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 2005, 2004, 2003

A great date with "Old Friends"
Beware of "Hidden Dating Language"
Beware of the Bloke
Can Dating Old Flames Work?
Dating and Religion
Diane Keaton delivers messages to singles in "Something's Gotta Give"
Doing Too Much to Make A Relationship Work
Don’t Throw Away Tomorrow
Do single men live by a double standard?
Driving, Paying and Respect
The final word on chemistry (for awhile at least)
Finding a husband after age 35? The Harvard Business School Way? Maybe? Perhaps? I don't think so
Finding Lasting Love on a Cruise
534 Realities of Dating After 50
Honesty in Dating Advertising
The Internet: A valuable tool
Is it OK for women to approach men?
A Long-Distance Relationship That Worked
Long-distance relationships abound
Love and Family
Men Sound Off
Play Musty For Me
Remembering Your Best-Ever First Date
Romance in Costa Rica
Senior Love is Possible
Should “married-but-separated” people date?
Should Widower Date?
Single Woman Lashes Out
The Spain Decision
To Spain or Not?
Stop Blaming Others
Stop Bashing Each Other
Stop Blaming Others
Tips For Singles Who Travel - Part I
Two Husbands - No Problem
Unusual Places to Meet
Valentine's-just another Saturday night
Valuable lessons for older singles
Watch Your Manners When E-mailing
What Should She Do?
What Women are Doing to Socialize
When Relationships End
"Where are the men?"
Who Pays?
Why dating after 50 is difficult
Widows Give Their Opinions
Women aren't Meeting Men

Men Sound Off

Whenever I pick on single men, as I have the last couple of weeks (the British bloke in Palm Springs, and “disappearing gents”), men emerge to present the male side of dating.

“Sounds like in these women we have a lot of soap opera watchers,” said Charles in Southern California. “I guess we men are all a bunch of jerks or maybe it’s just women’s scorn. There are creeps of both sexes out there.

“Most women live in a dream world and go into relationships with the idea that guys just want to take advantage of them. What a joke, we’re adults not children.”

Bob said, “Within a few months after the end of my 41-year marriage, I became involved with a lady and thought I’d found the answer. She turned out to be a money grubber and nasty when she discovered I wasn’t overly laden with cash. Let it be known, the ‘departure demons’ are of both sexes.”

From a “small town” in Alabama, PM Todd e-mailed, “Dating possibilities here are limited so I turned to a premier matching service. One match got all the way to the ‘open communication’ stage. “After she told me about her life, spiritual, children, etc., I did the same. Haven’t heard a word since. Internet matching isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’m not going to bars to pick loser women either. Chance meetings are all that’s left.”

Questioning women’s expectations, Pete, Central Texas, e-mailed: “Are these women being honest about what they’re looking for? If a woman says she’s just looking for fun, she shouldn’t be upset when a guy bolts when she starts talking about setting a date, ordering flowers and hiring a hall.”

Jim blamed me for his lack of success: “You’re making a bigger problem for us guys who want to make a connection and settle down. The women reading your newsletter get the message that men are all jerks. Then, a sincere man like me comes along and the women have their defenses set to ‘red alert’ and reject someone who could make them happy the rest of their lives. “I keep trying to connect, only to be overlooked and passed by because I’m not all that ‘exciting’ and they don’t feel chemistry. I’m so frustrated.”

Flash for Jim from Tom: My fault, eh? Stop blaming others. Get involved in life and make yourself more exciting.

Eric, Provo, UT: ‘Blokes’ aren’t the only ones who vanish. I enjoy talking and communicating; many women are put off by that. When some women realize we’re not a great match, instead of saying so, they just cut off communication. People do rude things via e-mail that they’d never do in person.”

Gary, Ardmore, PA: “In last week’s column, the word ‘trust’ jumped off the screen. My 30-year relationship (25 years married), ended in a heartbeat. How does a man dispense 30 years of trust?

“Women need to give us a break. Sure the Alfie types have given guys a bad rap, but on your next encounter, put some ‘You can trust me’ on along with your lipstick.”

Finally, from Palm Springs, Bob wrote, “A lady asked in the first five minutes of a date how many houses I owned, how many cars and what kind, if I traveled a lot and if I had stocks and bonds. I’ve lived in Riverside and Pasadena and being single and over 50 is getting worse.”

So, in adult dating, it’s not just women who experience unsavory treatment, men feel it too. But wouldn’t it be nice if both sexes treated each other with more respect and courtesy? Yikes, what have single adults become?


Sally, “Think I’ll read your newsletters for awhile before venturing out into the cruel world of dating.” Response: Trust your instincts, proceed cautiously but don’t just stay home.

Terry Johnson, age 63, “By reading your newsletter, I find that I have similar situations as other singles.” Response: Most of us didn’t expect to be single at this age. It sort of snuck up on us. By sharing info, not only do we learn, but we feel better knowing we’re not the only ones going through these issues.

Georgette, 58, “Your ‘After The Healing’ e-book is full of information; I shall proceed cautiously with my relationship with a two-year widower. While there are problems dating widowers, I find them less jaded than divorced men and not so inclined to play games. Thanks for the book and newsletter.” Response: Proceeding cautiously when dating a widower is wise. They are wonderful people, but often take a long time to heal.

Beware of the Bloke

When people become single after years of marriage, often they aren’t prepared to date. They make all kinds of mistakes: dating the wrong types of people, trying too hard and being too vulnerable, gullible and naïve.

Through these experiences, they learn and become wiser. They also learn from other singles willing to share their stories through columns like this.

A Palm Springs woman recently had one of those learning experiences and shared it with us.

In June, she met a widower from England on the Internet. He was interested in seeing her photo which she sent. He liked what he saw and sent his photo and bio to her. They e-mailed weekly for four months. She noticed he didn’t reveal much about himself.

In September, he told her it was time for them to meet. She was surprised, taken aback at first, but impressed that he was willing to come from England to visit her. He said he wanted to talk, hold hands, sit across from her while dining and spend quality time together—basic get-to-know-you romantic stuff.

When he arrived, she went out of her way to be hospitable, treating him to lunches out and dinners in, letting him lounge around her pool and chauffeuring him on short trips.

He never offered to pay for a lunch, dinner or even a cup of coffee. The only thing he paid for was his airfare to California, and she wasn’t sure of that because he had saved airline miles.

Sounds like an all-expenses-paid vacation to Palm Springs. Not bad for an English bloke who likely sees rain and drizzle and has to pay for his bangers and mash the rest of the year.

He lied about his age. Imagine that? A single adult being untruthful. She said his photo was more than ten-years-old, which made him an old English bloke.

To top off this intercontinental encounter, she said he wasn't a bit interested in her. He never asked about her (perhaps he figured he didn’t have to, he could see everything with his own eyes while floating on a rubber raft in her pool). And they never talked about what they were looking for in a relationship. He remained a mystery man, soaking up the rays and goodwill, with no plans that included her.

Suddenly, he departed Palm Springs. She figured that maybe he had a schedule to keep—traveling across America mooching other women—a week here, a few days there, different meals, different pools, different homes, different beds. All free.

Our Palm Springs friend says she learned that it’s important to reveal only limited personal information over the Internet. When you share too much, and then your rendezvous sours like hers did, all of the personal information given in confidence, hope, and trust, becomes an embarrassment.

She also learned that she doesn’t have to be a surrogate arm of the Palm Springs Visitor’s Bureau; there are many delightful hotels and inns guests can pay for there.

So all of you single women, look out your window. If there’s a British gent soaking his footsies in your swimming pool and you’re about to serve him lunch, add a heavy dose of Tabasco sauce to his sandwich—just after placing his suitcase outside the front door.

Reader comments and responses:

Charles, New Jersey: “One day in southern New Jersey at the shore, holding the hand of my spouse of 26 years, a sweet lass captured my eye and other parts of my 69-year-old body. This lady and I have become romantically involved to the point where my spouse and I admit our marriage serves no purpose except to cause each other pain. The lady aspiring for my affection is 43. Comments?”

Response: Recently we wrote about “sweetheart scams” where considerably younger people involve older folks for the purpose of getting their assets. Why else would a woman 26 years your junior want to get involved? Besides you’re still married. I suggest you go to my website and order the “Dating the Age Gap. Older vs. Younger: Can It Work?” electronic book. You’re living in a dream world. P.S. If things are so bad with your wife, why were you holding hands?

Karen, 62, widow for 8 years, Huntington Beach, Calif. “The greatest treasure of your website is knowing ‘it’s just not me’ dealing with older singles issues. You’re a breath of fresh air.”

Response: Most older singles aren't prepared to date after years of marriage. If we can learn enough ahead of time to avoid most of the dating landmines, we’ll be protecting our hearts and our wallets.

Unusual Places to Meet

When singles get discouraged about meeting someone, they should never give up. Today we hear about people who found mates in places where they least expected it.

After Charlotte, Laguna Niguel, Calif., wrote that she is dating her daughter-in-law’s father, other readers shared stories of how they’ve gotten together with new mates under unusual and unexpected circumstances.

Dorothy Craft, Long Island, NY, said, “I’m a 64-year-old widow of four years. I haven’t actively looked for another mate as I felt I wasn’t ready. I forwarded what I thought was a patriotic e-mail to several friends. One of the friends in turn forwarded the e-mail to a man who debunks hoax e-mails as a hobby. He wrote to advise me that my original e-mail was a hoax.

“I wrote him wanting to know how he came in possession of the original e-mail I sent. He explained and then teased me about my name and the story of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. Our online courtship began from that exchange.

“We live three thousand miles apart, he in California and I in New York. Hopefully, we will become not only a match made in heaven but on the Internet as well.”

Now Dorothy has a long-distance relationship. She didn’t mention who would be willing to move if the situation progresses.

Kay, divorced after 34 years of marriage, of Fairbanks, Alaska, e-mailed, “I married my step-brother.”

I know they do things a bit differently in Alaska but Kay's comments got my attention. She explained: “Living in Alaska presents logistic problems, everything is so far away. Most of the available men lived in Anchorage, which might as well have been on another planet..

“After the death of my father, my mother remarried. Her new husband’s oldest son was available and we fell in love. I’m 55 and he’s 59. So, that’s how I married my step-brother.”

A month ago, this column featured Bob and Linda Bieulieu who both used the Internet to look for a suitable mate. They searched far and wide before finding each other in the same city. For several years, they had lived less than a mile apart, but hadn’t met. The Internet brought them together and now they’re married.

Four years ago, John Stratton was hit and seriously injured by a speeding car in an intersection in Niles, Michigan. Each year, on the anniversary of that accident, he takes a lawn chair to the site and holds up a sign that reads “Slow Down.” This year, a woman came out of her nearby house to ask him why he was there. Yup, you guessed it, they are now a couple.

Mera Kelly, La Jolla, Calif., a Gerontologist and “authentic happiness coach,” shared where she’s met men. “The best dancer I met in line at the Post Office. Another in the veggie section at Von’s. I asked one guy on the dance floor who looked interesting to try a ‘slow’ number (who knows if he rumbas or not?). Another at the bank in line and a man while shopping for my son at an exclusive men’s store.

What do these singles have in common? They were all willing to venture out, either in person or via the Internet, and be active. Older singles should stay alert for opportunities, and when they come along, keep an open mind and follow through on what fate sends their way.

Reader comments:

Lois, “I moved to Tucson from St. Louis two months ago. Where are those eligible men over 50? I’m signing up for your 2005 newsletter because I need to keep in touch with what’s going on in the singles world and to help me beat the bushes to find the men.”

Betty R., Detroit: “I’m in my 70s. I work part time. Attend exercise classes, including Tai Chi. Enrolled in a small appliance repair class at the local community college. Joined a chorus, am secretary of my local AARP chapter. Ran for and was elected as a precinct delegate in my community. Regular church attendee, don’t smoke. Have an occasional drink. Right now, I’d settle for a male pen pal.

Bev Morgan: “I have a seniors-only free meeting/dating website for seniors. www.seniorcrush.com

A Long-Distance Relationship That Worked

To be successful, long-distance relationships must overcome many challenges. The biggest: one of the two people involved has to be willing to uproot his or her life to move.

And there's always the risk that it won't work out. I admire people who have the fortitude to give it a go and make it a success.

JoAnne Ritz had lived in New Jersey for 33 years. Divorced for 12 years, she put her two sons through college and kept busy working three jobs. Her ex-husband had passed away five years after the divorce.

On June 28 of last year, JoAnne was visiting a friend and coworker, who had just returned home after a hospital stay. While at her friend's house, JoAnne met her friend's brother-in-law, Charlie Barlow--of Placentia (Calif)-a recent widower, who was staying at the house on vacation.

Three days later, JoAnne returned to her friend's house to attend a family BBQ. She tried to make conversation with Charlie, but found him to be rather quiet. At the end of the evening, JoAnne said, "Nice to meet you, Charlie Barlow," shaking his hand.

Charlie returned to California. He and JoAnne e-mail almost daily for five months.

In November, JoAnne came to visit her son, who had moved to San Diego. On her sixth night here, Charlie took JoAnne to visit his youngest daughter and his new granddaughter.

"It was November 14," JoAnne said, "and there was a full moon, he put his arms around me and asked me to marry him. After getting up off the floor, I answered 'yes' quickly, before he changed his mind.

"And then he said you know you're marrying a family of 11! Three daughters, three son-in-laws and five grandchildren."

"Since I couldn't stay, Charlie gave me a beautiful diamond engagement ring as a promise," said JoAnne.

She said because Charlie couldn't move to New Jersey, she knew she was the one who had to move. "I knew a long-distance romance wouldn't work and was WILLING TO TAKE A CHANCE.

"I gave up my job, sold my house, kissed my friends good-bye (they were so happy for me), sold my car because it probably wouldn't meet California emissions standards, called a mover and tried to figure out what was such a treasure that I could not part with."

JoAnne moved to Placentia (Calif) in December, and now works for a prominent ophthalmologist in Orange. She and Charlie plan to marry this year.

"This has been a growth process for us. Yes, we had rose-colored glasses on, but it's been wonderful. We've had many interesting experiences. We usually walk at 5 a.m., holding hands and discussing important issues.

Once a month we celebrate our good luck in finding one another. On Saturdays, we bike the Santa Ana River Canal and are now up to 33 miles," said JoAnne.

Her message to singles: "There is always HOPE and I believe fate played a part in this relationship."

We never know where or when opportunity will knock. And if our determination is strong enough, not even living 3000 miles apart will get in our way.

Good luck JoAnne and Charlie Barlow.

Reader Comments

Michele McIntyre, Dana Point, Calif., "I recently broke up with my partner. You know it's time to say good-bye when you've lost contact with friends as they don't like your mate, your family doesn't want him around and Bingo the dog wants to bite him!" Response: Those are true red flags.

Toni Drier, Racine, Wisc., "I have been both widowed and divorced. This a new time in my life and I want to approach it with an attitude of replenishing my sense of self, developing a better awareness of others around me and refreshing my joy for living once again."Response: You've got your ducks in order.

Can Dating Old Flames Work?

Does marrying an old flame or an old friend guarantee happiness?

Monica Jones sent an e-mail from Florida describing two widowed people in their 80s who married after knowing each other for over 65 years.

In Monica's story, the widower called old friends to let them know of his wife's passing. One friend was a widow of five years. She and her husband had been close friends of the widower and his wife. The four of them had lived together when they were between jobs and school.

The widower visited the widow, who lived by car seven hours away. Within months, he put his house on the market and moved in with her. They added an addition to her home, including a second master bedroom, to accommodate his belongings and privacy. They married and traveled internationally together.

But the man started having heart problems and now three years later, Monica says, "She (the widow) appears to be wondering what she got herself into and is going to Spain this summer with one of her granddaughters and he is going to Italy with his son. Things are no longer paradise for this over-80 couple."

Suzy Olson, Mission Viejo, California, warned about getting in touch with old sweethearts. "I did and got badly burned. I kept thinking of him as he WAS, never saw what he IS today.

"I was financially depleted after my 'love' seemed to need everything-clothes, furniture, insurance-and so on. I was so in love with the memory, I didn't see the real thing. Don't let yesteryear fog your vision."

Judy King, La Mirada, was engaged to a Navy man in Long Beach when she was 17, but didn't marry him. Forty-one years later, she was working on her family's genealogy and was curious about him. "Found him on the internet in Louisiana," e-mailed Judy.

Her Cajun Navy man moved to California to be with her. Last August, they married on board the Newport Princess in Newport Beach. "Love is better the second time around," added Judy.

The person who moves seems to sacrifice more. Judy said he misses the fishing in Louisiana and getting his legal affairs in order in California has been "a nightmare."

Gary Sully of Orange, California, went to his 25th high school reunion and met his old girlfriend there. He kissed her in the same room of the same house where he had kissed her 25 years before. They are now happily married.

Hooking up with an old flame can work but as Suzy Olsen says, "Don't let yesteryear fog your vision."

And, I might add, don't let loneliness cloud your decision making. A short-term fix might turn into a long-term disaster.

As in most relationships, after the romance and passion wears off a bit, the true challenges of making a relationship work must be faced.

When inevitable bumps in the road come along, particularly with older people with health issues, just because you've known somebody for 60 years doesn't mean he or she will respond the way you hoped or thought he would.

As Suzy suggested, view the person for what he or she is in the present, which might not be how he was 60 years ago.

Play Musty For Me

I wish this column could always be about perfume, roses and things that smell good. But that’s not practical or reflective of dating after 50. Sometimes readers ask questions about gnarly subjects and it’s our duty to address them. You might say, everything gets scrubbed clean in this column.

Mildew resulting from the hurricanes in Florida and the rains in Oregon may be responsible for today’s topic. Let me explain.

