Middle-Age
Relationships
Archive
2005

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

Are These Women Trying Too Hard?
Are You Approachable?
Beware of "Hidden Dating Language"
Cocktail Party Questions
Cyber-Seduced II
Dance "til the cows come home"
Dating Widowers
Disappearing Gents
Does hooking up with an old flame guarantee happiness?
Holding on Too Long
How Can This Happen to an Intelligent Woman?
In Dating, Trust Your Instincts
Internet Dating Scams
Internet Dating Update
Live Strong
Long-Distance Relationships
The Magnificent Six
Materialism
Mature Single Women air their frustrations and barbs
Men Who Seek Sex Too Soon
New Year’s Resolutions
Ode to a Special Lady
Protect 4 Personal Items
Read Every Last Message
Reality is a Bloody Shovel
Single Women on Marriage and Living Together
10 Principles to Improve Your Relationships
Walk The Line - A Love Story As I Personally Saw It
When Approaching Men, What Words should Women Use?
Where are the men?
A Widow and Widower Hook Up

The Magnificent Six


As a columnist writing about love after 50, I correspond with many people who are widowed. Some have been widowed for years, others for less than five. Today, six of those recently widowed—I call them The Magnificent Six—give other widowed people and others going through adversity hope for the coming year. Half of the six are friends; half I’ve not met. I admire how they are bravely rebuilding their lives.

Jerry, 70, Tampa, FL., a former ship captain, says he now realizes he was left on earth for a purpose. A year after his loss, he met a woman who held his hand and led him out of the fog. They travel together; this past summer they spent a month in London. Jerry’s positive attitude has helped him immensely.

Danielle, San Clemente, CA early 50s, has found the Internet helpful for meeting men. Yes, she’s met several who weren’t what she’s looking for. But now, she’s met a man with whom she has much in common. They’re dating exclusively and proceeding slowly. She’s a personal friend; it’s nice to see her smile again.

Dave, 70, Michigan, is aiding his healing by writing a book titled, The Sands Of Time. A Widower’s Journey To Healing.

“To reach to touch you and you’re not there, is almost more then I can bear” are words from the title poem in Dave’s book. I can feel his healing progress as I read through the book. When Dave’s book is published, I shall make it available on my website (www.findingloveafter50.com).

Laurie-Ann, Laguna Niguel, CA said, “My husband’s death knocked the very breath out of my heart and soul.” She was 49 when he passed. Two years ago, Laurie-Ann came into my Dana Point deli to meet me. She was also writing a book about her recovery.

Last week, she returned to my deli and presented me with her book, The After Journey. Getting Through The First Year (www.laurieannweis.com). Her book will be a big help to newly widowed men and women alike. Laurie-Ann’s book is also being listed on my website.

Cliffy, 50, Buena Park, CA is a close friend of mine. We share a love for sports, particularly rotisserie-league fantasy football and basketball. He’s the salt of the earth. A year ago, he lost his wife of a year and a half. It’s been a brutal time for him, but he realizes life for him is meant to be shared. His wife insisted he do that. He’s starting to enjoy the company of women.

Rick, 70, Modesto, CA wrote two years ago: “After ten months, I still spend Saturdays on a bench at the cemetery and can’t stop crying.” His daughter Donna, a friend of mine, was worried about him. This week I was pleased when Donna reported that Rick is doing well. He’s getting out and socializing. She feels he’s made it through the tough time.

There is a consensus among The Magnificent Six that formulas for healing don’t work. Each person heals at their own speed and deals with his or her loss differently. But they’re all healing and that’s encouraging. By sharing their stories, each is helping others who now find themselves on a similar arduous journey.

May the New Year bring strength and fulfillment to all.

Reader Comments

One of our subscribers--age 50-plus--works at the University of Notre Dame, home of the Fighting Irish. She and a woman friend were having a drink at a bar in South Bend recently. The two women started talking to two men who turned out to be Holy Cross priests and Navy chaplains.

As a joke, our friend said she might elope to Iceland. One of the priests said, "If you do that, I'll marry you. We'll just stay in Iceland and honeymoon."

Lesson of the story: You never know where or with whom you might find love after 50. Keep your radar on and your options open.

Not sure if she and the priest are in Reykjavik over New Year's--probably not--the Irish play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl in football, but it makes a cute New Year's story.

Walk The Line - A Love Story As I Personally Saw It


Walk The Line, the life story of Johnny Cash, opens at movie theatres today. I usually avoid movies on opening day, but I’ll be at the theatre to see it, for I knew Johnny and his wife June Carter Cash personally.

In 1975, I was the marketing director of Victoria Station, the boxcar and caboose restaurant chain that served prime rib. One of my duties was to hire Johnny Cash to be our company spokesperson and to sing our radio commercials.

Over the next few years, I got to know Johnny and June. The first time I met them was at the Coconut Grove Hotel in Miami Beach when I picked them up in a limo so they could see our Miami restaurant. Johnny wouldn’t agree to do our commercials until he approved of our company, so the pressure was on me to make that happen. It was to be a quick stop at the restaurant because that night they had a double concert at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

On the way, the limo driver got lost in a ghetto-like neighborhood. I about died of embarrassment and thought I’d blown the deal because we had to forego the restaurant visit. I recall June whispering to John, “I think we’re lost.”

They visited the restaurant the next day. Johnny loved the Victoria Station train-motif and agreed to a $100,000 two-year contract.

I attended 25 of their concerts. On two occasions, I was with Johnny at the House of Cash recording studio in Hendersonville, Tenn., where he recorded our commercials. I co-produced a record album titled, “Destination Victoria Station” that he created for us and went inside the walls of San Quentin Prison with Johnny for a concert. I saw how he related to the prisoners; he wore black because he championed people who were less fortunate.

But the warmest memory I have is of the love Johnny and June had for each other. June probably saved his life. Before I met him, Johnny had been into pills, uppers, downers and who knows what else? With her deep religious faith, June made him walk the line if he was going to be her partner.

One time, after meeting my estranged wife, June said to me, “I pray for you and that little lady who looks like you.”

Johnny and June were down-to-earth, kind, caring, loving people. Whenever I was with them, and it was time to leave, they always thanked me for having been along. Their lives were a lot bigger than mine, but they always made me feel like the special one. June called me “Tom.” Johnny called me “Son.”

Johnny loved June deeply. He relied on her to reassure him that each concert had gone well. Her presence lifted him.

In January, I’m publishing a memoir titled: “Prime Rib and Boxcars. Whatever Happened To Victoria Station?” in which my relationship with the Cashes is detailed. On the cover is a picture of Johnny and me standing together in front of the Victoria Station restaurant in Newport Beach, CA in 1976 (see below).

That’s the same restaurant where a customer approached Johnny and said, “Today ‘s my mother’s birthday. She’s 81.” The little lady was seated on a bench in the waiting area. Johnny knelt on one knee beside her and sang “Puff The Magic Dragon,” followed by “Happy Birthday.” He then wiped a tear from her cheek. That’s the kind of man he was.

What concerns me about the movie is that it focuses on 1955 to 1968, the years when he was immensely popular and when he was battling his drug addictions. I’d hate for the world to remember only his dark side. During the time I knew him, I never saw any evidence of drug or alcohol abuse, but only a gentle giant of a man with a deep, distinctive voice. I never saw him angry or disrespectful, even though fans often hounded him unmercifully.

I saw the warm and friendly side of him and his wife, and that’s the side of Johnny and June I want to remember.

Read Every Last Message


Cold winters and the cost of living in New Jersey convinced Alice (one of our members, not her real name) to move this summer to Canton, GA. Alice says “I found a better climate, an affordable lifestyle and amenities in a great community where I built a beautiful home.”

Pretty brave thing to do for a widow who’d been married 41 years and whose children all lived in New England. She considers herself adventurous and careful. But there was one little detail that made Alice’s move a little less scary.

Two years before, she met a widower (married 48 years) on an Internet date-matching site. But he lived in Atlanta and she lived in New Jersey. Through the date-matching site, she emailed him that she was removing herself from the dating site and included her personal email address. He didn’t receive her message. When her date-matching site tried to get her to renew, she checked her mailbox out of curiosity and found a message from him. “I emailed and we picked up writing again. I guess it was meant to be!”

They agreed to be just pen pals. “No pictures. No ‘Are you the right one?’ and, no plans to meet,” says Alice.

“We were very careful in the beginning when we wrote. We never mentioned the names of our children or grandchildren, just funny stories about different things. We both had had long, stable marriages and our families were the center of our lives. We had successful careers. Neither felt threatened by the past.”

Then their arrangement changed. “About 8 months into the pen-pal thing, he tells me not to get serious or marry anyone until we meet. At that point we took a look at each other by exchanging photos, talking on the phone, and it kept getting better.

“He came to NJ for a two-day visit and stayed a week, and then kept returning every two-three weeks. In October, last year, I visited him in Georgia.”

Alice liked the Atlanta-area lifestyle. She looked into a recreation community catering to all ages and particularly liked the quaint homes with porches. She told her gentleman friend that if she relocated, it would be incidental to and not dependent upon their relationship. “Marrying again was not in our plans,” said Alice.

During Xmas, when Alice was with her widower in Atlanta, her brother and his spouse visited from New England. Alice showed them the community she was considering moving to. “In an hour and a half, they purchased a home built by the same builder in a golf community 25 minutes away.”

In February, Alice sold her New Jersey home and bought a home in the recreation community. She and her widower friend maintain separate residences, and in my opinion, have an intelligent, mature attitude toward their relationship.

“We spend weekends together, we cook for one another once a week. We love to shop together. He visits his family and I visit mine, keeping these issues apart,” says Alice. “I am very lucky. It’s an open, honest, loving relationship without it ever getting routine, stale, or to the point of too much togetherness. We are committed to one another but observe that space that everyone needs.”

Alice says compatibility is important. They both love sports, especially ice hockey, and had worked in the same profession. “When we found we had a lot of shared opinions, and idiosyncratic behaviors, connecting was easy and we enjoyed the banter. Our meeting is mostly about finding someone with whom there is a deep connection on many levels. We never intended it to turn out this way, but we gave it a chance. As seniors, we accept who we are and enjoy what we have now.”

Lesson for singles: Before giving up on your Internet dating site, check every last message, just in case. It only takes one, but we never know which one.

Cocktail Party Questions


What is it about the holidays that prompts people who aren't single to ask those of us who are why we still are? The dating service, It's Just Lunch, surveyed 2,678 singles and found that 44% expect to be asked about their love life at least five times during the holiday season.

