that. That seems to satisfy them."

Janet Mariani, of Dallas, added, "People think (available) guys/women are hanging out on every street corner, ha!"

And the ultimate ugly comment, "You aren't getting any younger." usually comes from a relative who isn't exactly a spring chicken herself. In fact, she might look like a dead chicken. Candy Caldwell, Mission Viejo, says, "Those people inferring that I have the problem, actually have the problem--they need to get a life!"

Amen, Candy. Anyone for another eggnog?

Reader Comments

Nancy and Steve Turner, Dana Point: "My wife and I were surprised to read about your Veteran's Day trip to the Syrah restaurant in Santa Rosa. For my wife's birthday, we are headed to Santa Rosa for another meal at Syrah!" Response: As you have already experienced, you're in for a treat.

Katrina Soto, Dana Point, "Last week's column was especially touching. You have truly found the secret of life and happiness: true, strong, loving relationships with people." Response: Once in a while, this column needs to remind us all of the importance of love.

For Singles, Now is the time to prepare for the holidays


The holidays can be depressing for singles who are alone with no place to go, or who have no one to say "Thanks" with on Thanksgiving, or share an eggnog with on Christmas, or hug on New Year's Eve.

But, the holidays don't have to be depressing and lonely if you start planning now. Make a commitment to turn this holiday season into the best you can make it.

Get off the couch, out of the house and do things with people. Be friendly and approachable.

"Have a holiday party for a few single friends-doesn't have to be a big blowout. Invite both ladies and gents, if possible. Nice music, tasty food and good conversation helps ease the loneliness," says Mary Morales, Lake Forest, Calif.

"Accept invitations that come your way, even if it means going solo. You might just have a good time and won't know until you go," added Mary.

"Get tickets to holiday events--now. Take a friend or go alone," says Janet Mariani, of Dallas. "It'll get you in the holiday mood."

As singles, it's easy to feel sorry for ourselves over the holidays. But this holiday season--more so than in many years-there is a great need to help others less fortunate than we.

There are many families of servicemen and servicewomen who will be alone while their loved ones are on foreign soil. Invite them into your home.

I remember vividly-during the Cuban missile crisis, when I was a young Navy man alone in southern California, waiting to be deployed--being invited on Thanksgiving Day into a family's home for dinner. I still make it a point every Thanksgiving Day to think about them and their kind gesture.

And now, with all of the natural disasters that have happened lately-the floods back East, the fires in the West-there will be hundreds of people who would appreciate being invited to share a holiday meal with you. Contact the Red Cross, they know where help is needed.

Or volunteer to help serve holiday meals to the needy at missions and soup kitchens near where you live. Take a single friend with you.

Or volunteer at nursing and rest homes by visiting the elderly who have nobody coming to see them. You'll lift their hearts and spirits--and your heart as well. Take small gifts like plants or other simple items. Again, ask a single friend to join you.

Volunteering is a great way for singles to make a positive contribution through the holidays, and to feel good about themselves after the holidays are over.

Watch your local newspapers for holiday event listings. Many are free and you'll find a festive atmosphere.

Immerse yourself into helping others. Start planning now. And come January, you'll likely feel so good about what you did, you might continue your efforts throughout next year.

"Making a plan of action always helps me feel I'm the one who directs my destiny. Don't wait for someone else to make you happy," added Mary Morales.

And, of course, through it all, you will meet a great group of people who believe in giving of themselves, and who knows, you just may meet someone who thinks you're pretty darned special also.

So get your planning in gear now.

Reader Comments

Burl Estes, Mission Viejo, "I gave your "Finding Love After 50" book to my girlfriend Gina's sister. Hopefully, she'll find someone soon to share her life. She was dating a man she wanted to marry but he didn't want to get married and ended the relationship. She is on the rebound and is looking for someone else."

Kevin Willis, Orange County, "I'm a 24-year-old male who has been married for five years. My wife and I have three beautiful children. I found your column about dating when your spouse has Alzheimer's to be beneficial and worthy because it brings up issues that may need to be addressed. Issues like this can come up quite unexpectedly. Thanks." Response: You are likely the youngest couple with three children to read this column.

Lorraine Dageforde, Santa Ana, "Regarding what singles can do over the holidays, most of us are as much in need of companionship with people with whom we have something in common as we are in romance. Though, I must confess, I want both."

If your spouse has Alzheimer's, is dating okay?


Bonnie Vandenberg, age 56, Capistrano Beach, is a gutsy, loyal and dedicated wife with a dilemma.

Bonnie shared her story: "My husband is in a nursing home with end-stage Alzheimer's. I had cared for him at home for nine years before it became too much for me. He is near to my home and I see him often. I'm younger than he. I've been married my entire adult life except for a brief period in my thirties.

"You may find there are a lot of people out there like me who have spent so much time caring for a loved one that they have put their own needs on the back burner. Then, they wake up one day and realize that the person they've cared for has become a shell of his or her former self, unable to even communicate or understand the sacrifice you've made."

"I guess it becomes a moral issue as to whether I am cheating on him by going out and dating. I feel my life is fleeting by. People suggest I just go out to eat at a nice place once in a while, but they don't understand that at age 56, you still have physical needs. I was wondering what others think."

My friend of 45 years, Ana Morris, of Chicago shared her thoughts on Bonnie's question:

Ana e-mailed, "When my sister met the love of her life, she was 65, he was 80. They became friends, dance partners, and my sister began going with him to visit his wife, who was in a care facility, suffering from Alzheimer's.

The man went to see his wife every day, whether his wife knew it or not.

As the staff of the home became acquainted with my sister, they told her and the devoted husband to go and live their own lives.

The two were able to begin a wonderful love affair-that was approved wholeheartedly by the children on both sides--and still visited to ensure the wife was properly being cared for until she died.

"The new relationship lasted a short five years, until my sister's untimely death at age 70. This wonderful, loving man succumbed to lung cancer a year later, having outlived two wives, and then my sister. His heart was broken. He confided to me that no one 'took his heart' as did my sister.

"Life is unpredictably short and we all deserve whatever love and joy is available to us."

Patty Tomas of Orange County, Calif., referring toa later in life love affair, simply said, "Life is for the living."

So, in answer to Bonnie's dilemma--and her question-is it okay at this stage in her husband's illness to create a new life for herself-this is my answer and my opinion.

Go for it Bonnie, you've taken care of your spouse for years, there's nothing more you can do, you deserve a chance at happiness, and I hope you find it, as Jane's sister did.

Reader Comments:

Mary Martin, San Clemente, "Kudos to you for writing about a taboo (men and sex) subject!" Response: Kudos to our family newspaper for being enlightened enough to cover this important topic.

Rosie Fleris, Staten Island, New York: "In the AARP study of 3,500 singles, are they just from California?" Note from Tom: I was happy to hear from Rose. She commutes by ferry to Manhattan and I was worried about her, but she wasn't involved in the accident. She took the ferry following the one in the accident. The AARP study covered singles all over the United States.

Nancy Skaggs, San Clemente: "I have seen those commercials (Viagra, etc.) on TV. I immediately put my TV control on 'mute' until it's over." Response: I imagine the worst of those commercials are yet to come.

Last week, Marc Patton, San Juan Capistrano, said, "I'm a newly single man, after a 28-year marriage. I've been flabbergasted by the women I've met. They are too easy and too aggressive. Being prey puts me off, turns me off." Response: I'm sure your comments will bring a response or two.

And the responses poured in, some not so supportive of Marc, and some in agreement. Perhaps a future column on him.

A Tribute to Johnny Cash


For those of you not living in Southern California, but planning to visit in the next four months, this column will give you some ideas on what else to do while shopping on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Are you looking for a Los Angeles area place to take a date, friend or spouse? Try The Museum of Television & Radio (MT & R) in Beverly Hills. Last week, my life partner Greta and I went there on a middle-age version of a double date.

Our double date was spawned two months ago when I introduced talented San Clemente singer and entertainer, Jerry Velasco, to Lou Robin, Johnny Cash's manager. Lou and I have been friends for 26 years.

Jerry invited Greta and me to a preview screening of a Johnny Cash documentary at the MT & R. A week ago Wednesday, Jerry, Janet Haywood of Dana Point, Greta and I drove together to Beverly Hills.

A Tribute to Johnny Cash

What made the evening so significant for me--since Jerry's invitation had been in August-was Johnny Cash's passing in the interim. The night became a memorial to The Man in Black, who also had been a friend for 26 years.

Before the show, we had dinner at Nate N' Al, a Beverly Hills landmark deli since 1945. We didn't see any celebrities but those corned beef sandwiches are sure tasty.

If you're a Johnny Cash fan, the Museum is featuring our Cash documentaries starting October 3 and running through January. The screenings are at 2 p.m., Wednesdays through Sunday. A different two-hour creening will be shown in each of the four months.