Monica Jones is happily married and raising a family in the Panhandle of Florida. With the recent hurricanes, Florida is dealing with mildew in more ways than one. Monica e-mailed, “Have you ever done an article on body or house odors being a turn-off in a new relationship? Like if a person or their house smells bad and that person doesn’t care?”

I told Monica that it’s not a topic I write about often. But apparently the problem is more prevalent than I thought as I’ve recently heard from other singles on the subject

Monica explained: “A co-worker told me he is seeing a gal who has a musty odor to her body, clothing and house. He is considering ending the relationship because he can’t get past the smell.

“I’ve been to places where cigarette odors, moth balls or pet orders drive me nuts; I wouldn’t be able to date a man if his house smelled like that. My friend has mentioned this to her but she doesn’t care. I think he should lay it on the line with her before ending the relationship. If she’s willing to clean up her act, maybe they would have a future.”

Jill, 56, lives in Oregon. After a 35-year marriage ended in divorce, she contacted an old flame, a guy she’d dated prior to her marriage—more than three decades before. When they met for a date, Jill thought, “This is really awful of me, but this man smells musty.”

I wonder if there’s a correlation between Oregon—where it rains often and clothes and houses don’t dry out—and Florida, where they’ve had the hurricanes. There’s mold in both states.

Jill says there’s no correlation: “Older men smell musty in Oregon because they don’t have a wife to wash their clothes.” So that’s the reason—MMWS—moldy-missing-wife syndrome?

My advice to Monica’s friend and to Jill: Hang in there. Invite your nice but odorous friends to your respective homes for dinner. Enjoy a bottle of merlot in front of the fireplace, so their clothes will dry. Leave extra deodorant in the bathroom and various key locations around the house.

Ask your friends what movie they’d like you to rent. If either says “I love Clint Eastwood, will you rent ‘Play Musty For Me,’” you’d be better off seeking a relationship in Arizona or Nevada. It’s dryer in those states; at least you’d be able to get past the smell.

Reader comment: Julia Crouch, Bellingham, WA, “I appreciate your column, especially it’s breezy, uncomplicated tone and clear-eyed advice.” Response: Breezy, uncomplicated and clear-eyed? Sounds like how we were before we grew up and messed up our lives in adulthood.

Should “married-but-separated” people date?

In last week’s column, we quoted Cindy, a 59-year-old married-but-separated executive from New York City who said meeting men was difficult. I suggested men might be avoiding her because she's married. Should married-but-separated people date?

Many people say no

Most who responded said “no” to dating someone married.

Pat Duncan, Little Rock, Ark., wrote, “Start dating only when the divorce papers are signed. Until then, you’re still married, like it or not.”

Suni e-mailed from Florida: “I never date men who are separated. It’s asking for trouble. Some attorneys have used that as an adultery issue. Plus, the spouse may not be used to the idea of a former mate dating, and sometimes that’s a nightmare in the waiting.”

Ed Hebert, San Francisco said, “I dated a woman who was getting a divorce. She was using me as a rebound to her spouse, proving to him that she could date also. She was harboring deep feelings for him and not ready.

In the bar business, they used to call it a one-night stand.”

“Separated does not equal available; I refuse to connect with anyone who lists their status as separated,” e-mailed Rhonda NeSmith, 47, Atlanta, GA.

“There is no such thing as being ‘separated’ unless you’re an egg,” shared, Patricia, from Pittsburgh, PA. “Men or women who try to act as if they’re single, but aren’t divorced, have no integrity.”

Julie Britt, Houston, TX: “When I discovered my wonderful Internet date was separated, not ‘single’ as as he had posted, and was avoiding the pain of ending his marriage, and not available for a healthy relationship, I moved on.”

Some singles, like Pat Sickler, Shickshinny, PA, shy away from dating separated people because of the experiences they’ve had. “I was burned badly by an old friend of many years who was in the process of getting a divorce. He went back to his wife.”

Roseanne G of Tyler, Texas, met a guy who “was in the middle of a divorce that was to be ‘final in four weeks.' Things grew too close too fast considering his situation and my naïve acceptance that we had something worth holding on to. Two-plus years later he still wasn’t divorced. Haven’t seen him in a year and a half. He just called and said the divorce would be final Feb. 20. Laughing out loud.”

Reader Val said people shouldn’t date until after the divorce because it’s not fair to drag whomever you meet through the emotional traumas and court battles. “Also, you are vulnerable emotionally and are likely to do something stupid you’ll regret like sleeping with someone because you’re lonely or don’t remember how to say no.”

Are there exceptions?

Might it be acceptable for a married person to date, depending on the circumstances?

Carol Turenne, Oakdale, MN, thinks so: “Depends on where a person is in a relationship. If it’s completely over, why not start dating, not fireworks, but dating?”

“I’m single and I’m not single,” a 60-year-old separated woman wrote. “My being ‘not’ single is pure technicality. A complicated financial issue precluded putting my estranged husband’s and my signature on the divorce agreement.”

Another woman in her 70s separated from her husband six years ago because he was having an ongoing affair, and had been for years. Since then, he has developed advanced Alzheimer’s and is in an assisted-living facility.

She said, “I have chosen not to divorce…financially it would be impossible to maintain his level of care after community property were divided. I would be fine but he would not and I cannot leave my daughters with the sole responsibility for their father.”

She’s been dating a widower for two years. Neither is interested in re-marrying; he is aware of her situation. “Both of us realize we must enjoy each and every day we are given.”

Is she wrong? She could divorce him and cut off his health care. Or, stay married to protect him and yet get out and enjoy what years she has remaining. I think she is a remarkable woman for the decision she’s made.

Personally, I dated before my divorce was final. My wife cleaned out the house on Xmas Eve and left. Was I going to sit around and wait for the divorce papers out of respect for her? No way, I needed to jump start my life and did.

Some still-married people have every right to date. They could become great mates. The problem is: How do you distinguish between who is lying and who has a legitimate reason? The Internet is rife with married men dating (and cheating). If you decide to date someone married, proceed with caution and protect yourself.

How do you know if someone is married?

Barbara Sloan, Wallingford, CT: “I ask for their home phone number and call them there, rather than giving out my phone number. This allows me to make sure I can block my number until I’m sure I can trust a man. It’s a red flag if he won’t give out his number.”

Excuses singles hear from married people

Faylee, Kingsport, TN, wrote, “I’ve heard, ‘I can’t get a divorce until my mom dies, it would kill her to have a divorce in the family,’ and ‘My kids wouldn’t talk to me if I divorced their mom, ’only to find out the kids are in their late 20s and already divorced themselves.”

Are you available?

In the movie “Forget Paris,” when Billy Crystal found out the woman he had fallen in love with was married, he told her, “Don’t make yourself available if you’re not available.”

Married folks wanting to date need to ask themselves: “Am I available?"

Only they can determine that, and then they have to convince the new love they’ve just met that they’re a safe bet for the future. Depending on their situations, they might have a tough sales job on their hands.

Reader Comment:

Nancy, Marion, Ohio: “I received an Internet response from a fella in a neighboring state who wanted my measurements as he liked to ‘carpet wrestle!’ How risky is Internet dating for women?”

Tom’s Response: Another one of those floor-burner guys, attempting a new ploy to get the sex topic on the agenda early. Handle them with two words. “Delete” and “next.” Always trust your instincts.

What Women are Doing to Socialize

Most unattached women admit meeting men is difficult. But many of them aren’t sitting around waiting for a man to show up at their door. They are facing life head on with enthusiasm and energy. Today, some of them share their stories.

Jo Anne, Willowbrook, Illinois, wrote: “I’ve signed on to a couple of online dating search engines and surprisingly a couple of guys have expressed interest. We tend to think that now that we’re 56 (myself), there’s no one out there who is interested. That’s not true. I think this is one of the safest ways to meet potential partners and it certainly is much more affordable than some other ways.”

Barbara, 53, San Juan Capistrano, CA said, “I’ve met a couple of nice gentlemen through an online site. The Internet is useful as I’m able to get a good feel for the person via emails and phone calls before meeting him. I will hang in as I know the right man is out there.”

Anita, mid-50s, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, e-mailed, “I was divorced five years ago, after 31 years of marriage. I lost 85 pounds, changed my hair color and moved to this suburb of Tulsa.

“Updated my profile on Yahoo! Personals. Within two days, I heard from Bill, who lives here. We discovered we were born on the same day, the same year. He’s ten hours older than I. We also found out that as kids, we had gone to see Santa Claus at the same time, at the same store.

“We’ve been together since and want to be together for a long time. People should just keep looking.” I teased Anita about dating older men.

Faylee lives in Northeast Tennessee. She asked if there were any male readers in her neck of the woods, age 49 to 58, who would like to meet a sharp woman. Faylee helps run a singles group in Tennessee. I told her I’d ask so guys you can e-mail me and I’ll forward them to Faylee.

“If you force yourself to get out of the house several times per week, you’re bound to meet people, no matter where you go or what you do. Joining groups is an excellent way to meet people. And Internet dating services are a good supplement. All three methods, used together, ought to produce a lot of new friends in a short while,” said Jennifer Marks, Orange, CA.

Jennifer makes a valid point. To help find new people, singles need a marketing plan that incorporates different ways to find them, including the Internet.

Lois Brady, 56, St. Louis, Mo., wrote, “I’m finishing writing a book, and I’m moving to Tucson to do it. I don’t know anyone there but am excited to start exploring a new city and getting to know some folks there.” Any Arizona guys out there?

Bev, Pine Bush, NY: “Your columns have given me, well, the more appropriate way to say it is, kicked me in the you know what.”

Bev explained: “I lost my best friend and lover a little over two years ago. We were together nine years. He made me promise if anything ever happened to him, I wouldn’t remain alone, neverdreaming I would be faced with honoring his request.

“I’m accepting offers from friends for fun things to do, and I will send at least one wink a week just to start moving again.”

Note from Tom: A wink is an electronic version of the flirt, an e-mail query, usually via an Internet matching site that reaches out to someone to establish a dialogue.

And from New York City, Cindy checked in: “I’m a 59-year-old woman, average looking, separated, financially successful and a vice president in a large financial institution. The fireworks have not happened but I get inspiration from your newsletter.”

My response to Cindy: Perhaps still being married is a roadblock to your dating. People who are still married and trying to date has been a hot topic lately. I may do a column on it if any of you care to share your opinions or experiences. Many people, like perhaps Cindy here, are just waiting for the final papers to be signed and are in effect, single. Is it okay for them to date?

So there you have it, what some women are doing about being single and hoping/wanting a relationship. I’ll bet most of us never thought we’d be in this situation later in life.

The Internet: A valuable tool

Thanks to the Internet, people from across America read this column online. Nearly 100 singles responded to last week’s topic, “Don’t Throw Away Tomorrow,” which featured stories of how older singles had met mates.

Some responses described finding new love. Others came from women who said they were lonely and asked what they could do to meet quality men.

Donna, Irvine, Ca., said: “Your column hit home. I have vowed, after my son’s wedding next week, to get off my couch and try to put some balance in my life. I won’t give up hope!” I told Donna to keep an eye out at her son’s wedding—wouldn’t it be great if she met someone there?

Nancy Lee, Wayne, MI (Detroit suburb), a nurse at the University of Michigan, wrote, “I had been divorced 24 years and hadn’t dated in nine years. My new boyfriend and I are 37 miles away from each other. I wouldn’t have met him if I hadn’t answered his ad on Yahoo! Personals.”

Tink Nathan, 63, lived in Virginia in 2002 when he traveled to Louisiana to work on a book. Also through Yahoo! Personals, he found Dot Grantham, 66, who lived in Louisiana, and is the current senior women's archery champion in Louisana. After they met in 2002, Dot e-mailed me, described him as very opinionated and asked what she should do. From the details she gave, I said she should run the other way.

When Tink and Dot read last week’s column, they had a big laugh and decided to send an update. They now live together in Covington, LA, about an hour from New Orleans. Tink wrote, “She gives me the loyalty and attention most men only dream about having.” Again, if not for the Internet, they wouldn’t have met. And their relationship proves that I don’t always know what I’m talking about.

Stephen Paliska, Santa Ana, CA,said he met his wife when they were both working in the oil business in Kern County California. That sounded official and business like. Then Stephen fessed up: “Actually, I met her in a Bakersfield bar where she was to meet someone else, but was stood up.”

You never know where or when you’re going to meet somebody—could even be on a bar stool while you are minding your own business having a cool one.

Judy, Albany, NY, wrote: “I’m 52, married 31 years. A year ago my husband pulled the rug out from under me. He was seeing another woman, who, along with her husband, were friends of ours. I’m beginning to feel alive again and ready to go on with my life as soon as my divorce is final.”

I wrote Judy and told her not to wait until the divorce is final. Get out there NOW, start meeting people and making friends. Getting back into the dating arena takes a little rev-up time.

This week I’m interviewing another couple who lived in the same city (population 30,000) for four years but never met and feel because they traveled in different circles they never would have met. But via the Internet, they connected and got married three years later. Both are in their 50s.

Often, readers respond with sage advice worthy of sharing.

A single woman--Dawn LaCroix, Omro, WI--wrote: “Nice to see so many hopeful people still looking for that special someone. I feel we all need to first learn to stand on our own feet and paddle our own canoe. If we rely on others to make us happy, we will never be content. I’m blessed in many ways and am never really alone. Having a special person in my life again would be a bonus.”

And that is why, Dawn, we should never give up. And the Internet, with all of its potholes and strange characters looming about, is still one of the more effective ways to reach out and find someone.

Reader comments:

Last week, we featured this e-mail from Roger, Vestal, NY: "I haven't dated in 43 years, had a good marriage, was unexpectedly widowed. I'm 67, a retired policeman. Your electronic book, "After the Healing: A Guide Book for Widowers and Widows" (www.findingloveafter50.com) is great and so true. I've met women who scare the hell out of me, still don't think I'm ready to date."

Well, Nancy from York, PA wrote and wants to meet Roger, they are about 200 miles apart. We'll see what happens.

Mary Colvert, Birmingham, AL, "What would you suggest in Alabama to help along the situation to find someone?" Response: Persue as many activities as you can and try the Internet for people in your part of the country.

Don’t Throw Away Tomorrow

Last Sunday, I was putting the finishing touches on this column. As I walked through the living room of the house, the television was on. I heard Dr. Robert Schuller (Sr.) (Hour of Power) mention a book he has just completed, titled, “Don’t Throw Away Tomorrow.” (Due to be published early in 2005).

How appropriate I thought, that’s the message of the column: singles shouldn’t give up hope. Four singles share their reasons why.

Robin, Buena Park, Ca., has been a loyal reader of my column for years. And as with many of you, we've developed a friendship even though we've never met. During the years Robin and I have exchanged e-mails, she’s mentioned many dates. The woman lets no moss grow under her feet. At times, she’s shared with me whether she’d ever have a worthy relationship.

This week Robin wrote, “I’ve re-discovered someone I’ve known through my single’s club. We have much in common. He’s a dear man, sweet soul, generous and respectful. Being a retired Marine says a lot about how he treats me.” So, there's fresh excitement in Robin's life.

Five months ago, Kathleen, Las Vegas, a widow and full-time nurse, e-mailed that meeting quality men in Las Vegas was difficult (as it is everywhere). She was considering moving back to Florida. “Being by yourself sure is lonely as hell, no one seems to be looking for a nice girl, who is strong, independent, financially and emotionally secure," Kathleen wrote.

But Kathleen didn’t give up. She sent me an update this week. “I’ve dated at least 30 men over the last two years. I have met someone new and feel like I’ve hit the mother lode so to speak. We are going slow, letting this wonderful relationship grow and flourish. We are both 60 and having the time of our lives.”

Nine months ago, Jerry Benyo, 67, Tampa, FL., a retired ship captain and widower of ten months, e-mailed, saying how hard it was to move on.

Last week, he wrote that he had met a widow his age at a wine tasting. They share similar interests and confide in each other over the emptiness each feels. I can tell from Jerry’s e-mail there’s a new bounce in his step.

Nancy Jones, 48, never married, is another long-time reader of this column. Years and years ago, after a 10-year relationship with her high school boyfriend ended, she was depressed.

But she asked herself, “Are you going to live your life waiting for fate to drop off Prince Charming and be miserable why you wait? Or, are you going to do everything you can with what you have and make a life instead of waiting for one?” That's a matureattitude for a young person.

Nancy says, “I experienced the ‘dating war’ for 22 years. My sweetheart came along four years ago. I’m writing to give encouragement to singles: it’s OK to be single. When women and men can emotionally stand on their own two feet, sometimes out of nowhere comes a mate who takes their hand and stands with them.

“Do the best you can. Appreciate and live life to the fullest. Never give up hope because you don’t know who or what lies just around the corner,” said Nancy.

Or, in Dr Schuller’s words, “Don’t throw away tomorrow.”

Reader comment:

Patty, Laguna Niguel, CA: “I would consider it a positive statement from a man or a woman that their ex or deceased was a great spouse. Of course, it would be a red flag if they continually did so.”

Watch Your Manners When E-mailing

When you e-mail a stranger, do you put your best foot forward or are you rude and don’t realize it? Could your e-mails be offending people and costing you dates?

I get a lot of e-mails from readers, usually 300 to 400 per week, depending on the subject matter of my columns.

It’s obvious that some people are unaware that attitude, ego and personality show through in the e-mails they send. Common courtesy and etiquette are ignored with cut- to-the-chase and go-right-for-the-jugular types of messages. Makes me wonder if this is the way they come on when meeting potential dates.

In an e-mailed response to my column about Costa Rica, one woman’s opening sentence was that the trip sounded very boring. She said instead of snorkeling with my mate, I should have gone deep-sea fishing. And then she listed the activities she would have done to improve the trip. She suggested I go on a more romantic trip next time and DEMANDED I write her about it.

