Archive for the 'Single Shot' Category

The brutal truth of dating after 50

Here’s an oldie but goodie I wrote for a couple of years ago. I can still relate. Can you?

Dating in your 50s isn’t all that bad. It’s getting naked that’s brutal.

I’m kidding. Sort of. The truth is by the time you turn 50, things do start to happen. And by things, I mean gravity starts to go all “Game of Thrones” on your body. Everything begins to drop, except your blood pressure and cholesterol, and you suddenly understand why Nora Ephron felt bad about her neck.

I feel bad about a lot of things, including the fact that I sometimes feel bad about my body. We’re supposed to love our bodies, embrace our “battle scars.” But I’ve been at war the last three years and I freely admit to having mixed feelings about the woman staring back at me in the mirror.

Read the full story here. Got a tip for dating after 50? Let’s hear it!

New dating apps take ‘less is more’ approach

single shot - candy storeA few years ago, a psychologist at Columbia University by the name of Sheena Iyengar conducted a study on the “tyranny of choice” we face each day by conducting experiments that tempted people with varying amounts of chocolate and fancy jams.

Her conclusion: more choice can actually be worse than less choice. In fact, the more choice her study participants had, the more difficulty they had making up their mind. And when there was too much to choose from, people weren’t as satisfied with the choices they did make.

“The same Godiva chocolate chosen from a set of 30 chocolates is considered to be less delicious than if it is chosen from a set of six,” Iyengar said, summarizing her results. (On a side note, fun study or what?)

How does this apply to online dating? Well, go to any site and you’ll find hundreds – if not thousands – of beautiful strangers looking for a romantic connection. It’s a virtual candy store out there and many of us are hard pressed not to want to nibble on each and every chocolate we see in the window. While some might argue this obsessive sampling is the very essence of dating, others would call it by its proper name: compulsive shopping.

By appealing to our inherently fickle nature, online dating transforms people into commodities and much like any other inanimate object you can order via the web – computers, cell phones, cappuccino makers – upgrading is a snap.

Not surprisingly, many singles have grown tired of the tyranny of choice that exists in the online dating world (You have 496 new matches!) and are opting for dating sites that embrace the “less is more” (or even, Les is more) approach.

Curious? Check out this tech story from that profiles new dating apps that “promise love, not match overload.”

Celebrating the independent life

lady libertyLong ago, in a universe far away, I was married. And when that marriage ended and I moved out on my own for the very first time (I went from living with my family to living with college roommates to living with my husband), I thought I was going to die of loneliness.

I had no one to talk to, no one to snuggle with, and no one who would rub my shoulders when I got home from a long day of typesetting (I told you it was a long time ago). There was also no one to blame for the crumb-covered rug or the leaning tower of cereal bowls in the sink. It was just me. And it stayed just me until I fell in love with a handsome writer five years my junior (scandalous!) and we decided to live together.

Looking back on those times now, I laugh. I had only been on my own for six months – six months! – yet at the time it felt like an eternity. At this point, I’ve lived alone for nearly two decades and while I still have no one to blame but myself for the cereal bowls in the sink, I’ve learned that if my shoulders need rubbing, I can just go get a massage. Or ask one of my buddies for a backrub. Or lie down on my crumb-covered rug with a tennis ball under my aching shoulders. 

In other words, I’ve become much more comfortable with my single self. Why? I talk about some of the reasons in this Single Shot column celebrating independence.

Single Shot: O say, can you see how great living alone can be?

As much fun as it can be to live with a significant other — shared meals, shared laughs, shared love — there’s something pretty spectacular about living on your own.

First off, there’s no one to answer to. You can dance around your living room to bad ’70s rock at 6 in the morning. You can turn your bathroom into a shrine to Carlos Silva. For better or for worse (to borrow a phrase), it’s your show.

Right now, I’m sitting at my kitchen table wearing a vintage Hawaiian skirt and a black hooded sweat shirt. My hair’s pulled into a misshapen bun and I’m wearing two pairs of reading glasses. High fashion, I am not.

In fact, I may not even be hygienic. But that’s the beauty of living alone. You don’t have to worry about scaring a spouse with your haphazard fashion sense. You don’t have to apologize for snoring like a leaf blower. If you use the last drop of half-and-half or leave your dishes in the sink or spend your Saturday reading Mary Roach instead of taking out the recycling, it’s perfectly fine. You could say it’s your unalienable right.

For singles, every day is a celebration of independence.

Click here to read the rest. And Happy Independence Day, fellow singletons!