"San Quentin I Hate Every Inch of You"

We saw footage of Johnny's 1969 concert at San Quentin Prison, where he sang "A Boy Named Sue" for the first time. To make the concert more interesting, several prisoners and guards were interviewed.

(I accompanied Johnny inside the walls of San Quentin when he did a follow-up concert in 1977).

The MT & R is open to the public Wednesday to Sunday, Noon-5 p.m. Admission is free but contributions are suggested.

People Need to Get Out and Make New Friends

When people are willing to make new friends and try new activities, they may find how small the world can be. On the trip home, Greta realized she had heard Jerry sing the "Hawaiian Wedding Song" in 1965 at the Waikiki Club on Catalina Island, when she lived there.

Jerry Velasco is an interesting man. He said Frankie Laine gave him the break he needed in the music business in 1950 when Frankie recorded "Merry Christmas Everywhere," a song written by Jerry, which was re-released two years ago.

Another fun activity for singles is to hear Jerry and his band perform on Thursday nights at CJ's restaurant in the Country Inn above Pico Plaza in San Clemente. He'll sing your requests; it's hard to stump him because he knows so many songs.

Jerry is also a driving force behind getting an outdoor amphitheatre built in San Clemente, which would benefit all of south County.

We'll let readers know how they can help after the project gets approved by the San Clemente City Council.

If you visit The Museum of Television and Radio-on a double date or not-- be sure you grab a sandwich at Nate N' Al. Ask Lori the food server about the daily specials. I love their kosher pickles.

Reader Comments

Lynn Olson, Dana Point, "From last week's column, the guy who told Barbie that she 'Looked like his ex-wife...' what kind of an excuse is that? Certainly he could come up with something better." Response: The words, "You remind me of my ex" is one of the weakest excuses on the planet.

Kathy Tinch, Aliso Viejo, "You're right about not calling a guy. If a man wants to call you he will."

Patricia Consoli, age 56, Oceanside: "Did Ron Ryding of Laguna Niguel really believe he had to date over 50 people to meet someone? How funny and sweet, wish him the best." Response: Ron was just putting a humorous spin on my book title, 'Finding Love After 50,'" which refers to finding love after age 50, not after going out on 50 dates, although it might take that many.

Singles' Survey Reveals Dating Information


Results of a study of 3,500 single Americans aged 40-69 will be published in the November/December issue of "AARP The Magazine."

The study was conducted in June to get an understanding of singles' dating behavior, sexual activities and feelings about being single.

I received an advance copy and wanted to share my opinions on some of the findings.

I can't comment on the effectiveness of the study other than it was a "nationally-represented sample of singles," who filled out multiple choice questionnaires via Web TV connections on their home televisions.

For five years, I've been urging AARP to pay more attention to singles and singles' issues, which AARP is starting to do. I spoke about dating at their last two national conventions, and this year shared the podium with Dr. Ruth, who makes sex sound like a gourmet feast with cherries jubilee for dessert.

Also, thanks in a large part to enlightened editor-in-chief Hugh Delehanty, "AARP The Magazine," is starting to cover singles' issues.

Last week, Hugh was on the Today Show to discuss the survey. When asked why so few older singles are getting married, he said with a big smile, "Because they're shacking up," or words close to that. Wow, whatever happened to the old conservative AARP? I rather loved Hugh's "shacking up" comment, knowing that Dr. Laura probably laid an egg over it.

One survey question was "How do you find a date?"

"Through friends, neighbors and relatives," responded 41 percent of the singles. In other words, via good old-fashioned networking, still the most effective and least expensive way to meet someone.

Other places to meet mates, according to the survey: at work, through chance meetings in malls and supermarkets, in bars, church, doing hobbies, travel, sports activities, community organizations and singles organizations.

The top dating complaints of women were men who have baggage, and not having a clue where to meet men and meeting too few new men.

The top dating complaints of men were women who have baggage and women who "become difficult to get along with" after the first few dates (the study's words, not mine).

Both sexes agreed that people who are too eager for a relationship are the next biggest complaint.

Nearly half of the singles said the reason they date is to have someone to talk to or do things with, while 18 percent said to have fun. Nine percent to find a partner to live with (not necessarily to marry) and eight percent to find a spouse.

Fifty-nine percent of men and 35 percent of women wished they had more sex. Don't we all?

The survey revealed that 34 percent of women age 40-69 are dating younger men. I don't think that's among my readers. I'd guess it's less than ten percent.

I couldn't find the word "loneliness" in the survey, which surprised me. Singles tell me the worse part of being single is being lonely-so perhaps the study isn't perfect.

But, it's a good start. And with AARP-to which so many singles belong--paying more attention to singles' issues, there will be lots of valuable information for singles in the future.

Reader's Comments

Barbara Barnes, Newport Beach: "You should gather from readers all the brush-off lines and get-into-bed lines that mean something else." Response: Hopefully, enough readers will send them in so we can do a column.

Readers from Chile to Glastonbury to Heidelberg


Jessie Neiman of Mission Viejo responded to the recent column about how Greta and I met. Jessie congratulated us for being together for five years and said that love in this country usually doesn't last very long.

"In sickness and in health until death or a better man do us part," is how Jessie put it. And then she said my columns are read in Chile.

I raised a bit of an eyebrow of doubt with her statement until she explained she was originally from Chile and translates the columns for "a whole bunch of people there."

She said the dating scene for older singles is different in Chile: "There is NO divorce law. So you either try your best or 'you are stuck anyway.' That is why the ladies I send your articles to love to hear you because they DREAM through you. They say: 'Does he have a brother or a cousin?' And they also say, 'only in America.'

"In Chile, women usually marry young and usually marry someone six to 10 years older. They stay together forever also, the extended family is so big you just wouldn't dare to leave and break such a bond!"

Jessie said that when the women are between 55 and 70, their husbands start dying. "And that is the end, because to find a single man there is almost impossible. The men who lose the wife first have a 'line this big' of waiting admirers. So, unfortunately, that is the end of the dating thing!"

"We all know you so well through your writings, you are part of our GROUP."

Sounds like the lack of available older single men is worse in Chile than in the United States.

And then we have a reader named Zoe d'Ay who started reading the column through the miracles of the Internet when she lived in Australia. She moved to Glastonbury, Somerset, England, and still reads the column.

Zoe e-mailed, "Many of your readers will have read 'The Mists of Avalon,' and Glastonbury is Avalon. It's the most sacred place in England, a tiny town of no more than 8000 inhabitants. But hundreds of thousands of people come here each year in search of something. The legends bring them-Arthur (of the Round Table) is buried here with Guinevere." Zoe said she doesn't know the whereabouts of Lancelot.

"Everyone should come (to Glastonbury) once in their life, but please, especially for me, can you send a single man looking for an attractive writer/artist, mid-fifties who loves flowers, cats, fine food and LIFE itself!"

And then there's former Huntington Beach resident, Lynda Thompson, who now receives this column in Heidelberg, Germany.

"Living in a foreign country without my safety net of friends and family nearby, I've been forced to get involved in activities, clubs, etc., or face a very lonely life outside of work. I joined a ski club and am looking into joining a walking club," said Lynda.

So, that's the middle age dating situation from around the globe. I'm glad our international friends shared their stories,and if there are more out there, they'll let us know what's going on in their countries.

From what they report, it makes our singles situation here in the United States looks pretty darned good.

Your High School or College Reunion


It's the time of year for high school reunions--one of the prime places for older singles to find romance. Take this story for example.

After graduating from Lakewood High School in Long Beach in 1962, Cheryl Weston got married. She attended her 10-year high school reunion but didn't attend another reunion until the 40th last September 28.

"I had been divorced for many years and went under duress with a fellow graduate and her husband," said Cheryl, who has three children and seven grandchildren.

At the reunion, Cheryl saw a man named Guy Liford walk in. She approached him and said, "Do you remember me, my name is Cheryl Weston?" She had never dated Guy, but recalled him as "being fun and nice." Cheryl invited Guy to sit at the vacant chair next to her at the table where she and her friends were seated.

Guy was a widower of three years. He has a son stationed in Iraq, three grandchildren and has lived in Riverside County since 1985. Guy described his response to Cheryl's question at the reunion: "I looked into her eyes and said, 'yes, I remember you.'

He knew when he saw her she was the one

Guy also told me, "At that moment, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her."

Wow! If all single men were this decisive--and easy--middle age dating wouldn't be as difficult as it is.

"Before we departed that night, I asked her if I could spend some time with her on Sunday and she said yes. We went to Huntington Beach and spent nine hours walking and talking." They had lunch at Chumayos restaurant.

Three days after meeting at the reunion, while watching the sunset from Dana Point, Guy gave Cheryl his graduation diamond ring and asked her to marry him. "She said 'yes' and made me the happiest guy in the world," said Guy.