The comments usually come during those dreaded cocktail parties, when too many eggnogs fog brains and loosen tongues. Here are a few questions and comments singles might hear.

"Have you found Mr. Right yet?" is the favored zinger, which usually comes from Aunt Zelda, after her third cocktail while she's chomping on a cocktail weenie.

When Marty hears that question, she simply says says "I'm not looking. I'm happy with my life, why mess it up?"

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

When a woman asked Norman why he was no longer married, he answered: "I got divorced for religious differences. She thought she was God and I didn't."

The question, "Why aren't you married?" is usually asked by people close to us who feel they can get away with such intrusions. As a columnist, I hear it often.

People say, "After seven years together, why haven't you married Greta?" as if I'm leading the poor woman on against her will. I put on a sad face and say, "She won't marry me." That usually stops them cold. (For the record, similar to many older couples, Greta and I don't want to get married, we're happy with our arrangement the way it is. Besides, she hasn't asked me yet).

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

A rather undiplomatic married woman said to a single woman, in a demeaning tone, "I see you're not married. Any prospects?"

The reply, "Only that man over there who just hit on me." The woman looked "over there." Her husband was waving to her.

And then there's your neighbor's business partner--a Mr. Robinson type--who's at the cocktail party, oiled to the gills. Instead of saying, "Plastics," he corners you and whispers, "I've got a year's supply of Viagra." With a wink he says, "Care to share?"

When his wife happens by, you casually mention, "Your husband says he has a year's supply of Viagra. You must have a wonderful sex life."

The wife says, "He does? You couldn't prove it by me." And then she turns to him, "Honey, could we have a word?"

Carole adds, "Prying questions can be sidestepped with a little humor, a giggle, a twinkle in your eye, it keeps 'em guessing and adds to your mystique." When she gets the why-not-married question, she counters with, "Why are you still married?"

Comments about how easy dating must be suggest to older singles that they're doing something wrong or not trying hard enough to find love. Janet says, "People think available guys/women are hanging out on every street corner, ha!"

"I can't believe women aren't falling at your feet," is what John hears from friends. John says, "It's easiest to reply, 'They are,' and leave it at that, which seems to satisfy them."

And the ultimate ugly comment, "You aren't getting any younger" usually comes from a relative who isn't exactly a spring chicken herself. Best reply: "You could use a little nip, tuck yourself."

Candy says, "Those people inferring that I have the problem, actually have the problem--they need to get a life!" Amen, Candy.

Pour me another eggnog.

Sweetheart Scams

The war on "Sweetheart Scams" and dating fraud by exposing scammers gets bigger. Surf "Sweetheart Scams" links for valuable information, particularly if you've met someone questionable. I don't want any of our readers to get taken.

When Approaching Men, What Words should Women Use?


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

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

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

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

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

Six Little Words

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

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

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

She Doesn't Want Women Hitting on Her Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Principles to Improve Your Relationships


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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Amen's 10 Principles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reader's Comments

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

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

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

In Dating, Trust Your Instincts


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

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

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

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

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

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

Camping with Her Dad

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

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

Listen to Your Instinct

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

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

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

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

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

Reader Comments

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

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

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

A Widow and Widower Hook Up


Internet dating for older singles often is like a prize fighter in a corner getting pummeled. We hear so many negative stories. But, just when it’s down and out for Internet dating, it gets a lift with a success story like today’s. This is about Pat, a widow of 3 ½ years, and a widower of 2 years. They live 85 miles apart in PA.

Pat said, “I met a wonderful man 12 months ago on www.BikerKiss.com. (I went on as sort of a joke, a girlfriend had just bought a motorcycle.) We started to write to each other, then met for lunch, hit it off and talked for over 3 hours. A few weeks went by, he was traveling and I thought it was just a snow job, but it was true.”

The PA couple met again and spent a day in a small Victorian town halfway between where they both live. Pat said, “From then on we wanted to share more and more; he introduced me to his children, their spouses, his grandchildren, family members and friends. I did the same. We spent New Years together and we knew that there was no turning back.”

So what’s next for them? “Marriage is not on the agenda. He had not dated, I had (not very successfully). We like the way things are. We spend 4-5 days a week together, then I head home to spend some time with my family.”

What do they do for kicks? Pat said, “He has a Honda ST 1300 (motorcycle), no, he isn't a "biker" type...and we have traveled over 16,000 miles this year on it. We are committed to each other, we fell in love...a bit scary at first but it was the most natural thing in the world for us to do. I'm happier than I have been in years, I feel content and filled with a peace that I didn't know was possible.

“We talk about our spouses occasionally...funny stories and anecdotes...neither one of us is bothered by it...we don't do the hanging on for dear life thing and we both know that life goes on and we are blessed to have found each other,” said Pat.”

What’s it like? “Love is wonderful the second time around. He will be 62 in October, I was 66 in March...we are like 2 kids...holding hands, laughing and enjoying the simple things...and it shows...we find people looking at us because we are just having such a good time.

“I know many people have some terrible experiences with internet dating, I had a few doozies myself but I persevered, didn't get discouraged and kept going...there are lots of weeds out there, but also some flowers...you just have to keep at it.”

Don’t you just love it? A 66-year-old widowed granny, riding on the back of a younger man’s motorcycle, having found love on the Internet. As you read this newsletter today, they are motorcycling through the Adirondacks, along the St. Lawrence, Lakes Ontario and Erie, Niagara Falls, and then to the Finger Lakes region of New York state, enjoying the turning of the leaves.

Reader Comments and Tom's Responses

Janis, Columbus, Ohio, "I ordered all of your 2005 columns today on your website. Thanks for the great articles on senior romance...wow...just when you think you are alone in the world...you read about someone else's experience and you don't feel so alone.

I could identify with so many stories and esp. the long-distance romance and cyber seduction...oh my, and I thought I was such an intelligent, confident, woman, which I am of course. I just got lost in a senior romance moment, that lasted two months. Keep those good articles coming.

The Buckeye from Ohio

Response: Many people have asked to read all the columns from 2005 so I posted them on the Internet. There is a small cost involved. For those interested, they can click here.

Holding on Too Long


In today's topic, I mean no disrespect to honoring the memory of an ex-lover or spouse. But, when people start dating again, they often hold on to former relationships too long.

One woman said that her new husband still spends a lot of time with his ex-wife, that he sees her nearly every week-end and runs over there any time she needs something fixed. He claims there's nothing going on' between them. The new wife doesn't like it.

I hear similar comments from readers. They tell me the person they're dating or married to either sees or talks to their ex often, or in the case of a deceased spouse or lover, mentions them often.

One man told me that the woman he's dating wears a necklace containing a picture of her deceased husband in the locket. Every time he goes to kiss her, the dead husband is staring directly at him. Makes him feel uncomfortable and turns him off.

He also said she has a picture of her ex taped to the glove compartment in their car. She pats her ex on the head while the boyfriend is driving. The boyfriend hopes she'll remove the photo someday and pat him on the head instead.

I dated a widow once who had her deceased spouse high on a pedestal. "George did this or George did that" she'd often say. I tried to understand how this poor widow felt and kept my mouth shut. Reminded me of Jesse Colter, the late Waylon Jennings' wife, singing "I'm Not Lisa (My Name is Julie) in the 1970s. "But, when she called me "George" several times, we had a little talk. The widow continued to call me George, she'd even introduce me as George. I left to find a woman who would call me Tom .

Another man told me his wife downloaded a taped message of her deceased husband's voice on their computer. Whenever the computer is turned on, the voice says, "I love you honey." Sort of like the "You've got mail" message you hear on aol.com. The man has to hear the deceased husband's voice several times a day. The man jokingly told me when he hears the guy's voice, he checks the living room to be sure the guy didn't return.

So, what's wrong with honoring and reminding yourself of your ex-spouse or lover while you're dating or married to another?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Holding on to memories is fine. EXCEPT, do it privately.

When you publicly display or discuss your ex in front of your current love, what kind of a message does that send to him or her? You're saying, "I don't care enough about your feelings or that I'm hurting you." You're being selfish and inconsiderate--you haven't adequately let go.

John Gray reminds us in "Mars and Venus Starting Over" that we must heal first before trying to bring a new love into our life. Heal adequately before dating.

If you keep the memory of the ex around long enough, and keep exposing that memory to your current love, one day your new love might decide he or she has heard enough and will be gone. We all want to feel special in our relationships and you're not delivering on that premise when you're constantly bringing your ex into the mix. You're a couple, not a three-some.

So, if you find yourself doing it--consciously or unconsciously--change your ways. You can still honor him or her privately. But, make your new mate feel special, after all, he or she cares a lot about you.

How Can This Happen to an Intelligent Woman?


If a man finds you on an Internet dating site, who turns out to be an old family friend, a community leader, a leader in your parents’ church, has an honorable job with the state, has known your parents for 35 years and was a patient with your dentist father, and is still a patient with your dentist brother, you’d probably trust him implicitly. At least that’s how a woman in her mid- 50s felt about the man she dated for 3 ½ years.

“I had every reason to believe I was in an ‘exclusive, committed relationship,’” the Southern Calif. woman wrote. “The story began to unravel when the two of us returned in mid-July from a conference and I had a phone message from another woman notifying me that she had been in an ‘exclusive, committed relationship' with this man for the past year.

She had gotten my phone number from his ex-wife who she had contacted after becoming suspicious of him.” The ex-wife had received several calls from women checking him out. The ex's listing in the phone book has the same first initial and same last name as his. The women all told the ex that they thought they were seeing him exclusively and were all having unprotected sex with him on a regular basis. This guy was a busy dude studding women.

A private investigator told the woman that the Internet makes it easy for sexual predators to operate. “They become addicted to the hunt and are just ‘a click away' from their next conquest,” she said. The investigator told her to report him to the Internet site, which she did. She said the site removed him after looking into the allegations.

She also wrote a letter to his boss, a muckety-muck in the state government. She wanted the boss to know that her boyfriend was using the computers at work on the state's time to orchestrate his game of juggling three to four women simultaneously.

“I am devastated on many levels. I’m trying to come to terms with not only being conned by this man and the loss of my relationship, but also with being put at high risk by having unprotected sex with a man at the same time he was doing that with possibly 4-5 others at any given time.”

The woman said con artists like him are hard to recognize because they are so smooth, even for someone with her credentials: “I am an attractive, 55-year-old, single, educated professional and a victim of a sexual predator,” she said.

I asked her how she could be dating someone for three and a half years and not know he was seeing other women. She said, “He lives maybe an hour away. We were together three to four times a week. He always had reason why we weren’t seeing each other on some days. His job with the state as well as his position in and his work for his church gave him instant credibility. I trusted him.

