By Tom Blake
Today’s column begins my 23rd year of writing about finding love after 50. My first column appeared on July 4, 1994, in a local Dana Point newspaper.
Back then I wasn’t a writer, just a guy who owned Tutor and Spunky’s, a Dana Point deli. On Christmas Eve, 1993, my life changed dramatically when my wife of six years—without informing me of her intentions—cleaned out the house and moved away. I was so surprised and shocked that I started keeping a journal to try to gather my thoughts.
Shortly thereafter, an unknown man came into the deli during lunchtime, and said, “Are you Tom Blake?” I smiled and said yes, thinking we had a new customer. He handed me an envelope, saying, “You are being served with divorce papers.” Soon, I became single, free to date again. I added the events of each day to my journal.
I thought mid-life dating was going to be easy. After all, I owned a deli where lots of attractive women came in for lunch, many of them half my age or less.
I quickly discovered that South Orange County women had no interest in dating a newly divorced, 53-year-old guy, who was bitter at how the divorce gods had treated him. With every failed dating experience, I added to the journal.
After six months, my journal had grown to more than 100 pages. I converted it to a short story. I naively queried Playboy, Esquire and the New York Times, thinking they might be interested in a story about a divorced man’s dating woes.
Eventually, two women editors of the Dana Point paper agreed to review my material. They felt that single women in Southern California would have a field day belittling my woe-is-me, feeling-sorry-for-myself, age-50+, single-guy-can’t-get-a-date saga.
The two editors gave me my first writing opportunity, and they were right. After my initial column, titled, “Home Alone with Only Dogs for Company,” appeared, a woman said: “Who is this sniveling puke?” Another said, “Get the boy a crying towel.” The column soon appeared in 10 local area newspapers and for eight years in the Orange County Register.
In June 1998, I met Greta, my life partner. Women readers told me my writing became less controversial and more palatable after she entered my life.
I’ve written approximately 3,500 articles and newsletters on finding love after 50; writing on this topic has been good to me. I’ve published four books and have been interviewed by Matt Lauer on the Today show and Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America—humbling experiences for a deli guy.
In 2011, Norb Garrett, CEO of Picket Fence Media and publisher of the Dana Point Times, San Clemente Times and The Capistrano Dispatch, invited me to write for his newspapers. In my 23 years of writing, I have never been associated with such a hard-working, friendly and warm group of people.
My writing scope has broadened from finding love after 50 to “On Life and Love after 50,” as older singles deal with personal issues often beyond the scope of just dating and seeking love.
My advice is applicable to people ages 45 to 90. Yes, I do know people in their 90s who have found love.
While my articles target singles, approximately 35 percent of my readers are married. Many tell me that reading about the hardships singles endure encourages them to appreciate their spouses more and to work harder at making their marriages last. My advice to married couples is usually pretty simple: stay together and work out the issues.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from this writing experience: opportunity often arises from adversity, and it’s up to us as individuals to recognize the opportunity and make the best of it, although we may not see or understand it until months or years later.
I enjoy hearing from readers. Your comments, questions and observations are the meat and potatoes that help keep the column ongoing. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond quickly.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. His latest book can be found online at www.smashwords.com/books/view/574810. See his website at www.findingloveafter60.com (Yes, after 60, time rolls on).