Seldom do I let myself get dragged into an argument with a reader, but I wrote back and said she was rude. She apologized, saying she didn’t realize she’d been so. Turns out she is a nice person after all, but her initial approach would turn a man off.

Another reader responded to a different column by beginning his e-mail saying he was taking time out of his busy schedule to write, as if he was doing me a big favor.

He explained he COULD write a book about what he’s learned from dating. He bashed women hard, saying that 80 percent of the women age 49-plus have lost interest in men and sex, while revealing what great shape he is in and how wonderful he is.

He ended his e-mail repeating that he COULD write a book (but hasn’t--too busy I guess). This guy has no clue that his immense ego came through loud and clear in his e-mail. And he wonders why he's having trouble meeting women?

Another guy who wouldn’t provide his name or city opened his e-mail by accusing me of being brainwashed by older women because I suggested that men would be better off dating women close to their age. He then listed his five “great” reasons for dating younger women, while comparing older women to pre-owned trucks with high mileage. Chauvinism showed through in his e-mail. He doesn't care, he can hide behind the e-mail shield.

Another time, I featured a man in a column who was single and available, based on information he’d given me. He hoped women would respond to the column and ask to meet him. And many did. But women who knew him also responded, saying that he was married and of questionable character. Despite having been dishonest with me, he was rude and demanded that I give him their e-mail addresses anyway. Nobody I know does well to demands, particularly newspaper writers who protect their sources.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of people who are tactless, rude and speak or write before they think. Their first words are negative and harsh. As a columnist, I’m supposed to have a thick skin, but when people begin their e-mails like a piranha they lose my attention quickly.

And if that’s the way they come across when meeting singles they’d like to date, they’re going to lose out every time. Because the majority of singles age 50-plus are kind, considerate, thoughtful, educated and caring people. They don’t tolerate rude and ego-driven behavior.

In the over-50 dating arena, poor etiquette doesn’t open doors. Even in e-mails, it’s wise to put your best foot forward.

Reader comments and response:

K. Peterson, Austin, TX., "A group of us from our office here have signed up for your newsletter." Response: "Holy Cow! Are you fixin' to tell us about the dating scene in Austin?

Tom Rath, 59, Stanton, Ca., “I get tired of hearing from a woman what a great man her ex or deceased husband was.” Response: When a man or woman speaks repeatedly of an ex-spouse, it likely means that he or she hasn't healed enough to be dating again.

534 Realities of Dating After 50

I hear from an increasing number of singles age 50 and older who complain that they cannot find quality singles. The majority who write are women. But men complain also.

Having written columns on dating after 50 for more than ten years, and having been on the Today Show twice as an expert on dating after 50 (Their definition, not mine), here are a few of the realities of dating after 50 I have witnessed.

  • Meeting someone is more difficult for women by the numbers alone. At age 60, single women outnumber single men by about three-to-one. By age 70, it is nearly five-to-one.
  • Far too many older men want to date women as much as ten-to-thirty years younger. That shrinks the size of the over age-50 male dating pool. Those men are foolishly missing opportunities for happiness.
  • Some men who put themselves out there are married. Admittedly, some of them are in the midst of divorce and consider themselves available. Perhaps they are, but they need to get their domestic problems taken care of before most single women will consider getting involved. One married guy asked me recently when is a married man single? Dah, when he is divorced.
  • Some men are jerks. Some women are jerks. Jerks will not have a valued relationship because no one wants to put up with a jerk.
  • Even when a single finds someone he or she likes, that is just the first hurdle. Finding a compatible person is an even bigger challenge. One who shares values, interests, morals, religious beliefs, energy levels and who turns the partner on. We all have baggage and are set in our ways. None of us is willing to compromise much.
  • This next point is huge, but simple. For relationships to work,both parties must sincerely want a relationship. That is often not the case. Men and women say they want a relationship, but when the time to commit arrives, they realize that is not what they want. Usually, a broken heart results.
  • The Internet can be an effective dating tool. But, many people who use it lie about their age, height, weight, marital status and whatever else they feels needs disguising. Many older singles have given on the Net. Women age 50-plus tell me that considerably younger men contact them online wanting only sex and men from foreign countries want a bus ticket to the USA.
  • The Internet often creates long-distance relationships, which carry their own set of problems. Who is going to leave his or her home, familiar surroundings, friends and job to move to a new city or state to take a chance on romance? Horror stories come from people who have done so but found things did not work out as planned. Some long-distance relationships work, like for Monica Jones, who left Orange County and moved to start a family in the Panhandle of Florida.
  • Dating a widower can be risky. Many widowers have not healed properly. They lure a woman in with promises but when reality sets in, they disengage, leaving yet another broken heart. In my e-book, AFTER THE HEALING. A GUIDE BOOK FOR WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS, almost a third of the book is devoted to the perils of dating widowers.
  • Women ask me all of the time where they can go to meet single men. There is no place in this country that I am aware of where single men gather solely to find single women they can date, except perhaps places that have dances for older singles. But there, the ratios can be out of whack.
  • The best way to meet someone remains getting out of the house and becoming involved in activities with other people. Singles may meet someone; they may not. But they will enrich their lives.
  • Most older singles would like a mate, but marriage is not a high priority. They would simply like to ease the loneliness.
  • Being single is better than being in a miserable relationship. More and more singles are realizing that and tolerating the loneliness.

Those are a few of the realities I have found. But despite the odds, older singles do meet. It can and does happen. Singles need to be realistic and keep their expectations in check. Staying active and positive are the most important things they can do.

Reader Comment and response:

Geraldine Toltschin, Newport Beach, Ca., says -Life goes on without a significant other. My life has more than enough intellectual stimulation, friendship and much laughter, however, nothing beats having someone to share a beautiful sunset with.- Response: Most singles feel as you do. Do not stop hoping or living.

Romance in Costa Rica

Ocotal Beach, Costa Rica: A fishing boat makes its way out to sea. Four birds, yellow-breasted flycatchers, chirp and dart about in a Guanacaste tree in front of our bluff-top hotel room overlooking the Pacific Ocean (http://www.ocotalresort.com). An iguana cranes his neck on the grass a few feet away. It is 80 degrees and sunny. The ocean, 100 yards below, is calm. Another priceless morning on the northwestern coast of Costa Rica.

Our setting is similar to an ocean-view room at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Laguna Niguel, Ca., only in a more tropical climate. My partner Greta and I have enjoyed being here for the last week, one of the most romantic places we have ever been.

We flew to San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. Then, we rented a four-wheel drive mini-SUV and drove five hours to get here. Because most of the main roads in Costa Rica are two-lane, the speed limit is 48 mph, which is a blessing because there are so many potholes to avoid—even on the Interamericana Highway, which connects the countries of Central America.

There is a palm tree directly in front of our room. Yesterday, it held seven green coconuts the size of softballs. Today, only three remain. A hotel employee whacked the branch holding the other four with a machete; the coconuts will be used in a coconut flan dessert and pina coladas at the bar.

Each afternoon at around four, Greta and I sit on our red-tiled patio and enjoy the thunderstorms, which are often accompanied by brilliant lightning over the ocean, automatic at this time of year, aptly named the Green Season because of the rain. For me, the afternoon rains were the most romantic and relaxing time.

We drove to many places in Guanacaste Province, and to Tamarindo, where American surfers flock. One would think that the road to that tourist Mecca would be well maintained, but speaking of potholes, wow. No wonder the cost of renting a car in this country is so expensive.

For couples, a trip of eleven days demands give-and-take, flexibility and a willingness to try new things. One morning I suggested to Greta that we take the River Corobici float trip (www.safariscorobici.com).

An hour and a half later, we stepped into a raft with a personal guide and enjoyed a two-hour float through a dry rain forest, seeing howler monkeys, birds, iguanas and native trees. After our guide Daniel eased the raft to within four feet of a sunbathing eight-foot crocodile, he asked if we wanted to swim. The Corobici is a gentle river, an easy trip for seniors and people afraid of the water.

The people who sponsor the river trip have established a wild life santuary on their property called Las Pumas. They provide a safe haven for the big jungle cats and rare scarlett macaws, which would have perished on their own due to injury or abandonment. Las Pumas is a must -see whether one takes the float trip or not.

When we were not off exploring, we would snorkel and relax on the beach. Ocotal Beach is a half-mile long and has small waves. Twenty fishing and dive boats are moored there. When we snorkel, Greta holds on to my swim trunks so we are side-by-side for safety and to point out the different fish. She says, to her, snorkeling together is the most romantic time.

During our drive back to San Jose, a nation-wide protest by citizens closed the highways. A policeman on a motorcycle, noticing we had a four-wheel drive, told us to follow him. He virtually led us for ten miles through the jungle on a muddy, wet and dangerous ro

In San Jose, we visited the Jade Museum, the greatest collection of jade in the world. We topped our trip off with a another boat trip, this one through the Tortuega National Park, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, where the giant sea turtles lay their eggs.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with beautiful, gentle people. If you plan to visit, e-mail me and I will be happy to answer any questions.

Comment and response

Mark Flannery, Fullerton, Calif said -Your column last week was another example of my belief that certain characteristics, integrity or the lack thereof, are not gender-specific. For every article that suggests men are cheating scoundrels, I see a similar one about women - Response: It works both ways.

Single Woman Lashes Out

“If I hear one more happily married person tell me that I ‘don’t need a man,’ I think I will barf,” e-mailed Carolyn age 52.

Carolyn was responding to last week’s column about the difficultly older women have in meeting men.

When she divorced three years ago, Carolyn knew there would be a shortage of men, which is what she found and it didn’t surprise her.

But what has surprised her is the attitude of her married friends. She’s particularly upset with her married women friends who have been discouraging and uncooperative in helping her meet someone or even understand her need to meet someone. Carolyn says they question her desire to be with a man.

“The comments range from ‘You don’t need a man to complete you’ to ‘I’m surprised you’re even concerned with meeting a man at this ‘stage of life,’” said Carolyn.

She says the women making the comments are happily married and derive emotional and physical satisfaction from their marriages. Some have told her they couldn’t imagine being single again.

“I’m supposed to suddenly lose all interest in enjoying the same benefits of a romantic partnership they enjoy every day and not give a hang about it?”

Lack of Sex Life No Big Deal?

Carolyn is surprised that “Many of these women seem to feel that the lack of a sex life for divorced or widowed people should be a ‘non-issue.’ They have equated women’s independence and self-sufficiency with a complete indifference toward wanting or needing a man in any way,” shared Carolyn.

“I don’t understand how this translates to women thinking it’s some kind of a badge-of-honor to disregard the normal, healthy desires women and men were born with.”

Carolyn told a widow co-worker she’d enjoy finding a romantic partner. “Her answer to me was that she had no interest in ‘all that’ because she’s an independent person who has adequate financial resources not to need to marry to be taken care of.”

Carolyn was surprised at the widow’s words. Carolyn is independent and has enough money to survive on her own.

But, those factors don’t affect her wanting and needing male companionship.

“Being independent or having enough money to live well without a man would not even enter the equation. A woman’s independence and self sufficiency should enable her relationships with men to be more passionate and interesting.”

She asks, “What happened to a woman just wanting to be with a man because she enjoys good male companionship in ALL forms and wants a man to enhance her life? Why does that diminish a woman in any way?”

She wishes her friends would be more empathetic toward her and her being a single, age 50-ish woman.

Carolyn’s not looking to remarry. “What’s much more important is finding a satisfying, fulfilling and happy relationship with a great guy!”

Carolyn said, “If ever we (singles) needed our married friends—whom we’ve known for years—to support us, it’s now”.

Message for married folks: Ease up on your single friends

Women Aren't Meeting Men

In the last five days, I’ve received e-mails from three women expressing their frustrations about not being able to meet men.

Maxine in Michigan is a widow, lives near Detroit. She says she hasn’t found an effective way to meet men. She attends church and senior citizen functions. In addition to her home, she owns a farm in northern Ohio, where she spends time. Because of living in two locations, she doesn’t join groups.

“I’m sure I’m in the wrong circles for meeting men who are alone and want companionship.”

Becky from Horse Country, works full time, owns a home with land, has horses, and a dog and a cat, all of which keep her busy. She has her profile on four dating sites and is upfront about having horses and loving to ride. She spends a great deal of time with horse-related activities.

Becky’s met several men for coffee. “We meet one time and that’s it. Usually from lack of interest on my side or theirs.”

Becky asked, “Am I being too anxious, too honest or pushing too hard? Is the mention of my horses too intimidating for some guys?”

Val in southern California doesn’t meet many men through her job so she’s joined two Internet dating sites.

“To my surprise, younger men—much younger, are the ones who write.” The problem is, says Val, that younger guys are mainly just looking for sex. “Men my age aren’t interested, unless they’re short (Val’s 5’7”), weird, unattractive or foreign—then my inbox is full.”

Val says it takes the wind out of her sails to go through what she’s experiencing. “I’m just a normal person wanting a normal relationship, not willing to settle for beer- bellied or much older men.”

What’s the Answer?

I wish I had a magic wand and could introduce these three women to nice men. I feel their situations represent what older single women are going through across the USA and in other countries as well. It’s a big problem.

But, let’s put a positive spin on the situation. First, there are men and women getting together later in life. I’ve written many columns recently about them. So, it can and does happen.

Next, single women need to understand that statistics are the main reason they’re having trouble meeting men. At age 60, there are approximately three single women to each single man. At age 70, it’s around five-to-one.

But these ratios are deceiving. Women point out, as Val did above, that many available men aren’t relationship material. So the ratios are even larger.

Women need to get out of the house and get involved with activities that interest them. They need to commit to themselves to enjoy and enrich their lives with or without a man. If they’re out looking too hard, they’ll come off as desperate.

The more people women are exposed to, the better their chances of meeting someone. However, if the activities women pursue are strictly women-type, they likely won’t meet men. The Internet can be a valuable tool to use to meet others. But, we all know there is a downside because of the flakes also using it.

Don’t give up. Meeting a man can happen. What’s your opinion?

Dating & Religion

Are religious beliefs important in dating after 50? Must the person you’re seeing share your faith? I asked those questions to the readers of this newsletter and was overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of responses. More than 325 of you answered.

One thing’s certain, people have strong opinions and more than half believe having common religious beliefs is important.

Because so many of you took an interest, let me know if you’d like a Part Two of this series. Please don’t feel offended if I haven’t included you. You were all brilliant and I have copies of your e-mails for future reference.

As Carmela Vuoso-Murphy, Boonton, NJ, pointed out, “These questions needs to be answered on an individual basis.” Carmela’s right, let’s hear what some of you said.

For many, there’s no compromise:

“ I could never seriously date anyone who didn’t acknowledge my faith,” said Suzy Olson, Mission Viejo, Ca.

Eric Tracy, Provo, UT., wrote, “It’s very important that people be compatible religiously. Even when a couple match in every other way, religious differences can be a time bomb.”

Rosanne Gueguen, Tyler, TX., shared, “I would only consider a permanent relationship with a man that attended regular Sunday services and preferably of my faith.”

Wally Hollis, Highlands Ranch, Colo., e-mailed, “I’m an evangelical Christian and would not consider dating a women who isn’t.”

And Diana Condon, Philadelphia, wrote, “My religion specifically commands that we be ‘evenly yoked.’ This and because it’s an important part of my life would preclude involvement with a man who didn’t feel similarly.”

For others, religion less of a factor

David Silver, Elberon, NJ., and his girlfriend have different religions. David said, “Religion isn’t a problem between me and Jan, but neither of us is much into formal religion.”

Mary Martin, San Clemente, Ca., said, “If a man is basically good and caring, his religion or lack thereof, is not material.”

Rose F. of Staten Island, NY, said, " Religion isn’t important to me in relationship. To someone else, they'd go to war over it."

Kim Battern, St. Cloud, Minn: “It doesn’t matter if the man is Christian,Buddhist or Jewish.”

Level of commitment matters

Karen Piercy, Columbus, Ga: “I’m put off by people who are zealously attached to their religion. To love one another, that’s what it’s all about. Isn’t it?”

From Winter Haven, Fl., Dean Stinson shared, “The only time religion would be a problem is if the other person tried to push their views on to me. I have my beliefs and I’m not going to change.”

Carol Gavin, Washington, D.C., made her point clear, “There are people out there with beliefs that I wouldn’t want in my house, let alone my bed.”

Debbie Rosansky, Pembroke, Pines, Fl., said she could respect any religious values, “…if they don’t try to convince others of their superiority or sole claim to righteousness.”

Some feel different beliefs can work

Mary Morales, Lake Forest, Ca., said, “I’ve had a long-time relationship with a man who is admittedly agnostic. We respect and accept each other’s views with an unspoken understanding that challenging the other in this area is out of bounds.”

Jeanne Zang, Sewickley, Pa., e-mailed, “I’m open to most religious viewpoints and would have no problem dating someone from another religion. He’d have to accept that I’d never convert to his religion.”

J.W. Nelson, Beaverton, Or., “I’m a Christian but respect all faiths. Faith shows commitment, respect and dedication to one’s self. Since, I don’t know what religion God is, I don’t feel it’s my place or right to judge others or their beliefs.”

Spirituality is important

Patricia Joseph, Pittsburgh, PA., “I’m particularly interested in men who believe in a higher power. Usually, if a man does NOT have that belief, he is inclined to think that HE is his own higher power.”

From St. Louis, Mo., Lois Brady, wrote, “I prefer to date men who are open-minded and take a more spiritual stance rather than a religious one.”

Esther Greco, San Jose, Ca., “As long as a person believes in God or has some belief that there is a ‘higher being’ looking out for us, that’s sufficient.”