“I was his Sunday, Wednesday, Friday girl and the woman I spoke to was his Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday girl. And there were other women.”

When the other women telephoned her, they spilled the beans to each other. Then, she confronted him when he was at her home. He said, “Oh, that woman is crazy: she thinks she’s in love with me.” He left and has never contacted her again. Not exactly a nice way to end a three-year-plus relationship.

If you are in a committed relationship, and yet there are gaps in when you see him that don’t track, do a little investigating. The man you love and are planning to be together with forever may be leading a double or triple life. He was.

Internet Dating Scams


Most singles use the Internet to meet new people. Many are encountering scammers. In our part II of a series about "Sweetheart Scams," we learn more about how these bad apples operate.

A simple favor cost one woman $2,800 

“I shiver to think of all of the people sitting in front of their computer, thinking they have found the love of their life, not realizing what they are being set up for,” said Barbara Sluppick, who along with Theresa Smalley and two other women, founded the Yahoo! Group “Romance Scams,” which we featured two weeks ago.

Barbara exchanged e-mails for three weeks with a man who claimed to be an Englishman but turned out to be Nigerian. Then she met Theresa who was scammed out of $2,800 by the same man. They formed the group two and a half months ago when two other women discussed scams happening to them. Since then, more than 671 people have signed up (there is no cost) and over 4,000 messages have been exchanged. The romance scams website: groups.yahoo.com/group/romancescams

Barbara said, “There are so many different parts of this scamming. It all starts with the romance and the scammers romance long and hard. Poems, flowers, candy, everything you need to believe the person is serious and this goes on for months or even a year. 

“Once the scammers have earned the person’s trust, the scam comes into play. They say they want to get home to their new love, but they were paid in US Postal money orders and they can’t cash them where they are. Most of the time they don’t ask for money, they ask for a favor. Who would not do a favor for a friend?

“To make it even more believable, they tell their love once they get there they want to take care of them. So they tell them to keep a portion of the money. Postal money orders are cleared through the Federal Reserve and it can take up to two months for them to clear. By the time the money order is found to be fake, the money is long gone and the victim has to pay it back.”

There are other scams Barbara described. One is reshipping. The impostor says he is setting up a business and wants his new love to reship packages (as a favor), usually to a foreign country. “Sounds innocent enough,“ says Barbara, “The catch is the merchandise is purchased with stolen credit cards. Of course, the person who received the merchandise is the one held liable for it.”

Barbara warns her members to never cash a check and wire the funds for a stranger, even if it seems legitimate. The check is likely drawn on someone else’s account and when that’s discovered, the person who cashed the check has to cover it, and he or shecould be prosecuted as a middle man in a money-laundering scheme as well.

These scammers post photos of themselves to entice their Internet loves. “Most of the pictures they use are off of modeling sites, and aren’t even of them,” says Barbara. Egad, outdated photos are bad enough, but photos that aren’t even of the person you’re thinking of falling in love with?

And here’s the saddest part: It’s happening to seniors. “One older lady in our group has been scammed twice. She’s on disability and had to take out a second mortgage on her house to cover the debt. Her daughter who lives with her had no idea this was going on till the check bounced,” said Barbara. 

If anything sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. Don’t fall for Internet scams.

Cyber-Seduced II


This column is important for anyone using the Internet these days, particularly when interacting with strangers on the web.

The number of older singles being ripped off by Internet “Sweetheart Scams” is increasing as these scams proliferate.

“Cyber-seduced” was the topic of this column a couple of issues ago. A 68-year-old woman was ready to hop in the sack with a 51-year-old East Coast man she had never met. Thankfully, she came to her senses and realized she was being set up, and severed the relationship before getting hurt or taken financially.

And now Vicki asks for Internet dating advice: “I’m very naïve, I thought it best to ask what are warning signs for unscrupulous characters I should be on the lookout for?”

So many people have been taken by Internet sweetheart scams that a free Yahoo! group was formed on June 6 called “Romance Scams” groups.yahoo.com/group/romancescams.

As of this writing, more than 569 people had joined and posted 2,319 messages describing Internet dating scams and experiences to the Yahoo! site. Even photos of suspected scammers are posted as well as chat room conversations with them.

Naïve singles like Vicki think they’ve found the love of their life because some guy responds or contacts them by e-mail and expresses a love interest in them. Sometimes these guys will send gifts such as flowers or chocolate that may have been purchased with stolen credit cards. The scammers can be on any reputable Internet site or chat room without the site knowing what’s going on. Even Christian sites can be affected, where participants don’t expect fraud and tend to be a bit more trusting.

Loneliness consumes many older singles, making them vulnerable and easy pickings for scammers. They correspond with these con artists, often for weeks, months, or even a year or more, eventually lowering their guard and trusting them. The scammers make some excuse about being out of the country on a work assignment and they need help; Nigeria seems to be the in-vogue country from where sweetheart scams originate these days.

The scammers aren’t just on dating sites. I get several unsolicited e-mails in my inbox every day with some offer of making money by helping some baron or so-called high- level official move, hide or deposit money. Apparently enough people get taken in by such scams that the number of scammers is increasing.

The scammers ask their new-found love for a favor and it usually has to do with money. Often, the favor is to cash money orders and wire the money to them. A while later, the well-intentioned people get called by their bank telling them that the money order was bogus and their account is being charged for $500, $1,000 or for whatever the total was.

Men can be victims also. On the Yahoo! “RomanceScams”site, one man says he thought he was doing a Nigerian woman a favor and forwarded a package to Nigeria for her. He has been informed by authorities that what he did was illegal. Innocent people can even be prosecuted for aiding a fraud. That’s a pretty big shock when they’re acting in the name of love and think they’re helping a lover. So beware when someone asks you to ship goods or merchandise to Nigeria or to any country.

The Yahoo! “RomanceScams” site is full of stories of people’s sweetheart scam experiences. It would behoove any single using the Internet seeking love to peruse the site and learn from it.

Singles need to trust their instincts and make themselves more knowledgeable about Internet rip offs. When that long-lost love suddenly appears on a person’s computer screen, and sounds too good to be true, it’s best to hit the delete button. That’s not easy to do when haunted by loneliness and thinking there’s somebody out there who cares.

For every Internet dating success story, there seems an even larger number of Internet horror stories and the numbers grow everyday as more singles go online.

It’s sad, and not fair to the honest people living in Nigeria, but the word “Nigeria” should be a huge red flag to Internet daters.

Does hooking up with an old flame guarantee happiness?


Monica described two widowed people in their 80s who married after knowing each other for more than 65 years.

In Monica’s story, the widower called old friends to let them knowof 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, “The widow appears to be wondering what she got herself into. Things are no longer paradise for this over-80 couple.”

Suzy, living in 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.”

Note from Tom: Older singles should be leery of becoming involved with people who can't take care of themselves financially. People you date don't need to be rich, but if you're constantly going to have to be the bank, watch yourstep.

Judy, also in Calif., was engaged to a Navy man 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 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 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 wear off, the true challenges of making a relationship work must be faced.

When inevitable bumps in the road come along, particularly with older people who have 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.

Single Women on Marriage and Living Together


Warning! This column may shock or upset older single men. It may even upset single women whose views on marriage and co-habitation differ from those expressed herein by women members of our group. If you don’t want your cage rattled today, perhaps consider putting the column aside to read over the week-end or sometime next winter.

Last week, when I asked our single women readers if they wanted to remarry or live with a man, 52 of you responded. The results were surprising. Only one said she wanted to marry and just a handful added they would consider living with a man—but only under the best of circumstances.

Most of the women said they want control over their lives. Many were in marriages where they devoted themselves to raising their children, playing the role of the understanding, doting wife who tried to do it all—similar to the role of a supporting actress in a movie—while their “leading-role” husbands pursued careers and golf games with their buddies.

And now that these women have been single for awhile, and they’ve gotten through the periods of loneliness and missing having a mate, they enjoy their freedom, privacy, space and independence, both personal and financial. Some said they don’t want to be a nurse or a purse to a man nor have the responsibility of keeping up a home. Carol, Minn., and Jenni, Mich., both said, “No more marriage. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”

Debby, Va., e-mailed, “Many people change after they are married—they quit trying and think they no longer have to make an effort to make the relationship work. I don’t feel the need to remarry, that isn’t what makes a relationship.”

Debby added, “I don’t want to live up to someone’s expectations of what a wife is or does, nor under someone else’s financial budget and explain how and why I spend my money.”

Others said there just aren’t many quality single men to date. They refuse to “settle” with some guy who is needy, or, who believes women 20-years-younger will love him because he’s such a stud muffin.

Lynn, 56, Orange County, Calif., says, “It would be nice to meet an independent man who would enjoy travel or other adventures, but keep my autonomy (my home, and my daily routines with friends and family). I want intelligent conversation and male companionship with a little romance and fun, maybe a few times a month, but not the daily commitment of a live-in or marriage situation.”

Another woman said, “If the right man comes along I would travel far to spend quality and regular times with him, but I would never give up the personal space and independence I have come to enjoy. We can be at his place or mine together, but I am no longer open to marriage or living together on a permanent basis.”

Many of the women said if they were in a non-living-together relationship, they’d insist on sharing expenses and would like intimacy, but the relationship would have to be monogamous. They added they want to pay their own way so that men can’t say, “I paid for the date, which entitles me to (you fill in the blanks).”

Susan, 59, Placentia, Ca., represents how most of the women who responded feel: “If the right guy comes along fine, but if not, that is okay too. The men my age want to date younger women and the 70-year-olds don’t share the same interests as I.”

So, to all of you older single men who feel that women your age want to marry or live with you, guess again. They are getting along and enjoying life just fine without you.

* * *

I’m certain that only one women who wants to marry out of 52 is not an accurate representation, more than that want to marry or live with a partner. I hope men—and women who want to marry or live with a man—will share their opinions. A national television network show has expressed interest in what our group has to say on this topic. This month, a few of you were featured on Good Morning America and Fox Network News. Singles in our age range need a voice. Now is a perfect time to express yourself. When you respond, please include your first name and city.

Lending Money to a Lover


Older singles need to be wary, aware and careful. There are many ways they can get ripped off. Internet phishing scams and identity theft seem to be the latest schemes in vogue. One mistake both women and men should avoid is lending money to a person they are dating. Three stories follow that substantiate this rule.

Jane: Jane met a man online and dated him for two and a half years. She thought they might end up together.

