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 Chicago in 2006. 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 See Archives 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003.

And you thought you have it bad

Last week's column about breakup signals and the importance of effective communication between couples resulted in a variety of responses.

Perhaps there were areas within the column that tapped pent-up feelings individuals have wanted to express for some time. Here are some of the more poignant comments, each followed by a remark by me.

Lee, "Many people, apparently mostly women, are deluded into thinking people in our age bracket can change easily, this is not the case. In many instances the man is listening, but we are too set in our ways (to change).

"Regrettably there are things about myself I'd love to change but can't seem too, and my present relationship, now going on it's second year, has made me aware of this.

"Sure there are little things I can (and do) change, but the core of who I am I cannot change at 54. And apparently neither can my partner. We must accept this or leave the relationship.

"I visit NY every year as part vacation, part family. A huge fight developed because my girlfriend's perception is I don't spend enough time with my mom. She's never met my mom and doesn't understand my family's dynamics.

"I don't believe she is correct in scolding me or imposing her family value structure on me. And when I told her my mom purchased me a $200 gift, she scolded me on how I shouldn't allow that.

"This from a woman who was fiscally irresponsible a number of years back in assisting a deadbeat boyfriend and now uses a daughter's credit card. I didn't throw that back at her but you can bet I was thinking of doing so."

Comment from Tom: Sounds like a relationship to die for. A bickering couple. What I can't comprehend: why do people who don't like each other stay together?

Irene differed with Lee's stance on our ability to change: "We can change no matter what our age. We can keep growing. We just have to have the desire. We are not a finished and refined product merely because our hair is silver. Here's to giving our best right to the end."

Comment from Tom: As Lee said, we can change little things. But major dalliances embedded in our character generally won't budge-like being involved in a fantasy football league on Sundays-it's simply addictive and in our blood.


Some who respond request anonymity because they fear their husbands, mates or significant others might read this newsletter, or my columns in the newspaper, and recognize themselves.

That could be good if it would bring to the surface a problem that's been festering for years, forcing an honest discussion. That being said, here are comments from two people to whom I promised secrecy.

Anonymous I, "Since July, I have dated a widower of 3 years who consistently talks about his deceased wife and others he has dated, which is a huge turn off. He always walks as though he is running a marathon, and I have struggled in my high heels to keep up with him.

"One time, he was almost out of the restaurant before I left the table. I swore if he ever did that again, I would wait til he came back to get me. He's usually so busy talking, I don't listen anymore, as it's usually a one-sided conversation.

"Needless to say, this friendship is going nowhere fast, but I feel I have given it my best shot."

Tom's comment: Sounds like a relationship in serious need of a gut check.

Anonymous II: "I look back to time after time when I have told my husband what my needs were, and only saw them ignored. It brings on hurt and frustration. One guy and one woman learning something new from your column about responding to their mate's needs would be great."

Tom's comment: If only we could get her husband to read today's column.

Roger shared, "I recently met a new lady. It was just a casual-cup-of- coffee thing. A first-time meeting. She was quite cute, in her 60's (a few years younger than I) and perked my interest.

"We were together 30-40 minutes talking over coffee. During that time she received about 30 calls on her cell phone. Needless to say, I didn't pursue another meeting."

Tom's comment: If she had 30 calls in a half hour, that didn't leave much time to get to know each other. Roger's right, leave the friggin' cell phone turned off when you go out on a date, especially a first date.

Regarding last week's message, Larry said, "If I had listened and she had spoken louder, I would still be married to my wonderful first wife."

Tom's comment: Larry's got to be one of the few ones who holds a living ex-spouse in such high esteem. I wonder if she knows.

That's it for this week. The comments from last week were diverse. That's what makes all of you so darn interesting.

Breakup Warning Signals

Speculating on why the man was dumped (from last week's column)

Last week's column featured a 70-year-old man who was dumped by his girlfriend of a year and a half. Of course, we only had his side of the story. Several gave opinions on what may have happened.

Joyce, 71, said, "I feel compelled to write concerning the gentleman who was so surprised at being "dumped." I have been divorced for 17 years and have had several long-term relationships during that time. During each relationship, I tried to communicate reasons why the relationship may not last, but not one man listened or believed me.

"I don't play 'coy' and make them read between the lines. I tell them what may be the deal breaker. The deal breakers have been things that they could have changed and, in many cases, promised to change, but once they thought they had me, they didn't change.

"The characteristics range from continuing to smoke when they said they would quit, drinking excessively, not taking steps to a better love life as they promised, not stopping being so negative and playing the victim in life, and (in one situation) continuing to support adult alcoholic children in his 40's in his home to the extent that his comfortable retirement left him with no money to enjoy his own life.

"In most cases, they claimed they were not warned and were blind-sided by me breaking up with them. Why don't men listen and believe us when we are trying so hard to communicate? I have talked to many women friends who claim they have told their husbands or partners that they were unhappy and the reasons for this unhappiness; the men still say they were shocked at the breakup."

Dan, "With the exception of a few details, that man's story is my story as well. When I found my new 'first love,' I was quite naive and chose to ignore red flags. Now, four and a half years later, I'm trying to extricate myself from the situation. While the lady in question did not leave me, she has been living a parallel life with others, which is equally devastating to find out about.

"In talking with a few more-experienced guys, it turns out this is not an unusual situation. My role has been that of her 'gay guy,' and was never going to progress to a monogamous relationship, no matter how hard I tried to earn her favor.

Editor's note: Dan clarified his "gay guy" comment to mean, a platonic friend, who accompanies a woman to events but they are not romantic.

"I was naive, thinking by continuing to romance the lady, she would eventually like me best and give up the others. I should have bailed when I learned the circumstances.

"It's hard to accept that I was fairly sharp in business and how stupid I became in this situation. Too bad the next lady (who I'm sure is out there someplace) will get a guy more wary and less enthusiastic."

Noel, "My one clue to why she may have broken up with him is that he was still president of his widower/widow club. Maybe he had not moved out of the widower stage? Technically he was still a widower while dating this lady, but maybe it was time to think of himself as a single man in a relationship. Maybe he still had the wife's pix around, etc., and the girlfriend just got fed up with it.

"I have dated divorced men who continually talk about the ex, which is fine, I understand the need to talk about the past, etc. But, after awhile, it feels like there is a third person in the relationship."

Jane, "Men don't see the little warning signs; they could if they listened better and paid attention to subtle signals. Perhaps it was something as simple as personal hygiene--or he was too 'clingy' or demanding.

"Women who have been alone form independent ways that older men don't appreciate. The men are used to wives who defer to them and do not have a life of their own. And they want the new woman to be just like the previous one, especially if the marriage was happy.

"They are used to being waited upon and often have the dead wife's picture all over the house--maybe even her personal belongings. Not a good idea!

"They also talk about and compare the new lady with the old--maybe even call the wrong name--at most inconvenient times. They don't think this is a big deal but it is. These are deal breakers to women.

"I have had three relationships where this happened, and even after discussing the problems, they persisted. Maybe he didn't listen."

Some sympathized with the man, sayinghe was treated poorly and cruelly and that an explanation of why she dumped him would have been more humane. The reality is, some people simply find it easier to handle a breakup the way she did. We, as older singles, need to be more aware about what is simmering within our relationships.

Lessons from today's column

1. Couples need to Improve communication. Some don't listen; others don't get their messages across. Both are at fault. The speaker and the recipient both need to pay more attention

2, Don't smother your partner. Have interests and a life of your own. Don't be naive

3. Be aware that anytime you speak of an ex, you are chancing inflicting pain on your new partner. Keep the number and severity of those comments in check

Licking his wounds

Roger is reeling. He doesn't know what happened. He's searching for answers and perhaps a new love.

He wrote, "I've only been married once, widowed after 43 years.

I never celebrated Christmas after my wife died, it was too difficult. Holidays didn't mean anything. I didn't think I could fall in love again, but I did."

Four and a half years after his wife died, Roger, now 70, met a new lady. "She was my first love since my wife's death. That particular Christmas I was so happy; I really got into the Christmas spirit again and all that, shopping for gifts for her. We had a very loving and close relationship for a year and a half."

Roger's situation sounds like what many older singles hope for. Someone comes along and fills the void left by the loss of a love. We hope we can ride off into the sunset together. But for him, it wasn't to be.

"With no warning I was dumped two weeks before Christmas-2017. There was no Christmas that year (not for me anyway).

"That darn near killed me since I was in love and had no clue that any thing was wrong. I still don't know what happened--she tells me don't write--don't call etc. It's been 10 months since; I'm still not healed from that.

"I was so happy and caught unaware. I was completely devastated; it brought the 'grief' thing back all over again. Hopefully I'll meet someone and be happy again," Roger said.

To rub salt into the wound, he's learned she is dating someone else.

Roger added, "I'm told I'm good looking--and I'm comfortable--I live within my means; I have no bills, I can cook and do the housework thing, so I'm not the helpless male and I'm still active.

"I'm what most would think is a good catch. I'm President of a widow & widowers club so have seen some others' experiences. I really don't know what the answer is. It's lonesome being alone, but I've seen many in worse circumstances."

I can relate to Roger's story. I've mentioned before that my writing about mid-life relationships was inspired by a similar experience that happened to me. On Xmas Eve 1993, my wife cleaned out the house and moved out of my life with no warning.

Oh yes, I was aware that she and I needed to have one of those "Where do we go from here?" conversations, but the move out was a surprise. I wasn't as devastated as Roger, but an experience like that throws a monkey wrench into one's life. To this day, I've never had an explanation from her and don't want one.

At the time it happened, I didn't know it would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. And maybe that's what will happen to Roger, who lives in upstate New York. Often things happen to us in life that we don't understand until later, sometimes years later.

I've been blessed for the last nine-plus years to be with a kind, gentle, loving and unselfish woman. I'm hoping that will be the case for Roger-only much sooner than later.

Married Six Times

Donna said that last week's newsletter inspired her to write. She's trying to understand her hesitation over a new man she's met and said that my having had three marriages will help her evaluate her new man. (I knew those three marriages would pay off some day).

Donna said, "I just met in person a guy in Oregon that I met 6 weeks ago on the Internet. I responded to him because I liked his profile and then noticed he lived in Oregon--way, way out of my 200 mile geographic limit" (Donna lives in Southern California, about 800 miles away).

But she was going on vacation to visit friends in Oregon so she wrote him, saying that even though it was early in their correspondence, would he be willing to meet her. "He drove 2 ½ hours to meet me on a Sunday. He was what I thought, a genuine nice person," Donna said.

At the end of the week, he met Donna and her friends for breakfast near the Portland Airport--a half hour drive for him--and he picked up the tab. Donna and her friends agreed he is a solid person. But--there's always a but--she has a couple of concerns.

Her first concern: "He is 60 and has been married six times! I just turned 57 and have been divorced since 1986.

Donna said that three of his marriages only lasted for a total of 2 1/2 years, and yielded no children. He told her he shouldn't have married those women but felt he should because of the way he was raised.

Donna's second concern: "He is a Vietnam vet, who was in the serious "Apocalypse Now" trenches.

Special Forces, helicopter pilot shot down three times etc. He takes medication for PSTS.

"I don't know if he came into my life for romance or to help me through my brother's death? Last November, at age 64, my oldest brother died. What he actually died from was the Agent Orange that he got doing covert operations in Cambodia while acting as a Medic in the Special Forces.

"This dear man in Oregon has helped me to learn and understand some of the things my brother went through that I never had any idea of. Maybe the reason he came into my life is to help me through this, rather than be my last relationship. I just don't know. I'm feeling a bit sad at the moment. What do you think?"

If you were in my shoes, what would you advise Donna?

From the mailbag

Karen: "Even with a broken arm I had to respond with a big HOORAY FOR YOU in regards to the freebie reader. You were right on when you said what you provide us with is "informative fun!" I must add that both times I have emailed you with a problem in regards to a man and a relationship, you have been honest and correct. Even though I didn't like your advice, I took it and was glad afterwards, since you saved me months of pain and heartache."

Paula: "I would like to apologize for that rude man who wrote you that awful letter about the number of your past relationships. It is great that you can openly share your experiences while making us aware that the over-50 group can still have a life. Good or bad experiences should always be passed around; we all should be in a learning mode.

"You write an incredible column and I totally look forward to Friday's when it arrives. I have been married 5 times and have had some wonderful and bad relationships so I can appreciate where you are coming from.

"That man is probably shallow and it appears he definitely does not have an open mind. The earth seems to grow these kinds of people."

Marge: "Being married three times, widowed twice and divorced once myself.... how can you beat experience.... it's the best teacher of all. Advice without experience WOULD be in the trial and error mode. It takes one who has "been there" to give the best advice."

Marta, "Whoever said all relationships are supposed to last forever? Facts are people grow and change and we've all seen enough stagnant relationships to know that isn't really living. Keep on and thank you!"

Married Six Times - Replys

Last week Donna, 57, who lives in Southern California, wrote about meeting a man in Oregon. Three things concerned her:

  • He's been married six times
  • He's a Vietnam vet who takes medication for PTSD
  • He lives 800 miles away

On the other hand, he helped her cope with the recent death of her brother who died from the effects of Agent Orange. I asked for your opinions.

The number and quality of your responses was overwhelming. My biggest challenge was editing today's newsletter down to a reasonable size. Thanks for your wise advice and the time many of you invested in responding.

Advice to Donna

The responses are only a small sample of the emails that came in.

Pat wrote, "Tell Donna to run away from this guy. Being the widow of a career Army man I question the Apocalypse Trenches thing, what is that by the way? Also Special Forces, helicopter pilot shot down 3 times. His resume sounds way too heroic to me.

"Also the distance tends to soften the edges and makes the person bigger than life. Tell Donna to do research into this guy and what he has told her. It will be worth her time and money because if he is not what he says, it's going to cost her a lot more."

Another woman said, "Whoa Nellie! Stay cool, remain open, if he suggests visiting where you live, say yes; and then through the passage of time, get to know this man with eyes wide open. It's too soon to have the current worries when you don't know him."

A Texas man wrote, "Special Forces guys were not chopper pilots. Special Forces teams seldom had their own choppers. I bet he is lying."

Annette said, "I'm always surprised in this day and age that people feel that they have to marry. Why not enjoy the relationship for as long as it lasts without getting married? Therefore his six marriages don't matter at all."

Virginia: Oh, My God! There are red flags all over the place! I think she already feels there is something wrong or she wouldn't be asking for advice. If he has PTSD, then he is NOT going to magically get over it at 60 years old."

Jan, "Donna is a wise woman in that she can see that the new man she met might be in her life for the purpose of better understanding her brother's Vietnam experience and his recent past. Not all connections are meant to be romantic in nature but it could still be a good friendship that evolves into a more solid romance based on that friendship! Maybe it doesn't have to be defined at this point!"

Anonymous: "I think it's a big red flag if he is still being medicated all these years later."

Marge, "Donna knows that people enter your life for a reason and maybe this man may be in her life now to help her through her brother's death. That may be the only reason he is there; her hesitation to 'get involved' is real and she should not ignore it. I'm sure there is more to the story."

S: "I would be very, very careful with all those marriages and psychiatric medication. I didn't pay nightmare begins." attention, and my life was almost destroyed. My ex continues to wreak havoc on my son and me with raging, paranoia, and aggressive anger. After the marriage, the nightmare begins."

George, "Donna needs to tread lightly and cautiously here--this guy is heavily traumatized and will never recover from those combat experiences. He is on the other side of a deep ravine, and the rope bridge connecting to the opposite side is frayed and hazardous. I advise her to look elsewhere - it's not his 6 failed marriages, it's that his psychological injuries are beyond repair. The medications which he must take are "Band Aide Surgery."

Jennifer, "Maybe this man takes meds for some non-military psychiatric condition that he doesn't want to disclose. Maybe he has serious emotional problems that caused all his marriages to fail. He may be charming and able to make a good, initial impression, but so can many dysfunctional people. What is under the pleasant, sociable demeanor?

"My suspicion is that this man is not all that he appears. She has to ask herself why he would seek out a relationship with someone so far away, especially when she specified in her online listing that she had a 200 mile geographic limit? (200 miles is way too far and is not conducive to regular dating)."

Catie is a psychotherapist and former cofounder and manager of a Vietnam Veteran Era Services Center in Michigan. Her advice to Donna: "Wait for a while. Continue to see him if you like him, other than for the shared pain and understanding. Talk of other things that have nothing to do with the war, the past. In time, your confusion will clear, and healing from the loss of your brother will have progressed, and you will find your mood more stable, and enjoy regular life events again, without connecting the two men. You may find the both of you in love, or decide to remain good friends."

Liz, "His having had six marriages is a bit of a red flag she should not take lightly."

Brenda, "The old judgments having to do with divorce are so out of date since 62% of all marriages end in divorce and 69% of those people go into the next relationship with the same damaging behaviors as their previous relationship. I champion anyone who can keep searching for love no matter how many divorces."

Sarge, "I am retired military - Marine Corps for Vietnam and Army for Desert Storm. It's become chic to be a vet, even more chic to be a 'damaged' vet. I have spent a lot of time with veterans but never encountered anyone who was both a Green Beret and a helicopter pilot. I would look at this one carefully."

Thanks again for the great responses.

Two Left Feet

In last week's newsletter, Ron, 66, asked, "When on a date for the first or tenth time, is it acceptable for your date to dance with other men she knows from dance classes (who ask her). She loves to dance and is very good and I am not too bad. I find this rude and a slap in the face. Perhaps I am being too sensitive?"

I said, ""It depends on why the two of you went to the dance. As a date, or as a dancing partner with the understanding you'll dance with others? If as a date, I think it's a bit rude."

Dancing aficionados got on my case.

Sheila said: "Your answer shows you are not informed about the dance world. If Ron and his date went to a nightclub and she danced with strangers, your answer would be valid.

"My guess is that they were at a venue for ballroom or Latin dancing. It is routine for students in classes to change partners often as a learning technique. At dance parties, it is accepted and expected that both men and women will dance with other people throughout the evening. Ron should talk to his date about this subject but the next time she is asked by another man to dance, he should ask another woman to dance the same dance."