Another Wow! No indecision on either person's part. One might have expected a red flag at sunset to be hoisted on such an important and quick decision. Weren't things happening too quickly?

On New Year's Eve at sunset (this is one romantic, sunset-loving couple), Cheryl and Guywere married on the island of Hilo in Hawaii.

In light of the column two weeks ago about the pitfalls of dating old flames and acquaintances, I was wondering--and you readers likely as well-- how this fast-moving, fairy-tale love story is working out.

Cheryl says, "This is the most love I have ever felt and the most amazing marriage for us both. We cannot get enough of each other and NEVER run out of things to talk about."

Cheryl added that they talk about the present-their children and grandchildren--and about the 40-plus years ago when they first knew each other.

Guy says, "We've had a great time since then (the reunion)."

If you're thinking of skipping your reunion this year, you might want to rethink your decision.

Finding Love in Chicago


Last week-end, my life partner Greta and I attended the national AARP convention at McCormick Place in Chicago. I was a speaker for the second straight year. My topic: "Finding Love After 50." About 1,000 people filled the room, 80 percent of them women.

The convention is a terrific place for people age 50-plus to enrich their lives. The three days of fun and excitement feature well-known entertainers, educational sessions, a 200,000 square-feet space filled with exhibits and celebrity speakers such as Dr. Phil, Debbie Reynolds, Amy Tan, and Lou Gossett, Jr.

The most important message and common thread that came from the seminars and speeches is that nothing is out of the realm of possibility for people, whether single or married, regardless of age. 

Close to 17,000 attended the event; Most of them were from the Midwest. At a Natalie Cole concert, we sat next to Linda and Cliff Jewett, who live in Kansas but spend winters in Buena Park (Calif). They met 45 years ago on a blind date.

Sitting with them were their friends, Bill and Pat McDowell, of Citrus Springs, Fla., who also met on that same blind date. The four have been friends since, often traveling together. 

During a book signing after my speech, Judy and Bernie Kotkin, Fullerton, and Fran and Leonard Rich, Plancentia, stopped by to say they read my "Single Again" column in the Register. 

Mark Victor Hansen, the co-creator of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul®" series, inspired his audience and encouraged them to set goals: "If you have somewhere to go, you'll get there," Mark said. He also told them not to be discouraged by rejection.

Greta and I flew home to Orange County with Mark and got to spend a half hour talking with him. 

At age 75, Dr. Ruth still doesn't mince words when it comes to the subject of sex. Even I squirmed in my seat a couple of times when she spoke graphically. Her speech made my speech seem tame. But, she presents with humor, which puts people at ease. 

Dr. Ruth said, "Build relationships first, and then worry about the sex." She encouraged singles to practice safe sex and warned of the dangers of meeting strangers in remote locations. 

Dr. Ruth got a big round of applause from women when she said, "It's okay for older women to date younger men."  

Linda Zemsky, Wheeling, Ill., said my talk reminded her that it's okay to be alone, that she doesn't need to be validated by having a man in her life. "If I don't connect with a man, it's okay," Linda said, "I raised three kids, the third was my husband."

Greta said, "The AARP convention is a great place to meet people and make new friends, whether you're married or single. If a woman is sitting by herself, people will come up and talk to her. And what an opportunity for single men who want to meet quality single women." 

Next year, the AARP convention will be in Las Vegas in October. Mark it on your calendar. Wouldn't it be fun if we had a large group of singles-men and women from all over the U.S.- attend? If we do, perhaps we can convince AARP to have a singles match-making party during the convention. 

Reader Comments

Diane Alcorn, "I'm 68, a widow for 9 years, tired of being by myself. Where do I go to meet someone?" Response: There's no place in the U.S. that I'm aware of where single men congregate with the sole purpose of hoping to meet a mate.

If you continue to be active and get out with people, that's the most important thing.

Alix Dones, 55, Mission Viejo, "I had photos taken of me sitting around a swimming pool in Palm Springs reading your book, "Finding Love After 50." I'm using the photo as a Xmas card insert this year." Response: That should be good for a few ho-ho-ho's. 

Note from Tom: I just heard the news about Johnny Cash's passing. He was a friend of mine. I'll do a tribute to him in next week's column.

In Dating, Trust Your Instincts


Perhaps it's the long, hot summer or the recent full moon. For whatever reason, I've been getting more questions than usual from readers about screwy things that are happening in their relationships.

A common thread running through many of the questions is shaky behavior by boyfriends and girlfriends.

I'm often asked for my opinion on these strange happenings and most of the time I tell people to "trust their instincts."

Perhaps, when we date at middle age, we allow mates to get away with things that as younger people we wouldn't have tolerated. Or, we're just happy to be involved with ANYBODY--regardless of how we're treated.

Carolyn Jay, Laguna Niguel, said, "I thought I was in a committed relationship. At least that is what I was told. However, when I could not be available to go out with this guy, he found someone else to go out with. I thought a committed relationship was only dating each other?"

David Silver, a DePauw Univ. (Greencastle, Indiana) classmate of mine, e-mailed from New Jersey, "A guy we know in Hoboken, started corresponding with a woman from Ohio, who arranged to visit him.

Camping with Her Dad

"During the visit, she mentioned that her dad was meeting her and they were going camping for the week-end. While she was gone, my friend found his way into her e-mail account somehow, and discovered that the "Dad" was another guy she'd been having an on-line romance with. Not only that, there were several other guys with whom she had fallen in love with on-line, all at the same time, and she had plans to see all of them. Beware-you can't learn who someone is in an e-mail."

If you want a committed relationship, and the person you're dating is holding back, there's a reason. And you need to find out what it is

Listen to Your Instinct

Your instinct tells you something's not right, or things don't sort or make sense. Guess what? Your instinct is right. Don't rationalize thinking "Oh, he just got out of a relationship and will love me in due time, he doesn't want to be rushed, I remind him of his ex-wife, or, he's platonic with an old girlfriend so it's okay if he continues to see her."

Either he's in with you or he's not. And if he's not, you have two choices. One, you sit down and have an eyeball-to-eyeball, heart-to-heart, don't-lie-to-me talk, and either get a commitment from him to share life together, or you walk away.

Your time is too valuable (and hopefully, your self-respect too high) to go on endlessly waiting for him to make you the top priority.

When the person you're dating makes excuses why he or she isn't seeing you more often or is unwilling to do what you feel is reasonable, wise up, you're not the shining light in his eye that you want to be. He may be playing you along and using you--for money, sex or whatever.

Trust your instincts. Don't accept less in a relationship than you deserve. Demand to be treated respectfully. You'll be better off in the future.

Reader Comments

Mary Platter, Costa Mesa, "Why do you call Greta your girlfriend when you've been together for so long? Maybe a better term would be more appropriate. In a lot of our minds, girlfriend means a temporary situation. I feel a more endearing term would make me feel more cared for and loved." Response: I hope Dr. Laura isn't listening.

When I wrote a column about what middle-agers who aren't married should call themselves, Dr. Laura took me to task and suggested something not very complimentary.

I call Greta my girlfriend because that's what feels right. Making someone feel more cared for and loved isn't in a name, it's in how you treat him or her.

Was Joe Monge right or wrong?


Man who broke relationship over tight purse strings finds both support and criticism Readers sound off about money concerns

In last week's column, Joe Monge, 50, of Dana Point broke up with his 46-year-old girlfriend because she wouldn't share expenses and wouldn't share in the driving between their homes. Readers responded in droves, the majority of them women.

Barbara Stifter, San Juan Capistrano, a 53-year-old widow, e-mailed, "Decent guys appear to be as few as Angel World Series pennants. Joe sounds like a decent upright guy who was being taken advantage of; the kind of guy a lot of single women would like to meet and be willing to share expenses with."

Robin Nugent, 47, Buena Park, said, "Perhaps Joe's girlfriend doesn't listen wisely. There are a lot of women who feel the man should pay for everything and do all the driving. Fortunately, there are also women out there who are more in tune with the times."

Joe received advice from Mary Platter, Costa Mesa: "Be up front at the beginning of a relationship about what you will and won't compromise and you might find that we are very receptive to your honesty and being open and up-front. If you run across someone not open to discussing these things "leave by the closest door."

Former Orange County resident John Johnson e-mailed from Washington, D.C., "The weird accommodation with her ex-husband and priority of casino over Joe seems that the outcome was meant to be."

Julie White, Fort Atkinson, Wis., e-mailed, "In my singles group, men say they're offended if a woman offers to pay; they like to be 'gentlemen' and 'do the right thing.' Once you're committed to only going out with each other, I think financial and other areas (driving) should be split more evenly."

Joe got bashed by three women.