“When he lost his job and I was thinking about moving him in with his son with my two kids, I freaked out…Then, like an idiot, I loaned him money so that he would not end up on the street with his boy. Now, he is back at work and not at all concerned about paying me back. I am going to have to play hard ball, I suppose. He refuses to answer my e-mails,” she said.

She felt she had protected herself financially by getting a signed promissory note and the pink slips to his old car and boat. “I am just too nice. I want a good faith effort that he will pay me back.”

Can Jane get her money back? Probably, but she will have to make an effort to do so. At the least, she says she will take him to small claims court, where, because of the pink slips and signed note, she would get a judgment against him. But collecting is another issue.

Who knows what he might do to her if she repossesses his car or boat? The stress involved in her situation could have been avoided had she not lent him the money.

Tom: Lending money and not being repaid doesn’t just happen to women. Tom loaned a woman he was dating $1500 when she fell on hard times. She signed a promissory note to pay him back.

She was inheriting money and promised to repay him when the funds came in. When she paid him $900, he said, “Why only $900?” She said, “I was your girlfriend,” as if the $600 due was for dating services rendered.

He took her to small claims and won a judgment. On the day he had the marshal freeze her bank account, the entire side of his car was keyed outside his place of business. The police said they couldn’t prove she had done it.

David: “The girl I had been dating for two months told me she was having financial problems. I wanted to help, so loaned her $1000. I told her it was a loan and I expected to be repaid, but did not have her sign a promissory note. She agreed.

“Later, she told me she couldn’t afford to pay it back. I realized the only hope I had to get a quick repayment was to take her to small claims court. I knew my chances were not good because I had not been smart enough to get something in writing from her

'She told the judge she assumed the money was a gift. I tried to provide the judge with information that might help him see that it was a loan, but once he heard I did not have anything signed by her, he didn’t want to hear any of it.

The judge ruled in her favor and to make it worse she stated in court that the contacts I made with her on this (it was three times) was 'bordering on stalking.'

'You can imagine how I felt when I walked out of that court. I felt violated by someone I had once cared enough about to try to help her.'

If you are still foolish enough to lend money, be sure to get a promissory note. Most people have worked hard to build financial security. Losing that and then trying to earn it back at our age might not be possible.

But, do not lend a lover money, even if you get a promissory note or the pink slip to his old clunker. Why subject yourself to the stress, time and effort of trying to collect?

There is an old rule of thumb: Don’t lend money you can’t afford to lose.

David said “It’s amazing what people will do to avoid personal responsibility and take advantage of others.”

Sad but true. Don't be a victim.

Are These Women Trying Too Hard?


A woman we will call Fran who has been married for 20 years is concerned about her single women friends. She asked, “Do you find that women tend to make themselves ‘too available’ when they meet a man they have ‘chemistry’ with?

Fran added, “I am fighting the urge to hit my girlfriends upside the head with a ‘get-a-clue bat!’” Then, she explained why.

“I have three women friends who have relationships that are fairly new (the girls are ga-ga over the guys) and they are doing just too many things for the men while getting little in return.

“One guy comes over to my friend's house in the morning for steak, eggs, and some kissing ...(no sex yet, but I think that is only a matter of time). I suspect this ‘breakfast club’ guy, who is unavailable week-ends and nights—he only visits in the morning—is married.

Fran says her second woman friend is dating a guy who will only meet her at a park or go hiking or bicycling. And the second friend has to always invite him, he takes no initiative.

Fran said, “I have a third friend whose guy stops by her house after work and sits on her couch while she cooks dinner. ‘Almost EVERY night.’”

“Very little effort seems to be made by these guys...which I guess is convenient, and a real dollar-saver for THEM. Seems to me that the guys should be investing some time and effort here,” added Fran. “What is your opinion?”

I am reluctant to give my opinion on relationships when I hear only one side of the story and have limited information, but since Fran asked, here goes.

Any person, man or woman, who has to try too hard to dazzle a member of the opposite sex, and gets considerably less in return, is unappreciated and likely being used. It’s good to put your best foot forward when first dating someone, but if the effort is too one-sided, the relationship won’t last. Also, people who try too hard come off as desperate and that in itself is a turnoff.

So, while lacking other facts, I think Fran’s girlfriends might need to be bopped with a “get-a-clue bat.” The problem is, if Fran opens her mouth, the girlfriends might resent that she is putting her nose into their affairs—whoops, wrong word—situations.

Perhaps the guy meeting the second girlfriend for hiking and bicycling just needs to be nudged into also making suggestions on things to do. He could be thinking "Why should I worry about it since she’s such a great planner?"

Successful relationships are give and take. Sounds like the girlfriends are too eager, giving too much and not getting enough in return. When men care about women, they let it be known and take initiative to impress them. With what Fran sees is happening with her girlfriends, I’ll bet her marriage of more than 20 years looks pretty darn good.

Middle-age dating is a challenge, particularly for women because quality men seem to be scarce. But that is no excuse to be the one who invests all of the time and effort. By the way, I like my steak medium rare and eggs over easy.

Protect 4 Personal Items


As an older single, protect four things when dating.

Heart

The first is your heart, which can have a mind of its own. You're lonely and and would like a mate. You miss sharing and feel empty. You're vulnerable and let your guard down.

One widow became involved with a "perfect" gentleman. Turns out he was all smoke and mirrors. A fake, con artist. She considers herself to be intelligent and grounded. Still, she fell for his lines until she hired a private investigator who uncovered his past. "Wisest money I ever spent," she said. She found out before she was deeply involved, but her heart was bruised. "Even here in the Midwest, there are creeps who will try to take your money."

While loneliness is difficult, having one's heart broken at our age is worse. Be careful where you allow your heart to lead you. Listen to your brain, gut and instinct.

Learn the ropes. Don't be naïve or gullible.

Health

Protect your health. With the proliferation of male enhancement drugs like Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis, some older men think they're King Kong and treat sex like a bag of popcorn.

Judy Fink, of the AARP, says reckless sex can be dangerous: "Remind people about serious health risks from unprotected sex. HIV and AIDS are increasing in people over 50-heterosexual folks-deciding to become sexually active without testing themselves and their potential partners."

Walk away from sex if you're being rushed. Percentage-wise, the fastest-growing age group to contact HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is age 50-plus. Don't become one of those stats.

Drink glass

Protect your drink glass. "Is Tom joking?" you ask.

One Orange County woman was invited to a Laguna Niguel man's house for dinner. After dining and nice conversation, she woke up at three in the morning in his bed. He had placed a date-rape drug in her wine glass. Not in a bar, not by stranger, but by a man she'd previously dated.

When you're among strangers having a drink-wine, soda, coffee, fruit juice-don't let your glass or cup out of your sight from the moment the bartender pours it.

Assets

Protect your assets. On May 24, the Register featured a front page story written by Andrew Galvin entitled, "Senior investors fear savings were stolen." Galvin reported that an investment firm in Brea had taken in $144.8 million mainly from senior investors. Most of it's missing. Bill Miller, La Habra, an 84-year old widower, invested $300,000. He's certain it's gone.

In 1999, a 61-year-old Laguna Niguel man was sent to prison for the third time for financially defrauding women. He'd been married eleven times and masqueraded as a fireman, race car driver, contractor and pilot. He'll be released soon (and could be coming to live in your neighborhood).

Widows are particularly vulnerable. Often, their husbands made the financial decisions. Mr. Right comes along and offers to help with your finances. Have him checked out by a private investigator. Keep assets in your name; you need to be in control of your money.

One woman co-mingled her funds with her new husband "to prove her love for him." He kept his assets separate. In the divorce, he got half of hers and kept his.

Protect yourself-fiercely.

Comments and responses:

Bob Pace, Irvine: "Re: the Western wedding, loved the imagination they showed." Response: If you're going to git hitched, might as well make it fun."

Dance "til the cows come home"


The wedding invitation read: "Cassandra Kirk and Bruce Nielson are getting' hitched! Join us for a western wedding celebration, 4 p.m., Saturday May 22, Sonrise Ranch, Trabuco Oaks Road, Feast and fun to follow. Western attire."

Cassandra, mid-50s, works for the Orange County Calif. School system. Three years ago, she joined the San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association, a fun-loving, 250-member non-profit group that sponsors the Swallow's Day Parade in San Juan Capistrano each April.

Through the association, she started dating Bruce, also a member, who's responsible for the lighting and sound systems for the parade.

From the git go, it was obvious that this wedding was highly organized with the comfort of the guests as the top priority. At the sign-in table, each person was issued a sheriff's badge bearing his or her name and directed to an area covered by canopies to congregate and enjoy a chilled beverage.

A "deputy" sporting a handlebar mustache, dressed in a long black coat, holding a 12-guage shotgun-with "Boots" on his name badge-said, "How often do you get invited to a wedding where you can bring your guns?"

Dining tables were situated in a corral that also served as the chapel. Horses had been moved to holding areas on both sides. Placemats read: "Dance 'til the cows come home.'"

Instead of traditional organ music before the ceremony, country and Western was played, including the theme from "The Magnificent Seven."

After arriving by horse and buggy, the bride was escorted to an elevated stage by her son Robert, also toting a rifle. A noose was dangling from a beam. Mother and son waited with the minister for the groom. Five minutes passed. The bride seemed concerned. Was he a no-show? Some folks-including me-not knowing if this was planned, felt bad for her. Finally, guests exposed the groom's whereabouts and Cassandra yelled, "Shoot him," and dispatched her son to haul him to the stage by gunpoint.

The members in the wedding party-dressed in Western garb-acted out a skit where the maid of honor tried to win the groom away and the best man tried to win the bride away. A brown and white horse twenty feet away in a stall was munching hay.

When the minister said, "Now for the serious part," he went right to the vows; the ceremony was over in eight minutes. To the sound of David Bowie's "Golden Years," Bruce and Cassandra left the stage. Bruce grabbed an iced Guinness Stout and announced, "Let's eat, drink and have fun."

A feast followed with food served buffet style in an adjacent corral. My partner Greta and I agreed we'd never had a better wedding dinner: bbq pork ribs, tri-tip beef, coleslaw with peanuts, homemade macaroni and cheese, and a tasty wedding cake.

Cassandra's lesson for older singles: If you're single and would like to meet a mate, don't ever give up hope. Get involved in activities. The Fiesta Association welcomes new members. Its website, www.swallowsparade.com, states: "You're wanted." Six couples who've met there have married.

Cassandra showed us where she and Bruce were spending their wedding night-in the wedding suite-a large two-room tent behind the stage. Why of course! What a refreshing couple.