Navigating the Valentine’s Day dating onslaught

bookworm valentineHappy almost Valentine’s Day, everyone. As usual, the TV, radio and interwebs are lousy with advertisements for flowers, jewelry, candy, cars, and yes, even that horrible chocolate wine. Just as clotted is my long-suffering inbox — with dozens of news releases about potential Valentine’s Day stories.

Interested in relationship advice from a Divorce Court judge? Click here for a link to Judge Lynn Toler’s website (and yes, there’s a book!). Curious as to whether numerology will help you find the love of your life? Yogi “Love by the Numbers” Akal is here to help. Wondering what’s new in digital dating? You might want to ask your phone, since mobile dating apps like Let’s Date are becoming more and more prevalent.

Also prevalent this time of year? Long think pieces about dating, particularly that sweet spot where technology and dating meet. One of the best researched stories I’ve seen on the topic in a while was published last week by the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch. 10 things dating sites won’t tell you: the risks and rewards of looking for love online, by Quentin Fottrell, delves into the rising costs of online dating; the trends (boomers and gay men are growing markets, apparently); the likelihood your potential matches are lying about something (more than 50%); the likelihood your potential matches are married (not so much, adulterers have their own “dating” sites now – hurray!); the ease with which photos can be doctored and tons more.

The author quotes a number of online dating movers and shakers in his piece, including Mark Brooks of the dating industry news site, Online Personals Watch, a great spot to learn what’s hot and what’s not in the world of digital romance. Also tapped, two authors who’ve recently published their own excellent essays (and books) on the topic of love in the time of algorithms. Writer Dan Slater’s piece in The Atlantic, A Million First Dates, asked whether online romance was threatening monogamy (for more on this, check out his book), launching a flurry of responses (yes! no! what, are you nuts?). Amy Webb, author of the new Data, a Love Story: How I Gamed Dating to Meet My Match, has also recently joined the dating advice fray with a story of “reverse-engineering” JDate in order to find her perfect match (click here to read a couple of excerpts on Huffington Post).

Will reading all of these essays help you connect with the person of your dreams? Probably not, although this link might give you some ideas as to how to find them. Reading up on the online dating beast will fill you in on a rapidly-changing industry, though, and perhaps give you something to talk about when you finally decide to share that bottle of chocolate wine. Have a great week, everybody.

Surviving the holiday season as a singleton

brigette jones at christmas

I usually don’t get too down during the holidays because of my single status. One trip to the mall to see couples sniping at each other as they struggle through their monstrous to-do lists usually takes care of that. But I know some of you do get tired of all smarmy jewelry commercials (“He went to Jared!”), the ads for online dating services (“Meet your holiday match!”) and — most of all — the snoopy questions from friends and relatives as to why no one’s stuffing your Christmas stocking this year.

For those who’ve reached critical mass with pitying looks, prying questions, and raised eyebrows after showing up yet again without a plus one, here’s a Single Shot column from a few years ago about how to survive as a single amid a sleigh-ful of couples. Cheers and happy holidays, everybody!

The mistletoe, the music, the unrelenting questions about when you’re finally going to settle down like your sister Sue. Yes, it’s holiday time for singles. To help gird your lonely and/or lascivious loins (consult your family to find out where you stand), I’ve put together a few tips on how to get through this joyous season without cold-cocking someone you love.

When are you going to Merry Christmas?!

Although it has been said that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, you can pretty much count on the fact that your family will start the traditional yuletide interrogation the minute you walk in the door.

“Haaaaaaaaaappy holidating anyone yet?” your mother, your sister-in-law and/or your drunken Uncle Ned will ask before your coat’s even off. “It’s so nice to see you know you’re not getting any younger.”

Don’t let this throw you. (Also, don’t let yourself throw anything at them.) Try to be gracious, upbeat. Steer the conversation back to something more pleasant (and equally personal), like the nasty divorce Uncle Ned is going through — “I forget, is this the third or fourth?” — or your sister’s infertility issues.

Please pass the relationship

If you do bring a guest with you to a holiday function, keep in mind that everyone will assume you’re sleeping with him/her, whether it’s your best friend, an “orphaned” co-worker, an exchange student you just picked up at the airport or the Dickens Carolers.

“Sooooo,” your cousin Pam will ask, “how long have you two been together?”

“Well, let’s see,” you’ll say. “I guess it’s been about 28 minutes since AAA sent Gus here to replace my dead battery and Mom invited him in for pie.”

Click here to read the rest.

Dating a younger man

My inbox was humming yesterday after a story I wrote a couple of years ago about dating younger men popped up on Yahoo’s home page (the piece originally appeared on Match’s online magazine, Happen).