Mickie Wallace, Newport Beach, said, "This guy seems like a real tight wad. I don't mind sharing expenses, but don't make it a mandatory part of the relationship, please."

Nancy Staggs, San Clemente, shared, "Wake up! Quit whining. I went on a cruise with a gentleman friend and got his check "before" I booked the cruise."

Two readers felt Joe should have discussed the situation early in his relationship. Ann Jordan, Huntington Beach, said, "Joe should have talked to her as issues came up. We cannot be so enamored of being in a relationship that we sell ourselves out."

Patrick Freeman, Laguna Beach, e-mailed, "It's best to be honest on the front end what expectations are."

Dolores Williams, Temecula, was happy for Joe. "Congratulations for finally getting smart and expecting better for yourself."

As for Joe, he's moving on to other dating avenues. Joe wrote, "I have joined four Internet personals sites. I've gotten 13 matches." Give Joe credit. Not many single men have the guts to air their dating laundry to the readers. If more men would speak up, get involved and be more communicative -- as Joe was -- the singles situation around here would dramatically improve.

Reader Comments

Marcia Yury, Laguna Beach, "Regarding the guy who 'found his way into her e-mail account,' (column two weeks ago), he wasn't such a good catch either if he was looking at her e-mail account. That's a giant breach of trust and very unethical."

Beware of Buffalo


Dr. John Gray, author of "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus," published an article titled, "Keep the Mental Excitement Alive in Your Relationship," on the website www.thirdage.com

In the article, Dr. Gray described four types of chemistry-mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical--which, he says, "inspire partners to feel attracted to each other."

Working couples are vulnerable to chemistry burn-out. Their busy, fast-paced lifestyles barely leave them enough time to ask each other, "How was your day?" over a late dinner before falling exhausted into bed.

Seven States in Six Days

My girlfriend Greta and I have been a couple for five years and both work. Each August, we schedule a trip together that we feel reignites the four chemistries described by Dr. Gray. Last week, we took a six-day, seven-state, 2,451-mile trip to explore four of our national parks.

A driving trip means lots of time together in the car for conversation that can strengthen a couple's mental chemistry, defined by Dr. Gray as "when partners feel very interested in each other's thoughts and perceptions about life." We discovered things about each other's past that surprised us both, which will lead to understanding each other better.

A trip also encourages sharing. We alternated driving, listened to music and worked on crosswords together, and enjoyed the excitement of new experiences.

On the first day, we drove 11 hours to Saratoga Springs, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City, to stay with Greta's daughter, Tina Skelton, and her family, who moved there two months ago from Rancho Santa Margarita.

On day two, we arrived in West Yellowstone, Montana, in time to get fishing licenses and head to the Gallatin River. One interest Greta and I share is fly fishing. She has her own waders, is handy with a fly rod and can tie a leader to a fly line and a tippet to a leader. We made it to the river in time for the late afternoon insect hatch and had a stretch of the river to ourselves.

"I know bear tracks when I see them."

She pointed to fresh tracks in the gravel at the river's edge. I said, "Deer tracks." She said, "Sure, Tom, I know bear tracks when I see them." Yellowstone is home to black bears and grizzlies. We fished while keeping our eyes on the woods for furry visitors.

When we entered Yellowstone National Park, we were handed a map and a yellow flyer which read, "Warning. Many visitors have been gored by buffalo. Buffalo can weigh 2000 pounds and can sprint at 30 mph, three times faster than you can run. These animals may appear tame but are wild, unpredictable and dangerous. Do not approach buffalo."

Around mid-day, our hearts raced when a herd of buffalo stopped traffic and walked among the cars while crossing the road on their way for a dip and a drink in the Yellowstone River. In another spot, we photographed three elk feeding five feet from the car.

When you exit Yellowstone to the south, you enter Grand Teton National Park, where our emotional chemistry, which Dr. Gray defines as "caring about each other's feelings and happiness," got a boost.

We stopped at the historical Jenny Lake Lodge to inquire about a room for the night. They had one cabin left, at a price tag that would normally send us down the road. We looked at each other and said, "This is our special treat, we'll take it"

Most Romantic Spot in the World

From our front porch, we sat in pinewood rocking chairs, sipping wine, looking at the majestic 12,000-13,000 foot Teton peaks in full view a half-mile away. With the moon peaking through, there wasn't a more romantic spot in the world.

A five-course gourmet dinner, trout fishing, and a 3.5 mile roundtrip hike to Taggart Lake, at the base of the mountains, topped off a dream stay in the Grand Tetons. When we hiked to Taggart Lake, I saw a guy with a block-M University of Michigan hat, similar to the one I was wearing. Turns out, Keith Brinkeroff and I had attended the same grade, intermediate and high school (Jackson High School) in Jackson, Michigan, over 40-years ago. I was two years ahead of him.

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah was the third park we visited. It's beautiful and unique, but road construction created dust and delays that distracted us from the beauty that Bryce offers.

From Bryce, we drove to Zion National Park, a couple of hours away. Dr. Gray says, "Spiritual chemistry means you feel connected on a higher level."

In Zion, we stood arm-in-arm in silence looking up at orange, red and peach-colored 3,000-foot cliffs, truly marvels of nature. It would be impossible not to feel a spiritual presence and togetherness in that national treasure.

From Zion, we drove to Mesquite, Nevada, where the slot machines at the Virgin River Casino willingly accepted our donations, but with the room costing $18.00 and prime rib dinners $4.95, staying there was inexpensive.

We returned to Orange County. Oh, the one chemistry I didn't mention-physical, defined by Dr. Gray as "attraction to each other's physical appearance"-well, let me just say, that a trip like the one we shared certainly bolsters that. All four chemistries were definitely rekindled.

Already, we're planning our next trip.

Reader Comments

Joe F., ex-Huntington Beach resident and dater, now living in Los Angeles, "Meeting for coffee isn't a date, it's a meeting to decide to have a date or not. Too many wackos, weirdoes, freeloaders and other undesirables out there to waste time and money on, I've learned to prescreen first." Response: But it's taken you so many years to learn that.

Leslie Armstrong, Huntington Beach, "I've met so many great single guys. I don't understand the problem. It's all about presentation." Response: And a positive attitude, which you have.

Sandi Benson, Tustin, "Have you ever done a column on breaking up a relationship? How about doing one? I just had a not nice experience." Response: Share it with me and I'll share it with the readers.

Decidng to Marry in 3 Days


Two weeks ago, this column featured Cheryl and Guy Liford of Mission Viejo, Calif., who saw each other for the first time since high school--at their Lakewood High School 40th reunion last September 28th.

Three days later, Guy asked Cheryl to marry him and three months after that, on New Year's Eve, they were married on the island of Hilo in Hawaii.

I was surprised at the number of responses to their love story and wanted to share some of them with you.

Jackie Loflin, living in New Mexico, e-mailed, "I loved the story, I graduated Lakewood HS in 1961. It's in Lakewood, not Long Beach." Okay, Jackie, so my geography was off by a few miles.

Betty Jenkins, Huntington Beach, said, "Finally, a true story that shows love-at-first-sight exists. Guy was truthful about his feelings. There's nothing wrong with that. Mr. and Mrs. Firestone of the famous Firestone family got married within two weeks of meeting each other. Twenty-five years later, they're still happily married. "Cheryl and Guy had their priorities straight and knew what was important to them in life."

Connie Philips, a Jackson, Michigan, high school classmate of mine, e-mailed from Raleigh, North Carolina, "I've been browsing Classmates.com recently, just about everyone (from our class) is married or dead--sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

"I believe there is a real advantage in finding someone with shared history. As our next reunion is four years off, I had better look for other options."

Gina Woodruff, Long Beach, said, "Great story. I'm looking forward to attending my 20th reunion in September." Perhaps Gina will have a happy romance story to report.

Suzy Olson, Mission Viejo, wrote, "Great to read that people do re-connect after years of being separated. Your column gives us instruction and hope." But Suzy, in a recent column about dating old flames, you said, "Don't let yesteryear fog your vision."

Ted Bowersox, Dana Point insurance executive, is coordinating the reunion of five classes from his Canton, Ohio, high school. One would expect, out of a group that size, a couple of old flame love stories will emerge. Not involving Ted-he's been happily married for about 33 years.

Almost all readers responded favorably about Cheryl and Guy's story. There was an exception, however.

Barbara Barnes, Newport Beach, commented about the column: "I was somewhat horrified. If a guy asked me to marry him after three dates, I would run to the hills. You describe a three-day proposal as decisive. You have to know better than that. It should be described as impulsive. "I would be very cautious about encouraging anyone to make a life decision based on impulse. You say it's working out. They've been together less than a year! I wish Cheryl and Guy years of enthusiasm and happiness, but this story scares me."