Claudette Kiely, Chicopee, Mass., “The real substance for consideration beyond a label of religion is the spirituality and heightened consciousness of the individuals involved.”

That’s all we have room for this week. Thank you all for your incredible insight, depth and comments. Part II next week? Let me know.

What Should She Do?

Most middle-age singles enter relationships hoping they'll be treated well and feel special. Things don't always work out that way.

Cat shared her story, hoping it would help others who become involved in relationships that don't progress.

A year ago, Cat e-mailed me that she had been dating a man for four years: "He lets me know that cares for me and considers me a good friend. I've let him know that I care very much for him and value our relationship. Neither of us sees anybody else. I'm 52; he's 55."

So far, so good. Sounded like a grounded relationship. I asked Cat to keep me posted. She replied that she wanted the relationship to advance to the next level, to perhaps live together and then marry.

After four years, not an unreasonable thought.

Six months ago, Cat sent an e-mail update: "He explained that he will NEVER AGAIN have a serious 'love-type' relationship or live with another woman. His only marriage was devastating."

I answered, "Cat, there must be more to his story."

"He said his mother was inattentive and non-nurturing, that all women get on his nerves except me, he says I'm different. Am I naive to believe we had something?"

I asked her why it took four years to find this out and suggested she take a leave of absence from him. I heard nothing more until recently when I e-mailed her for an update.

"I followed your advice and broke up for three months. Then, he showed affection and caring--in his actions, but still not in his words. He still says he can never live with a woman. I love him and want a long-term relationship in which we live together. Am I dreaming?"

So there Cat was, a year after she first wrote me, five years into a relationship stuck on Baltic Avenue, a long way from Go, in her Monoply game of seeking love. Was she naive? Was she dreaming?

She wrote that she gave him yet another chance.

"He asked if I wanted to tell him how I felt. I thought this was the moment of his revelation of love for me. I swallowed hard, took a deep breath and said those three little words--'I love you.' And he said three little words back: 'I'm still here.' AAAAAGHG!"

Cat says "That was the nail in the coffin. My big mistake was being too empathetic and overly accommodating. When one does that, they just want more and more till you're all used up. It's all about them."

Cat is taking time to understand how she allowed herself to stay in the situation so long.

A lesson from Cat's story: When people start getting involved, they need to know the expectations and goals of their mate. No wishy-washy stances. "What do you want and expect out of this relationship" is a question that must be asked.

Cat consumed precious time that might have been applied to a healthy relationship that could have been flourishing by now.

Note: I'm seeking input from readers on how important religion and religous beliefs are in dating. How important to you is the other persons religion? Plan to do a future column.

Senior Love is Possible

Do you think love has passed you by? That once you hit age 55, 60, or egad, 70, it won't happen to you? So, you've given up on romance altogether.

Take a lesson from the Fleetwood Mac song, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." Meeting someone is possible.

Peggy, age 74, a widow for two years, lives near Syracuse, NY. Tom, 73, a widow for a little over a year, also lives in New York, but about an hour away from Peggy. "We were both very lonely, a really large hole in our lives," said Tom.

Without the Internet, they would have never met. Both checked out www.seniorfriendsfinder.com, a site that links to many different matching sites.

"Neither of us realized when we first exchanged timid notes last August that it would fill the hole of loneliness and lead us to the wonderful love we have," said Tom.

After several e-mails, a trust developed. Real names and phone numbers were exchanged. A September 4 lunch date was scheduled. "There wasn't a moment of silence-we talked, laughed and even cried-it was a wonderful first meeting. We talked for seven hours that day."

Peggy and Tom continued e-mailing and telephoning and began seeing each other weekly. "We spent hours and hours having serious discussions on where our relationship was going and realized how deep our love had blossomed," said Tom. They had the time to devote to each other; both are retired.

Each has six children and many grandchildren. They got to know each other's families.

"We're older, our time is finite. We have 91 years of marriage between us-we've been around the block. Do we wait another four or five months to marry? Those months can be wonderful, quality time together, enjoying life."

A week from tomorrow, Saturday, July 31, they will marry, followed by a honeymoon in Canada.

For the time being, neither is moving, they will maintain both residences. "No rush to combine households," says Tom, "thus, we can maintain contact with our respective communities, churches, local friends, etc. Time to the north, time to the south, whatever floats our boat, being together in this wonderful new married and loving relationship."

Peggy and Tom hope that by sharing their story other older people who are alone after losing their mates will be encouraged.

Another key to their success: They are close in age. Tom wasn't seeking some teenage bimbo. He found true love with a person older than he.

The Internet can be a useful tool in meeting a mate. Which site is best? www.personals.yahoo.com ?
www.thirdage.com ?
www.seniorfriendsfinder.com ?
www.match.com ?
www.quality-singles.com/links.htm ?

You may need to try more than one. You should be able to locate someone close enough to you so that getting together in person isn't a major trip.

And as always, when meeting strangers, be careful. Take a lesson from Peggy and Tom by proceeding slowly and cautiously. Get to know the person before a face-to-face meeting. Trust your instincts. Share with family and friends with whom you're meeting.

Now, get out there and search. And let us know what happens.

Who Pays?

This e-mail from a widow got my attention:

"I've been a widow for 21 months, 3 days, and x-amount of hours. I'm about to turn 44. I tried dating one man, but I paid for all of the times we went out to eat and we did nothing else. There is not one damn thing that I've found fun about being a widow!"

I e-mailed her back and asked why she paid all of the time.

She wrote: "I paid out of loneliness. Is it normal for a widow, or any single female, to pay for so many occasions?"

My answer was: "No, it's not normal or right for a single woman to pay most of the time. She should never have to pay more than half of the time, and even that's a stretch.

The rule of thumb is, whoever does the asking for a date should pay. But the other can reciprocate by offering to pay for coffee or picking up the tab on the next date. "

Then she e-mailed again to say the guy paid once. "One time we went out and he paid for dinner and then I got totally ticked off because he's self-employed and briefly saw a client at the restaurant. He came back to the table, picked up the receipt and said, 'This is a tax write-off for business.' Some friends said he was being a wise business person. I say he was being cheap."

I told her he sounded cheap and not very smart. He shouldn't have said anything to her about the write-off; he should have just gracefully picked up the tab and said something like, "My treat. I enjoy your company."

"What's your advice on going Dutch treat?" she asked. "I don't think it's fair for the men to shoulder all of the burden."

I told her that I think it's important for couples who've been dating awhile to discuss the "Who pays?" issue. No longer should men have to foot the bill the majority of the time, as in the old days. And certainly not the women either. A middle ground is best.

If a woman asks a man out, she should be prepared to pay for the date. But if the guy has any cool at all, he should offer to help pay for something--coffee, the tip, a movie, for example.

However, if she wants to pay, and he grabs the bill from her, and won't let her pay, he could insult her.

When a man or a woman pays all or most of the time, he or she will begin to resent it, no matter how comfortable or wealthy he or she is.

I told the widow in this case to dump the guy and find somebody who's more willing to play and pay fair. Perhaps then she'll be able to find at least something fun about being a young widow.

Finding Lasting Love on a Cruise

One of the statements in last week's column about single travel was: "Will singles find lasting love when traveling? Chances are they won't."

Most singles tell me they don't expect to find a lasting romance when they go on cruises. "Shipboard romances don't last," said June, "Don't have high hopes after docking."

And Sally said, "I met a nice man on a trip who was an excellent dancer, and we danced the cruise away. I saw him a couple of months later, but it faded away."

For Roni Mason, Dana Point, Ca., who went on a cruise out of New Orleans with a girlfriend, a shipboard romance turned out differently. Her story provides hope to traveling singles.

At a party the first night, a man named Wayne offered to buy Roni a drink. She said, "No thanks, I can buy my own."

"That's okay," Wayne responded, "they're free anyway."

By the end of the party, Roni and Wayne were dancing every dance together. "He had gone on the cruise at the last moment because his brother and sister-in-law wanted him to keep his mom company so they could have a second honeymoon. It didn't work out that way; we spent most of the cruise together. He was a fantastic dancer."

After the cruise, Roni and her girlfriend stayed in New Orleans. Wayne agreed to pick them up at their hotel and give them the grand tour.

"In the week we'd spent on board together, I never told Wayne my last name."

The hotel front desk couldn't help Wayne locate Roni and her friend. While the women waited in their room for Wayne to call, Wayne waited in the bar hoping they'd come down. Two other people from the cruise came into the bar who knew Roni's girlfriend's last name and the connection was finally made.

Two weeks later, Wayne visited Roni in Dana Point. "We knew there was something special but we also realized that we had to see if we could live in each other's world. We were both in our 50s and our children were grown. We went back and forth for a year and a half," said Roni.

Wayne and Roni survived the challenges long-distance relationships create. Where to live? New Orleans or Dana Point? "My husband decided he'd be the one to move to California. We've been married eight years and it keeps getting better," said Roni.

The Masons live full time in Dana Point, but keep a condo in New Orleans and travel there four to five times a year to see Wayne's family.

Love after 50 does happen, even when two people meet on a cruise ship. Remember, however-when you've danced with a man for a week, and you plan to see him again-to give him your last name. So go take that cruise and have fun. You just never know.

Comments and responses:

John Chiumento, Capistrano Beach, Ca., "I've been happily married to my beautiful bride for 14 months. I'm 61 and feel like the luckiest man alive. My wife and I enjoy your column. We met at Delmar Racetrack and as my daughter-In-law says, it was 'Love at first Bet.'" Response: Singles who get out of the house and pursue activities where they meet new people often find love.

Tips For Singles Who Travel - Part I

When singles take trips, they need to plan, be travel savvy and make many decisions.

One of the first decisions is whether to go alone or with a group. reader Jane Hamel says, "I'm more open to meeting others when I travel solo."

People traveling alone pay almost double compared to when sharing a room. Gail Ulrey, said, "I went on a two-week cruise from Venice to Barcelona. I booked a single room and paid thru the nose." Still, Gail felt her trip was worth the money.

Traveling with a group usually means having a roommate, which can be good or bad. Joanne Sterling, Los Angeles, said, "The person I was teamed up with was a 'nut' who wanted to borrow money. After a few days, I paid the upgrade and had my own space, much better albeit lonely." And speaking of roommates, what if they snore? Or you snore?

Gayla Pius recommends "Traveling with a tour group for safety, comfort and lots of fun. Pick a tour that interests you and you'll meet people with similar interests. Plus, your itinerary is planned."

Solo Travelers Need to Meet People

To avoid loneliness and enrich their trip, singles traveling solo must take the initiative to meet people.

While cruising, Gail Swain meets others by "Taking late dinner seating and requesting singles at my table. I attend the dances and other activities geared toward singles, hopefully segregated by age."

When Fran, Sonoma, Calif., was widowed, she went to Paris alone. She met the librarian of the Philadelphia orchestra and his wife at her hotel. "We had many meals together and their friendship and kind gestures made my time in Paris beyond anything I'd dreamed possible."

Staying at a B&B is more intimate than at a larger hotel and is a good way to meet people. Most singles don't enjoy eating alone. At B & Bs, you're seated with others.

Janet Riordan said, "Strike up a conversation with the person seated next to you on the plane, train, bus or bar stool, and you'll meet people who know places to visit and things to do."

Single men don't travel alone

Ivory Dorsey, Mableton, Ga, e-mailed, "Single men don't travel alone. The cruise lines hire dance partners for single women. Sometimes, a single guy will bring a woman to avoid being alone. This is no help as no one knows she's a stand-in. Why bring sand to the beach?"

"More single women travel than single men," said Burl Estes. Burl recommends single guys go on cruises or to Cancun, "where single women go with the hope of meeting someone."

Terry Johnson says he always travels with a woman : "I'm 62, going on 25. Still, I don't like to travel alone."

Singles Need to Be Careful

Singles need to be careful and avoid dangerous situations. Be aware of local conditions. When I visited Belize City, Belize, the hotel warned everybody-not just singles-about the danger of walking more than a few yards from the hotel at night.

Linda Hughes, San Clemente, Calif., said, "Leave good jewelry at home, use ATMs, only take a couple of credit cards, make two copies of your passport, license, credit cards, etc. Leave one at home and put one in a suitcase."

Don't walk around reading a map, it's a dead give-away that you're a naïve tourist.

"I take a backpack. It's easier to keep all of your stuff together and lighter than a purse. In London, there are a lot of pickpockets at night, so I carry it in front," said Sandi Benson.

Inspect hotel mini-bars before unpacking. Report any discrepancy to the hotel immediately. A four-star hotel in Ixtapa, Mexico, tried to charge my partner and me $300 for mini bar use and we hadn't even opened the door. A small bottle of water in a Madrid hotel mini bar this April cost $5.00.

Will Singles Find Lasting Love?

Will singles find love? Chances are they won't. "I met a nice man on a trip who was an excellent dancer and we danced the cruise away. I saw him a couple of months later, but it faded away," said Sally Montgomery.

Jim Rue, Laguna Beach, Calif. said, "Travel is a great way to enrich one's life but not the best way to meet single people."

"I went by myself on a 21-day river cruise through Germany and established a friendship with a widower from Oregon, however, a romantic relationship has not blossomed yet," said Susan Hillman.

June S. said, "Shipboard romances don't last. Don't have high hopes after docking."

And if you meet someone, then what? Chances are, you'll live in different cities. If you want to be together, who moves? Now you've got the challenges of a long-distance romance (In next week's column, we hear how one couple who met on a cruise and then had a long-distance romance and what eventually happened to them).

When traveling remember that no trip goes perfectly. Keep your wits about you, protect your money and documents and have fun.


Last Friday night, Greta and I watched "Dateline" hosted by Stone Phillips. The show was about a married couple in Las Vegas who disappeared. Foul play was suspected because blood was found in their home and their car was missing.

The Las Vegas police eventually solved the case by finding the husband in Orlando, FL, where he confessed to murdering his wife.

In an interview with "Dateline," the man admitted his guilt. What he did was heinous and he deserved the life sentence he received.

The man explained what triggered the murder. He said his wife had an explosive temper and the night he killed her, she'd been drinking champagne and attacked him with the bottle. He stated she broke his elbow, inflicted physical pain and kept coming at him.

The point in telling this story: If you're living with an angry person, you need to take action.

A person's anger may have little or nothing to do with you. It could be caused by deep set emotions from childhood or any number of reasons. The anger can be triggered by something you're not even aware of. One minute, all's fine. The next, your mate is in your face. Drinking often accompanies the rage, but not always.

You shouldn't allow yourself to be the target of the anger. Get out of the relationship before an event like the one on "Dateline" occurs.

Women are usually the victim of abuse, but men can be also. And it can be verbal as well as physical.

Elton John recorded a song called "Tonight," not the "Tonight" from West Side Story. Elton's version is a hauntingly beautiful piece of music, featuring Elton's electric piano, accompanied by the Melbourne, Australia Symphony Orchestra. The song begins with a simple question: "Tonight, do we have to fight again?"

The song continues by hinting that the couple fights often and the singer would just like to drift off to sleep without another incident.

I often listened to that song when I was in a relationship with an angry person. It was a song of hope that things would change and the anger would subside. But it never did. Anything could set her off. For two years, I walked on egg shells and danced on Jell-O. It was stressful, dehumanizing and no way to live.

One morning I called 911 from my own home because I sensed that the intense verbal abuse was about to escalate to physical abuse. After that incident, I mustered the guts to end the relationship. Thankfully, nothing like the "Dateline" incident happened.

And then I became involved with the kindest person I've ever met. In six years, we've never raised our voices. We live in peace and harmony, as civilized people deserve to live.

As we watched "Dateline," I had flashbacks to my personal experience and gave thanks that my life changed for the better.

If you're in an abusive relationship, don't settle for mental anguish and despair. Seek help and support. If you feel threatened, ask your local police for guidance and where to go for help. You need to find a way out.

Reader Comments:

William Mosconi, Anaheim, "I saw your new "Primetime for new Romance" column on Yahoo! Personals. Congratulations." Reply: Yahoo! asked me to be their expert on dating after 50. Go to: personals.yahoo.com/us/static/content_fe_19 Try to stump me with a question.

When Relationships End

Wives and former wives, husbands and former husbands. Friends or foes? To communicate or not? It depends.

Judging from the number of responses to last week's column, many readers still communicate with former spouses for different reasons.

Dr. Mary Pat Wylie, a relationship coach (www.JourneyToLove.com ), wrote, "After 22 years of marriage and 14 years of being single, my former husband-remarried five years ago and father of our five children-and I have always kept our children first in our lives, and shared a workable relationship. I also have an endearing relationship with his wife and we together share the joys of our children as an extended family."

Joy Brenner, Corona del Mar, Ca., said, "Last week's column touched me because my ex-husband and I have worked so hard to have a good relationship for our grown daughters."

Joy raised the issue that when a person expresses bitterness over a past relationship, it can negatively affect a new relationship. If someone disparages a former spouse, it could be be a red flag. Learning to forgive and move forward shows maturity.

Admittedly, it may take time for a person to forgive and arrive at this more enlightened place.

Without having a reason to communicate with an ex-such as children-some questioned the need to remain friends. Ann Gonzales, Pt. Loma, Ca., shared her experience about a man she's met: "He doesn't want to be friends with his ex even though she has suggested they remain friends. If the kids are grown and out of the nest, there doesn't seem to be the necessity to be friends."

Connie Veldkamp, said, "When I read about Jim playing golf and tennis weekly with his former spouse, I had an adverse reaction. Seems great to remain on friendly terms, but the cords of attachment should be severed in fairness to the new spouses.

A woman named Emerald, said, "I've seen too many people of both sexes who refuse to be anywhere at the same time and place as their exes. They're missing out on so many of their family's landmark events-weddings, graduations and holidays. Life is too short to carry bad feelings around forever.