Carlene, Honolulu: "I was disappointed in your answer about dancing with others. People who attend dance classes are accustomed to dancing with others from their class. Many classes make you rotate partners.

"Why doesn't he join her in a class or two? He would get a chance to meet these "non-threatening men" who only want to dance with her, nothing else.

"On Oahu, the correct way is to ask the gentleman if he would be willing to allow his date to dance. The lady still has the choice to accept or decline. And as long as it's only one or two dances throughout the evening, who cares. After all, she is out with him and not them! Life is too short to worry about one or two dances."

Tammi, another Oahu resident who has competed in dance competitions, had strong opinions: "It is rude and selfish to expect a "Dance Lover" not to dance with other partners at her level.

"The key here is 'friends or acquaintances from DANCE CLASSES.' Part of dance etiquette is to be kind and supportive to all levels of dancers. I have danced all my life; I never refuse an invitation to dance from anyone. Ron needs to accept if he wants to date a dancer, especially a GOOD DANCER, he will need to graciously share her during a dance evening.

"If his 'date' wanted to be 'with' one of the gentlemen in her classes, she would not be on a date with him. He must get that possessive, overly sensitive attitude in check or he may be going home alone soon. Ron's question is unbelievable.

Judith added, "I belong to a dance club; almost everyone asks everyone else to dance at an official club function. If they are on a date at a local nightclub and the men come up and ask her to dance, she should politely decline.

"Not too long ago a friend of mine faced a similar thing. After the third time she danced with another man, he pulled out a $20, handed it to her, and said, 'here's cab fare home - enjoy your evening.'"

Tricia felt differently: "When on a date, the answer is NO! It's not acceptable. You are on a date, a time set aside for the two of you to spend time together. Would you go on a date and spend it talking on your cell phone? I agree with Ron. I find it rude; he is not being too sensitive. It definitely requires discussion."

Since the column ran, Ron himself added information: "This was our seventh or eighth date. We go to the Elks club and have dinner first and then into the ball room to dance. This was the first time it happened; she did not like what I said about it. Most men have enough common sense not to ask a lady to dance if she is on a date. This one will be going to a lot more dances by herself."

Most of us agree. If it's a date, stick by your partner. Or establish an understanding beforehand. I hope our dancing aficionados will be able to at least compromise somewhat.

From the mailbag

From a new reader: "I recently subscribed to your newsletter. I am surprised to read in your last newsletter that you have been married so many times and in so many relationships.

"When I work out I select a fitness trainer that is knowledgeable and practices what they preach, for example they look healthy and fit.

"How can you provide us over 50 people with words of wisdom when your own track record leaves something to be desired? Is it simple trial and error or is it for us to learn from your misfortunes?"

Tom's response: "Thanks for writing. You asked an excellent question. I appreciate you signing up for the month-long free trial. In this way, you can read what I write to see if it benefits you before committing $16.95 for an additional 52-issue subscription.

"You state that my track record leaves something to be desired. Can you imagine if I wrote this column for singles if I had never been divorced?

"I feel the three marriages have helped provide background for my writing. I understand what being alone is like and what it takes to bounce back. My last marriage, by the way, was in 1987, 20 years ago. I've had the common sense to not add another notch to my shakey track record.

"You added 'so many relationships' and I take issue with that comment. I believe I mentioned two, which includes the one I have been in for the last nine years.

"My expertise--if I may--comes from 14 years of writing more than 1,000 newspaper columns on the topic. It's come from the estimated 35,000 people who have emailed, sharing their comments, knowledge and advice. The information and wisdom they've shared has helped me author three books leading to multiple appearances on the Today Show and Good Morning America. I've been a keynote speaker at AARP national conventions three times and just served on a panel at the convention this year.

I write from the man's point of view and am not aware of any other man who writes on dating and relationships for people 50-plus.

And, I don't know of anyone who writes on this topic who would take the time to answer an email such as yours in such great depth, and as quickly as I did.

I say this with a sincere smile. Stick around for a month, give the newsletter a try--it won't cost you a penny--and then you can decide whether to pony up a few bucks for a year of informative fun--that is, if you feel my credentials weather the storm.

Three dating issues for discussion

Ron asked: "When on a date for the first or tenth time, is it acceptable for your date to dance with other men she knows from dance classes. ( who ask her ) She loves to dance and is very good and I am not too bad.

"I personally find this rude and a slap in the face. Perhaps I am being too sensitive on this subject? Being 66, this dating game is all new to me."

Tom's answer: "It depends on why the two of you went to the dance. As a date, or just as a dancing partner with the understanding you'll dance with others?

"If as a date, I think it's a bit rude. I don't like it when my partner dances with other men, although she rarely does. I certainly wouldn't ask another woman to dance and leave her sitting there.

"If it really bugs you, and she does it often, let her go to the dances alone.

"Have you two discussed it?"

John asked "I re-read your book, "Finding Love After 50. How to Begin. Where to Go. What to Do." (For book information, see below). On page 72 you say, 'Most people match up better with mates close to their age. They share the songs, dances and historical events they experienced and have similar energy levels."

"How close in age should mates be?"

Tom's answer "There is no set rule. It depends on the couple. In my foolish days, I dated (and married) younger women--five to 15 years younger. Result: three failed marriages and one failed two-year relationship. The longest-lasting of those four situations endured for six years.

Nine years ago, I saw an attractive woman and asked her out, thinking she was 7-10 years younger. Turns out, she is one year younger and we've been a great team ever since.

Remain open-minded. You might meet a woman older than you who would be right for you. Compatibility is far more important than the age difference.

A benefit of dating a woman near your age is you don't have to prove you're Superman. She'll understand if you take a nap, go to bed early or don't want to dance until 3 a.m. There is less pressure to try to keep up. In no way, however, does it mean you show her less respect.

I'm not suggesting you settle for any woman near your age. She has to fit into what you seek in a mate, which is an entirely different topic (and covered in the book).

Rusti asked: "I am a 50 something who was married for 24 years and have been divorced for 10 1/2. Sometimes I feel I am too independent to have someone in my life and other times I feel like a failure for not having someone. My philospohy is to live as positively as I can, laugh as often as I can and love as deeply as I can.

"What I am finding in the dating pool is men my age have been in a long-term relationship and are not too eager to get back in another one, OR they want to find a "sex only" partner, OR they need a mom figure to take care of them.

"OR they are younger men looking to score with older women. I have tried online dating sites, several of them and find they are more for entertainment value than the real deal. And my church does not offer any kind of singles program.

Most sites are for the younger crowd, 20-40, which leaves us out

Most would consider me average height and weight, healthy, funny, charming, employed full time, very low-maintenance, easy going, etc, you know all the things we love to think about ourselves. I am a good Christian person with above average looks. I am turning to you and your help.

Tom asked: "Have you considered starting a singles group through your chruch? They might welcome a nice volunteer effort."

Rusti replied: "I have checked out several churches with little success. If you do not attend that church you tend to be 'ignored' at functions as you are not in their 'click.' In spite of what is perceived as common knowledge, Southern hospitality is not always shown.

There are many more women than men and some with less- than-perfect bodies get left out in the cold.

"My efforts include church, the park, restaurants alone, friend outings,online personals, etc. I hold my head high and walk in with a smile and an air of confidence but get passed over for the young, dumb blond in the middle of the room. Is the outside package more important than the inner beauty? I am just frustrated at the lack of quality men who are genuinely real."

Boston AARP Report

Last week, my partner Greta and I traveled to Boston to attend AARP's Life@50+, an expo and lifestyle event. AARP gets bigger and more powerful as boomers cross the age-50 threshold. AARP's membership grew in the last year from 37 million to 39 million. More than 27,000 people attended the gathering, bringing an estimated $24 million into the Boston economy.

And much of that money is spent at Boston's restaurants. We had two special dinners out. On our first night, we dined at the Atlantic Fish Company (www.atlanticfishco.com) on Boylston Street in the Back Bay section of Boston The seafood was so good, we finished our doggie bag for breakfast.

On another night, Greta and I bought a roundtrip subway ticket for two--called "CharlieCard"-and rode from near our hotel in Copley Square to the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston's most active restaurant and socializing area. The CharlieCard is named after the Kingston Trio's "M.T.A." song about the Metropolitan Transit Authority, where passenger Charlie didn't have a nickel to get off the train so he rode forever through the streets of Boston.

We shared a cut of prime rib at Durgin Park, a historic restaurant that has been there for decades. They advertise: "Your grandfather and perhaps your great grandfather dined with us." It has four levels of dining rooms and taverns.

Is single life different in New England?One woman, J. Marie, said, "I'm from Salem (Mass). Maybe you'll see how DIFFERENT over 50's are out here: stuck in their ways, not open like people where you live. That is another reason it is SO hard to find people to form love relationships. Plus our weather is cold in winter, so many stay indoors unless they are skiers, and at our age, falling can be a challenge."

Bob Newhart, who just turned 78, gave an entertaining one-hour speech. Afterwards, at a news conference, I asked him if he had any advice for the older generation. He said, "I've been married for 43 years. One of the things that has helped keep us together is laughter. Laughter makes marriages and relationships last."

Patricia Schlutz, author of the New York Times best-selling book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, described many of her favorite travel destinations. "Although they are all my favorites, Italy is the most special," Schultz said, singling out Rome and Tuscany. She feels travel fulfills and enriches one's life and urged us older folks to get traveling while we still can.

All presidential candidates were invited to address the expo, but only Mike Huckabee and Hillary Clinton accepted. Both spoke--at different times of course--for 45 minutes.

On the final day, we went to a session that featured two incredible women-Maya Angelou and Whoopi Goldberg-sitting next to each other on stools, having a simple conversation about life. I felt Whoopi demonstrated respect and admiration for Maya by deferring to Maya and allowing her to do most of the speaking. And yet Whoopi's eye expressions had the audience in stitches.

In the afternoon, I was on an Internet dating panel titled "Love at First Click." People were turned away at the door because there were not enough seats.

When it comes to ratios of single women vs. single men, not much is different in Boston compared to the rest of the country. There were 186 people in the room and only 12 were men, putting the ratio of women to men at close to 16-to-1. And one of the 12 guys read The Wall Street Journal a good share of the time.

Frankly, the panel turned into too much of a session where people in the audience talked about all the bad things that have happened to them in dating. Internet dating suggestions took a back seat.

The theme that seemed to permeate during the three-day expo was an emphasis on the importance of laughter, attitude, trying new experiences and having fun as people age.

On Saturday night, Rod Stewart performed for this over 50, 60 and mainly 70 crowd with his incredibly talented 8-piece band. He is the ultimate entertainer; Greta said he's better now than 40 years ago. He continually moves, dances and swings his hips, while interacting with his band. He performs with such high energy and personality.

His last song, "Forever Young," which brought every senior in the place to their feet to dance, tied together the expo's laughter theme that most of us returned to our homes with vowing to implement in our lives.

Next September, the AARP expo is in Washington, D.C. It's a great event for new ideas, thinking and making new friends.

Photo from Hana

A week ago tonight, my partner Greta and I were in the kitchen preparing dinner. Greta held up a large envelope. "You received a package today from Hana, Hawaii. Looks like a photograph," she said.

My first thought was that my sisters who had just been on vacation in Maui had sent a photo of the two of them.

"Who's it from?" I asked.

"Someone with the initials KK."

"KK" didn't strike a bell. I thought, yikes, I hope one of our Finding Love After 50 newsletter subscribers didn't send a picture of herself in a bikini or hula skirt. After all, many of you have sent photos to me and we do have subscribers who live in Hawaii. I could tell Greta was as curious as I was. She asked if she could open it.

"It's from Kris!" she said excitedly.

Again, my reaction was that it was from my sister Chris, although she spells her name with a C.

At this point, I need to provide you with a little background info.

In April, I read that Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, presented the Johnny Cash Visionary award during the CMT Awards show in Nashville to one of Johnny's closest friends.

Johnny and his family were friends of mine when I was the marketing director in the 1970s of the Victoria Station restaurant chain. I hired Johnny to sing our radio commercials and traveled with him extensively. Rosanne and I were pretty good pals.

Last year, I published a memoir titled, "Prime Rib and Boxcars. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station?" (www.vicsta.com). It chronicles the rise and fall of VS during the eight years I worked there.

Rosanne is quoted on the back cover, and the man she presented the award to is included in the book. In fact, one of the songs he wrote, "Sunday Morning Coming Down," is the title of one of the chapters.

I contacted Rosanne and asked for his address, which she provided: Hana, Hawaii.

Four months ago I sent him a book and the following letter:

"Dear Kris:

"Rosanne Cash gave me your address.

"I wanted you to have a copy of this book. It's a memoir I wrote about Victoria Station, the restaurant chain that thrived in the 1970s. Your friend Johnny Cash did our radio commercials; he and June were friends of mine and are featured in the book.

"You are also in the book. John and June always spoke highly of you and I thought you'd enjoy hearing that from a person you've never met.

"Congratulations on all of your achievements, including being a Rhodes scholar. I admire your work. Your song, Loving her was easier than anything I'll ever do, is one of my all-time favorites.

"I've owned a deli in Dana Point, California, called Tutor and Spunky's for 18 years (Tutor and Spunky's Deli). I would love an autographed picture of you for our deli wall. You'd be up there next to Johnny and June. It would mean a lot to me.

"Enjoy the book. It's in memory of Johnny."

Back to last Friday night. The autographed picture that was in the envelope came from the same Kris to whom I had sent the book. On Saturday, I mounted it on the deli wall-of-fame, alongside Johnny Cash's photo.

Handwritten on the picture: "Thanks Tom. Peace. Kris Kristofferson."

Sometimes, it's the little things in life that make one's day.

From the Mail Bag

Comments from last week:

Larry, "My number one concern is acquiring HIV from strange, unsuspecting women.

June, "It takes me forever (to the male), to even hold hands on regular dates."

Anonymous, "Timing couldn't have been better as I know a lady falling for a guy 3000 miles away and is embarking on a trip back east to meet him late next week."

Ann, "I know a few older women who choose macho good-ole-boys who probably wouldn't dream of using a condom."

Another, "I not only shared this very good newsletter but took excerpts from it for Senior Friend Finder magazine in which I write."

Joe, "Do you happen to know the names of the websites the women use that are quick to have sex? LOL."

Jennifer: "Anyone who has sex with a total stranger at the first meeting is a complete fool."

Jan, I've had this discussion (I should say monologue!) with one particular man on and off for several months. Every time the subject about 'safe-sex' is brought up, it meets with stone-cold silence and indifference. Doesn't sound very promising, does it?"

Lynne, "YIKES! Throwing caution to the wind because you think you know someone via the Internet is foolhardy. It's still the Internet - a terrific place to make up a personality. I didn't hop into the sack on the first date, or have unprotected sex when I was 20. I certainly wouldn't do it at 50! I like to think I got smarter, not dumber."

Internet dating's false sense of security

Women who use the Internet to meet potential mates realize every person they meet online is a stranger. They are aware that among these strangers are scammers, fakes and bad guys with evil intentions.

Nearly every online dating site warns singles to be careful when interacting with strangers. Most women heed the advice and proceed cautiously. But, once they meet face-to-face with the strangers, too many women toss caution to the wind and put themselves at risk by engaging in risky sex.

Paige Padgett, Ph.D., of The University of Texas School of Public Health, conducted an online survey of 740 women who placed personal ads on the Internet seeking men.

Padgett published her study, Personal Safety and Sexual Safety for Women Using Online Personal Ads in the current issue of a publication titled "Sexuality Research & Social Policy."

A press release promoting Padgett's study revealed mixed results-both encouraging and troubling.

The encouraging aspect of the study revealed how women exercise caution when communicating with strangers: "Women go to great lengths to screen would-be suitors. The survey reported that they request photographs, check for small-talk inconsistencies, run criminal background checks and call workplace phone numbers.

"Final precautions include meeting men in public places, arranging their own transportation, giving the man's name to a friend and calling a friend before and after the encounter."

The troubling aspect of the study reveals what happens once women meet the strangers in person: "Many of the 568 surveyed women who eventually met their online dates engaged in risky sexual behaviors. Thirty percent of the respondents reported having sex on their first date. Seventy-seven percent of respondents reported not using a condom during their first sexual encounter."

The press release explained why this reckless behavior happens: "Padgett said otherwise cautious women may engage in unprotected sex because they are lulled into a sense of 'virtual intimacy.' By the time the couples meet face-to-face, they have exchanged much information about their backgrounds, their likes and dislikes, as well as their sexual preferences."

Padgett continued, "The high level of disclosure and frequency of e-mail exchanges with men provides women with at least a virtual intimacy-a sense of a relationship that may or may not exist in reality but may encourage sexual intimacy at a faster rate than what would develop through conventional dating methods."

The Internet, because of its anonymous environment, creates a glass-like shield where people reveal more personal information than they normally would in person. Some fall in love with an image and trust that image although they've never met. It's the deceptive power of the Internet.

Women need to be aware that their Internet exchanges with online lovers can create a false sense that sex is safe with that person. When, indeed, it may not be.

The CDC, Centers for Disease Control reports that the fasting growing (percentage-wise) age group for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV is the 55-plus age group. While the actual numbers are not as large as in younger age groups, one would not want to become a statistic and saddled with unpleasant and possibly life-threatening STDs.

The CDC provides a discussion of STDs and a list of safe sex practices on its website at CDC WEBSITE.

A good discussion to have with your online virtual lover before meeting in person should include the rules regarding sex that will apply when you meet him face-to-face. He may agree to no sex when emailing, but could turn into a sex-crazed monster in person.

Even though you think you know your virtual lover on the outside, you don't know what he is like on the inside. When you have sex with him, you are exposing yourself to any STD he might have acquired via all of his previous sexual encounters. Don't take a foolish risk that could haunt you forever.

Response to single woman seeks companion

Last week, Linda, a 50-year-old widow of two years, wanted to know what she should do to start getting out of the house. She said, "As much as I will always love my late husband, my children, friends and family will never fill that void and the need for some companionship. Trouble is finding that someone."