Barbara's right, the decision was quick. I don't encourage impulsive decisions, I know of many "quick" relationships that haven't worked out. But, Cheryl and Guy had three months together before marrying. And by the happiness I see in the wedding photo they sent me, I think this relationship will last forever.

Reader Comments

Sid Showalter, Naples, Florida: "A nurse I went out with a couple of times said she didn't want to go out any more because I reminded her of a prior boyfriend and that wasn't particularly good. Another woman gave the same reason. Do you suppose this is a new line for ending a relationship?" Response: Sounds like it, Sid, at least they were consistent.

Where are the Men?


Rose Fleris, a single woman, age 50, living in Staten Island, New York, prints out this column online and reads it while commuting on the ferry to her work in Manhattan. Rose e-mailed a simple question: "Where are the men?"

The answer's not as simple.

For single middle-aged and senior women, meeting available men is difficult by the numbers alone.

At age 50, there are approximately three single women to each single man. By age 60 and beyond, the gap in that ratio widens considerably. At age 70, the ratio is five or six to one.

Not all Single Men are Relationship Material

Women tell me those ratios are deceivingly low. They say not all men in the single-men pool are relationship material and roll out a lengthy list of the reasons why.

We're too set in our ways, lazy, out of shape, watch too much TV, won't dance, want younger women--and imagine this-all we want is sex. At Leisure World, women accuse men of "wanting a nurse and a purse."

The best answer I've heard to Rose's question came from Dr. Ruth during the question-and-answer period after she spoke at the national AARP convention in Orlando three years ago. A woman in her 40s said, "I can't meet any men, where are they?"

Dr. Ruth said: "The ratios are a fact of life, you can't change them. But if you have a nice appearance, are willing to get out with people, make new friends, and have a positive attitude, you can effectively reduce them.

"Acknowledge the ratios, but don't make excuses for them. Then, make a commitment to have a good life, with or without a man, because you may live for another 40 or 50 years."

It's important for women to understand the statistics so they'll stop blaming themselves (and men) for the situation in which they find themselves. There's nothing wrong with them, it's the system that's broken-there's a shortage of available single men (even though, at a recent singles outing, a man mentioned to my girlfriend, Greta, and me that where he goes men outnumber women).

"When you go out socially, where do you go?" we asked him.

"To the desert, I belong to a rattlesnake-lovers club."

We suggested he might change his hobby to knitting or sewing- he'd meet more women there.

The Odds are better in Alaska and Greenland

Rose read that men outnumber women in Alaska and Greenland. Reader Patricia Partin lives in Fairbanks and says finding decent men there can be a problem. So, before moving to Alaska to improve your chances of meeting a man, take the quantity vs. "decent" issue into consideration.

In Orange County, we often hear the adjective "quality" added to the "Where are the men?" question. Victoria DuPont of Monarch Beach and other women around the USA trumpeted that question in recent columns.

So, women living here want more than a warm body? We have to be in shape and all of that other stuff? Egad, there's enough pressure on us already. Do you know how tough it is to get to a 7 a.m. tee time at the recently-renovated San Juan Hills Golf Course?

We hear of later-in-life romance success stories (we wrote about one last week) so "quality" men are being unearthed around the globe.

Women should take Dr. Ruth's advice and get out with people, make new friends, have fun and put forth a positive attitude. By next week, perhaps a quality man will have entered your life. If so, let us know.

And don't move to Greenland just yet.

Reader Comments

Regarding last week's high school reunion love-story column:

Sally D'Amico, Laguna Niguel, Ca., "During my separation and divorce, reading your column reminded me that I wasn't the only woman in her late 40s getting a divorce. Your column was one of the tools that helped me get myself back together and into the world after a very traumatic time in my life. I have reunited with my high school boyfriend."

Dale DiGirolamo, Sacramento, "This column is high on the misty-factor."

Mike Walczak, North Adams, Mass., "If only I hadn't gone to an all-boys high school."

Single Readers Discuss the Challenges They Face


Two weeks ago, I wrote that I wanted to interview ten readers who had never written me. The response was so overwhelming, I had trouble getting back to everybody in a timely fashion.

In today's column, we'll share what some of those readers said are the biggest challenges older singles face.

Victoria DuPont, Monarch Beach, 40ish, said, "The biggest challenge is meeting a person of substance. There are a lot of single people out there but so many are phonies. Pretending to be someone they aren't, don't they realize that we eventually find these things out?"

Linda Henn of San Clemente, a high school counselor, was married 34 years and has been divorced for five years. "Meeting someone with common interests is intimidating, particularly since I'm not a mingler. I spend my summers traveling abroad. I haven't found a man my age who likes to do the type of adventure travel (roughing it in Third World countries mainly) as I do or has the zest for life," said Linda. If you're a guy and Linda sounds like your type, you'd better act quickly because she leaves this Sunday for Outer Mongolia, Siberia and Russia.

He'll Work till He Drops

More women than men responded. The ratio was four-to-one. Charles Marsino, Tustin, e-mailed, "I'm single, never married. My challenge is to stay above water and keep working until I drop dead. Birthday is July 20, the BIG 50."

I was surprised at the number of people who, like Charles, have never been married. Jerry Imhoff, Long Beach, wrote, "I'm in my sixties, a retired lawyer, and have never been married. I'd be happy to discuss challenges singles face." I e-mailed him back and encouraged him to do just that. He didn't answer, perhaps he met somebody in the interim.

Another San Clemente woman, Patti Van Rekom, e-mailed, "The biggest challenge older female singles have is learning to rely on themselves for their financial and emotional well being."

Harry Solomon, Mission Viejo, said, "I'm 51, and divorced four years. Was married most of my adult life and am just now adjusting to the 'single scene.'"

I thought Harry's comments were fine as they were, but then he added, "Before I was married to her, someone tried to set you up with my second wife."

He didn't explain why the attempted set-up didn't happen. Perhaps his ex thought she was too young for me. And nothing against her, but it's really good that she didn't become another of my ex-wives--I've already had enough exes.

Ann Kelly, also of San Clemente, e-mailed, "I enjoy your point of view and even agree often! (for that, her quote was automatically included) I'm 56, divorced since 1995. I date infrequently, would like to meet a great guy, but do little to make that happen. I'm very busy in other ways."

Because the people who hadn't responded before shared such great information, we're going to have a second column on the advice they offered to help singles make it through the dating maze.

And I hope others who haven't responded before will be motivated to voice their opinions.

Reader Comments

Elisabeth Hummel, San Juan Capistrano, "It's hard to find the right companion but when the time is right it will happen. It happened to me. When we least expect it, God sends somebody to us. I've been six years in a wonderful relationship."

Dorothy Salazar, Dana Point, "What makes you a dating expert?" Response: As you can see from this column, it's the readers who are willing to share their comments and experiences that make this an expert column on dating. I just insert it into the column.

Audri Hume, Laguna Hills, "Your story of how you & Greta met made me cry, right here at my computer, with tears on my keyboard." Response: "Tears on My Keyboard" would make a good title for a country and Western song

How Tom Met Greta


Readers often ask how I met my girlfriend Greta. And since this Saturday is the five-year anniversary of our first date, we agreed to share our story.

In April, 1998, at lunchtime in my deli, Greta, whom I had never met, asked if I still hosted singles functions in Dana Point. I told her I didn't do them any more, that I was in a relationship and didn't feel they'd be appropriate for me.

Two months later, when I saw Greta in the deli, I told her I remembered our previous conversation. She ordered a fresh carrot juice and went to a table to sit down to wait.

Single but Not Mentally Available

My situation had changed. I was no longer in a relationship, but wasn't mentally prepared to get involved in a new one.

But I was lonely. I longed to just sit and chat with a woman. To be a friend and that was all.

I looked at her. There's something radiant about Greta's face and smile. You can tell she's a kind person when just looking at her (anybody who's been a special education teacher for mentally and physically-challenged 3-to-6-year-olds for 27 years is going to be special).

Would You Like to Have Dinner with Me?

Without thinking about it, I walked around the counter to where she was sitting and said, "I don't know of any singles functions, but would you like to have dinner with me?"

Greta said, "That would be nice."

That was June 24. We decided to go out on June 27, which fell on a Saturday in 1998.

Because I owned a local business, and because she knew of me from this column, she felt comfortable enough to allow me to pick her up at her home.

As I drove up, a young woman was leaving the house. Later, I found out it was her daughter, Terri Wert, who had helped Greta select what clothes to wear.

We went to the Claim Jumper off La Paz in Laguna Hills. While waiting in the bar, the first thing we discovered we had in common was a liking of Kendall-Jackson chardonnay.

Then, we found out each of our marriages had fallen apart late in 1993. And that we both had dabbled in real estate as a second job during the early 1990s.