"Wish more people could be open and understanding that all relationships don't last and that no one should be punished as a result, especially the children who share them as parents."

Kit Hammer, Milwaukee, WI, e-mailed, "Helen Gurley Brown, former editor of "Cosmopolitan Magazine," said we need at least three spouses for successive stages of life. Hopefully, both partners mature in compatible ways, but if they don't, Pam's success leaves us all hopeful."

Robin Nugent finds herself in an unusual arrangement, "Most people grimace when they hear I work with my former husband's new wife, but the two of us are remarkably similar in many ways. I truly like her. Many could use a reminder that burning a bridge on a past relationship is not always a wise thing to do."


Don Harris, Seal Beach, Ca., "Your article was a great tribute to Pam, as well as to the two mature, sensitive and intelligent gentlemen."

Cynthia Leopold, Erie, Pa., "I'll be 66 next week and sometimes think I'm going through adolescence again because I didn't do well when I was there the first time." Response: You aren't alone in your frustration. Many older singles feel the same way.

Two Husbands - No Problem

Last Friday, my partner Greta and I attended a party for Pam--one of Greta's friends--who is retiring after 30 years of teaching.

When we entered the restaurant, there were about 50 women sitting in the dining room and two men. I made a beeline to sit near the guys.

The men had an interesting connection. Jim, Pam's husband of a year, was having a discussion with Roger, Pam's former husband of 28 years. My initial reaction was: two ex's side-by-side, this may become interesting.

I began to realize as I listened to the two men converse that not only did they get along well, but they respected each other. I also realized that an important message was evolving to share with readers. I started scribbling notes on the paper table cloth in front of me.

Each man stood and praised Pam. And when each sat down, each had tears in his eyes. Ex-husband Roger commended Pam for getting out and meeting people after their divorce. "I'm proud of you," he said.

Jim had glowing words for his wife. You could see the feelings in his face and when he ended his talk, he walked over and kissed her.

Pam said she was the luckiest woman in the world to have worked as a teacher for thiry years and then to have met somebody when in her 50s. And she added, "Jim makes great nine-grain pancakes."

During supper, I asked the two men why they got along so well. Roger, himself remarried for two years, said, "Jim's a good guy, I like him and am pleased he entered Pam's life. It warms my heart to see her happy again."

And Jim accepts that Roger was with Pam for 28 years. "That's in the past and simply a fact of life," said Jim.

Both men agreed that when people have been together a long time, things and individuals can change and there may come a time when moving on is best for both.

Roger said his divorce from Pam wasn't a bad thing, it was just time for a change for both of them. And since children were a part of the mix, the parenting responsibility didn't end. Both continue to accept that roll and to help each other with it. And Jim works with them, not against them.

Roger said, "You don't discard the years you shared."

Jim, who still plays golf and tennis weekly with his ex-wife, added, "We all care about each other."

Lessons learned: By getting out and meeting people, Pam, in her 50s met Jim. They met at church. Older singles meeting and having a life together. It can and does happen.

Second lesson: So often we hear of or experience bitterness, jealousy and anger surrounding divorce. It was nice to observe educated, sensitive and intelligent people handling maturely the path upon which fate has taken them.


I was standing behind the counter in my Dana Point deli. Customer Ling Chou, 39, said, "You look like Tom Blake, the guy who writes the singles column." "I hear that a lot," I said.

When Rosa, my employee said, "Same guy," Ling shook my hand and said, "I'm a single mom and find the column helpful, even at my age." I said, "The problems that older singles face are similar to the problems younger people face." Ling took her sack of sandwiches, and her two children and said, "I'm on my way home to read the column."

Mary Platter, Costa Mesa, Ca., "Last week's column had a message for every single person out there. Maybe it'll save some of us from making those mistakes or making them again." Response: Protecting what we've worked so hard to obtain is vital for singles.

The final word on chemistry (for awhile at least)

Most of the time, but not always, responses and comments to columns come from women. But, the chemistry topic triggered responses from both sexes.

Ed Hebert, San Francisco, says physical attraction - i.e., chemistry - is not the priority it was when he was younger. "As you get older, you look for compatibility first; physical attraction is the frosting on the cake."

But David Hicliff, Anaheim, Ca., wasn't as mellow, "Women still don't get it, men are visual creatures, they're 'hardwired' that way. Why do you think fish go after a lure? Because they're visually attracted to it, not because they just want to get to 'know it.'

"If women are looking for a friendly relationship, they should go to libraries, but if they want an intimate relationship, they better pay attention to the lure they're dangling out there."

Sounds like David is suggesting we men have an I.Q. equivalent to a trout or a bass. Like just dangle it out there baby and you'll reel us in. Doubt if it's that easy.

And, of course, many women shared their responses to the definition of chemistry.

Reader Sherry said, "I've met at least 40 men since getting into internet dating and to all of them, chemistry means physical attraction.

"On that first meeting, they don't care or listen to what you have to say. They either say nothing or babble on about insignificant issues. If they don't like your 'look,' they have already mentally moved on."

Barbie Moore, Long Beach: "There are four types of chemistry: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. In order to be 'soul mates,' we need to have chemistry on all of these levels. This helped me understand why some relationships didn't go any further; there may be chemistry on one or two but not all."

A recent widow after 40 years of marriage, Gloria Lott, San Francisco, e-mailed "A person can have the right chemistry by wearing a smile, saying hello, asking another how they are, staying in shape. Having a beautiful personality is where the chemistry starts."

Ida, Sarasota, Fl, had two dates with a software vice president in California. "We went to dinner, talked all night and had great 'chemistry.' We talked after I got home, but he later concluded that even with the chemistry, it wasn't worth a long-distance relationship," e-mailed Ida. She added that external things can hurt the relationship, regardless of how strong the chemistry is.

Mary Platter, Costa Mesa, Ca., summed up the chemistry question nicely: "We're initially attracted to outward appearances but those can easily change once you meet the person inside. I'm looking for someone beautiful on the inside because we need much more than to just look at each other. We have to share so many things that an empty shell of a person doesn't last long."

So, the verdict's in. Most women view chemistry as a combination of feelings and emotions. While men mellow somewhat with age, but many still feel chemistry is just a matter of physical attraction.

Reader Comments:

Peggy Ella: "In college, everyone opened up trying to meet others. Now, being older, everyone is too afraid to open up. What's up with that?" Response: Peggy, just grab those guys by the shirt collar and say, "Open up you fool, look at what you're missing!"

Honesty in Dating Advertising

I've always been an advocate of honesty in middle-age dating advertising. Until now.

Recently, I've received e-mails where singles -- particularly women -- have asked if they should be honest in their initial contact with other singles.

And this week, an e-mail came with this headline: "Honesty Not Recommended for Finding Online Love." It was a press release for the International Internet Dating Convention, May 28-29, in San Francisco, sent by Rich Gosse, San Rafael, on whom I wrote a story when he ran for governor as the "singles candidate."

In his press release, Gosse quoted Evan March Katz, an author of a dating book: "There's an arbitrary cut-off point on ages on all the dating websites. If women are honest about their age, they often get very little response." Katz, a keynote speaker at the convention, suggests at times dishonesty may be a wise tactic for singles.

Gail Sudderth e-mailed from Virginia, "I checked out a profile of a man older than me by a few years who answered all the questions about what he was looking for in a mate: body type, income, education, height, etc. He was 50 and looking for someone 25-45. I was infuriated that he didn't care about anything else as long as she was five to 25 years younger.

"I told this story to a woman I met at a party who had met and fallen in love with a man through an Internet site. She decided to lie about her age by a few years, and suggested I do the same, saying I could easily pass for five years younger. The man she was with didn't know her true age nor didn't seem to care.

Turns out she is six years older than he. What do you think about 'fibbing' about your age in a personal ad?"

Claudette Kiely, Chicopee, Ma., says one of her interests is reading bios of senior singles from across the country. "Disabilities are never mentioned. Not even osteoarthritis, common in many of us. I don't think seniors should let a disability get in their way of reaching out to others and dating.

"The reason folks don't indicate any health problems is they fear scaring prospects away. I sense they go to the other extreme, senior hyperbole. Truth in advertising comes to mind, on a humorous note."

Sara Wilson of Orange County, Ca., related her experience. "I have HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that is a cancer threat and causes venereal warts. The strain I have doesn't manifest itself in the male.

"I'm an outgoing, hugging, loving, caring and smiling person, but a leper in disguise. I feel that dating or trying to find someone to grow old with is wrong. How many guys would be interested in me?"

Should Sara meet a guy and wait to explain her medical condition? "Wow, the sex was great. Oh, I forgot to mention I have venereal warts." No single would want to hear those words.

Whether people should be initially dishonest about their age or medical situation is a personal decision. Sooner or later, the secret's going to be exposed. By then, maybe the mates they've met will be so enthralled with them that their "little white fibs" won't matter.

What's your opinion?

Widows Give Their Opinions

In the previous newsletter, we raised questions about widows and widowers dating. Many widows responded. Here's what a few of them said.

Kathy Boyd, 59, Las Vegas, a widow for two years, e-mailed: "I work full time as a registered nurse, working for 38 years, looking forward to retiring in less than four years. I plan to move back to Ocala, Fla."

Kathy has a variety of interests and things she likes to do. "Being by yourself sure is lonely as hell. It's hard to meet anyone nice in Las Vegas. Most of the men my age are into the swinging lifestyle. I have told many guys that HIV is on the upswing with seniors, they don't seem to care."

Kathy added that "No one seems to be looking for a nice girl who is strong, independent, financially and emotionally secure. I'm not looking for a sugar daddy," she said.

Linda says men who contacted her were scary Another 59-year-old widow (for five years) said that she doesn't date. Linda Maib, of Orange County Ca., said, "Although I've done the internet dating, eharmony.com, etc., the 'scientifically' matched men didn't even bother to contact me. The men that did contact me were 'scary' and usually much older.

I've come to the conclusion that men want younger women, not women my age. I'm sure there is an exception to the rule but I have all but given up on ever getting married again, let alone having a date."

Lauren's four-year rule A women named Lauren wrote, "I shall stay away from a widower if it has been under four years since the passing of his loved one."

Lauren dated a widower of two years. "He wanted everything in the beginning, was moving very fast, and then it all fell apart as he went back to grieving her. He would come out of it now and then, but had his moments especially holidays and birthdays.

"Widows and widowers who had good marriages make excellent partners but they must be done grieving. Lauren added that if a widower leaves his wife's things in the bedroom, he's not willing to let go.

Many children inheritance hungry. Joanie Webb e-mailed, "I have been a rep for senior health plans for ten years, and many children are inheritance hungry. They look at their parent's new spouse as taking away their future. Children shouldn't count on their parents for money."

Shell wonders if she's being too picky. Shell, Dover, Ohio e-mailed. She's been a widow of four years and is only 47. She's been dating a 52-year-old widower of only one year. "His children still live at home -- ages 24 and 21 and there are pictures everywhere of his wife, I'm not just talking about a few, all over the place and in the bedroom there is a giant picture of he and his wife on their wedding day. Plus, on her side of the bed, the night stand is like this little shrine that has been set up."

Shell's concerned because the widower wants her to move in. She says she's not jealous but adds: "I just don't want to live with a ghost."

Every situation is different. The important thing, as Lauren said, is that people need time to grieve and heal before trying to bring a new person into their lives. How long will that take? It all depends.

Long-distance relationships abound

Amazed at the number of Orange County singles involved in long-distance relationships. Most but not all meet on the Internet, where finding singles in other parts of the country is easy. 

Several singles shared their long-distance relationship experiences and thoughts. Gordon Walker of Anaheim corresponded with a Scottish woman named Anne. When Anne came to the United States to live with Gordon, they had never met. Gordon says: "Long-distance romances can work if you're honest during the correspondence phase. Now, 56 years, five children, 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren later, we are still happily married." They met during World War II.

I wrote about Mary from Modesto, who used the Internet to meet an Orange County man. Over time they established trust and promised to build a life together.

"I gave up my job, my two beautiful cats, an apartment and a lot of friends," Mary said. Two weeks after she moved in, Mary found out he was corresponding with other women and confronted him. He threw her out on the spot. Mary says: "It took me nine months to rebuild my life. Don't trust what someone says online. If they're so good, why are they looking out of their area for someone? I saw no red flags, because all seemed so normal."

Patrick Freeman of Laguna Beach says: "Long-distance relationships work well for people who don't want to get too close and only want a limited commitment. If one party has to move, a new dynamic of having to fit it in comes into play." For long-distance relationships to work, one of the parties will have to move, and that's a huge consideration. 

Giselle Blum, 61, of New Orleans, divorced four years, says: "Visiting for a few days or going on trips together is no substitute for staying a minimum of a week in the home of the person where you'll be moving. Skip the fancy dinners and parties during that time and do day-to-day stuff. If the man is still working, he shouldn't take work off. That will show what you'll cope with. I fell in love with an image. Instead, I got a man who lost his temper and was frugal to the point of insanity." 

Mary Martin of San Clemente says: "Long-distance relationships cloud reality. You spend so little time together that you overlook a lot. That works until you make it permanent, and then all the things that were previously hinted at, manifest." 

Monica Jones, 36, considers herself to be the "queen of long-distance relationships." Three years ago she met Greg on the Internet and moved from Mission Viejo to Gulf Shores, Fla. Monica shared her advice: 

Try to meet in person within a month so you won't invest a lot of time, money and emotions into someone who may not be right for you. Face-to-face chemistry is unpredictable and often doesn't materialize 

Before moving spend several weeks with the person at different times of the year and meet and spend quality time with his family, friends and children.

When you initially meet, have a backup plan to stay at a hotel or return home sooner. And when you move, have another backup plan in case the move doesn't work out. Make sure you can return to your old life if you need to. Don't join assets until you're in a committed relationship. 

Don't be in a long-distance relationship with someone you can't trust. Always wondering if he's telling you the truth will drive you nuts. 

Try not to go weeks without spending time together. People can change in that amount of time, and you may not be able to recognize the change via the phone or computer.

If you decide to move, discuss expectations beforehand. 

Most long-distance relationships don't work out. Monica and Greg are the exception; they're married and have a child. If people follow Monica's advice, are honest and move slowly, they'll improve their chances of ending up together.

Should Widower Date?

When 69-year-old Santee, Calif., widow Edith McGinity wrote: "Is it possible for a widow and widower to fall in love soon after losing their spouses?" I asked a few readers for their opinions.

Most encouraged Edith to go for it; Duane Marshall of Long Beach warned that the couple hadn't allowed time for the healing process.

One woman e-mailed that her 79-year-old father-in-law, a widower, is a source of division within the family. "My mother-in-law passed away in early November after a four-year battle with cancer. When she was ill, my father-in-law was having lunch about once a month with two women friends who were going through the same thing with their spouses.

"His wife knew of these meetings, approved of them, and was an old friend of one of the women. One of them lost her husband a year ago."

"He has always been a traveler, and wants to continue taking trips, but doesn't like to be alone. He has taken the single woman on a few trips already.

"They are presently on a cruise, in the same cabin. He says they are just friends and traveling companions, he's incapable of having an affair, and his contemporaries do this all of the time.

"One of his sons is very upset. He says his father is setting a bad example for the grandchildren, and should stay home and go to dinner and the movies here, and not travel together. I'm afraid he might rush into marriage to make their traveling together legitimate. What's your opinion?"

I told her I didn't want to create a problem within her family and have somebody get mad at me. But, since she asked, I replied:.

"Is the son upset for the reason stated -- a bad example for the grandkids -- or, are there other issues?

"The man's wife approved of him getting together with the other two women. She'd probably be happy he's enjoying himself.

"At 79, he should be able to do what he darn well pleases. He stood by his dying wife for four years, and likely began the grieving and healing process during that time. It's okay for him-before it's too late-to have some fun.

"Regarding staying in the same room, what's the big deal? He could be spending the night with her as easily at home as at sea."

My friend, Mark Victor Hansen, co-creator of the Chicken Soup for The Soul® series, and back cover endorser of my "Finding Love After 50" book, told me that older people should have a sex life. Not that I didn't know that, but it's nice to have someone who understands people so well to believe that.

I feel older adults should pursue life energetically and their kids should support them in that effort.

As far as the grandchildren, do they understand that grandpa is staying in the same room? I doubt it.

I think the parents need to sit down with their children and say, "Grandpa deserves a life and we're happy for him."

And as far agendas not mentioned-danger of losing inheritance, for example -- well, that's another issue and nobody's business except the family's.

Is it OK for women to approach men?

Last week, this column discussed single men dealing with shyness.

Sheri Allingham, Clarkston, Michigan, e-mailed, "Do you think it's OK for a woman to approach a man and what should she say?

"I'm a Catholic school girl, who was taught never to be forthcoming, and I feel that would be a turn off to a man. I'm single at 54, after a long-term marriage, am attractive and financially independent, but so shy I haven't ventured out yet at all and am at a loss for how to begin.

"Most all of my girlfriends are married. The bar/single scene is not for me. What do you think?"

At Sheri's age, the ratio of single women to single men is between three and four to one. If a woman wants to improve her chances of meeting a man, she needs to implement the four "A's."

  • Attitude - Mark Victor Hansen, the co-creator of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul®" series. says, "Incorporate a positive, joyful attitude and you'll have positive, joyful people enter your life."
  • Available - To meet new people, we've got to be available. That means, being willing to open our hearts and minds to new experiences and to allow new people to enter our guarded territory. Loneliness nudges people to make themselves available.
  • Approachable. This simply means smile, be warm and friendly. Make it easy for someone, who might also be shy, to approach you.
  • Assertive. For single women, it's not only OK to approach a man, it's wise. If you ask a man out for coffee, the treat's on you.