Nice to see creativity still exists with middle age singles-er, now married.

Reader comments:

Joe Follick, Santa Monica, Ca., "I'm investigating a trip to Bangkok; maybe I can find a wife there. Eighteen hours of flying is a lot for a date, but probably worth it compared to the hour of travel and 17 hours of torture to date an LA woman."

Paul Rubin, Costa Mesa, Ca., "At 67, I still want an intimate relationship after we become friends. If the chemistry isn't there, the relationship will end." .

Mature Single Women air their frustrations and barbs


The biggest complaint I hear from older single women is that the men their age only want to date younger women. And the second biggest complaint is that a good share of the remaining men—the ones who don’t chase younger women—aren’t relationship material, even though they delude themselves thinking they are.

Hey, older single men. Guess what? According to these women, some of you aren’t exactly a night on the town either.

Once in a while, these women get tired of hearing the rhetoric some of these old guys lay on them and, as we discover today, can dish it out themselves.

Rebecca, 77, New London, Ct., says, “I’ve been widowed for a year, and although I’ve accomplished so many things I was suddenly faced with, I still haven’t had a single offer for a date. All the men I know are either married, dead, or over-the-hill.”

Jean, 75, Ocala, Fl., e-mailed, “I don’t believe there can be love for a healthy, active lady of my years. Men my age are just waiting for the Grim Reaper and think everyone else is too. I’m a vibrant, happy lady who likes to party, dance, fish, hike in the woods and socialize.

“I’ve been asked out a couple of times, but they seemed too old for me. Just sitting in a recliner day after day isn’t my idea of a good time. As we age, we must keep our bodies and minds active. I feel I still have a lot to give.”

Diana, San Francisco, a widow in her 60s, says, “I had a date with a man for lunch and wasn’t especially attracted to him, but we had a nice conversation. He e-mailed me a few days after our date and told me my Internet picture looked more than 15-years-old, which it isn’t.

“And yet his profile said he was 68 and had an average body build. He clearly looked almost 80 and was overweight, with a big stomach. I’m sick of men in their 70s and 80s looking for some, tiny, petite woman, when they clearly aren’t prizes themselves.”

A 67-year-old Aliso Viejo, Ca., woman said she e-mailed a man who claimed he was 60 but looked about 77 in his picture. He wrote her back that they weren’t a ‘match’ because of her age. She says she had to laugh because she hadn’t ever dated a man as old as he and e-mailed him back that he was too old for her.

Linda, Fairfield, Ohio, 59, has been widowed 15 years: “I met a guy online from Las Vegas who I thought was going to be my knight in shining armor, but no such luck. He’s a widower and wants to be the guy about town with the ladies, young ones if he can. Not my style but for some reason I keep hanging on thinking he’ll change his mind.”

And while these women are active, industrious, content and enjoying life, most admit they’d enjoy having a special man in their lives—as long as he didn’t sit in a recliner all day with his hands folded on a stomach the size of Mt St. Helens.

Or, as Shirley, Vancouver, Wash., says, “My question is: How to find love after 75! Life is ever so slightly different at this age, but the desire for a loving companion remains the same."

Dating Widowers


Frequently, I receive e-mails from women expressing their experiences and frustrations with dating widowers.

A woman wrote that she’s been dating a widower who lost his wife 12 months ago. The man still misses his wife of ten years as evidenced by her personal belongings that remain visible around his house—toiletries that were hers, for example— and a picture of her on his desk at work. He’s told the woman he still has “cleansing” (healing) to do. She wonders if he’ll ever have a special place in his heart for her.

I recently wrote that dating a widower can be risky. Anne, Orange, Calif., responded: “ Perhaps dating a widower is no more risky than dating someone divorced. One’s life would get narrow if one didn’t take risks.”

Anne is right on both counts. Wounds from a divorce or any loss of a loved one are deep. And, some risk can be good. But, I hear more sad stories from women as a result of dating widowers than I do as a result of dating divorced men.

One man wrote, “My adult daughter is dating a man from her church who lost his wife to cancer last year. He’s not ready and she’s pushing him. You can’t rush matters of the heart.”

He’s also right. If a person is broken-hearted over the ending of a relationship, trying to bring a replacement person into one’s life too soon won’t work. Widowers are often so lonely they try to fill the void by dating right away and when they realize it’s too soon, the women they’ve been dating get dumped and hurt. It happens often.

Jerry, a widower, 68, Tampa, Fl., shared how he’s dealt with his healing: “After my wife passed, I couldn’t imagine going out with anyone else. But, as the healing process took place, I realized I’m still on this planet so I might as well make the best of it. God left me here for some reason.

“Four major steps I’ve taken: 1-Made use of the Hospice counselor. 2-Joined the YMCA to get fit. 3-Joined Weight Watchers to get my weight down and 4-Subscribed to your newsletter, which is positive—you’re helping a lot of people.”

Jerry has a new woman friend. They have a two-week cruise planned for April. “We’re taking dance lessons before we go so we can make the most of it on the ship dance floor. I need the lessons more than my woman friend,” said Jerry. He waited to date until he’d adequately healed and consequently, is able to be a giving person in his new relationship.

Lisa, who just moved from Cincinnati to take a new job in the Detroit area, has been dating a new widower for eight months. They are proceeding slowly for a couple of reasons. First, they know it’s wise not to have him rush into a replacement relationship. And, his teenage daughter needs time to heal also. Lisa and the widower respect that.

Lisa said, “Your website e-book on widows and widowers http://www.findingloveafter50.com/E-book%20one%20Widows.html was so helpful to us and a huge part of our beginning. John Gray’s book, “Starting Over” was helpful for him as well, but it was yours that seemed to have the greatest positive impact.” Note from Tom: I’m honored just to be considered in the same league with John Gray.

Dating anyone who has recently suffered a loss is risky. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proceed. I just want older singles in a situation like that to protect their hearts. To move ahead with caution and not rush the person grieving. The boulevard of broken dreams is strewn with the hearts of people who’ve dated folks who haven’t properly healed.

Comments:

George, Arkansas, “It would seem that the people who subscribe to your newsletter could be a step above the norm. Maybe you should start your own dating service.”

Response: At one time, we had personal ads in the newsletter and on my website. But because we aren’t large like Yahoo! Personals, eharmony, match.com and thirdage.com, some women complained they weren’t getting enough “hits.” Others have asked for a place to chat or at least exchange messages. I’d appreciate thoughts from readers.

Kim, “My parents met more than 30 years ago while they worked at the Victoria Station restaurant chain. I read on the Internet that you’re publishing a book about Victoria Station. When and where can I get a copy for their anniversary?”

Response: “I have completed a book called, “Destination Victoria Station. A 1970s Memoir.” It’s being published this summer. The theme is about pursuing one’s dreams and covers my 8 years with Victoria Station, a boxcar and caboose chain of restaurants, striving to become a top company executive.

The book explains—from my perspective—the Victoria Station meteoric rise to stardom and subsequent tumble into bankruptcy. Advance orders for autographed and numbered copies will be accepted soon.

Internet Dating Update


As more and more mid-lifers turn to Internet dating, I hear more and more stories about their experiences. Some good; some bad. Here are a few of the recent ones.

Carol, Los Angeles, married 19 years, divorced 11 years, wrote: “I have mixed reviews about meeting men online. The plus is it gives me access to a large number of men that might have partner potential, whom I otherwise wouldn’t have met. But, some men lie about their age and/or marital status and other issues.”

A month ago, we wrote about Tricia, 46, who met a man online and had a real “wow” connection. On the first date, he ditched her at a restaurant and she called him a “fat jerk.”

Update: a week later, he e-mailed and apologized and she gave him a second chance and they’re dating. “We go out and have a good time but the sex question is looming. He wants to have a physical relationship. After dating him a month, I’m not comfortable with that,” says Tricia. “I think the relationship is on its way out.”

Another woman wrote that she is physically fit because she teaches fitness and feels she looks 15 years younger than her true age of 52. On her Internet profile, she’s 42. She says if she lists her real age, she won’t get as many “hits” and will inevitably get hits from very tired, unfit older men. Now she’s got a date with a 46-year-old guy and is worried about revealing her true age.

Picture the scene, “Gee sir, I’m not four years younger than you, but six years older.” He says, “That’s okay, I lied also. I’m 56, so we deserve each other.” Whatever it takes. Hopefully, she’ll let us know what happens.

One Internet dating site, www.TrueDater.com wants a more honest and truthful Internet dating atmosphere. The site has implemented a feature where you can post a review of someone you went on a date with and you can read reviews on a future date. Can you imagine reading this?

“He’s ten years older, 50 pounds overweight, drives Peter Falk’s Peugeot he bought from the TV show “Colombo” and only dines at early-bird specials.” If the site uses real names, I hope they have libel insurance.

Just when we sour on Internet dating, someone comes along and shares a success story. Barbara, a widow, moved from Calif. to Boston: “I needed a change to get my life back on track. I have a son and daughter-in-law living in Boston.

“I’d been emailing Dennis on and off since joining www.CatholicMatch.com , but we had never met during any of my visits to Boston. I had given up on finding anyone and gone off the site for a while, but reappeared to help a friend get started on it.

“Dennis saw I was back and we started emailing again. We were caught by surprise by how well we got along. He is kind, loving and knows how to treat a lady. We will marry June 18.”

Barbara’s experience reveals how a change of routine can create new opportunities in life. Before you all move to Boston or elsewhere, be sure doing so would be right for you; moves don’t always have happy endings.

If you can put up with the idiosyncrasies of Internet dating, and remain optimistic, who knows? You might meet someone like Dennis and be walking down the aisle in a few months.

Comments:

Beth (name changed): “I’ve been unofficially living with my boyfriend, a widower of one year, for a couple of months. I wonder if he’ll ever be able to feel for me as he felt for her? I’ve told him how special he is to me, and how good he feels in my arms, but I get no reaction.”

Response: Dating a widower can be risky. Sounds like he hasn’t healed yet, and it’s not his fault. You might want to read my electronic book, “After The Healing: A Guidebook for Widowers and Widowers.” www.findingloveafter50.com/E-book%20one%20Widows.html There are a few pages in it about dating a widower.

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.

Reality is a Bloody Shovel


Last week’s column ended with this statement: “I will, in the future, try to keep my personal opinions on issues such as who pays, sex, and living together a littler closer to the vest.”

Funny how a simple statement like that can empty the bugs from the woodwork. More readers responded than I knew existed. Most, not all, don’t want me to rein in my opinions and they were vocal about it.