A bunch of you responded. Many said you are or have been in situations similar to Linda.

Judith, a former vice president of Parents Without Partners, feels PWP would be a great place for Linda to start: "Once you join your local chapter, you may attend events at any other chapter. Ask, ask, ask. Attend the workshops, the family activities, the adult nights out, the dances, etc.

"What's important is attitude. If the chapter offers them, wear your name badge! Another suggestion: take dance lessons, join a dance class. Good exercise, good evening out, new friends."

Carmen asked, "Have you ever written about aerobics/exercise classes as a place to meet people? Not that I'd join just for that reason, but there are self-worth advantages, too.

Trish wrote, "Linda has taken an excellent first step in letting the children know she is ready to 'spread her wings.' It is important for the children to know rather than being hit with: 'I'd like to introduce you to someone.'

"Since my 2 ½ year relationship has ended, I am looking forward to dating again. I am in the process of moving and sending the kids off to college - come September I will be home alone."

Ann, author of Travels With Annie (also offered at Amazon.com), a courageous story about how a widow challenged life, said, "I'd advise her to take up rock climbing at her local climbing gym. Take women technique classes; at the gym look for climbing partners. She will be invited to join others for outdoor weekend climbs.

"I did that when I was 56 and although I never became romantically involved with any of my climbing buddies, several of them became good friends and available for "dates" when I needed one.

"Besides the thrill of climbing in beautiful places all over California (like Yosemite) with expert climbers, I had a blast and got really strong. Pursuing any activity you like is worth a zillion internet dates."

Bobbie said, "It doesn't make any difference if you are widowed or divorced, you have the same companionship aloneness. I'd advise Linda to focus on her kids & maybe do volunteer work in the community that includes her children, or alone if she so chooses. There are many volunteer opportunities out there, check your local paper or do so through your church or Habitat For Humanity."

Donna, "The letter from Linda with children still at home could have been written by me; however, I'm not a widow. But, the situation is still much the same. I still have children at home. My advice to Linda is to make her children her main priority.

"At the same time that the widow is giving her children more I would encourage her to take adult enrichment classes to meet other adults. There are many amazing guys out there."

And from another woman. "I too, was widowed at the age of 46 and left with 2 girls ages 11 and 15. I am now 51 with a 16 and 20 year old. I have a new male friend who I socialize with, but keep it simple. I believe it is wise to keep my new relationship separate and not involve my children with dealing with it. My advice is to walk softly and move slowly."

And as often happens, not everyone liked last week's column. ML said, "I am not interested in reading about younger women with children at home, and how they can or can't find companionship. I realize the lady is 50 and technically qualifies, but you have her talking about something an 80 year old told her and then the 50 year old and her sister laughed together, like the 80 year old was comic relief or something.

"I wish to respectfully tell you that I did not like the tone of last week's column. The 80 year old gave good advice, and "shacking up" is her answer to the marriage dilemma. How is that funny? The 50 year old doesn't have any answers, and frankly, I think she should focus on her kids as you suggest."

A variety of people, a variety of opinions. That's good.

Single woman seeks companion

Here's the situation. In 2005, two days before Valentine's Day and her birthday, which fall on the same day, a 48-year-old woman named Linda was widowed. She had a 16-year-old daughter and two sons, one 14, the other 12, living at home. Now 50, she's feeling the need to spread her wings a bit.

She says, "I've never wanted anyone to pity me. God gave me 20 great years with a loving husband and father. Your life does change in ways you never expected. You find out who your true friends are and you realize life does go on."

Linda says she feels the need to get out, to maybe meet someone. "As much as I love and will always love my late husband, my children, friends and family will never fill that void and the need for some companionship."

She realizes she still has children living at home and that she has issues such as paying for college tuitions. "But, it doesn't mean I don't have time for some adult fun! I hope you can give advice for us 'younger" singles.'"

Linda acknowledges that men may look at her situation as having too much baggage. But she doesn't expect a man to be saddled with those responsibilities.

"I'm a good person with a good soul with so much to offer a man. So just how does one get that across without them thinking they are expected to raise my children? "I've done a great job so far and don't need help. I don't need their money," Linda said.

Linda may never remarry. "At my husband's funeral, I was approached by an 80-year-old family friend who advised me not to remarry. She had, and was 'taken to the cleaners' by her second husband. After divorcing him, she is now happily 'shacking up' (her words) with a wonderful man and life couldn't be better! My sister and I couldn't stop laughing!

"Looking back, I realize that made sense. I don't want to change my life for any man, but I do want to share it. Separate households would be fine, but my kids are open to whatever arrangements I end up with. Trouble is finding that someone."

So how does she find someone for companionship who won't have to help raise her kids or shoulder that financial responsibility? And, who won't feel pressured to marry?

She says she doesn't like the thought of trying online dating.

I answered, "Focusing on your children is your top priority, as it should be.

"The Internet is a mixed bag. One can waste a lot of time playing the game and results can be iffy. Perhaps joining a group like Parents Without Partners would be time better spent. I think your chances of meeting someone are greater in a club like that, instead of the Internet. There, you would meet people who understand a single parent's needs to take care of the kids.

"Just getting out and meeting new people is important--that can greatly increase your chances also."

What advice would you give her?

From the Mail Bag

Many of you responded with your experiences and stories of dealing with aging parents. The most common thread: As people grow older, they rebel against giving up their independence. And that is sure the case with my Mom.

Perhaps, one day, we will do a column on our findings. I realize that isn't a finding love after 50 issue, but it sure is something many of us are faced with.

Inside a widower's mind

Widowers who seek new mates often get a bad rap. Women who've dated them say many cling to the memory of their wives, or they are too controlling, or too this or that.

But, widowers are also human beings who have a warm and courageous personal side. Today, Bill shares his views on loving again after the passing of his wife of 40 years.

Bill writes, "I will never fully get over the loss of my wife. Yet, early on, I knew full well that I needed to transition to a more healthy place than continuing with the despair I faced with her passing.

"While I can glorify the history of our life together, it was the last three years of her life that formed my current productive view of life. Attending to her every medical need, becoming an expert in wound care, facilitated loving her in ways I had never before imagined. I changed for the better.

"The 'new me' is a reflection of my personal growth in those last three years. I am now capable of loving unconditionally and relinquishing control, while supporting the strength and independence of a new woman. I'm not sure I could have done that effectively earlier in life. This is a huge legacy my deceased wife provided with her passing.

At the Fourth of July fireworks display the year following my wife's passing, imagine for a moment, two people both who have suffered losses, sitting on hard plastic lawn chairs sipping wine, eagerly anticipating the beginning of the celebratory night time display.

I don't know what possessed me to lean over and utter the most difficult phrase imaginable since I last spoke those words to my dying life-mate. I turned to the lovely woman (Barbara) seated beside me and whispered, 'I love you.' Concurrent with that repressed confession, the skies opened with the booming cascade of rocket fire, explosions, and sparkling light.

I was finally able to fully utter the "L" word in its entirety. I have repeated it at least twenty times a day from that day, for the second time in my life. Those difficult words-I love you-set the tempo for my new life.

Bill and Barbara married. He continues with his story.

"I have reassured my bride that only the heavens could have provided that unrehearsed moment of drama. Maybe my departed spouse had a small part to play, signaling approval of my actions, and maybe it was simply the scheduled time for the fireworks show to begin. It really doesn't matter in the overall scheme of things.

"What really matters in the conduct of a new relationship is the acceptance by a new spouse of the nature and profundity of the widower's prior relationships; and a widower who can provide a stable emotional environment for building confidence in the relationship.

Confidence is best matured, when the widower provides an atmosphere that enhances the strength, convictions and independence of his new love. Removing doubt and fostering self confidence, minimizes any propensity for rivalry with departed spirits.

Together, on equal emotional grounds, new life partners will find that life may again be truly lived to its fullest. The ability to change is all it takes.

From the Mail Bag

On Tuesday night, my partner and I went to the musical, "Jersey Boys," in Los Angeles. It's the musical story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Highly, highly recommended. Ah, the songs of our times.

Up here in Sonoma County, in the heart of the vineyards, while visiting my mom, I got to thinking about the rest of you who have had aging parents or still have them and are faced with helping them in their later years. What are your experiences? What are your thoughts?

Dating the age gap

In last week's newsletter about the 25-year-old woman lawyer who is dating the 40-year-old man, I asked for your comments. I got an earful.

A few of you took me to task, and in retrospect, rightly so. You said my comments were snide, almost sarcastic. Some felt the lawyer was not "full of herself," as I had stated.

Many felt that the 15-year age difference wasn't monumental and shared their similar age-difference experiences.

Thanks for being honest and for keeping me in line. I let my personal feelings get in the way of objective journalism.

Some women who had married men 15-to-20 years older said they had wonderful marriages but were widowed earlier than they had hoped. One woman stated she'd like to meet someone who was 1/2 the man her deceased husband was. And some said they would not accept that great of an age difference with a man now that they are older.

A surprising trend surfaced. Several women said they are attracting considerably younger men. For example, Janice commented, "I get a lot of offers from 35-45 year-old men, and probably should be more open-minded about dating them, but at this point in my life, would just like to find a nice guy fairly close to my age who enjoys some of the same things I do."

Ann said, "I'm 72 and for some unknown reason, I attract younger men. I am asked to dates, and have received two flower arrangements in the past two weeks. I try not to be too involved at my age because I know the great chance of making a mess of my life.

"If I was to date men my age, 72-82, I'd be taking my life into my hands every time they drive. Some of them can't drive late at night, but they insist on having two-three drinks with the evening. Sorry, I like my life and don't want to end up dead or in a wheelchair.

Of course, there were several comments about the preponderance of older men asking out younger women. And the majority did not side with the 25-year-old.

Lillian wrote, "I have noticed men my age prefer to 'court' women much younger. I feel a bit discouraged because I'm attractive and a pleasant woman. When I attend singles gatherings, men my age seek out younger women in the group. Of course, the ratio of women to men around here is about 3 to 1."

One woman emailed, "I think I got this off the Oprah Show. If you want a good relationship, 'Get someone your equal or better.' This pertains to financially, emotionally, education, etc. Find someone with good energy who is able to shine in a social situation. I might have to date an older man to accomplish these objectives.

"At 68, I am having a terrible time finding someone because I have to consider other things like liveliness and heath."

Mary Jo has been on both sides of the age gap question. She emailed, "I have had experience with both older men and younger men. I was married to a man 20 years older and lived for 15 years with a man 22 years older. My last boyfriend was 23 years younger than I, so you see I am not biased. I think it depends on the persons.

"I did come to a place where I wondered if I had what it took to care for an older partner, though I was married to the one when he had a triple bypass and found my matter of fact "You've been mended" approach was the right one for him. The only person I would be actually willing to care for in a time of age and disability was the last guy. It had nothing to do with his age, but the depth of my love for him."

For me, the important lesson learned from last week's responses is to control my opinions and be more objective and understanding.

From the Mail Bag

There was an interesting article by Jane Glenn Haas in the Orange County Register, one of the papers that features my column, this past Monday

Haas conducted a survey asking widowed and divorced women over age 50 if they wanted to remarry. She had received 493 responses so far. Only 25 percent want to marry, but about 44 percent would like a relationship. Close to 40 percent don't want a relationship or to be married. (The percentages are approximate).

Hass cited the reasons women don't want to remarry: "They don't want to be subservient, they value independence, they have not made good relationship decisions in the past, they feel men want contol, they don't want to be 'a nurse or a purse.'"

Hass wrote that two-thirds of the divorces over age 50 are initiated by women.

Haas is doing more research on the topic. If you'd like to participate, go to www.womansage.org. The survey is called, "Live Close, Visit Often," and is in the left hand column under "Sage Voices." If you don't want to take the survey, it's still an important website for women's issues that would be worth your time to check out. You might mention to Jane that I referred you to her.

To be 25, rich, and a lawyer

Here's a bit of a change-of-pace topic today. I need your help responding to this young woman's email.

She wrote, "I recently read your article in which you incorporated the reactions that older women had to the idea of men their age looking for younger partners."

Note from Tom: The article to which she refers is embedded somewhere on my Finding Love After 50 web site. I likely wrote it three to four years ago. And since the site has in excess of 600 pages, I didn't go searching for it.

She continued, "While, as an attorney and not a social scientist, I am not qualified to comment on wide-spread trends, I take offense at the assumption by you that a younger woman dating an older man is always either a gold-digger or a silly tart who is unwilling to take care of the needs of her older counter-part."

Comment from Tom: It always amazes me that women dating considerably older men spend time researching this topic. And then they feel compelled to write to take issue with my stance. I have never written a newspaper article on older men dating younger women where I didn't hear from at least one woman involved with an older guy. And their responses always sound similar.

She continued, "I am 25; my boyfriend is 40. I never planned on dating an older man. In fact, except for him, my boyfriends have always been very close in age to me. However, I met him and was immediately smitten. He is, admittedly, wealthy. However, I am independently wealthy myself and also possess high-earning capacity, having recently earned my law degree. The money plays no role in my desire for him."

Tom: Wow. He's wealthy but his money plays no role because she's also wealthy. And she's a lawyer and a little full of herself. The question begs to be asked: why is someone 25-years-old who possesses high-earning power spending time on page 353 (strictly a page-number guess) of the Finding Love After 50 web site? A web site intended for people twice her age?

She continued: "I date him because I care for him.

Tom: (that's a unique concept).

She: "I am attracted to him. He treats me better than any other man has ever treated me. He pays attention to me. I don't have to play games with him to hold his attention (i.e. pretending like I don't like him so that he will like me)."

Tom: You've got to hand it to this 25-year-old. At least she's mature, having left childish games behind.

She: "If the relationship works out and I hope it will, I will happily care for him as he ages. My motive for dating my 40-year-old boyfriend is the same motive I had for dating my twenty-something boyfriends: I love him."

I wrote back to her. "What we don't know is, if he were not wealthy, would you care as much? But since he is wealthy, we won't ever know the answer. And, of course, you being wealthy clouds the issue also. You two may be a perfect match, two rich peas in a pod."

I mentioned a couple of other things to her in my reply but didn't get a response. Perhaps she had to go to her law office to work.

What I'm hoping is that some of you might want to add your two cents. We can put together a nice package of comments from the over-50 crowd and send it off to her.

From the Mail Bag

John emailed: "I have just finished re-reading your book, Finding Love After 50. How to Begin. Where to Go. What to do. On page 72 you say, 'Most people match up better with mates close to their age. They share the songs, dances, and historical events they experienced and have similar energy levels.'

"My question is: How close in age should mates be?"

Tom's response: There is no hard and fast rule. It all depends on the two individuals involved. A woman can be older than her partner and still run circles around him in energy level. So, when I hear men say they want a woman 15-20 years younger, or more, I wince. They might not be able to keep up with a woman their own age. They may be simply kidding themselves and will never find success looking for a mate.

Dating a Widower

Last week, I mentioned that I often caution women about dating widowers. It's not because I think widowers are bad guys. To the contrary, most are wonderful men who were devoted to their deceased wives. For the most part, they understand what it takes to make a marriage work, and because of that perception, many women feel widowers would make great partners.

I base my caution warnings on the stories women who've dated widowers have shared with me over the years. In a nutshell, these women have said that the widowers convinced them that they had adequately healed and wanted to be in a committed relationship.

And then, somewhere down the road, reality hits the widowers. For a variety of reasons--often guilt, or holding on to precious memories--they can't proceed with the relationships they've jumped into. End result: the women get hurt.

True, not every widower's situation is like that. Some make the adjustment just fine. But, it happens often enough that it's important to warn women who get involved with widowers about the possibility.

Last week, a woman named Elaine called, and asked for a personal consultation about the widower she's dating. I suspected she would tell me he was having second thoughts about his relationship with her.

Note about consultations: I advise people who want consultations that I am not a therapist, just a good listener who has heard about nearly every aspect of mid-life dating in my 14 years of writing about it. I've found when people want a consultation, they don't call to chitchat; they have difficult and unique issues.

In Elaine's case, my suspicions were wrong. The widower doesn't have issues, she's the one filled with guilt. For years, Elaine was the best friend of the widower's wife. When the wife died, Elaine never gave dating him a thought. "I even had his next wife picked out; he had been an incredible husband to my friend" she said.

He started to confide in Elaine. He revealed things about himself she'd never known. He was an even more remarkable man than she'd thought. Then, after a couple of years, he grew distant. She didn't understand why.

She pressed him for an answer. He finally revealed that his hints about his feelings for her had been ignored. He wanted her in his life.

She was surprised and reticent to date him, not wanting to jeopardize their friendship. Slowly, they started dating. He has professed his love for Elaine. She cares for him, and feels they could have an incredible life together, but she is so wracked with guilt about betraying her friend that she wanted an outsider's opinion.

My first advice--the same thing I tell all women dating widowers: "Protect yourself from getting hurt."

Then, I told her to stop focusing on the guilt, and start focusing on not letting him get away to another woman, that he will eventually go elsewhere if they don't hook up.

Regarding her guilt, I said she had paid her dues to her friend. To help end her guilt, I suggested she write her friend a letter and explain her feelings. And without being frivolous, I told her if her friend didn't write back, then her friend had granted Elaine approval to move forward with him.

Other members of our group chimed in. Louise wrote, "I think dating widowers is the BEST way to go. These men have been in committed relationships and have made the effort to stay married. Once they are ready for dating, I'd always prefer dating a widower.

"They have learned what it means to make a commitment. Yes, perhaps it also means that there may be some left over issues about losing their spouse, but then, who doesn't have some left over issues about something?

Note the boldface type: "Once they are ready for dating." That is the key to what Louise is saying. Avoid getting involved with a widower--or any person who has come out of a deeply committed relationship--until they are ready. And that is an entire different topic.

Donna said, "I have been communicating with a widower. We haven't met yet. A few phone calls. But he is going out of town for a week. His actions made me think that maybe he isn't ready to meet anyone."

It's good that Donna is being leery, but people do go out of town. It's too early for her to judge him just because of that.