I Knew She'd be a Great Partner

Within 15 minutes, I knew that Greta was a quality person who would make a great partner.

She was leaving for Hawaii with her family the following Tuesday. On Monday night, I took her an autographed copy of my book, Middle Aged and Dating Again, figuring, if she was still interested in seeing me after reading about the pathetic exploits of a single man the first year after his divorce, that would be a good test.

We were perfect for each other. But, we both knew it was too soon for me to open my heart.

I felt Greta was special enough for me to maintain a friendship with her while I went through the healing process BS Greta says she was willing to take the risk that I might never shape up or return to my former love.

So, here we are five years later, as perfectly suited and happy as we were when we met.

It's important that singles remain alert for when opportunity might knock. The timing will likely never be perfect. And know yourself well enough and what's important to you to act on the opportunity before it slips away.

So, where are we going tonight to celebrate? To the Claim Jumper on La Paz, of course. And what will be toast with? A glass of Kendall-Jackson chardonnay, of course.

Reader's Comments:

Mary Martin, San Clemente: "Found Dr. Amen's Ten Principles for a Relationship" very worthwhile. Love means caring enough to find a solution."

Jeanne Fleming, Murray, Kentucky: "Those are really EXCELLENT ideas, even for "us" with "good brains!"

Carolyn Jay, Laguna Niguel, "I'm saving Dr. Amen's 10 principles for when I get into a relationship. A relationship just ended and I want to heal before I get into another."

Carole Matson, south County, "Just because someone needs a brain scan doesn't mean they're less than normal." Response: Glad you said that Carole, I had an extensive one last year.

10 Principles to Improve Your Relationships


Some readers think I need my head examined. So, when an e-mail addressed to me from Dr. Amen--a neuroscientist, brain imaging expert and author of three books on maintaining a healthy brain--landed in my inbox, it got my attention.

The first sentence read, "Dr. Daniel Amen's clinic in Newport Beach leads the nation in clinical brain scans to diagnose and treat behavior and mood disorders."

I still wasn't sure whether a reader was inferring I needed Dr. Amen's help, or, if there was any connection to middle-age dating and relationships in the e-mail's message.

And then I read, "I teach my patients the following ten relational principles to help keep their emotional brain healthy and rewarding."

I "scanned" Dr. Amen's list and felt his ten principles would also contribute to making middle-age relationships healthier.

For the sake of brevity--to fit each of his principles into today's column--I'm paraphrasing Dr. Amen's words and give full credit and attribution to him.

Dr. Amen's 10 Principles

1. Take responsibility to keep your relationship strong. Don't blame your partner for the problems in it, and look for what you can do to improve it.

2. Relationships need constant nurturing, time and attention. Don't take them for granted. Focusing on what you want from your relationship is essential to making that happen.

3. Build your partner up. If you discount, belittle or degrade him or her, you'll doom the relationship.

4. When there is a question about your partner's motivation or intention, assume the best. You'll see an increase in positive behavior.

5. Keep your relationship fresh. When relationships become stale or boring (doing the same old thing), they become vulnerable.

6. When you notice the good or positive about your partner's behavior (and let them know), you'll again see an increase in positive behavior.

7. Communicate clearly. Take time to listen and hear what's being said. If speaking, it's your responsibility to ensure your partner hears you clearly. Fights stem from miscommunication.

8. Maintain and protect trust. Once trust is violated, little things in the present remind people of past violations, which get blown out of proportion.

9. Deal with conflict and difficult issues. If one person always gives in to avoid conflict, resentment within that person builds. In a firm and kind way, stick up for what you know is right, it will keep the relationship balanced.

10. Set aside time for each other. When you do, you'll realize how much you love each other and it will pay dividends in the future. If not, you'll likely grow apart.

To find out more on how brain function impacts behaviors, go to www.brainplace.com

Okay, so I was relieved to know no reader thought I needed my head examined. But more importantly, I learned if couples follow Dr. Amen's principles, they will strengthen their relationships (and help their brain function at the same time). Sounds like a smart thing to do.

Reader's Comments

Joe Monge, Dana Point, "I don't think a woman taking the initiative in asking a guy for coffee is being too assertive or appearing desperate. I'd be flattered if a woman approached me." Response: I think most men feel the same.

Doug Spoors, attorney, Laguna Hills, "If a woman asked, 'Do you want to get together,' or similar invitations, I would simply respond, 'I'm in a wonderful relationship, thanks, but no thanks." Response: Most men in relationships would respond the same. That's a pretty innocent situation.

Lynn Olson, Dana Point, "Response to Jillian James about how Tom can relate to people who are single when he's in a five-year relationship. Being as involved as Tom is with e-mail, speaking engagements and general interaction with singles, his wide range of experiences are priceless in my opinion." Response: Gee, thanks, Lynn, I needed that.

Remembering a special woman


I was in my car at a traffic light on Pico in San Clemente one afternoon when I heard the news that June Carter Cash, wife of Johnny Cash, had died.

I drove home and wrote this column to tell you why June Carter Cash was special to me.

In 1968, I saw June and Johnny perform at Madison Square Garden in New York City. I was a big fan, playing the "Ring of Fire" album so often I wore it out.

In 1969, I flew to San Francisco to see if I could land a job, to make moving from New York City easier for my wife and me. On the TWA flight home, June and Johnny's song, "If I Were A Carpenter" played on the in-flight music tape.

In that song, Johnny sings, "If I were a carpenter, and you were a lady, would you miss your colored blouse and soft shoes shining?"

When I got home, with no job in San Francisco, I asked my wife that identical question. She said she was willing to sacrifice to get to California and within two months we moved without jobs.

Seven years later, I was sitting in the Coconut Grove Hotel lobby in Miami, in utter disbelief, as I waited for June and Johnny to come down from their room to meet me for the first time.

I couldn't believe this was happening to me.

My job as the marketing director of Victoria Station, the boxcar restaurant chain, was to hire Johnny to be our spokesperson and to sing our radio commercials.

Before he'd agree, he wanted to visit one of our restaurants to see if Victoria Station was worthy of using his name.

I hired a limo to take them to the Miami Beach Convention Center where they were performing two concerts, with a quick stop at our Miami restaurant beforehand.

I about died when the driver got lost. I was in the front seat and can remember June's words from the back--where she, Johnny, and their manager Lou Robin sat.

"Tom, I think we're lost; we need to go directly to the Convention Center."

We didn't visit Victoria Station that day, but managed to get the Cashs there the next day and, signed Johnny to a contract.

Over the next two years--as a part of my job--I traveled with June and Johnny often, seeing 25 of their concerts. I co-produced a record album with Johnny and went with him inside the walls of San Quentin for a concert.

June and Johnny Cash were wonderful to me. When I was going through a divorce, June said, "I pray for you Tom and that little lady who looks like you."

I still have a picture on my deli wall of June and me taken in 1976 at the Sahara Tahoe's guest house, where performers stayed. In the photo, June and I are watching Johnny make chili for a group of Victoria Station executives.

Later that year, before a concert in Birmingham, Ala., I was standing with June as we watched in horror her young son running toward the edge of the stage and to a ten-foot drop onto the concrete floor below. Band member Bob Wooten tackled little Johnny at the last second.

In the 1980s and 1990s, whenever I would see June and Johnny, she'd tell me how much she and Johnny used to enjoy dining at Victoria Station.

So, life comes full cycle. A person who warmed my heart so many times is gone.

I know how hard this will be on Johnny. She rescued him from dark living and was his light and strength for 35 years.

I'm not too much of a prayer guy. But, last Thursday, I cut a yellow rose from our garden and returned a prayer for the special woman who once prayed for me.

As of this morning, that yellow rose still is as radiant as it was the day I picked it.

Readers Comments

Marilyn Mattson, Fullerton, Calif. "I enjoyed reading your book. I could certainly relate to many of the situations described by your many readers. As a widow for the past six years, I know how lonely it can be. When my husband died, I thought I would literally die of a broken heart. Single life isn't so bad, I enjoy my friends, working out at the health club, and being involved in my condo homeowners association board of directors. I also enjoy down time by myself. Women need to stop thinking that having a man at all times is the only goal in life. I plan on loaning your book to all of my single girlfriends."

Robin Nugent, Buena Park, Calif. "I loved the book. It states advice in a clear and concise way, with easy to read passages and funny little antidotes "

When Approaching Men, What Words should Women Use?


Single women often ask what they should do to improve their chances of meeting a mate.

During a recent speech, I said one way for them to meet men was to be a bit assertive in situations that warranted it, that it was okay to approach a man they didn't know.

I told the women to walk up to the guy and say six little words, "Would you like to have coffee?"

I also told them when meeting strangers, to always be careful, use good judgment and to trust their instincts.

A few days after the speech, one of the women who had attended, Jeannie Arnold of Cypress, Cal, sent an e-mail, taking issue with my advice.