Suzy said, “Don’t ever do that! Your opinion and comments - personal perspective - that’s why your column is ‘required reading.’”

Nancy shared, “Don’t stop writing your opinions. A man of your stature and integrity would not purposely belittle anyone, so to those who think otherwise, get a life.”

More men than usual responded. Bill said, “It’s your candid comments that make this column special and interesting.”

Sidney, 61, a personal/fitness trainer living in the San Francisco Bay Area, said, “Don’t let some people make you soften your sense of humor or insight.”

Verne, Wellsville, N.Y.: “Your humility and comments are right on. No two people on earth think and believe exactly the same.”

Tina, “Please don’t keep your mouth shut, that is what makes the column so interesting.”

Also this from Elaine, “Some of these people haven’t matured beyond the belief system that was instilled in them as kids. At some point, one needs to decide what’s best for me now, not what was best for me years ago.”

A woman I refer to as “The wise bird of Manhattan,” Shirley, New York City, e-mailed, “Don’t apologize about anything. Some readers are old hat, conservative, afraid of sex, hanging on to tradition, which is dead/boring/useless/irrelevant. And some have no sense of humor. The question of sex without marriage and living together is passé. If they are troubled about it, they don’t have to do it.”

Yikes, even my Jackson, Michigan, high school girlfriend, Mary, Traverse City, Mi., encouraged me, “Enough of this generosity of spirit stuff. Come out swinging—sex, religion and politics are what make life, and conversations, fun.”

And from the same high school class as Mary, Rick, an actor, living in Van Nuys, Ca., wrote: “You tread a fine line with people so willing to set moral guidelines for others. I’m always flabbergasted by people who know what God wants.”

A woman, who described herself as “an occasional fan” said, “Oh, come on, without a little controversy, we end up with boring and predictable.”

All comments weren’t flattering. Dee, Palm Desert, Ca, suggested, “Read what you write before clicking the ‘send’ button. Your comment on sex before marriage was chauvinistic.”

Another women said that in a previous column I belittled a relative of hers and “milked” two columns out of it. I’ve never thought of writing a column as “milking” information but I guess that’s what columnists do. She is from a farming region of the country which may explain her terminology.

Nancy, Illinois, 54, said, “Some ladies are stuck in the 1950s. I bet they still put pink curlers in their hair.”

And sounding like the writer she is, Zoe, England, e-mailed: “Keep airing your views, they are a breath of fresh air in this current climate of bland political correctness that feels like verbal popcorn. It used to be called, ‘reality is a bloody shovel.’”

The show will go on with opinions and comments, not as close to the vest as originally stated.

Comments:

Lisa, a woman who loves horses, e-mailed, “Some horsewomen would love to find a guy to share our love of things equestrian…I know how to balance man and beast in my life.” Response: Which one do you consider a beast?

Suzy, “Is there a tactful way to tell a man “wash your clothes more often, use deodorant and your cologne is gagging me?” Response: Tell him you’re allergic to the whole mail bag. If he wants to continue seeing you, he needs a “complete makeover.”

Materialism


How important is materialism when seeking a mate?

One of our readers from Richland, Wa., e-mailed, “I would like to know what you and your readers think. My 57-year-old sister-in-law (my brother is deceased) is dating a man she’s ‘just not that into.’ On the minus side, he drives a Chevrolet (although he can afford better) and owns three suits from what she’s seen (two are leather).

“On the plus side, he attends church, 'refuses to let her pay for anything' (in boldface) and is a complete gentleman. (Complete gentleman is defined as not asking for sex).”

I need to intervene on her e-mail at this point. The first paragraph bugged me; the second paragraph bugged me more.

I replied: “Your sister-in-law wouldn’t be into me either. Until recently I drove a 1993 Suzuki Samurai and I own one suit (although it’s not leather.)”

The boldface words “refuses to let her pay for anything” imply that paying for everything is a good quality in a man. That thinking is outdated and makes me ill. A relationship where the man pays for everything won’t work. He’ll begin to resent the woman’s materialism, regardless of how wealthy he is or poor she is.

The other burr in my saddle is her definition of a complete gentlemen—one who doesn’t “ask” for sex. If a woman believes that a man isn’t a gentleman because he’d eventually like to have sex, she’ll alienate 98 percent of the men she meets.

Enough ranting on my part, let’s give the sister-in-law a chance to salvage herself by reading more of her e-mail:

“She believes herself to be a sharp dresser with an equally sharp car and believes that it’s a step down to ride in his Chevy when they could be riding in her spiffy Camry. She also wants him to invest in a better wardrobe. I told her she shouldn’t talk herself into being with someone like him. I don’t think he will change for her, and that sooner or later he will want sex. I think she’s asking for trouble.”

A step down to ride in his Chevy? Don McLean’s 1960s song, “American Pie,” www.don-mclean.com/americanpie.asp wouldn’t have been the same if he’d taken his Toyota to the levee instead of his Chevy. Can you imagine?

“I won’t go to the levee with you unless it’s in a Toyota.” Yikes!

And sooner or later he’ll want sex? Dah. Like that’s a bad thing? Most women pray that their steady man will want to have sex.

Sex is a good thing for seniors!

And then this: Being with someone like him is asking for trouble? Ya, right, he’s got trouble written all over him—he’s kind, church-going and a gentleman.

She’s correct about one thing. Her sis-in-law won’t change this guy because people—particularly older folks who are set in their ways—don’t change. And when someone tries to change them, they resent it.

This materialism story from Washington state makes dating in the rest of the country sound almost normal.

Comments

Rene Browing, Laguna Hills, Calif. “I have access to two Toyotas. My favorite is 20-years-old with 300k miles and the other a new expensive model, which invariably invites comments from my date, “Is this your car?” Usually after this question, my interest in a second date evaporates. Financial status on the first date shouldn’t be an issue.” Response: Men can also be materialistic.

Where are the men?


Recently, reader Elena sent an e-mail complaining that I’m not helping her in meeting men: “You never tell women over 65 where to meet a gent or give us tips where to go when a woman is interested in finding a mate. The pickings are far and few between.”

Natalie Gora, Dana Point, Calif., says, “There aren’t many places here for singles aged 50-60 to go.”

I hear similar comments from older single women across the country. Most simply ask: “Where are the men?”

My answer: “There is no place in the United States—that I’m aware of—where older single men and single women mingle in relatively EQUAL numbers to meet members of the opposite sex.” If there were such places, they'd be so packed, people wouldn’t be able to get in.

Some women get discouraged because there is no EASY way to meet older single men. To find them requires an effort, which they’re unwilling to make. And even if they make an effort, there’s no guarantee of success, although their chances of meeting a potential mate will increase dramatically.

So, what can women do? They need to meet NEW people, which means they must get out of the house and get active. And when they meet new people, they’ll make new friends. And when they make new friends, things will happen.

Becky shared her story about how important it is to meet new people. She was introduced to a man through an Internet dating service and agreed to meet him at a pub. When they met, she decided quickly he wasn’t the man for her. But the story doesn’t end there.

Because she'd been willing to risk meeting someone new, she ended up meeting a potential mate. A local band was playing at the pub. During an intermission, the lead guitarist circulated among the audience, handing out his card, and invited people to his next appearance.

Becky and the guitarist started e-mailing as friends-only for months, while both dated other people. During a dating lull for both, he asked her out.

“Friends first is great. He knew my values before we even went out on our first date,” said Becky. “I usually can tell within two dates if a new relationship is going anywhere and we’ve made it past that ‘two-date deadline.’”

Betty, 73, a retired teacher, moved to Idaho. She says there aren’t many older single men in her age range there. She signed up for a bus trip to attend an opera in a larger city and met a widower on the trip. They are now a couple. Meeting men can happen to older single women, but only if they are willing to get out of the house, try new things and meet new people.

How do women meet new people? By pursuing activities that interest them. It doesn’t have to be an activity where single men are present nor does it have to be a “singles function.” In fact, the ratio of older single women to older single men at “singles functions” is usually unfavorable for women and often discouraging.

Sarah Lee, of Indianapolis, says, “Just get out there and meet new people, don’t forget your women friends, they have brothers and male friends.”

The choices of where to go to meet new people are unlimited. Check your nearby universities for classes you can attend. Many have extended learning programs catering to mature adults.

Last Saturday night, I saw a local Barnes and Noble bookstore packed with folks reading books and magazines and sipping coffee. Many were older single women and older single men.

Connie Philips is a high school classmate from Jackson, MI. We haven’t seen each other for nearly 50 years. But through e-mail, we’ve rekindled our contact. Eight months ago, when she lived in North Carolina, she said she'd given up on meeting men. Recently, Connie moved to Briny By-The-Sea, Florida.

Well, a man named Eric, a widower of 16 years, who lives in New England, started visiting his cousin, who lives in the complex where Connie lives. “I knew he was single but figured he had a honey somewhere. He started to visit more often. The conversations started and the whirlwind romance started.” Connie and Eric will marry on April 23. I’m happy for her.

You can even meet new single men in your own home. Start inviting friends to a weekly potluck and insist they bring a single friend along they aren’t dating. Keep the ratios close to even. The key again is to meet new people.

So where are the men? Just about anywhere. As long as you're out of the house and understand the need to meet new people.

Comments

Kay Boron, “I subscribed to your newsletter. It’s the highlight of my week. Everything you say is such common sense.” Response: I’m not sure about everything, on occasion, I stub my toe.

Are You Approachable?


Older singles say they’re tired of being alone and lonely. They ask what they can do to improve their chances of finding love. Many positive actions can be initiated, but none is more important than making themselves approachable.

And lack of approachability seems to be a bigger problem than it should be.

Ellen, Boston, e-mailed, “Men in their 60s are resistant to a relationship. It’s almost like the older men can’t be bothered or can’t take the time to get into a relationship, making them hard to approach.”

Suzie, Laguna Niguel, Calif., in commenting about last week’s column about odors being a turnoff, suggested how men can make themselves more approachable: “If more men keep up their hygiene (bathed everyday and wore clean clothes), then they would stand a better chance with some of the women out there. Men who live alone tend to become lazy in their hygiene, especially if they aren’t dating someone who cares enough to tell them.

But it’s not just the women who have opinions on this topic. Lately, the men have been speaking out.

Harvey Resnick, Dana Point, Calif., who calls himself a part-time poet and writer says, “I’m frustrated at the trend of quality women who have shut men from their lives. They won’t return open friendly smiles or greetings and they feel safe in the bosom of ‘fellow lady friends.’