Dating a widower can work. But, please remember, many, many women have experienced euphoria dating their widowers, only to wake up one morning to find they've been abandoned, and left feeling pretty darned empty. Always protect your heart.

From the Mail Bag

Laurie-Ann Weiss is a friend of mine and a member of this group. Four years ago, she was devastated, becoming a widow at age 53. She authored an incredible book called The After Journey (www.laurieannweis.com), which describes how she rebuilt her life. (Note: her web site has one only "s" at the end of her name).

For the last few months, Laurie has been listening with a different understanding to the widow/widowers who have written her. With the new information, she is updating her book.

Laurie says, "I am going to write a new chapter for the end of the book and title it, "Years Later." It's been years since we lost our spouses. Life has changed so much. We've found a new normal. Some of us found a way to have joy differently. Others never found any joy again. Some things from the past are there and always will be. Some things are still very hard, some are easier.

"My goal is to collect stories that tell what life is like now. Did people hook up again? How is it different? Are they single? What's that like? Did they move? How are the kids these years later? What was it like if they didn't have kids? How do they handle the grief that still comes or is it gone and there are only nice memories?

"I know people will have very different stories and I think it's important to share the hope that we do go on and find a way to do it. What went well and what didn't? What are we still dealing with after all of these years?

"Anyone interested can write and tell me their story. It's best to have people write who have been widowed for at least four years. I will change the names so the story is anonymous."

We end today's mailbag with an opening line a man uses to weed out women who are only interested in his assets. When asked, "What do you do?" He replies, "I cut grass." He says it's amazing the number of women who immediately walk away.

Have a great week.

Seeking Mr. Successful

Last week, I was right and I was wrong. Remember Bill, the guy who launched a diatribe based on Diane's question about where to go to meet successful men?

I was right because it made many of you angry. I was wrong because it didn't make many of you angry. You simply laughed at what many of you perceived as a bitter, cynical man. Mary wondered, "Who spit in Bill's Wheaties?"

Linda said, "He's probably overweight, bald and 75, still single and miserable." Cheryl said he needs to get a dog-the only thing that would love him.

A few of you suggested Bill stand naked in front of a full-length mirror. Mason said, "This is a man with very little sexual contact with women. If Bill thinks a man's libido is stronger than a woman's as we get older, he hasn't dated much."

And believe it or not, a sampling of you sided with Bill. Paula said, "Everything he said is the truth. There are women who over-price and over-rate themselves. Stick to your guns Mr. Bill."

Larry emailed, "Unfortunately, without the anger, I generally agree with Bill."

To refresh your memory, here is Diane's quote that ignited so much discussion.

"I am wondering if you have any suggestions on ways to meet more quality gentlemen. (By quality, I mean successful)."

The mistake Diane made-and it was overwhelmingly the women who pointed this out-was that she didn't define "successful." Many of you helped by defining it for her.

Barbi said, "Diane used poor judgment in her choice of words. Successful can mean many things." Donna agreed, "Diane should have defined successful. I think I know what she is looking for but she didn't define it well."

Star said, "I don't defend Bill's rant, but somewhere in the midst of it is the kernel of a very valid question; Just what do we mean, especially at our stage in life, when we talk about a 'successful' human being?

Success to Ms. Lou is simply meeting a man who is "nice, intelligent, and happy."

And from Marcia, "Successful simply means a man is currently employed in a job he likes, has a decent FICO score, that reflects his care with his money and his credit history, and he's not wanted in three states for high crimes and misdemeanors."

Claudie's idea of a successful man is "one who has grown up in spite of growing out, if he has."

In her online profile,

Sandra defines successful as "someone who has balance between work, family, physical fitness and the spiritual. "

When Fred looks for a "successful professional" online, he means a person "having the energy and drive to have achieved something in life, or in a career, and having made a difference in the world."

Jennifer shared, "When women say 'successful,' they usually mean self-supporting, at a minimum, and perhaps a modicum of success. They want to rule out losers and the unemployed, and can you blame them?"

Mary believes successful is "being happy and fulfilled at what you are doing."

The lesson from last week's column is the importance of explaining to potential mates--on the Internet, in your profile, or in person--what you mean by successful and to be specific in what you seek in a mate. That should keep the angry men at bay, at least for the time being.

A man rants

This week, my "Single Again" column in The Orange County Register--the nation's 20th largest newspaper--addressed an issue women frequently inquire about: where are the quality men?

A woman named Diane asked a question that inspired the column. When I submitted it to the newspaper, I felt good about it, thinking it would be helpful to Diane and other single women who were also wondering where to meet quality men. I thought single women might respond, thanking me for such sage advice.

I sure misjudged the reception. It was the men who responded and they weren't very nice. Here are the two paragraphs Diane wrote that angered the men.

"I am 51 years young and back in the dating scene after 25 years of being married. I have met some nice gentlemen thru a couple of different online websites, but I am wondering if you have any suggestions on ways to meet more quality gentlemen. (By quality, I mean successful)."

Diane added, "I am attractive with a good figure, educated and own my own company. My life is filled with great friends and family and I am in a great place to share the rest of my life with a great guy."

I thought Diane's request to meet a successful man was reasonable. But it was the word "successful" that put some men over the top, even taking me to task.

Many men responded. I picked one guy's response that was particularly harsh. Let's call him Bill (not his true name). Bill wrote: "I think you and Diane are a little out of touch with reality. When she uses the word 'successful', I think she means with money of his own-either wealthy-or moderately so.

"Let me try to disabuse you and Diane of a few opinions you both seem to have."

And then Bill began disabusing Diane and me: "First, what does she mean by the terms 'attractive' and having a 'good figure?' I'll bet the figure she now has is nowhere near as 'good' as it was when she first married at the age of 26, and I'm sure that her skin and muscle tone have deteriorated over the years."

Bill was on fire: "In other words, she is starting to sag and wrinkle. I'll also guarantee that she is heavier than when she was 26. Her opinion of her own appearance is purely subjective, seen through the eyes of a woman who is probably longing to appear as she did when she was younger."

Bill's disabusing continued: "Since time began, men and women have been trading money and power for sex. Women have a need for the security that money will bring, and men prefer their sex from a young woman. A man's libido is far more powerful and persistent than a woman's, which is why older men with money do not look for a woman of the same age when they select a partner.

If your blood isn't boiling yet, it will be soon.

Bill said, "An older woman with money can only interest a younger man with no money. Thus, an unspoken compact is undertaken - the young man, in exchange for servicing the older woman, (although he'd prefer a younger more sexually attractive woman) grits his teeth and goes through the motions in order to gain access to the woman's money."

Bill wasn't done yet: "Please don't suggest the nebulous benefits of 'companionship' and 'conversation'. If I want either of those, I'll join a computer club, go to a baseball game, or find some other venue where the men are not there to find a partner, sexual or otherwise.

"I suggest that Diane face reality, and broaden the acceptability criteria that she has chosen for herself, otherwise the only men who will find her attractive will be 75-year-olds, both with and without money.

And then he ended with another shot at me (yikes, I was just the messenger): "Were the above observations too unpalatable for you to present to Diane, or are you so old you that you have forgotten what being fourteen and having spontaneous erections was like?"

That was the end of Bill's rant. He sure covered a lot of territory responding to Diane's simple request about where she could go to meet successful men. He totally missed the point of the column.

I want to thank Bill for doing women a big favor by reminding them why being single isn't so bad. Thank heaven most single men aren't like this man who comes off as angry, sexist and narrow-minded.

Can you imagine what having a first date with him would be like?

The rest of the Paul McCartney Story

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, a woman named Victoria came to my Dana Point, Ca. deli and purchased a copy of my Finding Love After 50. How to Begin. Where to Go. What to Do book. She asked me to inscribe it to Sir Paul McCartney.

Victoria said she felt the book would help him-as it had helped her when she went through a tough divorce-to cope better during his current divorce from actress Heather Mills.

I was pretty darned surprised. I picked up my pen. I can usually knock out a sentence or two without much thought when personalizing a book for someone. But what the heck do you write to Paul McCartney? You don't say something dumb like, "I enjoy your music," he's heard that millions of times.

So, I wrote a sentence to the effect that he'll get through his divorce. I decided not to mention the folly of older men dating and marrying women 26-years younger. I added if there was anything else I could help him with to call me.

And then I thought, yea, sure, Paul McCartney's going to call me. I didn't include my phone number. If he wants to reach me, my contact information is listed in the book.

I finished my greeting: "Paul, if you'd ever like to sit down for a pint of Watney's Red Barrel (ale) together, I'm available."

After Victoria left the deli, with Paul McCartney's autographed book under her arm, it occurred to me that adults all over the world have relationship issues later in life. Even an original Beetle.

When I got home, I told my partner Greta about what had happened. She said, "If you ever sit down for a pint with Paul McCartney, I'll be right there with you."

I wrote about the incident in my newspaper column. Responses poured in. Many women echoed Greta's comment: if Sir Paul comes to Southern California, they also wanted to be included.

As I reported last week, not everyone was impressed. Two of our readers took me to task. Sharon said Victoria probably was throwing herself at him and Shirley said McCartney was a tightwad and not to bleed for him.

Victoria told me she paid $63 to have the book shipped overnight to England, only to have the package rejected and not opened. She paid another $63 to have it returned. Then she shipped it to Paul's New York agent. She hasn't had a response yet.

For me, this was all in good fun, I didn't think much about it, until Wednesday night. I was visiting my mom in Santa Rosa (Sonoma County) and happened to turn on Larry King. His show was devoted to the one-year anniversary of the Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas called "The Beatles - LOVE." The show features the Beetles music and was approved by Yoko Ono (John Lennon's widow), Olivia Harrison (George Harrison's widow), Ringo Starr and, yup, Sir Paul.

The four of them were guests on King's show live from Las Vegas. If you missed it, and you ever get a chance to see a rerun of it, watch it. The photos and the music brought back to me the incredible impact the Beetles had on our generation-whether you liked them or not.

It was heartwarming to see the camaraderie among the four of them, particularly between Ringo and Paul. The Beatles considered themselves a family and still do.

Paul admitted to King that the divorce was difficult, and he coped best by not discussing it. King changed the subject after that.

And I got to thinking. With Paul so close to Dana Point, a mere hour by air, perhaps he'll pop over and have that pint of Watney's Red Barrel after all. But, as of this writing, I haven't heard from him yet.

Don't Settle

For women, meeting eligible men to date gets harder as time passes by. With each year, there are fewer single men in the dating pool. When a man enters a woman's life, filling a void, it can be difficult for her to dismiss him as a potential partner when he doesn't measure up to what she is worthy of.

The same applies to men. Some want so desperately to gain security or have a relationship they may not care about compatibility.

Today, two women describe situations they got themselves into. While reading these two cases, guess which one came from one of our members, and which one came from an outsider.

In situation number one, Ann emailed: "I'm 72. Been told I'm attractive and fun. Own my own home and usually work part time.

"I met this gentleman at the gym. He made a very nice impression and seemed so desperate to please. He recently left his wife because she was going into a nursing home and he's filling for divorce. If he remarries it will be his fourth time.

"His wife owned the house so he had to move to an apartment. He's retired military. He has a limited amount of money, poor health, no sex life, and generous spirit of spending and offering a good time.

"Here's the problem: I'm not attracted to him for a romantic relationship as I befriended him to help him talk about his situation with his wife. He constantly talks about us getting married. He takes me to very nice restaurants and he generally likes to please me in everything. I'm trying to explain to him that we're just friends. In my heart of hearts, I think he's looking for another home and wife to hang his hat.

"My friends think 'he's such a nice guy!' I feel I have to protect myself from making mistakes so late in life. Am I throwing away a good thing?"

Our second email came from Wendy: "I met a gentleman while out with my girlfriend one evening. He was interesting, good looking and a sheriff, so feeling safe, I started out on the dating process. He is the kindest man, fun to be with and very good looking.

"He told me he loved me within two weeks and began planning our future life together, and wanted to be with me 24/7 right off the bat. I did really like him, and kept asking him to slow down so we could get to know each other well.

"Sadly, I finally had to tell him it was over just to get some breathing room! I know guilt is not love, and we cannot be made to fall in love, but I still have a hard time being 'mean.' Whatever happened to just going out and having fun for awhile before jumping in the sack or moving in together?"

Did you guess which email came from one of our members? I'll tell you at the end.

The good news in both cases is neither woman is going to settle with a man who doesn't measure up. But I have to ask why Ann wondering is if she's throwing away a good thing? Does she really need to ask?

The guy is abandoning his wife because she has health issues, has no money, is in poor health, doesn't own a home and can have no sex life, which is probably a good thing because Ann isn't attracted to him anyway.

Wendy, on the other hand, soon figured out that the sheriff has issues: mainly low self-esteem and the need to control. Sounds like he can't function on his own without a woman near him around the clock. That would drive me bonkers, as it would Wendy, which she realized. She simply wondered why they can't have fun together before getting so darn serious.

If you guessed that Wendy is our member, you're right. Thank heaven that neither Ann nor Wendy settled. Why get involved in a relationship where you'll end up worse off?

Conversation Opening Lines

Conversation opener: "Is that yours, dirt bag?" Believe it or not, that conversation-starter worked.

Meeting potential mates is difficult for mature singles. When an opportunity to meet someone presents itself, it's likely a one-time occurrence. Seldom do singles encounter the same stranger a second time, so they need to be assertive at that very moment to improve their chances of establishing a relationship

This applies to women as well as men. But some women are shy and others are at a loss about how to initiate a conversation with a man.

Janet wrote, "I was wondering if you could run a column about appropriate "pick up" lines for older people? I ask because my sister insists on asking new men she meets 'What do you do?'

"Her reason for asking this, according to her, is to have a basis of conversation. I think it's because she is screening them, i.e., if the man answers 'truck driver,' she will probably limit her time speaking with him. However, if he answers 'attorney,' this will perk her interest."

Janet feels her sister's "What do you do?" question is a turn-off to men. "Good men rule her out because they think she is only interested in how prestigious their careers are or how much money they make. Would some men find my sister's opening line slightly offensive, or at the least, nosey?" Janet asked.

In the world of mid-life dating, we don't call them "pickup lines" anymore; that was in the old days when we were camped on barstools trying to hit on the opposite sex. "Ice breakers" or "conversation openers" are better suited descriptions.

Most men would find the "What do you do?" question offensive for the reasons Janet described. A former neighbor of mine, Larry, now single, says in Newport Beach (California), where he hangs out these days, what a man does and earns is at the top of the list of qualities single women seek and they waste no time popping the "What do you do?" question.

Larry is a devilish guy with a twinkle in his eye. Sometimes he'll answer, "I inherited a large sum of money and investing it is a full-time job so I don't work." Larry says that that comment piques their interest.

Another long-time friend, Bob, Laguna Beach, a few miles down the road from Newport Beach, says that "Where were you born?" is a more effective conversation starter. "It shows a personal interest and is a little different and catches someone off guard. But, the answer is easy, making it possible to explore things not so automatic or time worn.

"A chance encounter hit pay dirt for me when a woman's home town in the Midwest matched mine. She attended a school located on the street where I was born."

Carlene told us a month ago how she met a man wearing a kilt while standing in the food line at an outdoor Scottish Festival: "First a big smile and genuine hello followed by, 'What would you suggest from the menu?'"

Then, the quick-thinking Carlene followed with "I like your kilt." That led to romance and a relationship with him. "Once you show you are friendly and open, it's easier to meet someone," Carlene said.

Bob added that any first question with tasteful humor attached will open doors, as happened to him in the check-out line at Costco. A man behind Bob had a bag of fertilized soil in his shopping cart. A woman in the same line gave Bob a "broad, lovely smile" and said, "Is that yours, dirt bag?"

Bob said, "We both walked out to our cars lighter, and a bit fascinated how a smile fits perfectly into those new moments of an encounter. Even when the words come out all tumbled together."

The most important aspect of a conversation opener for older singles is being friendly. It's not so much what you say but how you say it. As long as you don't say, "What do you do?" Of course, saying nothing gets you nowhere.

Plus, be careful how you use the "dirt bag" line. Some recipients might not be as affable as Bob.


From the mailbag

I'm not going to bore you with the full story, at least not yet, until I know how it turns out. However, I'll tease you with this. A woman came into my deli last Thursday and purchased a copy of my book, "Finding Love After 50. How to Begin. Where to Go. What to Do."

She wanted it inscribed to "Paul." She said she was an acquaintance of his and could tell from his latest album that he was having a tough time with his divorce.

In further discussion, I found out it was for that Paul--Sir Paul McCartney. More later.

When enough is enough

Singles need to be careful when getting involved with anyone who hasn't properly healed after the loss of a mate, especially widows and widowers. Bobbie, Minnesota, shared her widower-dating experience.

"We met at a swimming water-exercise class with me as the instructor and he as a participant. It started out great and was nice to have someone to do things with. We agreed that neither wanted to marry again. I've been divorced 26 years."

They dated for two years. "We had a very nice relationship, as long as everything was about HIM and doing what HE wanted to do. We had many discussions about him always comparing me to his late wife. From time to time, he'd tell me he was having a bad time with the loss of his wife (five years) and was mad at her for leaving him. He is retired and they had many plans for retirement."

But Bobbie endured, thinking he'd change. "I had given more of myself in these two years than I intended, as he had health problems and I took care of him, helped him through the loss of an old dog, which wiped him out, and to get a new puppy. I helped him complete his home, which he'd been trying to do for 25 years, and helped clean out all his late wife's things. I made a new 'Granny' quilt, shams & curtains for his new bedroom, that HE wanted."

Bobbie added that sometimes he'd get depressed and be isolated from her for periods of time. Over the last few months, he didn't take her to couples activities as he once had. The romantic aspect dwindled before becoming non-existent.

Bobbie feels he needs grief counseling. "I tried to talk to him face-to-face to seek counseling; he wouldn't discuss it. The next day I get an e-mail from him stating that he was 'putting himself to the curb' as he doesn't want to give me any of what I expect and life is going to be all about HIM now! I laughed out loud when I read it.

I was tired of being second fiddle to everyone and everything in his life. I am one spunky, happy, lady, seven-years-younger than he, with lots more ambition.