In a recent column, Laguna Hills (Calif) attorney Doug Spoors was quoted as telling his 74-year-old widowed mother Frances, who had met a new widower, "You can't control when opportunity knocks."

And when opportunity knocks, women need to be assertive (not aggressive). They don't toss away their ladylike qualities and become piranhas. They don't hit the guy over the head with a rolling pin to get his attention. They just become a bit more assertive in situations that warrant it and say, "Would you like to have coffee with me?" That's all they have to say.

Single women should carry name cards, which they can hand to a man--so that he has a way of contacting them. These cards are like business cards, but should limit personal information on the card, so a stranger can't trace where they live or work.

Listing a first name only and the telephone number of an answering service that screens calls accomplishes this.

Mary Martin, San Clemente, wrote, "Shyness is a problem for many people looking for a mate. Volunteer organizations and group activities promote interaction that could open the door to finding companionship."

Mary's right. If Sheri does volunteer work, or if she sees a man she likes, she should say to herself, "Yes, it's OK to approach him and this is what I'm going to say, 'Would you like to have coffee?'" And Sheri should carry her name cards with her at all times.

That's how it is in the 21st Century.

Reader Comments:

Dale Brandt, Buena Park, Calif., "If I ask a lady out and she doesn't show me in some way in the next few days that she enjoyed my company, she's out the door. The phone line runs both ways." Response: You drive a hard bargain.

The Spain Decision

In last week's column, I asked for your comments on whether Greta and I should travel to Spain a week from today.

We made plans last July. We were going to travel through Spain by train. When the Atocha train station and two others were bombed three weeks ago, we cancelled our trip and then rethought our decision.

More than 300 (over ten percent) of you responded, an incredible number. I was impressed at the depth and wisdom of your e-mails. Your concern for our well being touched us. Here's what you said. Each one of you is unique.

"Go for it!," e-mailed Lynda Thompson, an American citizen living in Heidelberg, Germany. "I take public transportation all the time here, trains and buses. I decided not to let threats keep me from living my life, but also, I stay alert and aware of my surroundings."

Jim Rudnick, Laguna Niguel, Ca: "It's never been open season on American tourists in Spain unlike other countries and you'd be passing on the vacation of a lifetime."

A former DePauw University classmate, Ann Getzoff, who winters in Chacala, Mexico, wrote: "I would go in a NY minute. Lightning rarely strikes in the same place twice."

Victoria Maker, Mission Viejo, Ca. said, "Go. It's probably safer in Spain than in the U.S. Enjoy each other and the adventure of your romantic trip."

And from London, UK, Audrey Goldberg, a resident of Mendham, NJ, e-mailed, "There's something about love abroad. It's a great getaway and both of you will love it. If you see a lot of guys with ear things, go the opposite way. Helicopters overhead are a sign of trouble. Can't let the jerks spoil our fun."

Many of you shared your experiences of traveling after 9/11. Others told us not to dress like Americans and to keep a low profile.

"Spain is safe right now. Do not give into fear," said Janet Mariani, Dallas.

Donna in Long Beach, Ca., shared, "As a European, I say go for it. The terrorists will keep a low profile in Spain."

Antoinette Natali e-mailed that she and her husband recently returned from three weeks in London and Italy. "The Italian drivers give us a scare more than any terrorist threat."

From Tallahassee, FL., Belinda e-mailed, "Life is full of calculated risks; we take them everyday, so why not take a risk on something you will find so personally rewarding?"

Chaffey College system administrator Isabel Bogue, Rancho Cucamonga, Ca., said: "We are not guaranteed our time on this small planet; how we choose to spend that time, however, is certainly our choice. Continue with your travel plans. Viva Espana!"

Newport Beach, Ca. resident, Barbara Barnes, wrote, "Go to Spain.You wanted a romantic trip. Romance is always heightened with a sense of danger."

About 20 percent of you said don't go. You shared a variety of reasons, some political. Many suggested alternate destinations such as Club Meds in Cancun and Ixtapa. We checked other options but because it's a holiday week, most were booked already.

Besides, an alternate destination didn't feel right after having our hearts set on Spain.

Marge Ball, Mission Viejo, Ca., who runs "Marge's Tours" took the initiative to come to my Dana Point (Ca) deli with her mother (also Marge) armed with maps and brochures of Spain's Costa del Sol. That was like having a travel agent making a house call. Both have traveled extensively in Spain.

My biggest concern was not wanting to trouble Fran, my 93-year-old mom, in Santa Rosa. So the blessing that mattered the most came from her: "We have little control over when our time on earth is up. Please be careful and I'll try not to worry too much."

Thanks for your input. Our decision: Greta and I are flying to Spain for a long-planned, slightly revised, romantic vacation. Two nights in Madrid. Then, renting a car and driving to Granada for two nights, three nights on the Costa Del Sol in a small town called Nerja, and then our final night back in Madrid.

Reader Comments:

Don Hull, Santa Ana, President, Packards Int'l Motor Car Club, "Singles across the country should consider joining a Car Club. Great place to have fun and meet people. Lots of men. www.packards-today.com to see calendar of events.

Rose: "I started reading your book 'Finding Love After 50' and I cannot put it down. Your book is great. It's refreshing to hear all these other women and men's stories. I feel like I am not alone. The book is full of information, I never knew there were so many singles out there.

"I didn't understand my own feelings I only knew that after I broke up with my boyfriend 3 years ago I haven't been the same. Not into dating, just in a slump and now your book explains why it said 'it takes 5 to 7 years for a person to come to themselves after a divorce or breakup'.

"Things are starting to make a lot more sense to me now. Albeit at our age I don't know if we all have 5 to 7 years to wait for ourselves to heal and get over a relationship. Anyway can't wait to read the next book."

To Spain or Not?

Each year, my partner Greta and I try to plan a vacation together. We feel getting away is good for our relationship, rekindles the flame and gives us time to focus only on each other while away from the day-to-day demands of working fulltime jobs.

Most of our trips are stateside. Often we drive to Sonoma County to see my mom. Last summer we toured Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. We've visited Maine and Michigan. But when we can, we travel internationally.

To go abroad takes planning. Last July, we made airplane reservations to go to Spain during Greta's April spring break from teaching this year.

Our plan was to fly to Madrid and hop a train from Madrid's Atocha station to go to the Costa del Sol for a week. While there, we planned to take the premier train to Barcelona and back. And then, we'd return by train to Madrid for two nights.

Three weeks ago, we finalized all of the reservations. We paid for and had our Rail Europe train tickets and hotel reservations in our possession.

And as the countdown to departure day approached ? Friday April 2 ? our excitement started to build. Greta said it was going to be a romantic trip and I liked the sound of that.

And then two weeks ago, the environment in Spain changed. Ten terrorists' bombs ripped through three train stations, including Atocha in Madrid.

Our first reaction: It's too dangerous to go. We didn't want to be zipping around Spain on high-speed trains wondering if a backpack filled with compacted dynamite was hidden in the luggage compartment.

We asked Rail Europe to refund our money and cancelled our hotel accommodations.

But for some reason, I didn't cancel our airplane reservations. We agonized over our decision. We knew there were more important things in life to worry about, but we were disappointed. We asked friends, family and acquaintances for their opinions: Should we rethink our decision and go to Spain as originally planned?

Our biggest concern, of course, was safety. Would we be okay over there? My second concern was how my 93-year-old mom would feel if we went. I didn't want her to be a nervous wreck.

The military men in our families - a Navy man and a Marine - said go for it, Spain will be more secure than ever. Similar sentiments were echoed by my friend Tom Oliver, the former CEO of Six Continents Hotels, the largest chain in the world.

But others told us to forget Spain and to go somewhere else like Aruba, Mexico or Hawaii. A few days in Palm Springs was suggested. Crystal, one of my deli employees, pleaded that we not go.

We're asking for readers' opinions. If you were in our shoes, what would you do? Would you be on a plane to Madrid two weeks from today? E-mail TPBlake@aol.com if you'd care to confuse us even further.

In next week's column, we'll share what readers said and reveal our decision.

Reader Comments

Cindy, "I just read your book, "Middle Aged and Dating Again." I'm still laughing my fanny off over some of your stories. Thanks for a good read. I'm moving from Long Island to New Orleans. How crazy is that?" Response: New adventures, new opportunities. Let us know about the dating scene down there.

Diane Keaton delivers messages to singles in "Something's Gotta Give"

Diane Keaton's performance in "Something's Gotta Give" didn't win an Oscar, but it was good enough to get her nominated. The movie delivers five dating messages for older singles.

If you haven't seen the movie and plan to, I suggest not reading this column until you do.

Keaton plays a 57-year-old successful Broadway playwright who meets up with Jack Nicholson's character, a mid-60s, lecherous, never-married guy who dates women 30 years younger.

Nicholson shows up at Keaton's posh vacation home on Long Island with Keaton's daughter. While there, he has a heart attack and is treated in the Emergency Room by a young doctor.

His young girlfriend arranges for Nicholson to recuperate under her mother's care at the vacation home while she returns to her job in New York City.

Keaton would like a man in her life

Keaton plays a single woman with a successful career who has a zest for life, but admits she'd like to have a man in it. While helping Nicholson recover, she falls in love with him.

She allows herself to become vulnerable by telling him she loves him and by having a steamy affair. She hopes a relationship will develop.

When Nicholson feels better, he dismisses any thoughts of commitment with Keaton. His roving eye kicks back in and he resumes pursuing younger woman.

When Keaton sees him in a Manhattan restaurant with a date, she's devastated, and angry at herself for having gotten involved. She starts a relationship with the handsome doctor who treated Nicholson. The doctor is 25 years her junior and crazy about her.

It takes Nicholson six months to face the realization that he loves Keaton and his life is empty without her. Once he manages to reel her back in, he becomes a changed man.

He inherits a family and becomes a grandfather figure. We see Nicholson beaming while holding, lifting and hugging Keaton's grandchild. No more holidays alone for the two older love birds.

The movie delivers five messages to older singles-particularly to men and women who feel they must date people considerably younger.

  • A younger lover may not remain by your side if you become ill
  • Older people can enjoy wonderful sex even though they've been out of practice for years. (But, as Nicholson finds out in the E.R., Viagra and nitroglycerin don't mix).
  • Older men and older women usually have more in common and are more compatible with someone closer to their age
  • People close in age can more readily share and appreciate the treasure of extended families and grandkids
  • When a person older than you were hoping for comes along-and he or she is perfect for you--don't turn your back thinking you need someone younger. Make a commitment and give it a go. If you don't, you may miss the greatest relationship in your life and not be as fortunate as Nicholson and Keaton are in the movie.

Give Keaton a hug for delivering a great performance and showing older singles it's never too late to love and be loved.

Reader comments

Joe Follick, Los Angeles, Ca., 50s, "Time to dust off that old slogan from the 1960s, 'Make love not war,' I find it impossible to be angry after some good 'lovin.'" Response: No argument from me.

William Mosconi, Anaheim, Ca., "Regarding your bashing message, none of us are perfect. If we accept others, things would go smoother for all of us." Response: No more bashing (or, at least not as much).

Stop Bashing Each Other

Time is too precious for single men and single women to verbally rip each other apart.

Over the last few weeks, I've written columns where older single women bashed single men and columns where men bashed women.

Each gender made legitimate arguments. I could dwell on that civil war forever--there's that much material. But what would be accomplished?

Meeting singles is hard enough

At our age, meeting available singles is hard enough, Bashing makes it even more difficult. Instead, let's focus on the positive aspects of dating and the opposite sex.

Regardless of what happened to us-our spouse ran away or passed away, a lover did us dirt or life has treated us poorly-we're still fortunate to be alive and living in this country. We need to make the best with what we now have.

Robin Betts of Anaheim e-mailed, "We women are willing to over look flaws in a man and spend time getting to know him." Good start Robin. Your comment will open doors.

Victoria Jeffers, Mission Viejo, wrote, "It's always easier for people to blame others for what's wrong in their lives. If people would just let go of so many expectations and allow others to just BE, we would get along better. We need to have fun and get beyond the rigid rules some people are stuck in."

If you meet a man who only wants younger, thin or blonde women, simply move on. Don't waste your time arguing with him or even listening to him, your time is too precious.

The same goes for men. If a man meets a woman who insists he be making at least a hundred grand, or drive fancy cars, or live in a big home, he shouldn't waste his time.

Gifted violinist played well

Shirley Budhos, New York City, e-mailed, "I attended a Carnegie Hall concert where an exciting, gifted violinist played a difficult selection. During intermission, a man said, 'She may not be much to look at but she played well.'

He was a 'not-much-to-look-at guy," wrote Shirley. Not only did he lack tact, he was also shallow. Shirley got as far away from him as her theatre seats would allow.

Author Anne Lamott, whose books I admire, was quoted in an e-mail my sister recently forwarded, "Eleven years ago, when my friend Pammy was dying at the age of 37, we went shopping at Macy's. She was in a wheelchair, with a wig and three weeks to live.

"I tried on a short dress and came out to model it for Pammy. I asked is she thought it made me look big in the thighs, and she said, so kindly, 'Annie?

You just don't have that kind of time.' I live by this story."

Pammy certainly understood the preciousness of time, and we singles should also.

Leena Huang, Saline, Mi., wrote, "Despite being single, I try to be happy, healthy and productive. I go with my own instincts. I'll be ok."

Like Leena, with or without a partner, we'll be okay. Bashing members of the opposite sex accomplishes little and wastes what is impossible to save, our precious time.

Reader Comments

Eileen Ganong, San Clemente, " There's a reason many women have an air of self-sufficiency and non-interest. They're self sufficient and not interested. This is 2004, not 1957. Response: Okay, I'll include one more little "bash."

Cheryl Lange, Tampa, Fla., "I don't need a house, car or financial gain, just someone I can respect and care about. My boss says my goal is too high." Response: That's a reasonable goal, accept nothing short of that.

Driving, Paying and Respect

A year ago, Joe Monge, 50, of Dana Point, Calif., asked for my opinion about his 46-year-old girlfriend sharing dating expenses.I told him that was for them to work out.

He recently e-mailed, "I finally brought up sharing expenses and she agreed. Well, we went on a cruise and I paid for all of the expenses. She still hasn't paid her part, about $520. I also pay most of the time when her two sons go out with us. A friend suggested I give her an invoice.

"The other problem that's beginning to get to me is she NEVER drives to my place. She lives in Santa Ana, 33 miles away. So, I have to bring her to my house and take her back, a total of 132 miles. She claims her car will breakdown (her car has 40,000 less miles on it than mine). I even gave her an extra remote for the front gate, which she's never used. I care for her but don't think she respects me."

Joe Just Got "Stuck" with Paying All of the Time

When I asked him why he allowed something that bothered him to continue, Joe said, "I just got stuck with paying and driving because I felt a connection with her and wanted to see her."

In an e-mail sent a few hours later, Joe wrote, "She just called from a casino and said her sister won't leave (meaning their date that day would be delayed). That was the nail in the coffin for our relationship. I may be sad for awhile but the eternal search for the right woman will go on!"

When she returned from the casino, Joe drove to Santa Ana to tell her he wanted to break up. "I left but forgot the extra remote to the front gate of my complex, so I called her to tell her I'd pick it up on Sunday." Oops, another trip to Santa Ana.

She Thought he was Joking about Sharing Expenses

Joe said she thought he was joking about sharing expenses and that she also said he should have warned her about the breakup.

"I told her I don't give warnings or threaten breakups. I don't live my life that way. I guess I didn't get angry enough for her. I shouldn't have to. My second wife would rarely listen if I was angry."

In an even later e-mail, he wrote, "I should mention her ex-husband has a key to her house so he can watch the kids after school. I could never figure out why he just didn't pick them up from school and take them to his house. One time she and I came home and he was upstairs. Their sons weren't home. That part was just weird."

So, Joe broke up and signed up for two website dating services. He said, "I think one of the questions should be whether a person is willing to share expenses. That would cut my responses from women by 90 percent, but at least the 10 percent would be what I'm looking for."

If Joe also insisted one of the questions should be-willing to drive to his house-that would cut the response even more.

Ah, middle-age dating--such a picnic.

Reader Comments

Nancy Staggs, San Clemente, "Your 'Trusting Your Instincts' columns was one of your best. I wish I'd done that with some of the dating relationships I've had that didn't work out. Thanks for keeping hope alive."

Janice Carson, Anaheim Hills, (after a breakup), "I'm better off with my Golden Retriever. She's loyal, trustworthy and doesn't break my heart."

Mary Platter, Costa Mesa, "Absolutely, positively trust your instincts. Denial only delays the inevitable."

Remembering Your Best-Ever First Date

Most singles remember their best-ever first date. Some were recent, some years ago. Some lead to treasured relationships, others went nowhere. So many of you shared your stories, I tried to include them all.

Audrey Goldberg, Mendham, NJ, "It was my first date in 41 years with someone other than my husband. We met on a trip and walked in the jungle. Grateful to him for 'waking the widow' to possibilities.

John Mauger, Westminster, Calif., "A woman I met on the Internet was reluctant to meet. We had similar values and background. After I gave her my phone number, it took several weeks before she called me. Finally, she phoned and invited me to a production at the Laguna Beach Playhouse the same night. There was instant chemistry. After the play, we went to the Cedar Creek Inn and became acquainted over food and wine. We've been seeing each other regularly since."

Bev Kain, Fairfield, OH., "Went out to eat, looked at Xmas lights and then to the Festival of Lights at the Zoo."

Leslie Roy, Eugene, OR., "Met him playing volleyball. He took me fishing and had a picnic lunch and gave me a piggyback ride across the creek so I wouldn't get my shoes wet."