“Some have been badly hurt, betrayed or are comfortable economically and on the path of self-discovery or spirituality. Others don’t need men.”

George, Hot Springs, ARK, said, “What I’ve found about women over 50 is their attitudes. You would think they are some sort of privileged characters. They are ‘set in their ways’—bad ways. It seems I’m stuck with a bunch of bags, rags and hags unless I had the money to go younger, which I don’t.”

Wow, I don’t think women anywhere, let alone Arkansas women, will be happy with George’s comments, which are pretty harsh. He’s a nice man, but hardly making himself approachable to women with that attitude.

But, back to Harvey Resnick. Harvey recommends his HELLO acronym to improve approachability:

H—How to make a new friend?
E—Easy! Everyone can do it.
L—Loneliness is not your exclusive circumstance.
L—Love begins with a smile.
O—Only you need begin.

And then Harvey says, “Hello, my name is Harvey Resnick.” Harvey’s a friendly and warm person. He’s making himself approachable.

If older singles smile, are friendly, have a nice appearance, are happy, positive and less critical of the opposite sex, and willing to get out an socialize with people, more of them would find available singles and establish relationships. How do you approach someone who is sitting at home on the couch?

Tired of being alone and lonely? Stop being a fuddy-duddy. Make yourself approachable. It isn’t difficult, it’s all in the attitude and how you perceive the opposite sex. Reader Marge says, “It takes energy and a good game face.”

Reader comment

Charlotte, “Out of the blue, I’m dating a good guy—my daughter-in-law’s father. His wife passed away a year and a half ago. I feel a little strange because of the circumstances, but I’m working on that.

Tom’s response: Networking is also an important way of meeting people. Wouldn’t that be something if Charlotte married the man? That would fall under the definition of “keeping it in the family.”

Ode to a Special Lady


I decided to spend my birthday yesterday with an exceptional woman who is extra special to me. Long-distance relationships are difficult, particularly when the people involved live 400 miles apart.

I visit her as often as I can. She lives an hour north of San Francisco in the heart of the Sonoma Valley, surrounded by vineyards of cabernet and chardonnay grapes. She’s been in the same house for 28 years.

This isn’t the first November 11th we’ve been together. It’s pretty much an annual visit, although in some years obstacles like Viet Nam and living in faraway places have kept us apart. But not often.

And since my partner Greta also loves this exceptional woman, she wanted to see her and drove along with me from San Clemente where we live.

This exceptional woman was born in Erie, Pa., in 1910. Her mother died at a young age and her father was a Great Lakes ship captain whose vessel went down during a storm on Lake Ontario. She was orphaned at age eight.

She moved to Jackson, MI, married, and raised four children. She was widowed August 8, 1966, on a hot summer night I’ll never forget. We stayed awake together, sharing our grief.

Ten years later she told me the winters in Michigan were too cold and she planned to move to a warmer climate. At the time, I lived in San Rafae, Ca.,l and said, “If I can find a suitable place for you in Northern California, will you at least come out to look?”

Three days later, she arrived by airplane and together we bought a small home for her in a retirement community called Oakmont. She loved it because she could watch the sunsets from her kitchen window. She returned home to prepare for her move to California. I knew that leaving Jackson and her friends of 33 years behind was a tough tug on her heart, but in two months she arrived.

She elected not to remarry. Instead, she was determined to enrich her life and make the best of it. She is an avid reader, crossword-puzzle solver and bridge player. In a short period of time, she made wonderful friends in Oakmont and I detected a renewed bounce in her step. She is a testimonial that single people can thrive and have a wonderful life without a mate.

Two years ago, she asked Greta and me to drive her to South San Francisco where she was buying a new car. She didn’t want to drive it herself through the streets of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge and up Highway 101 through Marin County. When the salesman reviewed the purchase contract, he saw she’d written in the number “91” on the “age-of-buyer” line. We nearly had to pick him up off the floor.

Last Sunday, she made a presentation to 200-plus Oakmont residents at a symposium on the new Disney Concert Hall. She had gone to Los Angeles earlier this year to visit and study it.

I’m particularly honored to have been born on November 11th, the same day as her birthday. So Happy 94th Mom, you are a marvel and loved by all.

Reader comment

M.J., Texas, "I had the fortune, or misfortune, to spend about six months in the Little Rock-Hot Springs area. All I can say is right back at you George (who made the hags, bags and nags comment last week). Having encountered some of the 'gentlemen' in that area, I can say it's full of uneducated, terribly overweight and drunk guys. Women are stuck with a bunch of beer guts, numb nuts and dumb butts. Ladies, if you can, move."

Judy Reed: "Do you own a deli? Where is it?" Response: I've owned a deli for sixteen years in Dana Point, Ca. Here's our new website: www.tutorandspunkys.com, photos and all.

Disappearing Gents


Recently, we wrote about the freeloading British bloke who was hosted by a Palm Springs woman and then he disappeared.

Many of our women readers have experienced similar disappearing acts by men, and in defense of British blokes, the men are from the USA.

Emerald, Southern California, said: “Beware of local blokes! I corresponded daily with a Hermosa Beach (LA area) bloke for six months. We had fun having breakfast and lunch and then he moved on. He was doing the same thing with others on the Internet.

“It’s sad that men at this age need to play games when life is so short. He is one of the last three men I’ve met who seem to be Mr. Right and then bolt from the scene. Commitment-phobic men are more prevalent than one might imagine,” shared Emerald.

Trish, Centreville, Va., wrote: “I’m 55 and thought I was starting something good with a 59-year-old gentleman. Then, all of a sudden, he went dead silent without any explanation. I felt embarrassed because I revealed too much of myself and seemed too enthusiastic.”

Jan from Dallas said: “I had an Internet experience recently with a man seven-years-younger. He was an IT (computer) professional who offered to help me with personal computer problems I was having.

“He’d e-mail that ‘he was ready to help’ and when I’d reply he’d never come back online nor e-mail me back. That happened several times. He liked playing games and that was something I refused to deal with.”

Shirley, a wonderful contributor to this newsletter, who calls herself “the wise bird from Manhattan,” said she was in touch with an upstate New York man for two months via the Internet. “I suspected this might develop into a full-blown romance.

His intelligence and attractiveness interested me, but he never disclosed his full name (red flag). He referred to himself as ‘your friend.’ I sent a recently taken photo to which he responded positively, however, I sensed a withdrawal.”

Shirley said the e-mailing stopped. Two weeks ago, she was on the same Internet site where they’d met and there he was lurking around. “I was disappointed, angry and wrote him about it.”

Last night, Shirley contacted me and said, “There are new developments.” Stay tuned for this Hudson River saga.

Kim, 56, said she met a 65-year-old man on Yahoo! Personals in September. “We dated a few times, he was always romantic, caring and introduced me to his family. We were together almost every week-end. We made each other happy. He told me he was tired of dating different women and wanted one good relationship.” Kim said they were compatible in “all” phases of their relationship.

Kim stayed at his house Thanksgiving night. “Early the next morning, he woke up and beat around the bush, saying we were going too fast and were too close. He wanted me to leave ASAP. I was in shock.”

From the man’s perspective, what’s the answer? William Mosconi, Anaheim, Calif., says, “Older singles need to keep one foot on the ground while floating on cloud nine.”

That’s good advice. Plus, women need to listen to their instincts; a man must earn a woman's trust. Women need to ask men early on, “What are you looking for in a relationship?” and then listen closely to the reply. They should proceed only if what they hear is sincere and fits into their goals. If a guy starts fumbling around with answers, he’s likely not relationship material.

Reader comments:

Jerry Benyo, Tampa, FL: “A friend of mine went to a class reunion. While there, he met a gal who looked familiar. Sort of. Turns out that this gal, when in school, had been a boy. After the guy’s wife passed, he had a sex change and took his dead wife’s name.” Response: I’ve always said that reunions are great places to cultivate relationships. If a woman comes up to you and introduces herself as “Tootsie,” you might at least want to check her driver’s license before asking her out for coffee.

Joe, LA, “Interesting column about the freeloading bloke from England, I wonder if I can have the same deal with an English bird? Or any other foreign country for that matter?" Response: We’ll see who responds. Will Dublin work?

Men Who Seek Sex Too Soon


Lately, women have been expressing their frustrations with men who seek sex when first dating.

Sharon of San Dimas, Ca., wrote, “I’m in my 50s, attractive, and capable of passion with the right person. Is there a point in a new relationship when most men expect to see signs of physical affection beyond good night kisses and hand holding?

“Many men have disappeared because I was not cuddly and showing at least an indication toward sexual willingness by the third date.”

Dona was more direct: “Most of the fellows I meet are only interested in a bed partner.”

Jeannie, Rinngold, Ga, said, “A lot of the men I meet somehow or other project ‘sex’ into the conversation or want to make out on the first date. A kiss is sweet, but not a tongue down the throat and a hand somewhere else.

“The men who quote the Bible verses are the first ones to jump on the wagon. I’m not trying to give off vibes or encourage them.”

One woman has dated a man since October. She wants to wait to have sex until she’s sure about the relationship so she told him it could happen on Valentine’s Day.

But lately, the poor gent is getting impatient. He tells her she’s frigid and not affectionate; she’s feeling uncomfortable, pressured and unsure of what’s right.

I’ll attempt to shed some insight from the male point of view on early intimacy. Not all men will agree with me, and some will protest loudly, feeling I’ve made their quest for easy sex more difficult.

Sharon is wise not to be intimate after three dates for a reason more important than just “giving in” too soon: She doesn’t know where a guy’s been sexually or with whom.

She doesn’t know if he carries a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV. Even he may not know, regardless of what he says.

The Centers for Disease Control published a fact sheet this week that said of the nearly 900,000 people in the USA with HIV, up to 280,000 don’t know they’re infected.

The fastest growing segment—percentage wise—of the population to contact STDs or HIV is age 50 plus. That’s scary. Before an older couple is intimate, they should be tested for diseases and educated about safe sex practices. Guidelines can be found on the Centers for DiseaseControl website at www.cdc.gov

Sex can be an important part of relationships for people age 50-plus and even into their 80s. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t important to me.

But having sex with someone who hasn’t been tested is like playing Russian roulette. Some men protest that the numbers for HIV are so low I’m alarming folks. But it’s not just HIV I’d be worried about, herpes and other STDs aren’t exactly pleasant either.

Women tell me there are lots of men who make sexual innuendos or sexually suggestive comments over the Internet or telephone before meeting in person. Those men are looking only for sex, best to delete them early on.