So it's over. "I am relieved," Bobbie says. "He is missing out on so much in life, but can't see it. One more picture to add to my 'trail of terror' on my refrigerator.

"I don't regret the relationship or all I gave to it, but have self esteem and it is time to move on. Being mothers, women are naturally givers, but there is a time when our own worth has to be considered and we shouldn't have to give, give, give all the time."

By the way, Bobbie still teaches the water-exercise class and he's still a participant. One has to wonder how "chilly" that water is up there in Minnesota. Bobbie says, "We both still attend--twice a week, It's fine with both of us. He doesn't seem to be uncomfortable about it and it doesn't bother me in the least."

In writing this story, I feel there are some unanswered questions about the relationship-but I'll defer to you folks, who always have astute observations.


From the mailbag:

The May 2007 issue of the AARP Bulletin features an article, "Taking the Low Road," by Sid Kirchheimer, the author of Scam-Proof Your Life. The article warns people about signing up for travel clubs that allegedly offer big discounts for travel-related expenses.

Kirchheimer singled out Branson, Missouri, as a travel-club Mecca: "Ten of the 15 travel clubs registered to operate in Branson have generated complaints (with the Mo Attorney General's office)," Kirchheimer wrote.

Some people have paid $6,000 to $10,000. My take: avoid travel clubs, not only in Branson, but in all parts of the country.

Widower misses a vowel

From time to time, we write about the importance of healing for people who've suffered the loss of a mate before they bring someone new into their lives.

How long to wait? Everybody's situation is unique. What is best for one may not be appropriate for another.

After corresponding with a widower online, Linda met him in person five months ago. A relationship began.

Both had been married for 24 years.Linda said, "I was divorced seven years ago after years of mental abuse. It took me the first five years to realize I could move on in my life and come to terms that I am a special person and deserve all life has to give me."

The widower was married one time. "He doesn't have photos of his wife out (deceased three years), but he speaks frequently about the life they had," Linda said.

Linda wonders if he has gotten past the grief and can move forward into a new relationship: "He has issues with saying the "L" word. He hasn't been able to tell me he loves me, and states he cannot tell me until he knows he really means it."

This week, the widower gave Linda a birthday card. She said, "He signed my card 'Lov,' minus the e, and told me he is getting closer to the full word."

She admits she has fallen for him, but doesn't know if his heart is there for her.

"My gut tells me I need to give him a little more time. It is already going to hurt if he walks away, no more so a few months from now, so do you think more time will help him find that missing 'vowel' in the word love?"

Here's what I told Linda

"Follow your gut, your instinct. Yes, he needs more time, but he sounds like a decent man who is being honest with you. Some widowers and lovers aren't honest; they just up and leave with no warning one day.

"He may be cautious for two reasons. Perhaps, he isn't sure that he wants a relationship with you, and he may still be grieving.

"Dating a widower can be risky, but not impossible. Don't pressure him. Show him you appreciate him without being syrupy. Stop fretting over the missing vowel. Exude more confidence. Relish the present joy he brings."

"And yet, protect your heart. How? That's up to you, but I'd get involved in an activity or hobby that doesn't involve him.

Linda answered, "I think your suggestion about having an outside, single interest will help me protect the hurt if he bolts and runs. I feel I have found one really special person and if I give him a little extra time, he will find that missing letter "e" in love.

Only time will tell.

We have a chat room

Newcomers to this newsletter often ask if we have a chat room. The answer is yes. When I checked yesterday, there were 428 members who have posted more than 11,000 messages since its inception.

Two wonderful women, Donna and Cydne, volunteer their time to moderate the chat room and make it function properly. I stay out of its daily operation. To join costs nothing. To check it out, go here: groups.yahoo.com/group/Tomscolumn/

But one huge warning. If you join, be sure you check on the "no emails" message option. If you don't, you will receive a copy of every message that is posted and you'll be screaming that your email inbox is being flooded with unwanted messages. If this happens to you, go to the homepage and click on edit membership. Change your status to "no emails" and save your changes.

And speaking of Cydne, she was willing to share her story about finding love after 50.

"A little over two years ago I got "dumped" by the first boyfriend I had had in 13 years. I did everything wrong, as if no time had passed between my series of bad relationships in my twenties and thirties and when I dated him."

Cydne continued: "I worshiped him, something I had promised myself I was NOT going to do ever again when I was 38 and freshly out of a relationship breakup.

"But here I was hanging on every word, waiting for him to call, and being hurt because I was just not nearly as important to him as he was to me! It was hell. At the end, I just could not take being treated like a petulant child anymore and suggested we end it. So I guess it was really a mutual parting of the ways."

Cydne says she came upon one of my columns about Internet dating. "I ordered Tom's book (Finding Love After 50. How To Begin. Where To Go. What To Do) and read it in one day cover-to-cover.

"I started thinking about how I was always putting my feelings on the back burner in favor of the man in all of my relationships. So the first thing I did was to list all of the things I hated about being in a relationship. Then I listed all the good things. From those two lists, I made a third. The third list was what I really needed and wanted from a relationship. The list was short but powerful.

1. Love
2. Desire
3. Respect
4. Loyalty/fidelity

"No more laundry list about the 'perfect guy,' I was free to consider ANY man as a possibility! I felt so free and empowered! I joined Tom's yahoo group when he announced its birth. Then I joined several Internet dating sites and started the fun process of finding someone. Fun, because I approached it as an adventure. Everyone is valuable in my eyes. This time I remembered to value myself too.

"In a six week period I must have met 30 men for coffee! Funny thing is, I came back to the first man I had met! We celebrate our second year anniversary on Memorial Day this year. This man has turned out to be the love of my life. I never thought I would say that at the age of 53! Thanks Tom for being an important part of this process that brought me to my love!"

I appreciate Cydne's compliments but she's the one who changed her life and found happiness. Thanks to her for having the fortitude to tackle her situation and for sharing it with all of us. And thanks to Cydne and Donna for unselfishly donating their time to help others.

Reader Sounds Off

The email from a reader began: "Why do you post the stories only of the losers? On several occasions, I have asked you to please post some SUCCESS stories. Do you not care that in the "Widow Beware" she is involved-with a MARRIED man?

"Does it occur to you to share in your newsletter that women can be users too? Don't go too far in UNDERestimating the lack of moral character in women also.

"The sons are correct to threaten to disown the widowed mother with the way she is carrying-on. It is galling because she shows no dignity. With her age at 69, there is no wisdom to her ways. The sons should take active intervention to put a stop to it. Again, please post some SUCCESS stories."

I replied: "I post the stories I receive. I don't get a lot of success stories, and when I post them, very few people respond. If you send them, I will post them."

She responded: "Then please SEEK-OUT success stories! If one wants to hear about the losers, all one has to do is surf yet another internet dating site.

"Your newsletter seems-to be conveying the message that as women age, and loneliness sets-in, women will settle for almost anything.

"Please show us a higher ground. What is the purpose of your newsletter? Is it for women to "protect" themselves? And, how can women protect themselves if examples of success stories--and how things CAN be done--aren't shown?

"Are you of a religious bent? If not, then how about some networking with other newsletters, and posting some links with newsletters to show aging singles a religious framework to cope with the aging process and the loneliness.

"Face it, please, that most readers of most newsletters want to read about some HAPPY news. Thus, again, PLEASE SEEK OUT the success stories."

Tom's thoughts on her comments. Give me credit for holding my tongue this long. Responses with an attitude that are abrupt and order me to do things are going to get my attention.

Do I care that the widow is involved with a married man? No, I don't, but I think she is unwise to be with a married man, who is also living in her house.

And then there was this zinger, "Please don't go too far in UNDERestimating the lack of moral character in women also. Your newsletter seems to be conveying the message that as women age, and loneliness sets-in, women will settle for almost anything."

I don't judge moral character, I just report the facts. I've never suggested women settle. However, I think a relationship without sex would be a bummer.

Her follow-up email was demanding, "Then please SEEK-OUT success stories!" (This directive was written three times). I've got a flash for her. If I take the added time to seek-out success stories, over and above what our members share, the price of the newsletter will go from $16.95 a year, to $100.00 per year. Please let me know if that is okay with all of you.

Then, there was this: "Please show us a higher ground. What is the purpose of your newsletter? Is it for women to "protect" themselves? And, how can women protect themselves if examples of success stories, and how things CAN be done aren't shown?"

Tom's comment: The purpose of this newsletter is to entertain and inform, that's it. To protect? Sure, that's a part of it also. By sharing the widow's story, I feel we are protecting others from making similar mistakes.

And finally there was this: "Are you of a religious bent?"

No. I have a strong faith and believe in treating others well, but preaching religion isn't my bag. I think, at our age, our subscribers know what religious beliefs work best for them. They don't want or need religious direction from me.

I have a feeling this newsletter isn't for her. Perhaps she should start one of her own.

Let's not lose sight of the widow who had the guts to share her story and listen to the tough responses. And she did it with humility.

Widow Beware

A 69-year-old widow of one year emailed, saying that her two sons had disowned her because of the relationship she's had with a man for six months. She asked to remain anonymous so we'll call her Sue.

Sue provided background information: "He is living in my home. We are having a great time, traveling and enjoying life. There is no possibility of marriage. I don't want to, and he can't (he's married). He has no children.

"We are very compatible, and so far, all is going well. I intend to maintain my independence, and do what I want, although he can be pretty controlling."

The man is 71, in good health now, but went through massive aneurism surgery three years ago. "Our sexual life is almost nil, as he can't do anything, but I really don't care. So far, he is not doing his part money-wise, because of his ex," Sue said.

Sue commented about the man and his wife (a wife is not an ex): "He split up with his wife after years of a miserable marriage. He set her up in a home of her choice, and they put the house up for sale. He gave her the car, and she lives on her Social Security, plus he supplements money to her when she asks for it.

"She has a deadbeat son who is 60. She is supporting him, and wants my boyfriend to give her more and more money to help her support her son."

Sue said her sons are worried he'll take her money. She countered by saying, "Once his house sells, he will have all the money he needs for us to share."

Sue asked, "Do you think I am doing the right thing or what advice can you give me?"

Normally, I keep my opinions to myself in situations like Sue's. But since the widow asked, I'll toss in a few thoughts.

I'm glad she's happy and having a great time. Loneliness is difficult for older singles. But, more than a few things bother me about Sue's situation.

He's still married and living entirely off of her nickel. Any money he has he gives to his wife. He has made promises that when his house sells, he'll have all the money he needs, which he intends to share with Sue. But will he?

That he is controlling really bothers me. She's providing everything and he wants to be in charge? Yikes, sounds like a bad deal. Adults don't need to be controlled--by anybody.

And then there's his damaged heart. Who will pay if he gets sick again? She's already a purse, she could easily become a nurse. And no sex life? If that doesn't bother her, well, I guess, then it's ok. I can assure you, it would bother me.

I understand her sons' concerns. Other than companionship, what is this guy contributing? Nothing--he's got a free ride.

My advice to her is to protect herself and her money. Her sons may be right; he may find a way to take her money, leaving her not only without companionship, but without the means to take care of herself.

Widow beware.

Telephone or email breakups

Two weeks ago, we wrote about cowardly breakups. Many of you responded, presenting reasons why using the telephone or an email to break up may be the best way.


One woman said, "Sometimes ending a relationship by phone or email is the safest way to do so. How many usually "gentle" gentlemen (or women) become raging maniacs when things don't go their way?

"After listening to some of my neighbors' so-called happy relationships become battlegrounds in the middle of the night, for my own safety, I wouldn't hesitate to end a relationship by phone."

Another woman wrote, "I think that aside from the issue of cowardliness, there is also the question of actual intimidation or fear. This guy was supposed to be a nice person, but he had said and done things that had hurt me badly. The emotional cruelty factor made me feel as if I didn't owe him another tortured conversation where I would be hurt.

"When there is abuse, the departing partner might be foolish to meet with his or her mate face-to-face. Experts say that breaking up is the most dangerous time when there has been abuse in a relationship because the abuser is losing what he sought most to control.

To Avoid Confrontation

Barbara emailed, "I've been the one who's broken up my last few relationships. I've tried to do it nicely but no one likes rejection. My problem has been with controlling men who start out so very nice, then turn into "control freaks." I'm 72 and don't need that.

"Once after thinking about how to breakup without causing WW3, I just took over the television control, changed from golf to a movie saying, sweetly, that I'd been looking forward to seeing this movie for several days.

"I knew he would leave if I showed I had control of even such a simple thing as the TV remote. I'd already seen the movie, though he didn't know that. There was no fear or danger involved, I just didn't want a confrontation and was tired of the relationship.

"He picked up his jacket and left saying he had to go home and feed his dogs. He never came back or called; it was a completely painless breakup."

Donna, said, "I did the telephone breakup about three months ago because I didn't have the strength to do it in person the last time I was with the fellow. He had yelled at me three times because I 'interrupted him sometimes.' The yelling got successfully louder each time. So I called him and explained why I couldn't see him any longer and he yelled again so I hung up. One of the best things I ever did."

Pat, shared, "I dated a man for three months. He was not my type and getting too in my face so I wrote an email to break it off. I knew if we talked face- to-face, it would have gotten nasty (and that was proven to me when he responded to my email with some very nasty comments)."

A man said, "As soon as I become aware that there are differences which are too great, I advise the lady I'm dating of my decision, tell her that I believe that she is a great person but that I do not believe that we are 'right.'

"There were several occasions that the response was highly 'unladylike'. On several occasions there were ugly acrimonious scenes. One lady threatened me physically. If the relationship is not going any further, why put yourself in a position to be the recipient of abuse, and threats?"

Phone call or email is better than a post-it sticky note or no word at all

Carrie, age 51, "I'd rather have a call or email rather than dead silence--no call, no email, no nothing-- just 'poof' they are gone. You don't know if you did something wrong, if you said something offensive, or they simply changed their mind, or if they've suddenly ended up in the hospital suffering some horrible disease that rendered them unconscious."

Another woman said, "In all those scenarios, at least there was a phone call! I experienced not once but twice men who just walked out of my life with absolutely NO warning! So cowardly and ungentlemanly."

Christine, "After being widowed for two years I began seeing someone who professed love for me, but, after a year ended the relationship without even a phone call. Nothing prepared me for the pain of losing my husband after 32 years of marriage, and having to deal with another loss after that was an incredibly painful experience. Now, however, I'm thankful that the relationship didn't work out - we were ill-suited for one another.

"I broke up with my last boyfriend-a long distance relationship-- on the telephone. I was not going to travel all the way to where he was to break up with him. He had lied to me. There had been other problems and I began to see that we had a basic personality conflict. So I called and ended it.

One man said, "A few years ago, a lady broke up on a phone message. Juvenile stuff. I see her around every so often and just disregard her as if she doesn't exist. I know we are supposed to be forgiving but. Every time I mention the story everyone laughs, and cross references the Sex in The City episode where someone broke up with a post-it sticky message."

Well, you've convinced me. Breaking up remotely may be the smartest way to end a relationship, particularly when there is a question of your safety, or avoiding abuse. Do what works best for you.

Romance in Europe

Dining on sardines and octopus--Tom and Greta travel through Spain

Dateline--La Pineda, Spain.

Sardines and octopus for dinner? Not exactly what you'd expect as a romantic meal, but that's what my partner, Greta, and I shared in Salou, Spain, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea one night last week. And it was romantic, as we were the only ones sitting outside at a cute little cafe, although the temperature was in the 50s.

We are on a 16-day trip to Spain and other countries in Southern Europe. A trip like ours wasn't planned to test our relationship, but at times it can, when things inevitably go wrong while traveling.

We left LAX at 7:30 a.m. Thirty hours, three flights, 14,000 miles, and two train trips later, we inadvertently got off the train one stop before we were supposed to, about a mile short of the train station. We weren't the only ones, about eight other people did the same thing. The problem, there were no taxis there, only an amusement park and some cows.

So, dog-tired, we dragged our suitcases the final distance where we secured a taxi to take us the last five miles to the resort where we're staying. At the time, it wasn't funny, but four days later, we are laughing about it now. That tested our patience as a couple. Like, whose fault was it? (Mine, of course).

We visited a nearby city called Tarragona, which is stair-stepped on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. It was built around Roman ruins form the 14th Century. We enjoyed that city as much as we did Barcelona, which we visited the day after.

Barcelona is a bustling city of a million and a half people, and reminds one of Paris. Our main mission was to walk a boulevard of shops and restaurants called Las Rambla, and to find the Picasso Museum, which we did. With all due respect to the great Pablo Picasso, after seeing hundreds of his works, you realize he was a bit strange.

A couple hundred yards from the Museum, we passed a store that sold mainly olives--probably 50 varieties-- and sardines. It was packed with shoppers. You don't see places like that in the states.

Our condo is about 30 yards from a bakery and supermarket. The first night we arrived, we shopped there for our dinner, having Spanish red wine, olives, fresh baguette, fresh cheese and the tastiest salami we've ever had. That's saying a lot for a guy who has owned a deli and been serving salami for 18 years.

We are proud of ourselves for figuring out the train from the Barcelona Airport to the Barcelona Sants train station, and then finding another train to our resort 40 miles away, with five pieces of luggage, and for also using the bus service along this part of the Mediterranean coast. Not bad for a couple of folks in their mid-60s. Taking taxis would be easier, but taking public transportation teaches you more about the culture, not to mention the savings in cost. It's fun to travel as a team and marvel together at new discoveries in foreign countries.

Yesterday, we hopped a high-speed train to Valencia, Spain, where we spent eight hours. Of all of the cities in Spain we've visited, we like Valencia the most. It's clean, the architecture is well preserved and unusual. The sidewalks are made of marble. Tapas bars are everywhere, you can get a snack or a meal at any time during the day.

In Valencia, we came to a big happening, news event. There was an opening of a tourist office for the Castilla-La Mancha area and all city officials were there. When a TV station found out we were from the states, we were interviewed for the evening news. That was kind of a hoot.

Tomorrow, we travel by train for 12 hours to Nice, France, to begin the second half of our vacation. We're holding hands and having fun, and will report on that part of our trip next week.