In the story, I talk about the good, bad and ugly of a Michael May/Debbie December match-up. On the up side, dating someone young helps keep you young (and yes, the sex is usually great), although on the down side, younger guys can sometimes be tres immature (one gal’s boytoy used to call her at 3 in the morning, asking her to bring over pizza).  

My readers, however, had a few additional insights (most of them quite positive) about life in what some like to call “Cougar Town”. Check ’em out:

I met my wife of now 13 years when I was 20 and she was 43 and we started seeing more and more of each other (dating, I guess) when I was 24 after we found so many common interests. Even as a man, I knew early on I didn’t want kids, but I did go through the mental struggle for a period before I realized that I’m too selfish … One of the more interesting points in the article was the woman who didn’t want a man who was trapped in adolescence, so to speak. Even as I crest over my 40s (and she’s 69 and still the love of my life), I’m still that kid at heart, making decisions fit for a 20 year old. My wife is always telling me to grow up, but I keep reminding her that I’m going to be 12 forever, so she’s going to have to grin and bear it. Just thought I’d let you know how an older woman/younger man’s relationship is doing so far well into the next decade of marriage. — Michael

 * * * 

This is story you wrote is about me, but the ending has changed. I never was looking for younger men, but if someone did interest me, I didn’t really care about their age. When I started seeing Brian, he was 30 and I was 42. We started seeing each other in March and were married by June. I had moved to the small town where he grew up, so he knew everyone, and I think his family and most of his friends thought it wouldn’t work. In addition to the 30/42 age difference, he had a 5-year-old son and I had an 18-year-old daughter. Plus, he is Catholic and I am Jewish. There were so many things that could have gone wrong, but we will have our 22nd anniversary in June … I don’t know how we got to 22 [years], but I don’t think our differences would have pulled us apart. Keep up your good work.  — Norma

* * * 

I have a few friends who have married older women and have been with them for over 20 years. There is one thing you did not mention about their future together: their health. I have a friend who is now 60 and has been married to his wife, who is 80, for over 20 years. He is still very vital and she can hardly get around. He feels like he is married to his grandmother. —  Bruce

* * *

I’ve been dating a woman 17 years my senior for over 5 years now. I’m 41. We met online, and she didn’t believe I was in my 30s until we actually met. All I can say is dating an older woman is AMAZING! First, because you’re curious, the sex is amazing.  I can barely keep up with her … Second, there is no worry about a ticking biological clock, which is a big downer when dating a woman in her 30s. Third, she knows all about herself, so she’s relaxed and not worried about what her friends might say. Hell, her friends are jealous. — Steve

* * *

So, what’s the scoop with you, dear readers?  Have you ever dated someone significantly younger than you? Did it work? Not work? Cause you to question your sanity? Cause you to pull a groin muscle? Enquiring minds, as always, want to know.

Are you a spreadsheet dater?

I got an email the other day from a writer from some British magazine, asking me if I had ever interviewed anyone who’d used an Excel spreadsheet for dating. She’d read one of the stories I’d written about how to keep your dates straight and was hoping I could connect her with a spreadsheet dater.

I didn’t think much of it until I got online and I stumbled onto a slew of stories about Excelgate (Spreadgate? Dategate?), the latest dating scandal to rock the online dating world.

Apparently, some poor sap back in New York (aka David Merkur, a 28-year-old banker with a thing for organization), made the mistake of telling a woman he was out with that he kept all of his online dating activity in an Excel spreadsheet. And not just any spreadsheet — one that featured names, email addresses, photos, 0-10 rankings for “online appearance,” comments regarding communication, reviews about meet-ups, etc.

That in and of itself isn’t completely over-the-top. A little wonky and anal, perhaps, but not downright stupid. But then Merkur’s date de jour asked if he would forward her the file (apparently, they were both heavy Excel users), and he did.

And that’s when the sheet started to hit the fan.

The date de jour promptly forwarded the eerily-detailed spreadsheet onto a few friends, who sent it on to their friends, until the whole thing ended up on Jezebel, ABC News, the TODAY show, The Huffington Post, and, who knows, maybe Portlandia sometime in the near future (“Put a spreadsheet on it!”)

According to the latest, one of the Merkur’s many potential online dates is even considering legal action, not against the banker but against Miss Trustworthy, the woman who spread the spreadsheet around, since it’s causing the woman so much grief. Apparently, Miss Trustworthy failed to redact any personal information like real names, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. before she forwarded it to, oh, I don’t know, 6,000,000 of her closest personal friends.  