One of them named Eric, with whom I completely disagree, wrote, “If you don’t put out, men are out. That’s why the men disappeared from Sharon. If a woman can’t honor a man’s beliefs that women need to put out by the third date, then she’s not worth it.” Eric’s comment makes my blood boil. He listens to some guy named Tom Likus on the radio. My guess is that Eric has never been laid in his life

For some people, there will be no sex outside of marriage. Joy, 64, from New Jersey, said: “I’m a Christian who doesn’t believe in pre-marital sex, and sometimes that’s an issue with men these days.”

Jerry Benyo, 68, a widower living in Florida, made an important observation: “If a woman thinks it’s too soon, she should let the guy know. If he’s interested in her, he’ll be willing to wait for the right time. If he gets upset and disappears, she hasn’t lost anything and is probably better off.”

When men and women are first dating, and it appears both are interested in each other, they need to have a conversation early in the relationship to establish when sex is acceptable. A meeting of the minds can avoid awkward and frustrating moments, particularly in the heat of passion. There’s nothing wrong for a woman to let a man know that she desires intimacy, but won’t allow it until her conditions are met.

Bottom line: If these guys are pressuring for sex too soon, walk away. Too many risks, too much chance. They aren’t interested in you, only your body and instant gratification.

Comments

Jerri, New Orleans: “I’m beginning a friendship with a widower. You mentioned previously that there are issues when dating a widower. Can you write a column on that subject?” Response: You don’t have to wait for a column. I have written an electronic book called “After the Healing. A Guidebook for Widowers and Widows,” which can be ordered at www.findingloveafter50.com/Ebook%20one%20Widows.html

E-books are not like books you purchase in book stores. After ordering, you simply download and save them on your computer. You can print them out immediately. The advantage to e-books: they are less expensive, there’s no shipping expense and they give you instant information.

Gail, Milwaukee: “It’s comforting to know by reading your articles that we aren’t alone out here, we are confronting the same issues and difficulties with the ‘dating’ scene. It’s not easy, but you’re right that it’s better to be alone than in an unhappy situation.”

Long-Distance Relationships


With so many older singles meeting potential mates on the Internet, I’m often asked, “Can long-distance relationships work?”

I reply, “Of course long-distance relationships can work, BUT…” and then I ask two questions.

First question: “Have you met your new love in person and spent time with him or her other than over short romantic week-ends?”

Often, the people haven’t met in person and yet, foolishly, some say they’ve fallen in love sight unseen. Marlene, 63, of Redwood City, Ca., says people can create a love image of the other person that’s based not on reality, but strictly on hope and false expectations.

To be hopeful is human nature, but loving an image can set singles up for disappointment and a let down when they meet face-to-face.

The second question I ask: “Which of you is willing to move?”

Dorothy lives on Long Island. Bob lives in Southern California. They’ve known each other for three months but only over the Internet and the telephone. They communicate “every few hours.” When Dorothy asked my opinion about the relationship, I asked who would move.

She said they hadn’t discussed that yet. After three months, they hadn’t talked about the most important aspect of a long-distance relationship? That needs to be discussed early. How is a long-distance relationship going to work unless one of the parties moves?

And even if one is willing to relocate, that’s no guarantee of bliss. I know of many situations where women moved to be with men and found out within a few days they’d made a big mistake.

Barbara, 64, lives in Texas. Joe, 68, in Ca. They met on Match.com in July, 2002. Even though Joe has paid for her to visit him 11 times, Barbara fears their relationship is dying.

She says she’s “extremely sensitive and compassionate” and he’s the opposite, that horse racing and politics consume him and she takes a back seat to his interests. They were engaged; he took the ring back.

If Barbara and Joe aren’t compatible living 2,000 miles away, they sure wouldn’t be compatible living together. Why does she hold out hope? Maybe it’s because she doesn’t want to start looking again, particularly with the chance that no one new would come along. But then again, free trips to California aren’t so bad.

If you’re pondering a long-distance relationship, consider these seven guidelines.

1. Don’t carry on too long before meeting

2. Agree early on who is willing to relocate

3. Find out as much as possible about the person, including a background check

4. Don’t fall in love with an image

5. Don’t plan to marry until you’ve lived together long enough to know it’s right for both

6. Think long and hard about leaving your familiar surroundings and friends. Making new friends in a strange city is difficult

7. Have a bail-out plan if the move doesn’t work out

Can long-distance relationships work?

Yes, but…

Comments

David: “Why does a woman continue to go out with a man in whom she has no interest?” Response: Because he’s foolish enough to keep asking her.

Jenni: 'Your book, 'Middle Aged and Dating Again,' arrived yesterday (I bought both of your books). I've never laughed so hard in my life as at the buying condoms chapter. As a 73-year-old widow, I started dating again and decided I should buy condoms. I live in a very small town with one pharmacy where everybody knows me...you can imagine the rest of the story.'

New Year’s Resolutions


Women have been sending me their resolutions and wishes for 2005. Finding a mate tops many lists. A few names have been changed at the request of women who shared stories.

Carol, St. Paul, MN, would enjoy having a mate: “There is a tiny spot in our hearts that is empty and that, along with loneliness, makes us want to feel needed and be loved again. We’re looking for what we’re missing—that closeness to someone who brings a smile to our faces the minute we see them.”

From Dallas, Judy e-mailed: “I’m seeking a new and different life, following the death of my husband two years ago. I’m trying very hard, without seeming desperate, to find a man and a relationship.

“I want a man who has the romantic tendency to let a woman know how special she is and gives her a ‘warm, fuzzy, feeling.’ Are my expectations too high, too unrealistic, juvenile? Or, do I need to learn to live alone without the magic, laughter and roses?”

Rebecca, New London, Ct., says, “I’ve been widowed for a year and haven’t had a single offer for a date. There is nothing here. At my age of 77, all the men I know are either married, dead or over the hill. I flirt with the hunk of a UPS man, but of course, it’s all in fun. I miss the closeness of a man in my life, yet don’t want to travel too far to find one.”

These three women are representative of thousands of mature singles who have finding a partner at the top of their New Year’s wish list. For some, seeking a mate is an obsession.

While I commend singles for having hope, in the same sentence, I suggest they be careful for what they wish. Not all warm bodies make great mates.

Along with the resolutions, I’m also hearing too many stories from women who months ago were thrilled that they’d finally met a man. And now, they regret it.

Joyce, Atlanta, is one. A man she dated and enjoyed asked her to move in. Her lease was up so she thought living with him would make sense—they’d be together and save money at the same time. Bad reason to cohabitate.

On the day she was moving in, he told her that he’d been e-mailing a woman in Russia for several months and felt an obligation to meet her. But, he still wanted Joyce to move in and to continue being his bedmate. What was Joyce to say? "OK honey, let me put my suitcase and belongings down and jump into bed with you before you run off to meet your Russian maiden. Should I have dinner ready for you when you come home?"

Joyce was in a jam. Her landlord had leased her place and she’d given up her job because the new commute would have been too long.

Joyce’s is just one of many rushed-decisions stories I’ve heard about lately.

So, while pondering those 2005 wishes, remind yourself that being single isn’t so bad, in fact it’s pretty darned good.

It’s better to be single and unhappy than tied down and unhappy or going through a nightmarish experience with a man you didn’t know that well.

The man you find may not be the bell cow. Add to your New Year’s resolutions: “If I meet a man, I will be careful in how I proceed.” Not all guys are what they say they are or appear to be. And stop hitting on the UPS man.

Comments:

Mary, Costa Mesa, Ca: "Keep the column coming, so many romance problems out here and so little time to help us all. If you stop hearing from me, it's because I finally got this dating thing right, or, I was run over by a big beer truck."

Jeanne, Murray, KY: "Your topics have hit on so many things that we encounter in the 'singles world' and are a constant source of reinforcement that we are OK."

Sandy, Bremerton, Wash: "Early sex in a relationship is a problem but what is considered too early?" Response: We'll address that next week.

Live Strong


Today, we reflect on the holidays and share this seasonal message: Appreciate and love the people in your life every day.

Three months ago, a package arrived in my mailbox, sent from my brother Bill in Dallas. It was so light, I couldn’t imagine what was inside.

When I opened it, the only contents were a short note and two yellow fluorescent bracelets, made out of light rubber, with the word “LIVESTRONG” (Live Strong) embedded in each.

I put one of the bracelets on my wrist, but wasn’t sure what to do with the other one. And then I thought about Cliffy Gross, my friend of ten years and a member of the rotisserie football and basketball leagues to which I belong.

In 1999, my partner Greta and I had Cliffy over for dinner, to introduce him to one of Greta’s single girlfriends. But no match was made. Then, on May 23 of that year, Cliffy met a special woman named Tracy.

Tracy and Cliffy were married in the summer of 2003. His friends noticed a new happiness and added bounce in his step.

Last December, when Tracy had an operation, stage-four incurable cancer was discovered. As 2004 progressed, Tracy’s condition worsened.

Being aware of Tracy’s condition, I sent her the other yellow “LIVESTRONG” bracelet. Cliffy said she put it on immediately. On November 28, Tracy passed away.

Her funeral was December 3, the most beautiful service I’ve ever attended, an outpouring of love for an incredible woman.

To the right of the altar, there was a picture of Tracy and her sister Shelly on an easel. During Joe Marinelli’s eulogy of Tracy, the sun shone through the chapel window, but only on Tracy’s half of the picture. As Joe spoke, the sun moved down her face, and shortly after he finished, it moved to a bouquet of flowers just to the right of her picture.

People were awed at Cliffy’s strength and presence. I asked him how he was able to do it. “My strength came from my three promises:

(1) to her father on his deathbed that I’d take good care of his daughter, (2) to her on our wedding day ‘through sickness and health,’ and (3) ‘until death do us part I will love and cherish you.’

“My strength also came from my total love and affection for her.”

At the end of the service, as guests filed pass the casket, there, placed on the top, was Tracy’s yellow bracelet. “She wore it everyday until she died,” Cliffy said, “It gave her hope.”

Later, as four of us were driving home, Tommy Thompson, of Aliso Viejo, said, “It’s all about family, friends and loved ones, the other stuff isn’t important.”

Cliffy’s message: “Hold your loved ones tightly, as if today is their last. Special relationships are hard to come by and you never know what sudden misfortunes can happen.”

So today, we take a break from the issues of dating and reflect on our loved ones—family, friends, sweethearts—particularly those fighting cancer and other diseases, to tell them we love them. And to say a prayer for loved ones we’ve lost.

“LIVESTRONG” Cliffy. Tracy is smiling upon you.

© 2005, Tom Blake



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