Six Little Words

Jeannie wrote, "What's with the six little words, 'Would you like to have coffee?' What about five little words (instead),'Are you in a relationship?'

"Why should my boyfriend be put to the test because some women find him attractive and want to get to know him? To walk up to a stranger and impose on someone's life sounds very, very desperate."

My gosh! Men have had to do this all of their lives, what's wrong with women doing a bit of it now, if it might improve their chances of meeting the right guy?

She Doesn't Want Women Hitting on Her Man

Jeannie doesn't want other women hitting on her boyfriend. I guess few of us in relationships want someone hitting on our significant other. But, guess what? Single men and single women who aren't wearing wedding bands are going to get hit upon. That's been going on forever.

Jeannie continued, "If single people are at a singles dance or social gathering of any kind, great. I can see a woman making herself available, assertive, even aggressive, even flirting, a pleasant smile. There is a good chance he is single and not in a relationship."

No argument there. People attending singles functions are open game.

Jeannie thinks it's still up to the men to approach the women. "If a guy is so shy at 55-plus that he can't approach me, who needs a guy like that? I'd be looking for an upfront guy, if he's interested in someone, step up to the plate. I'd want to know he was attracted to me before wanting to have a relationship with him."

Jeannie's got a point, but what if the guy hadn't seen her? Or, what if he's a great guy who's just a little shy? Does that make him undesirable?

Jeannie wrote, "I'm giving this guy MY heart. Who needs to find out after coffee he's in a relationship. What is this, a game?"

Well, not exactly a game. You're just trying to meet someone right for you. Don't give a guy your heart over the first cup of coffee.

Jeannie concluded by saying that women should just take care of themselves and have a good attitude. "Don't be a needy woman, who wants a needy person. You'll attract the right person and if you don't, guess what, life is still GREAT!"

Whether it's six words or five words doesn't matter. The important thing is to say something. That's what lets the guy know you're interested.

Will your lover stand by you in difficult times?


Traumatic events that happen to us often result in an evaluation of the depth and importance of our relationships.

Pat, a 55-year-old single woman living in San Diego, dated Gary for nine months. She wanted a committed relationship, but at age 66, he had never married and was a confirmed bachelor. During the same time period, Pat had also dated Jim on a “friends only” basis.

And then a devastating event changed her dating arrangement. Pat was waiting in her carport for the Cloud 9 shuttle to take her to the airport at 4:45 a.m., for a 7 a.m. flight to Orlando. She was leaving on a 10-day, three-state, three- conference business trip for her company. She went back upstairs to turn off the lights and lock up the house.

“My backpack (with my entire life in it) and laptop were stolen from my carport. When the shuttle arrived and I realized the theft had occurred, I could not continue on my journey. I had no driver’s license, money, credit card, or cell phone/pager/laptop. But, I knew I had to make the trip. My company had spent thousands of dollars in exhibit space, nonrefundable tickets, hotel reservations, yada yada yada. I had to go on this trip,” e-mailed Pat.

She called Jim, her “friends only” male pal who lived close by. “He dashed over, gave me $200 in cash, and offered to watch my house (they had stolen my extra house keys as well).” 

Pat filed a police report and cancelled her credit cards. She had her passport so she knew she could get through airport security, and she had a personal credit card, which she usually didn’t carry, which hadn’t been stolen.

When her company opened at 8 a.m., Pat had the Information Systems Department issue a new laptop, cell phone and pager. The company travel department re-booked her on an overnight flight to Orlando. She went to the DMV for a temporary driver’s license so she could rent cars.

“My friends and co-workers were offering up prayers and positive vibes for me...I truly felt that! It’s what gave me the ‘HUD spa’ to keep on keepin’ on. Believe it or not, I was on a plane by 2 p.m. I got to my first conference on time and everything else just rolled out fine…no hitches, no delays,” said Pat.

She called Gary from Orlando on the first night to tell him what happened. “I asked him to keep me in his thoughts and hoped he would call me in a few days to see how I was doing. He never did.”

On the third day, Jim called to tell her he had changed the locks so she wouldn’t have to worry about future break-ins. “I didn’t ask him to do this, but I had been having nightmares for the first three days of the trip, which involved people breaking into my house and murdering me! After Jim’s call, the nightmares went away.”

Pat deserves a huge “well done” just for having the composure and tenacity to overcome adversity and board that airplane seven hours later.

And, her story has a happy ending. “I learned a huge lesson about who really cared for me from that experience. I said good-bye to Gary soon after I returned from my trip, and Jim and I now live together.”

Pat’s experience also underscores the importance of building a relationship on friendship. It’s who will be there for us during the tough times that counts. And true friends always are.

Reader Comments and Tom’s Responses

Eileen Ganong, San Clemente: “Many women are conditioned to think they need a man and fail to develop themselves as whole people. They wait for some guy to ‘save’ them. All of us need to develop fulfilling lives that are not dependent upon another person for happiness.” Response: Important advice, but difficult for some to implement.

Joe Follick, ex. Orange County, now Los Angeles: “Women always feel there are more women than men at singles shindigs, anytime there are less than 10 men per woman…Just like in National Geographic, dozens of Walrus bulls pursue one female, and sadly only one gets to mate, the others slink back into the sea with sad and forlorn faces.” Response: Dating for men in LA must be tougher than in Orange County.

Single men’s advice to single women


“Are there many men out there 35-40 years old who do not view a woman as a “ball and chain” or ‘relationship’ as a dirty word?” e-mailed Gina Woodruff, of Long Beach, a single 37-year-old mother of two. 

Most single men and women over 35 have experienced the frustrations and realities of dating after divorce. Not all men in that category avoid another relationship. They do, however, offer advice to single women seeking relationships.

Here are nine items men have have recently shared.

1. Meeting men is difficult if women are glued to the couch. By getting out among people, women dramatically increase their chances of meeting a guy

2. Pursuing activities and interests one enjoys is more important than going out solely to meet a mate. People usually meet the person of their dreams when they aren’t looking, not when they are.

3. Singles may need to look beyond where they live to meet someone. The Internet, with some 250 date-matching sites, provides that opportunity. But it’s a high-risk, high-potential-return place to play the singles game. When dealing with strangers--and not just on the Internet—women especially must be cautious because mixed in with the honorable men are others with evil intentions

4. Men say it’s acceptable to them if women are more dating assertive: asking, planning and paying for certain dates. Some women hand out “name cards,” which make it easier for men to contact them. Cards shouldn’t reveal a woman’s phone number or where she lives or works. The cards might only contain an untraceable e-mail address from a free site like hotmail.com.

5. Women need to be approachable to increase their chances of meeting men. The common thread of approachability is friendliness. A warm smile might convince a shy guy to say hello.

6. Singles of both sexes need to have “realistic expectations.” Finding someone whose values and standards match--a good companion-- is more important than how someone looks

7. Men advise women to avoid seeking younger men (this is not a misprint). It’s better for singles to hook up with someone who thinks as young as they think and has shared values. That could be an older man

8. Singles want honesty. Dishonest singles who misrepresent themselves—on the Internet and elsewhere—waste everybody’s time. Being honest up front leads to more productive pursuits

9. Men say that group events and reunions are better places for women to meet potential mates than at singles functions, where the ratio of single women to single men can be four or five to one. Parties where invited guests are half women and half men level the odds

Remember, Gina, when you venture out, leave that ball and chain at home. You’ll probably meet a single guy at the first traffic light. Hand him a “name card” and say “E-mail me.”

Reader Comments and Tom's Responses:

Mary Martin, San Clemente: “Re: your column on commingling funds. Separate funds allow both parties to maintain control. Response: Most readers felt keeping funds separate in second and third marriages is wisest.

Mary Samida, Huntington Beach: “How can you prevent commingling in a community property state?” The wisest thing is to consult a good family law lawyer.

It's all in the attitude


One of the best things singles can do to improve their chances of meeting a mate is to have a positive attitude.

Mark Victor Hansen, co-creator of the No.1 New York Times best sellers Chicken Soup for the Soul series, publishes a free weekly e-mail column called "Rich Results" (www.markvictorhansen.com).

In last week's column, Mark wrote, "Attitude will lift you up or shut you down. – Attitude is the number one reason individuals succeed or fail. – Incorporate a positive, joyful attitude and you'll have positive, joyful results."

Alix Dones, age 55, Mission Viejo, typifies Mark's point. Alix e-mailed,

"Enjoy reading your column, as I'm a middle-age lady eager to learn about dating."

A year and a half ago, Alix read where I was going to be on the "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" television show, hosted by Cybill Shepherd.

"Thanks to you, I watched the show," e-mailed Alix. "Also appearing on the show that day was Mimi Fane, who sponsors dances for Orange County, California older singles. Now, I attend Mimi's dances." (Contact Mimi at (714) 731-3399 or at Zebra1492@hotmail.com for info.)