Rose Petals on the floor

Vickie Gentry, Ladera Ranch, Calif., wrote, "My date was with a wonderful, thoughtful and caring gentleman. He treated me to a luxury spa in Newport Beach, where I spent several hours. Later, at his home there were rose petals on the floor leading to the guest room where I bathed and changed into evening clothes. Surrounding the bath were candles, champagne and strawberries dipped in chocolate. He prepared a gourmet dinner. The table looked like a presentation at the Ritz Carlton. One of the most wonderful dinners ever."

Carla White, Independence, MO., "On an early fall day in the park, he handed me a card he had made himself. We strolled around the walking trail, stopping at a bench. There was a small sack on the ground. He handed it to me. Inside was an angel with another card that read, 'I think of an angel whenever I talk to you.'"

Donna Gelder, Ellensburg, WA., "He took me to the Target store so I could bring home a new bike. He asked if my kids wanted to come along. He would give the shirt off his back."

In a golf cart

Jo-Ann Anderson, Ocoee, FL., "I volunteer at the local hospital, driving the golf cart that brings the elderly to the main entrance. I picked up a man who refused to get out of the cart. He wanted to drive around and get to know me. He's from Vermont and his name is John Anderson. Coincidence: My husband was from Vermont and his name was John Anderson.

Donna Cullinan, California City, CA., "A long country ride, mutual attraction, talking, risking vulnerability-taken as a whole with "Mother Nature's" wonder brought us to a place where differences diminished and similarities rose."

Dawn LaCroix, Omro, WI., "When we got into his car, he pulled down my visor with a mirror and said, "See how pretty you are." Later, at the table, he was staring at me. I said, "What?" He answered, "You're beautiful."

Peggy Lesker, Tucson, "In Brooklyn, we hopped the trolley to the subway and were on our way to Times Square when he realized he'd left his wallet at home. He took me to Hayden Planetarium, which was free back then. With the remaining coins, we took the subway back, but had no money for the trolley. We walked, talked and held hands." (That led to marriage).

Marian Jay, Knoxville, TN, "Drove in a convertible into the mountains with a lovely man, superb bottle of wine, cheese and crackers. Talked all night, felt warm and cuddly."

Frances Brazil, Sacramento, "Met a man on the Internet from Illinois. He flew out and we went to an Italian restaurant. He invited my son and his wife to join us. He sang a Dean Martin song during dinner, we kissed and held hands. I felt like a teenager "

They met antiquing

Dave Southworth, Clare, Mi, "I go antiquing after church. I stopped for brunch where I'd never eaten. Across the aisle, a beautiful lady was talking about antiquing after church. We sat together for 3 and ½ hours. She had never eaten there either As we walked to our cars, Fran kissed me." (Dave and Fran married).

Sally Lege, Erath, LA,, "It was Xmas night, there weren't any restaurants open nor movies playing. He cooked, played soft music, lit candles. The most caring and comfortable man I've ever been with."

Dorrie Steele, 51, Mission Viejo, Calif., "On New Year's Eve, a man I'd been corresponding with on the Internet for months sent me an e-mail wishing me a Happy New Year and asked what I was doing that evening. My answer: absolutely nothing. We met in a public place and sat and talked, then went to a movie. That was 1999; we're still together."

Lucinda Kopp, Janesville, WI, "He called and said he'd pick me up after work with a surprise. The surprise was carryout at the park along Rock river. It was a beautiful warm autumn day. We walked along the river holding hands and talking, then sat on a bench with his arm around me watching the birds.

Shirley Upchurch, Stanton, CA., "In Texas, he picked me up at 10 a.m. We went out for breakfast and then to White Rock Lake. Then to the Galleria and visited art galleries, stores, ate again, the movies and had pie and coffee."

Shirley Budhos, Greenwich Village, "We had dinner in New York City with low key and open conversation. It was winter, too cold to stroll outside, so we went to his apartment, he made me tea. He had impeccable manners."

Surprised her in Paris

Tassilo Homolatsch, Champaign, IL., "A woman I cared about taught in Paris for a semester. Unknown to her, I flew to Paris, called her and 'quite casually' asked her to coffee. She thought I was in the States. I said, 'I'm in a hotel just down the street.' We went to an Argentine Tango dance lesson."

Wonderful first dates don't guarantee relationship bliss will follow. But, they are forever remembered with warmth and fondness. Who says older singles aren't romantic?

Do single men live by a double standard?

That's the sentiment of many single women. In last week's column, this comment from Suzie Brooks, Laguna Niguel, Calif., struck a chord with many women:

"While waiting in line for lunch, I overheard two middle-aged men talking. When a woman 20 pounds overweight passed by, one man said, 'I wouldn't date an overweight woman.' Both men were 50 pounds overweight with guts hanging over their belts. These guys were out of touch with reality."

Victoria Maker, Mission Viejo, Calif., e-mailed, "I have observed the same phenomenon over and over from young boys criticizing the girls in the school yard all the way to an old man on his death bed talking about a 70-year-old woman getting broad in the hips.

"It seems many boys grow up thinking they are here to pass judgment on women, but aren't held to the same standards. Are men strictly visual while women look for kindness and goodnessd despite some visual drawbacks?"

"He likes blonds 20 years younger"

Barbara Gilvary, Laguna Hills, Calif., also responded: "I dated a man for six months, we got along great, I thought, and we're still friends, but no longer dating. He told me I'm not his 'type' because he likes blonds with blue eyes, white skin, and about 20 years younger.

"There was another who said he was only attracted to women with long dark hair. What gives? Men are visual but that's ridiculous.

"This middle-age dating thing is confusing, and I've become discouraged. Maybe there is some pearl of wisdom you can pass along to us baffled women."

Double-standard comments from men baffle me also. They're dream-based. Hope against reality. The men who make them must realize that women aren't going to date them or give them a second thought if they don't have more to offer than just being a man.

If a man is a chunky chimp, lazy or out of shape, he's not going to attract a woman who cares about appearance. If he's a bigot or narrow-minded, he's not going to attract a quality woman.

Statistical Abstract
The new Statistical Abstract released yesterday by the Census Bureau reported, "Women may worry more about looking fat, but men are more likely to be fat. Half of U.S. women are overweight, compared with two-thirds of men."

Think about that. Seven of 12 Americans are overweight. If singles don't want to date someone overweight, that means 58.3 % of singles who meet won't have a first date because of the overweight issue. No wonder it's so tough finding someone compatible.

Men need to understand that even if an older woman is lonely and would like the company of a gentleman, she's not going to accept a slob with an attitude. Relationships are 50-50. Women would rather be single than compromise their standards.

Why are men attracted to blue-eyed blondes, redheads, long-haired brunettes or younger women? Perhaps, that's how their mothers looked and those feelings are so ingrained in their brains they can't help themselves, similar to Freud's teachings.

Or perhaps there's an explanation the human mind can't comprehend. One man told me he believed he loved a redhead with fare skin and high cheek bones in a former life, and an unknown force drives him to women with those qualities in his present life.

The simple truth: If older men want to be with quality women, they need to look in the mirror and say, "I've got to get my act together. What I seek I must give in return. If they're unwilling to do that, the number of couple-less single men and women will continue to mushroom.

Reader Comments

Rhen Kohan, San Juan Capistrano, Calif., "Valentine's should be a day of humanity love, not just for couples, but for our kids, friends, relatives--anyone who means a lot to us." Response: Well stated and right on.

Lynda Thompson, Heidelberg, Germany, "For Valentine's, I'm taking a ski trip to Verbier, Switz., I'm not worried about romance, but plan on having a great time with snow sports and parties."

Shirley Munsey, Denver, "I joined a singles' website. Two men answered my ad but didn't respond a second time. Should I keep writing to someone who doesn't answer?" Response: No. Move on.

Candy, Mission Viejo, Calif., "Where is it written that Valentine's Day has to be about men and women and whether or not we have a date? If Valentine's is about love, then it could be love for all of mankind and even petkind."

Beware of "Hidden Dating Language"

Barbara Barnes of Newport Beach responded to one of my columns about a Harley Davidson biker's reasons for not dating Bobbi Pyle, age 48, of Anaheim.

Barbara says, "There is a hidden 'dating language' that over-50 daters should learn." Barbara feels if singles understood the hidden language, a great deal of heartache could be avoided.

In the Bobbi-and-the-biker column to which Barbara was referring, Bobbi rationalized why the biker didn't want a relationship: "He told me he's very attracted to me, but that he's not looking for a girlfriend right now. I found out I scared him because I looked like his ex-wife who really hurt him."

Barbara commented on the biker's two excuses: "The 'I'm not looking for a girlfriend right now' line simply means you're not the woman for me. And, the 'I can't be with you because you remind me of my ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, etc., who hurt me so much' line means you're not the one, but I don't want to hurt your feelings."

Bobbi's biker eventually went back to his ex. Barbara commented on that scenario also, "The 'My ex-wife, girlfriend, etc., called and wants to get back together' means you're not the one and I don't ever want to hear from you again."

Perhaps Barbara is an expert on "hidden dating language" because she meets so many singles in Newport Beach, which is a dating world unto itself. Whatever the source of Barbara's expertise, I think she's right on the money. When "hidden dating language" starts to fly, don't spend too much time analyzing it, just pack your tent and move on.

John Jenkins of Orange County said he dated a bright, intelligent, independent woman for five-and-a-half wonderful months. He said she had her "space," time for her family and friends, and told himhe was everything she was looking for.

But, "She found herself seeking to find the real person she strives to be," John said.

That sounds like the Army's "Be all you can be" slogan. Perhaps she should have joined the Army and maintained her relationship with John.

In another situation, Madeline Ralston of Orange, who describes herself as a "lady of sixty-something," dated a widower of two years who had been married for 50 years. "Within six months, we had declared our mutual love and were talking of marriage," Madeline said.

"Then he suddenly did a 180-degree change in his attitude about our relationship. He re-explained his feelings/fears several ways over time. Sometimes saying nothing had changed he just want a little more time to be sure of our relationship. Sometimes saying he liked his freedom too much to have a lady in his life full time."

When you hear "hidden dating language," remember Barbara's interpretation: the guy doesn't want to make a commitment to you (at least, not now).

Pack up your toys and move on. None of us wants to be with a person who doesn't want to be with us.

Readers' Comments

Comments regarding last week's column about Bonnie Vandenberg--dating when your spouse has Alzheimer's.

Bob Pace, Irvine: "Good column--you always tackle the tough ones. On this one, I agreed."

Victoria Maker, Mission Viejo: "Bonnie has gone above and beyond to take care of her husband , but needs to take care of her needs as well. Go for it Bonnie and have joy in your life."

Mary Martin, San Clemente: "If I had a spouse burdened with my care, I would want him to find whatever solace he could."

Nancy Lecours, Enfield, Ct.: "It's not anybody's fault that my spouse is ill, however, because he's in a nursing home, my life shouldn't end. I don't feel I need to sit home mourning alone for the rest of my life-I've already done that for the last ten years."

A woman not wanting to be identified said, "Your column was so far off base, I can't believe it. Bonnie is NOT, I repeat, NOT, a 'loyal' wife. Not if she is suggesting that she enter into an affair because her husband is an Alzheimer's victim. And you condone this?

"My husband recently died of this awful disease...to even think of betraying him during his illness never crossed my mind. I'm no angel, but marriage vows are marriage vows. Bonnie, you'll find no validation from me, and I'm sure no validation from many of Tom's readers."

Note from Tom: More than 80 percent of the respondents felt Bonnie had paid her dues and that it was okay to find a life after nearly ten years of caring for her husband. Bonnie still visited him frequently.

"Where are the men?"

"Where are the men?" is the main questionmmor than 100 middle-aged and older single woman have asked me in the last two weeks.

Answering that question is like trying to get your arms around a Rugby ball or a greased pig on a muddy field in the rain.

I've quoted statistics before; it's important to repeat them so single women will understand the playing field.

According to Census 2000, the ratio of single women to single men between the ages of 50 and 59 was approximately 1.5 to one; 60-64, 1.82 to one; 65-69, 2.1 to one. Over 70, the gap widens dramatically. By now, four years later, I imagine those ratios are noticeably larger. In the above age ranges, single women outnumber single men by a wide margin.

And, women are quick to point out that many of the available men aren't relationship material, thus making the true number of men smaller than stats indicate.

This week, I received press releases from two companies that sponsor events that bring singles together. A company called 3MinuteDating wrote, "We rarely run events for people over 45 because we can't get MEN in the door. We have a 5 to 1 ratio of women to men in that age range. HELP!"

Orange County's "8minuteDating" only sponsors events for women up to 45-52, but allows men up to 59 to participate. In the fine print they write, "If you find 3 men that sign up and show up to the event, I will give you a free pass to a future event."

So, those two companies--in the business of introducing people-admit finding older single men is difficult.

Are the odds of meeting men via a dating service or on an Internet matching site any better? Sandy Jenkins of Marin County, Calif., says, "The thing about any date-matching service is the possibilities are limited to the quality of the pool." Sandy's right, women should be wary of spending big bucks on ANY form of fix-up service.

Our single readers are high-quality. If we can introduce a few, everybody benefits. Hence, in today's column (see below), and on my website, we're experimenting by running a free personal ad. For this test to be successful, men will need to participate.

Many of the 100 women who responded say they've "tried everything" to meet men with little success. Susan Johnson, Dana Point, says she took up golf, works out at a gym, tried online dating, dancing and singles activities at several churches-- to no avail. So, what's the answer?

Here's my suggestion to women: Understand and accept the stats, the odds you face aren't your fault. Women across America also deal with a shortage of men. So, stop beating yourself up.

Get out with people and involved in activities you enjoy. Do it for you. Don't go out looking for a mate, keep hopes and expectations in check. Be positive. Be happy. Remind yourself that being single and lonely is better than being with somebody and lonely." To combat loneliness, develop friends.

Lynne Atkinson of Laguna Niguel, Calif., says, "Unless you're willing to take a chance, nothing is going to happen." Lynne's right, get out and live. For yourself.

Reader Comments

Vickie Gentry, 52, Ladera Ranch, Cal., "Some of my doctor friends tell me they know single doctors but say I'm too nice to be set up with them. What does that tell you about some of the Doc's out there?" Response: Don't let them perform surgery on you.

Doing Too Much to Make A Relationship Work

Marline Adams of Dana Point is a bright, intelligent and attractive middle-aged woman. She's a published writer; I've seen her articles. Marline responded to my recent columns about couples sharing expenses.

"I've been paying more than half of EVERYTHING (and always have) with my current dating partner of several months and he still complains-vacations, meals, etc. He NEVER offers to pay for anything regarding my two grown sons and daughter-in-law, not even on a special occasion, not even a birthday gift. He and I live about an hour apart and I do more than half of the driving. I know, I know, the problem is me and my choice."

I said to Marline, "I can't imagine a fine woman such as yourself doing more than your share of driving to a man's house or having to pay more than half of the expenses."

Doing More than Our Fair Share

She replied, "Some of us get so caught up in the things we 'think' we have in common with someone that we justify going way out of our way to 'do our fair share.'

"Many women-myself included-have a tendency to plan, pay, drive, help, share, and repair relationships; some people take advantage of that. Many men must feel that way too."

Marline added that she's a high energy person and supercharges that energy and passion into relationships. "When one is a positive person, he or she will overlook some negative points and only see 'the good in someone.'

"Many are so excited about the initial attraction, sizzle, chemistry, things in common, so glad they finally met someone, they overlook obvious possible problems."

Ask Difficult Questions Early

Marline says she's learned to ask herself, "What could possibly be wrong in this new/next situation? Being a little negative at the beginning of a relationship may prevent future problems."

Marline's comments raise valuable considerations for singles who meet someone.

  • Don't let loneliness cloud your judgment
  • Don't be so happy that someone has finally entered your life that you compromise your principles
  • Don't let initial chemistry be the only or dominate reason why you get involved. When that wears off-and it will-what else does your new mate bring to the table? Is he kind? Does he treat you with respect? Does he share expenses, caring and the workload?
  • Don't get involved when you know it's wrong for you or throw caution to the wind, thinking--at my age--what have I got to lose?

When beginning a relationship, do so cautiously. When we open our hearts to a mate, there's always risk. Some people haven't dated in 30 years, but that's no excuse to be gullible or naïve.

Keep one foot on the ground while floating on cloud nine. Relationships require give and take of both people. If you let things get too out of balance at the start, it's hard to change later.

Reader Comments

Ron Ryding, Laguna Niguel, "Just a comment on the title of your book, 'Finding Love After 50.' If it takes 50, go for it. One never knows, that 51st or 52nd person could be the one!" Response: Yup, finding the right person is a numbers game. But dating 50 people to find love is an arduous task.

Pat Johnson, Tustin, "I've been a widow for 5 ½ years. I went to a widow and widowers party and met a lot of people- mostly women. Then I went to church and saw one of the men who had been at the party. We've been going steady ever since." Response: Getting out with people is the best way to meet someone.

Valentine's-just another Saturday night

Valentine's Day is two weeks away. For some singles, it can be a difficult time, but for others, it will be just another Saturday night without a date.

Valentine's shouldn't be a big deal this year. Saturday is usually date-night anyway, and seasoned singles have learned to cope 52 times per year with being alone on date night. Fred Griffin, 61, Culver City, Cal., shared his plans for Valentine's night: "I'm doing absolutely nothing."

Peggy Martin, Peachtree City, Ga., says, "Several of my lady friends and I will be dining out at a wonderfully expensive restaurant. Later, at home alone, I will sip a glass of wine while relaxing luxuriously in my Jacuzzi tub listening to great music. Why give up the things I enjoy because there isn't a man currently in my life?"