Internet Dating Tips

On Monday, April 24, Newsday, the prestigious Long Island, NY, newspaper featured an article about Internet dating for seniors. I was contacted by staff writer Pat Burson for my opinions and whether I had any tips on Internet dating.

Here are a few Internet dating tips taken from my book, Finding Love After 50: How to begin, where to go, what to do and from a page on my website. It’s not a complete list, but it covers important aspects of Internet dating.

  • Trust your instincts. If someone sounds too good to be true, he is. If you feel that tiny shadow of doubt— that something isn’t quite right—listen to your inner voice and avoid involvement there
  • People lie about everything on the Internet—their age, income, looks, you name it. Be aware that whatever you hear may not be true
  • You’ll need to provide an up-to-date photo. Don’t have it taken by your neighbor Sue on an overcast day with a throw-away camera while you're holding your cat or pet rabbit. Be sure the picture is clear and you're smiling. Digital cameras are great for this because the photos can be uploaded to the Internet and you can take lots of them until you get one just right
  • Few men will continue a conversation with a woman without seeing a picture
  • Don’t take rejection and rudeness personally. Sadly, it goes with the Internet territory. If it happens, just say, “Next.”
  • Don’t talk for months without having a face-to-face meeting. It could be a waste of your time and his—if there is no chemistry
  • Don’t fall in love with an image—with someone you’ve not met in person. You think you’re in love but you aren’t. Too many people have been disappointed when meeting in person. Cool your emotions until you see him live
  • Internet dating creates long-distance relationships. If both want to be with a mate on a daily basis, guess what? Someone’s got to move. Best to discuss this in the early stages. Who’s going to uproot their life and move to a new city?
  • Meeting someone right for you is a numbers game. It could take months. Don’t give up
  • Don’t try too hard. It shows through. You’ll come off as desperate and that’s a turnoff
  • Beware of “romance scams.” They are prevalent in 2006, particularly from people in Africa and other foreign countries. If someone you don’t know is killing you with kindness—sending flowers, chocolates or whatever--be leery. See below for anti-scam website link
  • Everyone you meet on the Internet is a stranger. Be careful of all strangers. And when it comes time to meeting in person, be extra careful
  • Meet in a well-lighted place—a coffee shop or pancake house, for example--and tip off the manager that you are meeting a stranger
  • Tell your friends and family with whom you're meeting and provide info about them—phone number, where they live, work, etc
  • Never accept a ride to your car after first meeting a stranger. Don't let them see your car or license plate. Don’t give out your last name, street address or phone number

Cowardly Breakups

Who says middle-aged dating is easy?

A while back, we featured a column about a guy who had lied about his age by one month to a woman when he first met her. They dated and were intimate for three months and then she used his age-lying as an excuse for breaking up. How did she breakup? By telephone.

In another case, a widower of six years dated a woman for a year and a half. He said, “It was wonderful, I mean every thing was ‘wonderful.’ Then she ended our relationship by telephone two weeks before last Christmas, saying she decided to end it due to too many differences. Just like that.”

He added, “I was completely devastated, and I didn't have a clue that anything was wrong. Her only complaint was I didn't like her dog (that upset her)".

Over her dog? Maybe. I know some women who are attached to their animals and the man had better accept the animal or he’s out the door. But my point here is, after 18 months of dating, when everything else was peachy-keen, she phoned him to break up. Neither she nor the woman above had the guts or decency to break up face-to-face. What kind of dating etiquette is that?

The breakup devastated the widower. “It was like getting my heart torn out again--brought on the grieving process again--I never thought I could fall in love again after losing my wife of 43 years. Having this happen to me is difficult to cope with. I just can't comprehend her ending our relationship (and we were very, very close) over a dog? (I am now two months away from 70 yrs., she was 71.)”

He tried to reconcile with her but says she won't accept his phone calls or letters. “She even sent letters back unopened. No reason for her to act like this. Under the circumstances, perhaps it’s best to put it behind me and move on, but easy to say, difficult to do. It’s like I lost my spouse all over again. We were considered a handsome couple, meaning neither of us looked our age.”

I'm not singling out women as the only culprits. Men can be just as guilty as women in breaking up in a cowardly way. And there are two sides to every story. In these two cases, there are likely circumstances we don’t know about. Maybe the guy did something that caused her to act the way she did.

That being said, I can relate to the experiences of these two men.

On Xmas Eve, 1993, my wife of six years backed up a U-haul truck to our Dana Point home, took what furniture and belongings she wanted, and moved out of my life. One would think a married couple would discuss an event of this magnitude beforehand, but I had been left out of the loop. I think the note left on the kitchen counter read, “Hi honey, have a Merry Christmas.”

She also used the telephone--a couple of days after she moved out-- to let me know she wasn’t coming back. As if I didn’t know that. (Her leaving turned out to be the greatest favor anyone has ever done for me).

Don’t be a mid-life singles coward. If you’re planning to breakup, don’t do it by email, don’t do it by telephone, have the guts and decency to do it face-to- face.

Moving in together

After last week’s newsletter, a woman wrote, “Show us something HAPPY with the sacrifices made to be together under one roof.”

And that’s precisely what today’s newsletter is about—a long-distance, before-move-in story we featured last May 25, with an April 2007 update on how the move-in is working out.

From last May: Living near St. Louis, MO., Gloria, 55, spent two years on a major Internet matching service. “I had pretty much given up finding anyone online. When I did meet someone in person, it seemed we had absolutely nothing in common,” Gloria said. She had seen the photo of a man named Ed online, had even read his bio. “Though he was appealing, I never dreamed of writing to him; he lived too far away (an hour’s drive).” To Gloria’s surprise, Ed contacted her.

“We corresponded online and talked on the telephone. When it came time to meet, I balked, actually canceling two dates with him. Upon realizing that he was like me—a former flower child—I decided not to meet him at all.”

Gloria explained to Ed via email why she was reluctant to meet: Former hippies brought back too many bad memories of a drug-dealing, physically abusive, hippie husband, who had made her life miserable 30 years before.

Ed piqued her interest by reciting words from the song, Aqualung, a tune, Gloria said, “Any self-respecting former hippie should remember.”

Note from Tom: Google described Aqualung: “The opening blast of ‘Aqualung’ is quintessential Jethro Tull; the guitar solo on that song ranks among rock's greatest.”

Gloria and Ed had so much fun reciting back and forth lines from Aqualung that she decided to meet him, and this time didn’t cancel. That was in November, 2005.

Ed is a “R.E.” (retired English professor) and Gloria an “E.R.” (still-working Emergency Room nurse). Living an hour apart doesn’t stop them from seeing each other nearly every day. They plan to move-in together in August in a little house in the country, which Ed is rehabbing for them. “We are two old hippies and have aptly dubbed our place, ‘The Lava Lamp Love Lounge.’”

Gloria says, “I have never met a man who treats me so well, or that I love so much. I’m blessed to have found someone who makes me laugh out loud often, who sees humor in so many situations in our lives. We’ve been very good for each other. We’re both divorced, both actively involved in our children’s lives. Our past relationships made us feel fragile and somewhat vulnerable. Neither is perfect, but we’re perfect for each other.” That was last May.

Update April 2007: We moved in to a little place in the country, that Ed renovated but had never lived in. I relocated from big city life to live in the country, but I am still able to drive to the hospital where I've worked since prior to our meeting.

"It was a huge change for me, but I have come to love our life and home deeply.

"Each day I realize how very much I care for this man, and how blessed I am to have found someone who feels the same way about me. I hope never to have to live life without him. We are a committed couple, and I know we could have never had this level of intimacy had we just continued to date and see each other a few times a week.

"So I guess it all depends what you want in life, a "vacation" every time you're with your chosen partner, or perhaps a little more of the mundane. Me, I absolutely love sitting on the couch watching TV with Ed, or working out in the yard while he continues to put finishing touches on "The Lava Lamp Love Lounge", or sitting out on the back deck with Ed and listening to the sounds of the country."

Gloria added, “Tell readers not to give up, and to ‘think outside of the box’ when it comes to finding dating partners. I did give up. Thank God, Ed did not. We are truly blessed. When a couple is meant to be—which I believe is the case with Ed and me—there is no stopping Karma!”

Long Distance Romance

When two people who live in different parts of the country meet, date each other, and fall in love, what’s the next step?

How they met--via the Internet, while on a business trip or on vacation--doesn’t matter. To be together on a daily basis, one of them would have to move. That’s a mighty big decision.

Barbara, 53, a widow, has been dating a man she met at a convention 14 months ago, who resides in a different state. Her views on their next step may surprise you.

“Fortunately we are both able to travel a good bit, so we can visit each other once or twice per month and have an absolutely wonderful time. The rest of the time we communicate by e-mail and talk on the phone several times each day,” Barbara said.

From her comments, one might think Barbara is selling her house and packing her bags to be with him. But it’s not so.

She said, “I think it’s very different when you see someone every couple of weeks and spend special time together as opposed to seeing someone every day. While the temptation to move in together or closer is certainly there, there is something to be said for keeping a relationship long distance. It is a great dilemma for many of us.”

Barbara says their relationship is like having their cake—being together often—and eating it too— maintaining their own space, friends and separate activities.

She admits there are drawbacks to being apart: “Some week-ends are too quiet and lonely, but knowing you will see your special someone in a week or two and spend several days or a week together helps get through the times when you are separated,” Barbara said.

She added, “After 14 months, my special person and I feel like we know each other pretty well. We have spent as much as 10 days together at a time. When we’re together, it’s like we are on vacation, even if it’s at his house or mine.”

But, Barbara thinks moving in together would change things. “It would be very different, and maybe too different. He is 66, so there is an age difference but we have a lot of similarities in our backgrounds and lives that make us very compatible. Yet, I think too much togetherness may be more than either of us could handle, especially since both of us have spent many years individually since our spouses passed away. I feel that if isn’t broke, don't try to fix it.”

Barbara says she and her mate have a perfect situation. “We can live our separate lives (neither of us is dating or fooling around with anyone else, of that I am sure) and then thoroughly enjoy the time when we are together.”

It's great to hear of singles who are so confident in themselves, and so wise, they don't make decisions hoping somebody else will improve their lives. They know improving their lives and making themselves happy falls on to their own shoulders.

At least for now, Barbara’s long-distance relationship will remain just that—a long-distance, win-win situation.

Relocating to be with a man Part II

Last week, we wrote about Mary who had moved from Northern California to Southern California to move in with a man. After two weeks, he threw her out.

Today we hear Wendy's story of relocating to be with a man. While visiting Southern California, she met a man who owned a retail shop. After a year and a half of long-distance dating, he asked her to move to his city and share his home, rent free.

"I even moved my 86-year-old mom to a neighboring town and gave up my kitty. I kept my home up north and rent it out to pay the expenses there.

"When I moved in, the housekeeper disappeared, as did the gardener. The dishwasher, his car and hot tub broke, none of which he got fixed. He drove my 2005 Mercedes while I borrowed my daughter's 1987 car."

"He was going broke then, but would not admit it. After three months, he insisted I was cheating with several men--my bosses. He started to get violent, and as I was calculating how to get out, I was ordered out. I have stayed in So. Cal. because I don't want to move my mom again."

"It has taken me a year to regather my finances, (working six days a week) sense of humor and confidence. I was not cheating. I'm still looking over my shoulder and wondering, 'what the heck happened?'"

"I've had to contact the police on several occasions as he still leaves 'hate mate' full of slurs and threats--for over a year after I left. He has written libelous letters to my bosses, their wives and my friends."

"This 'gentleman' has a beautiful home, many friends from both childhood and recent years, is intelligent, articulate, well-traveled and gave me no reason to doubt his stability, honesty, etc. He was romantic and attentive, but in the end followed me to work and timed my trips to the store, and out with my daughter, when at my mom's and so on. "

"Good actors are tough to spot. I just feel sorry for the next gal."

Margaret shared her relocation story: "I moved a man I was dating into my home way too soon. Bad mistake. I paid in coinage of emotional and mental turmoil as well as footing the expenses of moving him out. I'm fixin' to be 61 and boundaries are really important, particulary my living space."

Jennifer emailed her observations, "It's easy to deceive someone from far away. A man who looks for women in distant areas is often hiding something that would be detectible closer to home. You have to ask why he isn't dating someone from his own area.

"Moving in with someone you only know for a short time and who lives in another area is very risky. People should know each other for at least a year before considering cohabitating. She takes all the risk and he takes none."

Robin said, "Those who jump into life-changing scenearios need to do so slowly. How can women, who seems so intelligent and world-saavy, experience this sort of thing? Are we so insecure that we will grasp at anything that comes our way."

In Summary, I hope our readers will learn from the lessons's of today's newsletter and last week's as well. Before co-habitating with a new love, you better be damn sure it's going to work. People can hide behaviors for only so long. Also, have a back up plan. Don't burn all of your bridges. Have a place to return to.

Granted, some move-in situations work and work well. But the quick-decision ones are very risky. If these articles stop just one of you from making a poor decision, we will have accomplished our mission. Feel free to forward today's newsletter to any friend or person who is contemplating a life-changing move to be with a mate.

Avoid Snap Judgments

Today, thoughts from the top of my head, inspired by some of your comments in the last week or two.

I’ve said it before. The readers of this newsletter are special—bright, experienced, some naïve, but all with a similar purpose of trying to get our arms around this phase of life we’re going through. You come from all over the United States and this week we had comments from Queensland in Australia and Macedonia.

Most of us didn’t anticipate being in the situation we’re in. No longer married, kids out of the roost, single, some happy, some not, some working, some retired, but all trying to do what’s right. And it’s the relationship thing that puzzles the heck out of many of us. Today, a new subject, inspired by Lisa’s comment.

“Don’t judge people by one small thing they say or do—we all make mistakes. We need to give people a chance.”

Lisa explained, “I met my finance online. He said something very stupid the first time we met. I was turned off and dated another guy for a month. When that didn’t work out, I decided to give him another chance because there was something I liked about him, even with the ‘foot-in-the-mouth’ comment he made. We’re getting married May 5.”

Lisa’s right. At our age, we need to be less set in our ways when judging potential mates. That doesn’t mean we settle, but to just not make snap decisions on everyone who doesn’t measure up in every way. I'm not suggesting you tolerate a jerk, or a chauvinist, or an older guy who says he “only dates considerably younger women.” Those guys are expendable, don't waste your time.

An example of giving someone a chance comes from one of our male members who lives in a small town in New England, where the dating life for folks our age is almost non-existent. He’s met a woman who likes him a lot. She’s shy, sometimes there’s an awkward lull in their conversations unless he continues to carry the ball.

He feels the chemistry isn’t there and there are a couple of other things about her he’s not crazy about. But, they laugh and have a good time together. Plus, he admits he has issues that restrict his dating ability and hasn’t dated much lately.

Maybe it’s a mismatch, but before dumping her, he might need to just relax and not rush a decision. She might be a diamond in the rough and might be good for him. Why not pal around and just be friends? Above all, he needs to be honest with her and not lead her on. His being honest might loosen her fears of not talking about certain subjects.

Bobbie’s comments were similar to Lisa’s. She’s 60, looks years younger, is agile and active. The guy she dates is 67 and is not active, so as a couple, they don’t do some things together that require energy he can’t muster.

“I do a lot of things alone. In this instance, I wish I had someone more active and younger, but overall, my guy is a great man and we are so compatible that we balance it out.”

At our age, life isn’t perfect. There will be no perfect mate, only people who are close enough in interests and physical attraction that being with them beats being alone. That doesn’t mean we marry them, or settle, but it can mean we appreciate them and share enjoyable time with them.

Bobbie added some thoughts in her email on age vs. how we think and act. That may be the topic of next week’s newsletter. It’s not our age that matters, it’s how we view and pursue life. Your thoughts on that topic are encouraged.

Is lying about age important?

Last week's column about Herb, the 41-year-old who told the lawyer he was dating he was 40-which was a lie by one month and put her in criminal trial mode by grilling him-has generated this week's topic: "How important is age-honesty in dating after 50?"

In effect, you as a group, with your sage and witty responses, have written this column. Thanks for your ongoing participation. Together, we are trying to make sense out of being single, a situation few of us thought we'd ever be in.

Joe was quick to comment: "Herb just ran into one of many 'head cases' out there in the singles world. Getting involved with a person like the lawyer is like walking in a mine field, eventually something happens and the person detonates.

"The good news, at 41, Herb should have no trouble finding many more 'head cases' to date, and, as I've concluded, as long as the dating is fun and the sex good, you are ahead of the game."

S emailed, "I don't know why Herb is so upset about this woman, who is obviously troubled and possibly paranoid. He should thank his lucky stars he is rid of her. If they ever married, his life would be hell on earth."

Jeanne #1 wrote, "I can't imagine getting that upset over 'ONE YEAR!' Most 'Internet age-lies' involve even DECADES. He's better off without her."

Peggy felt Herb's dishonesty wasn't the issue. "She was looking for an excuse to break-up! Why is a number so important? It's usually the men who have to deal with the age-lying problem. I've been told to lie about my age when I sign up for an online service.

"I don't look, act or dress my age-61. But it's amazing how many men, even those much older than me, don't want anything to do with a 61-year-old woman. I can run circles around guys my age and older-a few younger ones too."

Jeanne #2 said, "Lying about your age is not a big deal and she over-reacted due to a bigger problem, or she just wasn't that into him in the first place."

E defended stretching one's age: "Lying about my age was a defensive move. At the urging of a younger male friend who doesn't care about my age, I published my real age on dating.com. You can't imagine how humiliating it is to get responses from much older, sedentary, uneducated men who think that being an older woman (65) means I'm on a dating website out of desperation. They wanted a woman who is 'experienced sexually.' It's disgusting."

"Lying about your age by one year is not a serious mistake. When I was registered with Match.com, I met guys who took 10 years off their age. That was too much," said Jennifer.

Larry said, "What in the hell does one year matter? He is lucky to disassociate himself from this extreme woman."

SS was direct: "She's a nut case. The same thing happened to me with a man I met online. He called me a liar and tried to make me feel inferior because I listed my age as 53 instead of 55. He was a 'wacko' who preys on 'nice women.' Herb should be glad she won't see him again."