"I saw Mimi's dances as an opportunity to dance and have fun. And to meet some neat people along the way. I haven't met the 'love of my life' but am having a blast! Her dances also provide the chance to get information from others for additional singles dances and dance clubs in the area."

Alix says she appreciates the opportunity to take risks, meet new people and observe the other singles when she's not out there "tearing up the dance floor."

"I read your column which mentioned Mark Victor Hansen's ideas regarding 'jump-starting' our lives to meet a potential mate. It helped me to see that I need to take more risks, go even more places and join more singles groups. Guess I'd better get busy," Alix said.

Lynda Thompson, formerly of Huntington Beach, now living in Heidelberg, Germany, receives this column by e-mail. Lynda wrote, "I felt compelled to write you in support of what you've been encouraging all of us 'oldsters' to do ? to get involved in activities, clubs, etc. You are oh so right!

"Living in a foreign country and without my safety net of friends and family nearby, I've been forced into doing just that or facing a very lonely life outside of work. I joined a ski club and am looking into joining a walking club."

Lynda said she's met many nice people and is having fun: "I read an article on MSN about research showing that people who 'act' outgoing have more fun than people who 'act' shy.

"I have put this to the test by acting outgoing (not my innate nature) with great results, even been so bold as to invite myself along on an outing with total strangers. I had fun and met some really cool people."

Alix and Lynda are examples of what singles can do by having a positive attitude and by getting out with people.

Weekly comments:

Jacquie Callender, Irvine: "Darling story (last week) about Frances and Loren. Who would guess a burger place, too. Cute. I see romance still blooms at 74 and 84! I'll be 55 on March 25 so I guess I have some time left."

Dale DiGirolamo, Sacramento: "What a heartwarming story ... as well as that flicker of hope ..."

Mary Platter, Costa Mesa: "What a wonderful story and a wonderful son to care that much for his mother's happiness. Thanks once again for giving us hope.

"If we are out there doing everyday things, when least expecting it, we will be more natural and therefore attract the right person."

How to tackle talking on first dates


At the recent AARP convention, a woman from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, said she had just been divorced after a 30-year marriage. "I'm shy," she said, "What do I talk about on a first date?"

Middle age dating can be daunting for someone who hasn't had a date in 30 years. I told her to be herself, that most topics of conversation are safe and date-correct. Others are a turnoff and should be avoided. Later, I thought more about her question, and came up with this list that applies to both men and women.

First date topics to avoid, particularly ulterior-motive questions and innuendoes:

  • Make no references to sex. When people hint about sex, they have ulterior motives.
  • Don't ask: "What year did you graduate from high school or college?" Some people don't want to reveal their age. Hence, a guy shouldn't ask to see the picture on a woman's driver's license.
  • Avoid financially probing questions. You don't want to send a message that you're digging for gold. Don't ask what kind of car she or he drives, or whether your date owns a home or how big it is.
  • Avoid discussing politics and religion, they're too personal and potentially explosive.
  • Work-related questions are acceptable. Ask where he works, how long he's been there and what his responsibilities are. Avoid saying: "Wow, you must make good money." And don't make any reference to how much he earns.

Safe topics to discuss:

  • Where your date grew up and went to school. This is a good icebreaker topic for both of you.
  • A person's interests and hobbies. What sports he likes — camping, hiking, fishing, football, golf or tennis. You may discover you share the same interests, which might lead to doing activities together.
  • Whether a person likes to travel and where he has traveled. Perhaps you've been to a common destination. You may find you both love to travel and fill the evening's discussion with travel dreams (or plans).
  • The person's family. Whether he has children, how many and where they live. If he has three pre-teenagers living with him, you need to know that before getting involved.
  • Ask about his parents. Listen for clues on what his relationship with them is like. If a man treats his mother well, he'll likely treat the woman in his life well.
  • Ask about his relationship goals. Do they mesh with yours? If you're seeking a committed relationship and he's a bachelor for life, best to find that out early also.

Remember these points:

  • Keep conversations in good taste.
  • Be humble. Don't try to sell yourself by bragging about your accomplishments or how wonderful you are.
  • Be positive and upbeat. Put your best foot forward.
  • Don't judge a person too quickly. Realize your date could be nervous, and behind that trembling lip might be a diamond-in-the-rough, a person perfect for you if only you'll give him or her some time. And don't try to be somebody you're not.

So, whether you live in Oshkosh, or Orange County, keep those first date conversations light and fun.

Weekly comments:

Mary Martin, San Clemente: "In a new relationship, the bond may never be given a chance if the parties feel the other is not 'financially wise.' At the risk of sounding like a cynic, money makes the world go round, not love." Response: I'd say it's a combination of both.

Robin Nugent, Buena Park: "Love is about support toward your significant other in his or her goals, unconditional love and personal growth for both of you. It's not about trying to mold the person into what he or she isn't — due to your fears." Response: You're right, but it's hard for some to live by that wisdom.

When older people date, who pays?


The controversy started during a speech I was giving at the Laguna Niguel Library to a group of 90 middle-aged singles, on the topic: how baby boomers can meet a mate.

When I said, “Women should be willing to ask a man out and pay for the date,” a woman in the audience whispered to the woman seated next to her, “It’ll be a cold day in hell before I pay for a man’s dinner.”

I didn’t hear her comment, but 76-year-old Ray Averett, of Dana Point, heard it. During the question- and-answer period, Ray wanted to know why the woman thought that way, and why, in the year 2002, some women are unwilling to share dating expenses.

A lively debate followed. The woman tried to explain her position, but most of the men in the room disagreed with her unwillingness to pay.

Later, in a letter Ray sent, he explained his position: “The time has long passed when older single women considered a man a provider, a protector, a financial provider and someone to ‘take care of them.’ Unfortunately, too many older single women still think of a man that way.”

Ray asked, “How do older single women relearn their priorities in dating? Perhaps many will never learn such as the woman sitting in front of me who made the comment.”

Ray included in his letter a copy of a column from the Register, “Courting costs are yours, too, ladies,” by Amy Alkon, who appears on Mondays in Accent. Amy wrote: “If a woman considers herself a man’s equal, her equality shouldn’t evaporate when the check comes…dating shouldn’t send men to the bankruptcy court and women to the mall.”

Sometimes, I don’t agree with what Amy writes, but on this “who pays” topic, I strongly agree with her, and with Ray.

The old days of when men always picked up the tab are gone. There is no reason why this should be happening today.

Ray wrote, “I live on social security and retirement investments. I live a conservative lifestyle and am financially secure.” His resources aren’t endless, and he questions why he should always have to pay, and says he won’t do it.

There are older men who still insist on always paying. If that’s their desire, that’s okay. But, the majority of older single men I know don’t feel that way.

Joe Follick, 51, formerly of Huntington Beach, now living in L.A., e-mailed, albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek, regarding a woman he’s had a few dates with.

“…she has not offered to help pay for anything on the last two dates… so I guess I have met another one of those ‘freeloader women,’ that I seem to find everywhere. She works, has a nice house, so what’s the deal?

“I drive a ten-year-old Honda, live in a one-bedroom apartment, and work for a non-profit agency…is there something about my ‘resume’ that says this is a wealthy guy?”

I usually avoid writing about the “who pays” topic. It always gets me in trouble. But, since Ray initiated the discussion, I’ll say this to single older women.

If you feel that you deserve to be with a man who always pays, you may find a guy willing to do that. But, for the most part, if that’s the attitude you have, you likely won’t be asked out after a few dates with a man.

Guys appreciate when women share expenses, and won’t enter relationships with women unwilling to do so. Neither men nor women should always have to be the banker in a relationship.

Amy wrote in the same column, “The point here isn’t calculating each person’s outlay to the bent dime.” Again, I agree, what’s important is having a sense of sharing as equally as you can, without nit-picking about how much each spent.

Women’s roles have changed--in the workplace, at home and on the dating scene. If you hope to end up with a good man, you’d better be willing to share in the expense of dating, because that’s the way it is among the older set in 2002.

Reader Comments and Tom’s Responses:

Mary Martin, San Clemente: “When you are alone you expect loneliness and somehow it’s tolerable. When you are married, you don't anticipate feeling isolated and it can be devastating. Response: Being unhappy and single is better than being unhappy and married.

Linda Phree, Chattanooga, Tenn. “Imagine, age 50 and still having parent problems. My mother, age 70, is giving me grief about my relationship. She has always been nosey, bossy and opinionated.” Response: In the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the parents, who were against their daughter’s relationship because her fiancé wasn’t Greek, ended up giving the newly married couple a house. Of course, it was next door to theirs’.

© 2003, Tom Blake



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