When I didn't have a partner, I avoided eating out on Valentine's night. Restaurants are jammed with couples. Who wants to be asked, particularly on that night, "Just one?" and then wait an hour to be seated while being reminded that you're the only single in the place? Besides, many restaurants bump up their prices on Valentine's.

Valentine's is a good night to stay home. Plan ahead and cook a nice meal. Have a single friend or two over. Rent a couple of movies you've wanted to see but haven't gotten around to. Just don't make them syrupy love-story flicks.

If you prefer a movie out, theatres traditionally aren't as busy on Valentine's.

Treat yourself. Flowers are good but get them a few days before or the day after. Buying roses on Valentine's Day is insane, even for yourself. If you have a fireplace, toss a couple of logs on the fire and curl up with Fido or a good book. Enjoy a better bottle of wine than usual.

Cheryl Perry, Benton Harbor, Mich., says, "I'm taking ballroom dancing lessons just for the love of dancing and will enjoy a Valentine's dance at the studio along with other students. The setting is far more comfortable and more fun than a singles dance."

M.P. Wylie, Irvine, Calif., relationship coach, (www.JourneyToLove.com), will be a sponsor of a "Celebration of Love" dinner and dance in Los Angeles. She expects 250 people to participate.

John Stratton, Niles, Mich., e-mails, "On Valentine's, I'll attempt to find a lady to enjoy lunch or dinner." John says he has Notre Dame season basketball tickets in nearby South Bend, Ind., but can't find women who want to go to games with him.

Jan Gissel, Tustin, Calif., says, "It's just another day with no particular significance for me. I accept the stats and don't sit around bemoaning my singleness. I'm a healthy, happy, busy lady who doesn't need a man to 'complete' me." (Jan admits, however, it'd be nice to have a date now and then.)

If you start feeling a tad lonely, remind yourself that being single isn't so bad. Dolores Williams, Temecula, Calif., says, "I've been married and unhappy and single and unhappy and single and unhappy is better." Doris is right, even on Valentine's.

This year, remind yourself, it's just another Saturday night.

Reader Comments

Joe Follick, Los Angeles: "How do I contact those dating services you said can't find men? They must not be looking."

Hans Witten, Long Beach Singles Sailors, is looking for 36 people (three groups of 12) willing to car pool to San Diego to ride on Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes boat for a couple of hours, sometime in the next two months. Cost per person is $50.00. E-mail: hanswitten@netzero.com.

Valuable lessons for older singles

In last week's column, I urged readers to share their stories and contribute. As a result, I received more than 100 e-mails from Orange County readers and people across the United States. I'll be sharing many of those e-mails over the next few weeks.

One of the e-mails that particularly impressed me came from a 61-year-old widower named Rodney Hillerts of San Clemente. Rodney shared his love story, which contains valuable lessons for older singles.

"I was married to a wonderful, educated and resourceful lady for 27 wonderful years until she finally passed away from the terrible ravages of cancer in December, 1997," wrote Rodney.

Finding himself alone after all of those years, Rodney says he was lost on how to restart his life.

He checked out the personal ads in the "Register" and found the ads run by men were shallow and vain. "I decided to be brutally honest, my ad stated that I lost my love of 27 years and that I was a rich, fat, retired fireman."

Several women responded. "When I dated them, I found them to be so into themselves that none of them showed any prospects of a relationship," said Rodney.


Rodney turned to networking, one of the most effective and least expensive ways to find a mate. When he took his two Yorkshire Terriers to his veterinarian, Dr. Paul Schneider, who at that time was at the Estrella Pet Hospital in San Clemente, Rodney told Dr. Schneider to keep an eye out for any woman who might enjoy a "rich, fat, retired fireman" and to give her his phone number.

Dr. Schneider immediately said "Anna." A few days earlier, a woman named Anna had brought her two dogs to the vet and had made a similar networking request-that she'd like to meet somebody.

"Anna was recently divorced and was an Orange County paramedic/firefighter," said Rodney. With Rodney's phone number in hand, Anna worked up the nerve to call him. They became a couple.

Rodney says, "Our views toward marriage were very much alike. Neither wanted the binding aspects of marriage."

Rodney mentioned that he and Anna have many things in common, share a good overall partnership and have set several goals. "We both established living trusts, naming each other as trust assigners."

Anna is several years younger than Rodney. "She is now a retired good looking slender firefighter/paramedic-for my benefit, I may need a paramedic sometime," Rodney joked.

Rodney hopes his story will remind men and women over 50 that "There is always someone who will meet your needs when it comes to finding a person to spend the rest of one's life with. Don't give up looking, and the main thing is to be absolutely honest in the pursuit, as well as with the prospective partner."

Rodney's story has worthwhile lessons for older singles: Physical appearance isn't as important as a good heart; people who love dogs may be compatible; network with your vet, dentist and doctor, they see lots of people; and honesty--which is hard to find--is a solid pillar of relationships.

With their backgrounds, they should be able to douse any fires that flare up between them.

Why dating after 50 is difficult

During my most recent appearance on the Today Show, Matt Lauer's first question was, "Why is dating after 50 so difficult?"

"Some of us haven't had a date in 30 years, we don't know how to begin, where to go or what to do," I said.

Obviously, the reasons why dating is difficult are greater than described in that response. On the Today Show, answers must be brief.

The biggest reason dating after 50 is difficult: it's just plain hard to find other available singles. There isn't a place that I'm aware of in the United States where older singles hang out to meet potential mates. Maybe we need a big old barn in every city and town where only older singles go. You walk in and sign up at the appropriate table: "Woman, age 53, seeking single gentleman who can drive at night and isn't looking to be taken care of.

But, let's say you get by that first major hurdle and meet someone-a friend introduces you, or you sit next to someone on an airplane, or you meet them at work or on the Internet.

Now you face a second challenge. Are you and the new person compatible? Do you share similar values, interests, beliefs and energy levels? And are you attracted to each other?

Can the compatibility you share overcome the baggage each person inevitably drags into the relationship?

When Jean Wendelsdorf, Orange, Calif., was dating in the mid 1990s, she met men with baggage. One took her to Coco's Restaurant and suggested they share a dinner because that's what he and his deceased wife did. When the man said to Jean, 'There's enough (food) for both of us," she thought he was cheap.

Another guy was twelve years older than Jean. He kept telling her what good shape she was in and how young and attractive she was. When Jean told him she couldn't get involved with him, he got mad and said, "You don't have much time left. After all, you're 62."

There are a couple things singles can do in 2004 to make dating easier. The first is to simply get out and get involved in activities and get out with people. Jean met her husband square dancing; they've been married five and a half years. Where you go and what you do are up to you. Go back to school, volunteer, join a club, learn the computer, take dance lessons, go to reunions, travel, take a part-time job--the list is endless, it's up to you to find out where to go in your city. Repeat: Get Out With People.

The second thing singles can do is share information that will benefit others who are also dealing with the difficulty and challenges of being single.

I unscientifically estimate that more than 60,000 of you read this column weekly in the nine Orange County Register community papers that carry it and online via this newsletter. We don't hear a peep from 99 percent of you. And some of you who e-mail me tidbits or comments do so without signing a name or indicating the city where you live.

One woman wrote: "Don't use my name. I'm too important and well known in this city and don't want people to know I'm looking for love and a mate." She doesn't understand the power of networking in meeting others so she's remaining anonymous (and likely dateless).

And yet, many readers expect to be entertained or gain information that will help them. One said, "Remove me from your list. I didn't learn anything this week that helps me." But did she ever contribute? No. Was it costing her anything? No. Still, she's off the list.

If you're unwilling to share what you've learned about middle age and older dating, how can we help others? It's not like you have to type out a letter, put it in an envelope, add a stamp and take it to the post office. You can simply e-mail me at TPBlake@aol.com.

I want to hear from ten readers who've never contacted me before. Tell us where you go in your area to meet other singles. Or share a juicy dating experience.

None of this wimpy first-name-only stuff. Tell us your full name and city and contribute. We'll provide information that will make dating after 50 easier for everyone. There are 27 million of us in the same singles boat. And the number is getting bigger and bigger.

A great date with "Old Friends"

My partner Greta and I are 1960s vintage. When we heard that Simon and Garfunkel were doing an "Old Friends" tour this year, we wanted to attend one of their concerts.

But, by the time we got around to looking into it, the only available tickets were at Staples Center in Los Angeles, an hour away from where we live in Orange County, located behind the stage. It was too much money for a rear-end view of the duo.

But, when I read in the "Orange County Register" that a previously-cancelled show was rescheduled for the Arrowhead Pond, I got on the Internet and secured two seats for a Sunday-night performance.

To make the evening an even more special date, on the way to the concert we stopped at the El Torito Grill in Irvine for a plate of appetizers.

When Simon and Garfunkel took the stage, my initial reaction was, egad, they've aged. The first few notes were discordant. But it didn't take them long to regain their old harmony and collect standing ovations.

They gave the audience-mainly a 1960s bunch-what they wanted. Every song was an oldie.

You can't listen to Simon and Garfunkel and not be reminded of New York City (where I lived from 1966 until 1970).

I remember back then being dragged against my will by a date to the movie "The Graduate" at a theatre on the East Side near 61st and Third Avenue. When "The Sounds of Silence" opened the movie with Dustin Hoffman walking through LAX, I said, "Wow, I'm glad I came." I've seen that movie five times. Of course, Simon and Garfunkel did the soundtrack.

So when they sang "The Sounds of Silence" so magnificently at the Pond, it took me back 39 years ago to New York City.

Other New York City-related songs-"The Zoo," "The 59th Street Bridge Song" and "The Boxer," which ended the show--reminded me how fortunate I am to have lived in that great city.

Simon and Garfunkel brought down the house when their powerful and talented seven-piece band cranked up the volume on "Mrs. Robinson," while flashing clips from "The Graduate" on the big screen.

The longer they sang the better they harmonized. You almost forgot you were listening in 2003, it could have been The Big Apple in 1968 all over again. The 1960s produced incredible music.

What struck me was how gracious and humble Art Garfunkel is and how important his higher-pitched voice was to the success of that duo. And when you realize how many incredible songs Paul Simon has written and performed, you are awed by his talent.

A nice surprise in the middle of the show was the appearance of The Everly Brothers, who sounded strong singing four of their hits, most notably "Wake Up Little Susie." I remember being on dates, listening to that tune on the car radio.

The final song before the encore was, of course, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," during which, everyone stood. Greta took my hand and thanked me for a 1960s-style romantic evening.

If Simon and Garfunkel come to your part of the country, go see them. You'll be in for a special treat.

Simon and Garfunkel-they've still got it.

Reader Comments

Bruce Boyocks, Laguna Beach, "Why not expand on last week's love story and make it a book and a movie script?" Response: Good idea, but another project? Oh my.

Phyllis Brumfield, Anaheim, "Beautiful Story. May God bless their lives together."

Joan Williams, Newport Beach: "Not a dry eye in my house either."

Tina Tessina, therapist and author, Long Beach, "Two of my friends, both in their 60s, got married last year, after 18 years together. Some people just have to try it on longer." Response: "Try it on" Tina? Like a pair of socks?

Pearl Hedlund, San Antonio, Tx., "Column brought tears to my eyes." Response: Pearl met the love of her life on the Internet at age 65.

Love and Family

My partner Greta and I have been a couple for five and a half years. We feel it's important to get away together-even on short trips--which we did over the Veteran's Day holiday.

Our purpose in going wasn't only to enjoy a romantic outing, but to celebrate my Mom's birthday, which falls on November 11-the same day as mine. Our trip turned out to be special in many ways.

Greta and I are often reminded that the treasure we share isn't just about us, but about how our families are intertwined and care for each other.

Greta loves Mom and Mom loves Greta, so visiting Mom is always special. She lives in Oakmont, a tranquil community in the Valley of the Moon, near several Sonoma County wineries.

Dining at Syrah in Downtown Santa Rosa

On Saturday night, Greta's brother, Peter, and his partner, Barbara, who live in nearby Petaluma, took Mom, Greta and me to dinner in the downtown Railroad Square section of Santa Rosa. We ate at Syrah, a unique and charming restaurant, in a dining room that serves as a florist shop during the daytime.

Peter, Barbara and Mom have developed a close and strong friendship, so when all of us get together, it's like a family affair.

On Sunday, my brother Bill flew in from Dallas and my sister Chris arrived from Mill Valley, bringing a fresh Dungeness crab dinner, including a double-double chocolate birthday cake. Sitting around Mom's dinner table was like old times, eating from the plates we dined on as youngsters, sharing memories of growing up in Jackson, Michigan.

Our week-end wasn't all play and no work. Mom has lived in her home for 27 years. On my last visit, we realized the water heater had never been replaced. So, on this trip, we had a new one installed.

To clear a path for the water heater, three bookshelves holding more than 600 of Mom's treasured books had to be moved. Greta handled that project while Bill and I helped the plumber lift and jimmy the water heater into the cubbyhole built for the smaller heaters of yesteryear.

With Bill living in Dallas, he and I don't see each other much. We worked side-by-side on a few minor repairs for Mom, which reminded me of doing stuff together as kids.

On Monday afternoon, Greta and I got away for some time alone. We went to the St. Francis winery gift shop-a couple of miles away-to pick up a present for Mom.

A walk in Annadel State Park

And then we took a romantic walk through Annadel State Park. The trees were bursting with bright yellows, reds, and oranges. Greta took my arm when a bobcat dashed across the trail in front of us. Seven wild turkeys seemed unconcerned about the nearness of Thanksgiving and gray squirrels were catapulting through oak trees like the flying Wallendas.

That night, Mom prepared a birthday meal. Family and loved ones were together for another special evening. Across the table, I looked at Greta, thankful that she is such an important part of my life. And then I looked at Mom- six hours shy of her 93rd birthday-and reminded myself of how blessed and fortunate I am.

It was my best birthday ever.

Reader Comments

Jeanne Fleming, Murray, Kentucky, "If you go on a date for Japanese food, stay away from the wasabi. If you don't know what wasabi is, imagine stuffing a tablespoon of horseradish up each nostril. There I was, sitting across from my date with tears streaming down my face and my nose running, thinking, "Why didn't I order the tempura."

Janet B, "I was separated two years ago and have been divorced for one year. I haven't dated in 27 years and have no idea where to begin, but I'm ready. Is there any hope?" Response: Of course, there's hope. Don't expect too much too soon, but reading this column for information is a beginning.

Finding a husband after age 35? The Harvard Business School Way? Maybe? Perhaps? I don't think so

A week ago Wednesday, the Orange County Register newspaper in Souther California ran an article written by Barbara Kingsley in the "Life" section called, "It's all in the Packaging."

Barbara's article was about a new best- selling book titled, "Find a Husband After 35: Using What I learned at Harvard Business School," written by Rachel Greenwald.

I have no problem with Barbara's article, she wrote an informative, entertaining and fun-to-read piece. It's the book itself with which I have a few issues.

Ms. Greenwald writes, "The Program (the 15-step action program she recommends women follow to secure a husband) is effective for women at any age, whether they are 35 or 105.

" 'The "Program' uses powerful marketing tactics that I learned at Harvard Business School...It will jump-start your dating life and get you married."

Having just published a book about finding love after 50, I don't think a book designed to help 35-year-old (and a few years above) women find a husband applies to women over 50. Lumping the challenges 30ish women face into the challenges older women face is like comparing lemons to cumquats.

Northing jumps out more than the statistics Ms. Greenwald includes on page 6:

"There are 28 million single women over 35, but only 18 million single men over 35 (U.S. Census, 2000)!" Technically, Ms. Greenwald's statement is true, those are accurate numbers, there's a shortage of ten million men. But without studying the numbers more in depth, they're deceiving.

The numbers make it seem that those poor 35-year-old women have it as tough as women 50-plus, due to the lack of single men. That isn't so.

From age 35-39, there are more single men than single women. And between the ages of 35-49, the number of single women and single men are virtually the same. Women under age 50 don't have a shortage of men.

The shortage of men doesn't show up in the statistics until after age 50. Between 50-69, there are 1.7 single women for each single man. And don't tell a 75-year-old woman she faces the same challenges in meeting men as a 35-year-old. You won't get much sympathy from her.

On page 1, Ms. Greenwald says her book will, "...jump-start your dating life and get you married."

There are many suggestions in Ms. Greenwald's book that will jump-start a woman's dating life--at any age--I will grant her that. She has many, many helpful pieces of advice in her book.

But the "get you married" quote only applies to a few women 50-plus. A recent AARP study found only 8 percent of the women polled wanted a spouse.

So the main premise of the book-to find a husband-doesn't apply to about 92 percent of women over 50. The problem here, as I see it, is trying to lump women of all ages into the same category.

I can't end this column without taking a friendly shot at the Harvard Business School. A great institution? No doubt. A Mecca for dating geeks, I don't think so.

I have an MBA from The University of Michigan. I didn't include "Using what I learned at the Michigan Business School" as the subtitle of my "Finding Love After 50" book because they don't teach dating there. And they don't teach it at Harvard either.

If 35-year-old women think they have it tough, let's sit them down with women over 50, so the young ones can find out what the real world is all about.

Reader Comments

Alix Dones, Mission Viejo, sent me a cute picture of her and a friend sitting around the Palm Springs Marriott Hotel swimming pool reading copies of my book, "Finding Love After 50." Wow. Must have been a rather uneventful or quiet week-end.

Debra Barnes, Santa Ana, says perhaps the reason she's never been married is she was born on Friday, the 13th. Response: Could be. Or more likely, she just hasn't found the right guy yet.

Rose Fleris, Staten Island, New York, "I wish I had read your article about hidden dating language three years ago. The man I thought I was getting engaged to said he needed more time. That meant, YOU ARE NOT THE ONE. Response: Most of us have heard an excuse like that in our lives.

© 2004, Tom Blake

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