Joan thinks they were both dysfunctional: "That woman has a screw loose. He has a screw loose also, for actually showing her his wallet, and after only one week.

Peggy said, "Herb got a lucky break with the one who got away. She has trust issues and needs a shrink."

A few people, including Sarah, raised this question: "Why would he want to be with a woman who intimidates him to the point he is fearful?"

Mason agreed. "Why would you want a woman who was constantly suspicious of you every time you had a legitimate business meeting or just wanted to go out with your buddies for a drink?"

One of our members dated a widower who said he was 59. He slipped about his age a few times so when she had a chance to sneak a peek at his driver's license she did and found he was 64. They no longer speak, but she's going to send him a "Happy 65th" birthday card.

Mary said, "Age 41 isn't bad; just wait until it's 61 or 65."

One of our members living in Washington State, took a different view, "Only his first lie was accidental. The others were deliberate and show his inclination to not be a truth-telling person. His explanation falls short of being believable. Honesty is the best policy and if a mistake is made, the mistake should be corrected immediately."

In Summary

  • More than 90 percent of our readers feel that stretching one's age by 2-3 years is no big deal
  • Women feel they need to do so just to have a chance in Internet dating
  • Most of you felt the woman was controlling, extreme and Herb was lucky to get away from her. Plus, she used the lying about age issue as an excuse to breakup (after a romp in the sack)
  • To a lesser extent, some felt Herb was a wimp also. He shouldn't have produced his wallet for her
  • In age 50-plus dating, age should be less important than other more significant factors

Love in rural areas

Last week, we wrote about Gretchen who moved from Atlanta to a small farming community in the Midwest to be near her daughter. But, she isn't meeting any men. Many of you responded with sage advice.

Two women named Joan responded. The first Joan said, "If you want to find a mate, move back to Atlanta and spend your money flying out to see your daughter. That would give you an opportunity to find active singles groups who travel the world and share all kinds of interests."

Cydne emailed, "The idea that this woman will move away from where she is now just to meet a man is next to zero. She should attend church functions. The best strategy is to befriend people. Once they know you're looking, they will be more than happy to play matchmaker."

Donna had questions for Gretchen. "How far away is the nearest big city? What kind of volunteer opportunities are there in her area? Why did she stop riding the motorcycle? Would she consider cultivating an interest in gardening? Farmers are good men and women; they appreciate people who share their interests. A willingness to venture out of one's comfort zone can go a long way."

One Midwesterner (Michigan), Mary Ann, said, "As a life-long resident of a rural/small-town area, I know what Gretchen means by 'all marrieds.' But if she searches beneath the surface, there are always a few singles lurking. Recently divorced after 30 years, widowed recently, newcomers, etc., or, as in my case, a few towns away. Maybe her writing skills need a bit of work, too. A good extension course in speaking/creative writing might help."

Jennifer said, "Gretchen should consider moving to a more densely populated area, where the concentration of singles is great. Rural singles, once they reach adulthood, tend to leave their small towns and migrate to cities. She should take short trips to her state capitol or other large cities in her state, just to explore and see what they're like.

If she moved to a city in her state, she would have a wider social life, and still be fairly close to her daughter. If she relocates, I would advise her to build in some sort of daily structured activity into her day, such as working part-time, attending school or volunteering. Structured activities will help prevent her from feeling or becoming isolated."

Two women empathized with Gretchen's Internet frustrations. Jan said, "This newsletter hit me right where it hurts. When it comes down to meeting men online, even when they're in your same town, they usually chicken out of the meeting. I met two online. One disappeared after numerous phone calls and two meetings. The other one wasn't interested in me."

Jeanne, over 60, said, "I'm around Gretchen's age, pretty, vital, in shape, lots of fun, intelligent, etc. I've had no luck on the Internet. Some disappear when I think, 'yes, this might be someone I'd like to meet.' The ones I've met (in person) have little appeal generally.

"If you are a good-looking woman, many men 'hit' on your ad based on looks alone, and when the dialogue starts, you find out they have read nothing about you and you find out they are definitely not a match."

The second Joan, 64, wrote: "Many of us are 'pre-programmed' into thinking that we MUST be in a relationship, or have a permanent love partner, or be a couple, before the world has value for us. I've come to realize that it may be only the 'pre-programmed' traditional thinking that keeps us believing this is what we want. It's OK to be single." She feels Gretchen should stop worrying about meeting a man, that the having-a-mate goal shouldn't be the end-all, be-all, for singles.

"Many over 50 singles are quite happy being single, even men. Once you've been through a couple of marriages, or even a very long-term marriage, or even widowed-and you've gotten over the first year or two-it may begin to dawn on you, that there are certain advantages about being single," Joan said.

The advantages to which she's referring: "Having your own place, your own space, coming and going as you please. You're kids are out of the nest, and maybe, for the first time in your life, your only true responsibility is to yourself."

Joan added that most over-50 singles have paid their dues. "It's ok to put your life first and your personal responsibility is to make yourself happy first. That may or may not lead to sharing your life/space/place with a love partner. It's OK to be single!"

One thing that wasn't mentioned: Some singles who desperately want a mate end up finding one. But, they rush into relationships too soon, move in together, or get married, and then soon discover they were much happier and better off being single. They got what they wanted, but now they don't want it, thereby moving from one quandary to a new quandary.

From all of this, one thing is certain. Single life over 50 can be confusing, whether you live in the rural Midwest or in the heart of Atlanta.

Degree of Dishonesty

Does a small fib warrant a breakup?

The man who shared his story asked to remain anonymous so we’ll call him Herb. His saga begins on a barstool, where he met a woman. They got along well and decided to date. During the course of the conversation, she casually asked, “How old are you?” He said, “40.”

In reality, Herb had turned 41 a month earlier, but didn’t mention that to her. He later explained to me that since he’d been single for several years, he hardly kept track of his birthdays anymore and didn’t give it a second thought when he fudged his age by a month.

A week into the relationship she asked to see his wallet. Herb said, “I hesitated, not because of my date of birth, but because of the picture on my driver’s license. Instead, I showed her the rest of my wallet including my voter registration card that had my DOB on it.”

Herb said the relationship grew and was “great, despite a few hindrances,” which they managed to work through. “Two months into it we planned on taking a vacation, talked about marriage and kids in the future. All was well.”

That’s a pretty good track record for having met on a barstool. But—and there’s always that “but” in developing relationships—things changed.

Herb said, “One night at dinner she asked point blank how old I would turn this year. I am an honest person, but because I didn't think it was a big deal, I said 41.

“I got scared as I love her and didn’t know how to tell her the truth, if doing so would make me lose her. So I explained that I turned 41 but technically completed 40 as per my culture. I was being honest there. She got upset and wanted a straight answer as she is an attorney.”

She started aggressively interrogating poor Herb, who said, “I got more nervous, scared and embarrassed as I don’t lie and I had never lied to her (well, except that first night and again on the most recent night). I clarified and tried to tell her I’m not a liar and that I had no malice and gave her all the explanations. She forgave me and we went home and had a great evening.”

Whew! I thought Herb had blown it. That they had a “great” evening was a relief. Sounds like Herb saved the relationship—at least for that one night.

Herb continued: “The next day she started getting distant; I didn’t know why. By the weekend, she avoided contact with me. Then she called and said she wasn’t comfortable with the relationship and wanted to break up because I lied. I was in shock and begged her with the same explanation, that I didn’t think it was a big deal. I was embarrassed, scared and nervous.

“She said my not showing her the driver’s license and stating that my last birthday was my 40th were more lies. She was building a case against me like a lawyer as if I was a defendant on trial.

“She said she’d had a bad experience in a past relationship and had decided that if the next person lied, she’d walk out. No exceptions. I am trying to reason with her but she has already pronounced me guilty. What can I do?”

Herb mentioned that she’s not communicating with him. He feels his character is being judged by the incident and it’s not fair. He’s a hardworking, honest guy and this was an unintentional mistake; he didn’t tell her the truth because he feared he’d lose her.

He added, “Her excuse is that if I can lie about this petty thing, then I can lie about anything, but that's not true. She is walking out of a good relationship.

“I ran into her last night and tried to make conversation but she avoided me and then she told my buddy how upset she was and that it was over because I had lied. It was not about me being 40 or 41 but the fact when she caught me I did not come clean and squirmed around.”

Herb said, “How can someone who was a week ago in bed asking me to give her kids one day, not even talk?”

What we don’t know as outsiders is whether she called off the relationship because of Herb’s lie or if she just used that as an excuse. They both sound a bit dysfunctional, with her demanding to see his wallet and with him not wanting her to see his driver’s license picture.

This is another “case” for singles to always be honest.

Finding love in retirement communities

A woman conducting research for an online magazine wanted to know if romance is easier to find in retirement communities. She said single women in those communities complain that there aren’t enough eligible single men. Here are four questions Linda Fullerton Hersey asked about retirement community romance, and my responses.

“What advice can you offer to women who are widowed/divorced/single on their chances of meeting an eligible man later in life? Are the odds against them?”

The odds are tough, but not only in retirement communities. According to the 2000 Census, the ratio of single women to single men at age 50 is about one-to-one. But, as people progress in age, the number of single women starts to exceed the number of single men. By age 60, the ratio is close to three-to- one. By age 70, it’s closer to five-to-one. Beyond that, the ratios hit double figures. And women are quick to point out that not all single available men are relationship material, making the true ratios even wider.

“What advice do you offer men who suddenly find they are sought after in a retirement community where there is little competition and a lot of eligible ladies?”

I tell them to be careful for what they wish, because if it’s a mate they seek, they will find her. But then, will they be happy? Seventy percent of second and third marriages end in divorce.

I also remind them that because they’re in demand doesn’t give them license to be jerks or to treat women poorly. They need to stay grounded, humble and present a groomed appearance. Women won’t tolerate older gents with attitudes of grandeur.

“Some women who previously were married for many years have had traditional relationships with men, and are not used to asserting themselves. What advice can you offer them in trying to re-enter the social scene?”

One thing hasn’t changed: the need to be a lady. However, it’s not only ok, but wise, for women to be assertive—not aggressive—in asking a single man to have coffee or to an event to which she holds an extra ticket.

When the opportunity presents itself to say “hello” to a desirable stranger, a woman can improve her chances of finding romance by being friendly.

“Is it easier to find romance in a retirement community, where there are a lot of social activities?”

Probably not, due to the unfavorable ratios cited above. Activities often have 15 women to one man, the competition is too great. But, it’s certainly easier to make friends and get involved in activities in a retirement community, but the new friends are generally other women.

To improve one’s chances of finding romance, a woman needs to participate in activities away from the retirement community, particularly those that interest men. Golf, boating, auto racing or dong volunteer work with a charity such as Habitat for Humanity or Hospice are places to start.

Overall, the chances for single women to find romance in a retirement community aren’t likely any better than in non-retirement communities.

The important thing for older singles: Get out of the house, meet new people, make new friends and when you least expect to find romance, that’s the time a new mate finds you.

Desperate: The bizarre world of Internet dating

A woman we’ll call Jane is a little embarrassed. She shared her story but added, "Don't use my name, location, or email address." After reading this, you’ll understand why she wants to be anonymous.

Jane said, "I fell in love with a man online. He said all of the right words. Made me feel beautiful and loved. We could talk on the phone for hours.”

Jane said that whenever they would schedule a date to meet face-to-face, he would break the date. It happened many times, but still, she kept hoping they'd get together. “I mailed him cards on and off,” she said.

"You'd think I'd give up each time, but he'd come back crying that he loved me and we were meant to be together. So I believed him and gave him another chance." He told Jane he bought a house for them to share.

Jane emailed me in early January, saying, “I gave myself to the end of 2006 for him to come through, but he never did.

"I miss him. Or so I think I do, or maybe I miss the idea of thinking I was in love. I hoped I'd found Mr. Right. That he could fall in love with someone like me. I'm a plain Jane and he was a gorgeous man."

And here's where the story gets bizarre, sad actually.

I asked her for how long she’d been communicating with him, expecting to hear a few months at most. Not many women would tolerate false promises for longer than that.

Jane, who is 43, has been emailing her Mr. Right for nine years. That’s correct, for nine years, since she was 34.

I asked, “How old is he?”

“Twenty-six,” she answered. “He was 18 when we started emailing. Within time, I fell for him. Maybe it was just me needing to help him since he seemed so troubled.”

She said a year ago, she wrote to the address he had given her, but addressed the letter to his aunt, with whom he said he’d been living. “I wrote my phone number in my letter asking her to call me. Well, she did and told me there was no one who lived there by his name.”

Jane explained the conversation with the aunt. “I told her everything he had told me about her and her family. She freaked out because I knew so much. Turns out her daughter knew him and was feeding him all the information about her family. He would tell me about it as if it was his own family. He’s a foster child, or so he says, and has no family. He created a loving family by using the family of a friend.”

Eventually, he admitted to Jane that he’d been living with his girlfriend for two years. Jane lived 50 miles away from him. “I never went to his place of residence although I did drive there a few times. I’d call ahead letting him know I’d be there. Out of respect, I never got out of the car.”

Out of respect? He played a game with her for nine years and she didn’t knock on his door? Obviously, she has little self-respect. And my gosh, meeting him would have given her closure.

Jane said she misses him, but knows she must move forward.

For nine years, this woman was in love with an image. She never saw him, only photos that might or might not have been pictures of him.

It amazes me to think that someone could waste nine years, and prime years at that, loving an image.

If you meet someone on the Internet who you think has promise, insist on meeting in person before investing much of your precious time.

Midwestern woman rants

This email from a woman named Gretchen arrived in my inbox this week. I've taken the liberty to edit it because it was poorly written and hard to understand. But I've included it as the topic of this week's newsletter because the problems Gretchen faces affect women all over the United States.

Gretchen wrote: "I'm 63 but very upbeat. Until two years ago was riding my ex's Harley. I've been told I look very young, slim and look after myself. Weigh 123 pounds.

I practice Chi Kung tai chi, love to laugh and try not to discuss my exe's unless asked. I have joined a couple of personals single sites and have had numerous hits. I answer all and try to be truthful. I've had a lot of communication even on the phone where men say, "You're great. We need to meet."

After two years, it has never happened and I see the guys still on the sites who ignore us now. I've talked to many women who are starting to wonder, 'Is it all a game? The men don't really want to commit and just sit home and play.'

"I live in a town of 3,000, mostly married people, in an all-farm community. Moved to midwest four years ago from Atlanta after my divorce to be close to my daughter and her husband. I'm Scottish and still have my accent, moved to the USA in 1985. The guys love the accent and always say they are dying to meet, but don't.

Not desperate but wouldn't it be nice to meet a nice person to have a relationship with. Some guys ignore you for eight months and then say hello, they were dating someone and it didn't work out.

"Can you advise us what to do next? The Ya Ya sisterhood ladies need some honest male advice, as we are starting to give up on personals online."

Tom's comments

The first thing that jumps out is that Gretchen moved from Atlanta, a major city with lots of singles, to a farm community of 3,000 with no singles. She did that to be near her daughter. The problem is, by doing so, she's cut herself off from potential dates, except for those she can meet on the Internet. When singles are thinking of relocating--and yet meeting a mate is a priority for them--they need to consider if there are singles who live where they are moving.

The second thing is Internet dating. If someone has tried meeting a mate on the Internet for two years with zero success and lots of disappointment, at some point, that person should admit that the Internet may not be right for them. Why waste so much time being frustrated, meeting jerks and duds?

I know I preach to never give up hope. But, singles need to re-evaluate strategies if after an extended period of time, what they are doing isn't working.

The only advice I can give to Gretchen is to consider moving back to Atlanta or to a city where there are at least activities where singles can go. Sounds like activities for her aren't available in her small Midwestern town.

If you have advice for her, email it to me.

Visiting Too Many Bars

Last week, I asked for your opinion about the Orange County, CA woman who had been on 50 dates, visited every bar in OC, and got bored with all of the men after two or three dates. Fifty of you responded with great emails, many of which will be featured in today's newsletter. Thanks for participating.

Vincent, who resides in Puerto Rico, wrote, "She is the one who turns the guys away, lots of us still work and cannot take off for a week to go places every three months. If she said this to me on the first or second date, I'd be gone too!!"

Francesca emailed, "Most 45-55-year-old rich Mr. Wonderfuls are, unfortunately, not looking for a nearly-50 partner. The sad truth is these these men are generally shopping in the 28-to-35-year-old market where a woman of 48 cannot compete, no matter how many "procedures" she's had. She's too self-absorbed.

Barbara said, "The lady is trying too hard (many of you said that). She should find ways to enjoy herself with friends. Usually, when you are enjoying yourself and doing things you enjoy, when you least expect it, you find someone wonderful." Katy wrote, "She sounds very high maintenance to me. She's looking for someone to meet her needs and take care of her every whim."

The usually outspoken George, from Arkansas, didn't disappoint: "Looking for the myth of Mr. Wonderful is a textbook case of hubris. There is no help for this women. People are always interested in what another can provide for them and never mention what they can do for someone else. It's better known as a lack of humility."

Yolanda suggested, "I think she sabotages every possible relationship because she is afraid to be in a relationship. She needs to see a therapist."

Another woman, Cari, suggested she take a break from dating. "She's putting way too much pressure on herself, especially with the freaking-out over that 50th birthday."

"That chick needs a readjustment in attitude," said Bobbie.

I'm glad the men responded. Richard wrote, "The lady seeking Mr. Wonderful has described a man who pretty much as everything he needs to be content with himself and to be highly desired by the general female population. If she is to cause him to want her for his own, permanent, exclusive partner, then she has to offer something that isn't available anywhere else."

Pam emailed, "She sounds desperate, and quite in love with herself. I'm sure men can sense her self love and desperation. Who wants that?

Kitty didn't mince words, regarding scouring the bars searching for Mr. Wonderful, "If you go to a pig farm expect some stink. I bought some dogs for companionship and called it (dating) a day."

Again, thanks to all who took the time to email. So much great material came in, I will likely use some of it in other columns. You are a remarkable group of individuals.

Where is Mr. Wonderful?

I need your help with today’s story. What would you tell this woman who is 48 and considers herself to be “a tall, attractive and intelligent blonde, educated with a quick wit and an outrageous sense of humor?” Here’s additional background information she provided.

“I have been single for 15 years, raising kids. Now they are grown. I’ve had my profile on match.com for two years. I have gone on over 50 dates with many quality men, but no one interests me for longer than two or three dates.

What is wrong with me? I have done speed dating, dinner dating, lunch dating, sporting events, matchmaker-for-a-fee dating, hung out at every bar in Orange County and have no trouble meeting men. I just seem to be bored by them. Is it possible to be single for too long? Any suggestions for meeting SINCERE men? I am beginning to think men want very simple and non-challenging women for partners.”

Based on the above information, I didn’t come up with much, other than to tell her not to settle for a man who doesn’t meet her expectations. And I didn't think being single for 15 years was a problem, that she was better off being single and unhappy than in a relationship and unhappy. I asked, “What are you looking for in a man?”

She said, “I am in search of an intelligent, sincere, grounded, successful, spontaneous and fun partner. Men who work a 40-hour week with two weeks vacation a year just don’t interest or attract me. I like to take a great trip one week every three months.”

Perhaps the above paragraph gives a clue to the problem. Many single men I know are intelligent, sincere, grounded, successful, spontaneous and fun. But they wouldn’t qualify because they work a hell of a lot more than 40 hours a week and are lucky to get one great trip in every few years.

Men don’t want women who are challenging. Life and work are challenging enough. Men want women who are easy to be with—loving, kind, caring, sensitive and interesting (as opposed to challenging)— and who are friends.

Sounds like she needs to get a rich guy who is also Mr. Wonderful. And maybe the ones she’s met haven’t thought she was as attractive, intelligent or quick-witted as she thinks. She sounds so “Orange County” to me.

Since she's been in "every bar in Orange County," perhaps she's trying too hard. The vision of her on all of those barstools isn't a pretty picture.

She’s starting to feel the pressure of nearing 50. “The idea of dating in my 50’s scares me to death, as no matter how well you take care of yourself, or how many medical procedures you have, 50 is still 50.”

Maybe when she hits 50, she’ll drop the materialistic requirements she’s looking for and settle for just an intelligent, sincere, grounded, successful and fun guy instead of one who can take a great trip every three months. Also, if she's had cosmetic procedures, more of them aren't the answer either.

Can you help this poor woman? I’ve run out of suggestions for her. What advice would you give?

Change the bed, not just the sheets

Far Too Creepy

Sometimes it’s best to replace the bed, and not just change the sheets.

Today we open with a bedroom-related question for women: If you were dating a widower, could you sleep in the same bed where his wife had died? That is the concern of a 52-year-old divorced woman who asked for advice.

I appreciate her forthrightness. Perhaps the answers presented here today will help women (and men) who are dating widowed people. It could even help the widowed people themselves. So thanks to her.

She wrote, “Ten weeks ago I met a very nice 59-year-old man whose wife passed away 27 months ago. He has most of the qualities I seek in someone for that possible serious relationship, maybe marriage. He was married 35 years and adored his wife. Because of that, I have suggested we move along slowly as I want to be sure he has healed from the sudden passing of his former wife (he says he has). We have a lot of fun, we get along great and the relationship is beginning to get very sexual.”

So far, the relationship sounds normal. Two people date, they enjoy each other, and physical attraction blooms. That’s what’s supposed to happen with progressing relationships. But there’s a twist to this woman’s situation.

She said, “He has started to ask me to stay nights over at his house in the city where his wife died in her sleep—in their marital bed—from a heart attack at age 55. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable just to be at his house knowing his wife died there. There is no way I could sleep on the same bed his wife died on, far too creepy for me. I don't know how to approach this with him without hurting his feelings.”

She explained that they’ve spent a couple of nights together at a vacation cabin he owns. She’s afraid he will think it odd if she doesn’t also stay at his city home.

I told her to be honest with him, to tell him she respects his dignity and the dignity of his deceased wife, and that she would not feel comfortable sleeping in the bed. And to also tell him she cares for him a great deal and hopes he understands. “That is the only way to handle it because you admit there is no way you could sleep in that bed,” I added.

Three weeks later she wrote: “I took your advice and talked to my new friend and he totally agreed with me. It bothered him as well. He plans to order a new bed and said that if our relationship evolved into a serious one, marriage, he would sell that house and would want to get a house together.”

Sounds like her fears were his fears. Difficult situations are best resolved with honesty. It’s the easiest—and wisest—path to follow.

This situation could be reversed. A man could be dating a widow and face the same situation, so it works both ways.

Where are the men?

Today we address the question I'm asked the most, which seems to come up on a weekly basis: where are the men?

Diane asked, “If I buy and purchase your newsletter, will I find the man that I have been looking for, for a long time? I’m almost ready to stop looking.”

Susie wrote, “We are a group of women, mid-50s, who live in the north Oklahoma City area. We would like to form a group of active men and women in this age range to have dinner parties with, go out to dinner, take trips together, etc. How do we go about forming this group? I know plenty of women who would be interested, but how do we find the men?”

One of the reasons I started the personal ad test featuring men in this newsletter was to help introduce available single men. Our hope is that a few of our members will get together and wouldn’t it be great if some became couples. Granted, there are more women than men among our subscribers so not everyone will meet a mate. But it’s a start on addressing the shortage-of-men issue.

My reply to Diane: “I have no idea whether you’ll meet a man because of this newsletter, it depends on what you do with the information. Perhaps you’re looking too hard. When singles do that, they come off as desperate. If I could guarantee that you and all women subscribers would meet a man, I’d be one happy dude.”

And for Susie and the women of north Oklahoma City, how do they find men there? I can't help them much, other than to share some of my thoughts. As I’ve often said, there is no place in the USA, at least that I’m aware of, where single men our age go to hang out to meet single women our age. I’m sure Oklahoma City is no exception.

The women there need to get out and pursue hobbies and activities they personally enjoy. They need to do their own research on where the men are locally for them. That’s the best way to meet men, much better than via “singles functions,” where the ratio of single women to single men is often 10-to-1 or more. “Singles functions” for people our age are difficult places for women to meet men. Still, they can be fun social events, just don't go to them expecting or hoping to meet men.

The easiest way for Susie and her north Oklahoma City friends to form a group is via Yahoo! Groups. This free service of Yahoo! makes it possible for people to form groups varying in size from one person to thousands. Go to http://groups.yahoo.com and form your own group, and then invite men to join.

Heck, we even have our own Yahoo group. I checked yesterday and see that there are some 413 members who have posted more than 10,300 messages in the last couple of years. Go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Tomscolumn (or simply click on the link below). People can post messages and photos and easily stay in contact with each other. If you join, I strongly advise under "mail options" you check "no email." If you don’t, you will receive every message posted. Your email inbox will be filled to the brim and you'll be crying "help," so be warned about that.

For women, meeting single men is all about connecting (and perhaps a little luck or good fortune). Gina, Long Beach, Ca., tried several Internet matching services with limited success. “Once I made up my mind to stop looking, and I began working on being the best person I could be, I opened the door to many quality relationships and opportunities. I have developed an extraordinary social life since I stopped ‘looking.’”

How did Gina accomplish this? She heard on the radio about a business opportunity that appealed to her. She signed up, and then through a small business she created, (www.wellnessenthusiast.com), she’s improved herself by getting very trim, and she’s met many wonderful people along the way, including interesting men. A double-win situation for her.

(Note from Tom: I'm not suggesting Gina's business opportunity is right for any of you, I just pointing out how she found her niche and along with it she's meeting nice men. By having similar outside interests, you could improve your chances of meeting men also.)

Another of our members is June—“a young 66”— who lives in southern California. She explains how she connects with people. “I live in Leisure World and older men residents seem to want to be friendly with me. I am platonic friends with two 79-year-old men. However, the majority of my social circle is outside of Leisure World.”

To get connected, singles need to get out and get involved in something. They need to develop their own social circles, as June and Gina have done. It takes work and effort, as both of these women have experienced.

The question, “Where are the men?” has no simple answer. Women who want meeting men to be easy will continue to be disappointed; women who create a life for themselves with outside interests will have a far better chance of finding that elusive guy.

Fear of leaving a bad relationship

When marriages crumble, there are always two sides to the story. In today’s column, we hear of only the wife’s side about being stuck in an unhappy second marriage.

Before men blast off emails of protest for not giving equal time to her husband, let me say we are not passing judgment on the husband. He could be a wonderful guy and he'd likely have a far different version of this story.

What’s important today is the message at the end of the column that applies to all women in relationships, whether married or otherwise.

Trapped by fear in a second marriage

When marriages crumble, there are always two sides to the story. In today’s column, we hear of only the wife’s side about being stuck in an unhappy second marriage.

Before men blast off emails of protest for not giving equal time to her husband, let me say we are not passing judgment on the husband. He could be a wonderful guy and he'd likely have a far different version of this story.

What’s important today is the message at the end of the column that applies to all women in relationships, whether married or otherwise.

A wife, in her late 40s, emailed: “I’ve been in a marriage for 15 years: we haven’t had sex for four years. I am so alone and ready to end this relationship. I am ready to have love in my life and to live again. I am tired of living in a dead and buried marriage.” Then, she elaborated on four things that are wrong, focusing mainly on her husband:

  • “When he is home, he is glued to the TV and purposely seems to ignore me. He is unaffectionate and has always seemed uncomfortable with affection, and has lacked confidence in his sexual abilities
  • His mother is extremely controlling and has always hated me and never permitted me or my children to come to her house
  • I have gone through years of pain and loneliness living with a depressed passive- aggressive workaholic who shows one face in public and another in private

I asked why she had stayed in such an unhappy marriage.

Her reply: “I have never had financial security and it has always been a source of fear in my life and in this relationship. Because we have no common goals and have had no common financial goals, I have always been in fear."

What’s she going to do about her situation?

“I am investing in school and a way to give myself a financial floor to stand on. I would just like a chance to find out what I want and build a life that I picture for myself. That doesn't necessarily mean a relationship with anyone. I need a relationship with myself and to explore my new career. I would like to make some new friends as well.

“I love him but you can't change another person. If someone wants to cut their own nose off to spite their own face and you are married to them, they are cutting your nose off too. It is impossible to deal with a stubborn, passive-aggressive man."

There’s a lesson in today’s column

It applies to all women in marriages and relationships. Easier said than done, but women should not allow themselves to become completely dependent on men for financial security. They should never become so paralyzed by or locked into a situation that fear forces them to stay--fear of not being to make it on their own, fear of not finding another mate, fear of any kind-- when they’d be better off leaving.

I respect and admire wives and women in relationships who prepare themselves to be on their own should something negative happen to the relationship they’re in. Some go back to school, others back to work, and others attend educational seminars. It's important for women to have a life outside of their relationship, with women friends and involvement in activities and hobbies they enjoy. Doing so likely makes their marriage or relationship even stronger. It is, in effect, preparing one’s self to be single, if, God forbid, that ever happens.

Had this woman been better prepared, she would have said “adios” to a stifling marriage years ago, instead of it now being, “five years later.”

And as I stated upfront, there are two sides to every story. I wasn’t picking on the husband. Very few men act the way he allegedly did.

New Year's Eve

Last week we wrote about the woman who was rude when I responded to her comments about what to do on New Year's Eve. Several of you emailed; I wanted to share some of your comments.

First, to those pertaining to the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.

Bobbi wrote, "I think that was a pretty fun suggestion you gave her (to attend the Rose Parade). If I lived closer, I would grab some friends and go watch the Parade. I heard from one girlfriend who actually met a guy while sitting on the sidewalk waiting for the Parade. You never know where you might meet someone.

Comment from Tom: Bobbi's last sentence above is hugely important for mid-life and older singles who would like to have a mate. Getting out and doing things is half of the battle. Being friendly and positive is the other half.

Now, back to Bobbi's comments. "My New Year's Eve? Several of us go to the British Pub in San Diego at 4 p.m. to celebrate. It's New Years in England at that hour so we get to celebrate early and then we go back to our sailboat nearby for the rest of the night. No drinking and driving at night with all of the crazies.

R wrote, "I went once to the Parade, it's a lovely way to spend New Years. That woman's remark was so ungrateful it was ridiculous. I love the idea of seeing New Year's Eve at home. My hubby and I stay home, we love seeing the ball in New York come down, and don't want to be out where people are drinking."

Another comment from Tom: I'll be in Pasadena on New Year's Day, not to see the Rose Parade, which I've seen twice in person. But to attend the Rose Bowl game between Michigan and USC. I'm a graduate of Michigan, so you can guess for whom I'll be cheering. It will be a fun event. My brother and his son are flying in from Dallas to go with my partner Greta and me.

For those of you who live far away, it's a beautiful spectacle to watch on television. Why not plan to attend next year? By the way, the weather is forecast to be 72 degrees with partly cloudy conditions. Another So Cal Chamber of Commerce Jan. 1.

Other comments from our subscribers from last week: Lee wrote, "I'm at the point where I'm comfortable with my own company if need be, and still cherish evenings alone. If I had to spend New Year's Eve alone (actually did three years ago and dragged myself to a concert), it's not a big deal. Here in Portland, Ore., someone has started a 'Baby Boomers' Dance night once a month in one of the hotels. I hear up to 300 or so people show up. Perhaps other cities should start this."

Robin, Hernando, Mississippi, a former Sountern California resident, wrote, "I found quite a number of folks from the Southern, CA region, who think that the world should entertain them and revolve around them. Thank heavens not all were or are of that selfish persuasion."

Carlene, Honolulu, shared, "I'm headed to a local dance venue because I want to bring in 'double007' dancing the night away. I don't have a date, but will have lots of good partners and l like the band. Met new friends there last year and went to Australia to visit them this year!"

Men personal ads come under microscope

Last week we introduced a test by placing a brief personal ad of Len, an 82-year-old widower, in this newsletter. We did that in response to many women wanting to know how to reach single men. Thanks to those who took the time to comment.

Our purpose: to introduce as many single men as possible who are willing to place a personal ad. Maybe some of our readers will hook up and wouldn’t that be great. I’m not a dating service, doing stuff like providing a list of compatibility items or detailed descriptions like what book someone is reading. Sharing that info will be up to the people involved. In most cases, we will provide the man’s email address so if you’re interested in someone, you can send them a simple email. This won’t waste a lot of time as one of our readers warned about below.

This test feature must be fun and helpful, if not, we'll drop it like a hot rock.

And I have no control over how many men will step forward, where they live or whether they own a car, a bank, a vacation home in Hawaii or even drive at night. Photos aren’t required, but they’re optional. I encourage other men to email me with their personal ads.

As with anything new, the reactions from members were varied. Some positive, some negative. Enough of the latter that this experiment may be short-lived. Some women in their 50s and 60s complained I didn’t provide enough information about Len. I thought that he being 82 and located in southern California was enough information for them to decide not to contact him.

I’m the one who made the decision not to put Len’s phone number in the newsletter. I didn’t want him bombarded with phone calls from women living far away because that wouldn’t have worked for either party.

Some of the negative comments:

One woman unloaded on me, saying I hadn’t done enough and accused me of being too concerned about money. I guess she didn’t understand that this new feature was free, that I was just trying to bring lonely folks together.

Another woman wrote, “Your decision to experiment with a singles ad is adventurous. But to help your friend find a match, you would need to provide more information about him. It’s a waste of everybody’s time (and a disappointment) to introduce people who are obvious mis-matches.” She added that the info I provided was not enough to pique anyone’s interest, which proved not to be true.

Julie wrote, “Len sounds like a ‘peach’ any woman would love to meet. NOT! He’s an 82-year-old guy who can’t drive, can’t communicate by e-mail and won’t even guarantee he’ll call a woman who takes time to express interest. Sounds to me like he could use a nurse/companion, not a personal ad in your column. I bet you get a lot of flak on this one.”

I suggested Julie “lighten up,” telling her I’ve met Len and believe me, many women in their 60s won’t keep up with him. Oh, and Len does drive, he just doesn’t like to tool around on our southern California freeways. He happens to own a big-rig trucking company and often makes cross-country hauls with himself behind the wheel.

Diane said the information I provided was “limited and a little discouraging, and added, “I suggest using a few positive enticements.” Diane’s right, I forgot to mention Len’s multi-millionaire status, but I wanted women to be interested in him as a person and not his wealth. He's a little like Howard Hughes in that he carries things of value in a paper bag, gifts, you name it, and is quite modest.

Some of the positive comments:

One reader who is in a sorority alumni group wrote that she knows 5 very nice ladies who are widowed and live within 45 minutes of Anaheim. Some of them will be speaking with Len on the telephone, I assure you.

Liz said, “Since Len is confining his search to his geographical area, perhaps you could encourage a Midwestern (how about Central Illinois) gentleman to place an ad. I’m 65 and young at heart and have been single far too long. Heck, even if he’s not from Central Illinois but willing to travel, so am I.”

Note to Liz: I hope men from all over the country respond, but I’m not sure they will, that’s up to them and out of our control. This week’s man lives near Detroit, Michigan. At least he doesn’t ride a bus, he tools around on his Harley and digs Bob Seger music, as I do.

Frances, a 78-year-old widow, who lives a few miles from Len, wasn’t concerned with anything else about him other than his phone number. Smart woman.

And one of our new readers wasted no time asking for more information. She took the initiative to speak with Len (she requested his phone number from me). They had dinner together because they don’t like to eat alone. “He is a very nice, interesting man,” she said. “We decided to play it by ear and if nothing else, we each have made a new friend.” Did they surprise me Tuesday? Sure did, when together they showed up at my Dana Point, Calif., deli. Yup, they had taken the bus together.

So, there you have it. Let’s keep in mind what we’re trying to accomplish here—introducing a few of our readers to each other. Again, it may work, it may not. But I don’t know of any other newsletter for older singles willing to try something like this. As always, you’re comments and stories are appreciated.

© 2007, Tom Blake

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