“I’ve gotten a lot of calls from random people saying, ‘Oh, you’re the 9.5,'” the woman told ABC News, referring to the high rating Merkur gave her on his spreadsheet. “I think the guy is really nice,” she goes on. “I never met him and I don’t think he did something that bad. He was … trying to keep himself organized … ” As for the woman who sent out the cheat sheet, though, “Why would she send it to the whole world?” the woman wanted to know. “It was a really stupid move. My face is plastered everywhere now. I wasn’t looking for that. I was just thinking that I was using”

Needless to say, a pro-spreadsheet dating movement is now gaining ground. In today’s New York Daily News, writer Porter Kaplan outed himself and his own obsessive-compulsive dating habits, admitting that he not only uses a spreadsheet for dating, but “I have spreadsheets to track my finances, the books I’ve read, the countries I’ve visited and which combinations of friends might enjoy a dinner party together.”

I don’t date enough to use a spreadsheet — or pie chart or Venn diagram — but I’ve definitely talked to highly organized types who either keep a spreadsheet or a private journal or a Word doc or some kind of cheat sheet to keep from getting their firefighters and financiers mixed up (as if). If you’re a serious online dater (i.e., you’re meeting new people at least three times a week), you have to have some kind of system even if it’s a Sharpie scrawl on the palm of your hand. Otherwise you end forgetting names and occupations or the fact that your date’s grandmother/sister/pet just died or celebrated their 75th birthday or is currently on Dancing with the Stars and end up looking — and feeling — like a jerk.

Personally, I don’t think it’s particularly creepy or douchy to keep track of your dating info — even subjective info like “nice face and bod” but “very jappy; one and done for me” (comments gleaned from Merkur’s detailed notes). Nor is that weird to add overly anal touches like color coding and bold-faced type to indicate particularly hot prospects.  The important thing is to make sure your little black book — or little black spreadsheet — stays safely tucked away in your hard drive, your underpants drawer, or your brain if you have trust issues (which my guess a lot of single software engineers and banking dudes are now experiencing).

Unless, of course, going viral with your love life is part of your master plan of getting more dates. In that case, my hat’s off to you, Spreadsheet Guy! Way to work the system. ; )

Do you Excel at dating? Or know someone who does? If so, I’d love to hear about it (as would at least one British journalist!).

The doomsdating machine

Maybe it’s just me, but there’s nothing I like more than a niche dating site, especially one that caters to a particularly obscure slice of singles.

In the past, I’ve written about green dating sites like, which caters to the eco-friendly crowd, and, devoted exclusively to the beautiful people of the world. (Just checked the link to this one and it no longer works — so much for their motto about “only the hottest surviving.”)

I’ve covered dating sites designed for older singles, dating sites made for single parents and dating sites built just for booklovers and brainiacs.

Thanks to a recent story on, though, I may have stumbled onto the weirdest niche yet: survivalist singles sites. Check it out.

For people who spend every day preparing for disaster — whether it’s a 2012 apocalypse, a nuclear meltdown, an economic collapse, a hurricane or a tsunami — it can be hard to find a compatible partner.

Canning venison, shooting firearms, living off the grid and creating manure from human waste just aren’t traditional interests many people look for when browsing mainstream dating sites like eHarmony or

That’s why a site called Survivalist Singles has entered the online dating scene, catering specifically to this niche community of “preppers,” “survivalists” and “doomsdayers.”

As it turns out, (which has the cheery motto “Don’t Face the Future Alone”) isn’t the only site for those who are waiting with bated breath (not to mention Spam-packed bunkers) for the end of the world as we know it. and also cater to “doomsday preppers” and “doomsdayers.”

According to the CNN story, the average age on is over 50 and men outnumber women two to one (shocking, I know).  Although the site is currently free, the woman who runs it is thinking about charging a $5 a month membership fee in days to come (should there be any days to come).

She even has a slogan picked out: “Find love for less than the price of a box of bullets.” (You have to admit it’s catchy. I mean, how often do you find the words love and bullet in the same sentence? Outside of the local crime headlines, that is.)

Now I know things can get a little scary out there at times, especially in an election year. Not to mention a year where a dystopian survival-fest like The Hunger Games is the biggest box office draw since, I don’t know, Apocalypse Now.

But no matter how bad things get (or how close we get to the Mayan calendar’s looming deadline), I know I’m not quite ready to head for the hills with a gun-toting, deer-slaying, bean-eating Doomsdating Machine. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, that would be the end of the world.

So what say you? What’s the weirdest niche site you’ve signed up for — and did you find a mate there? Would love to hear your thoughts, people. You know, while there’s still time. ; )

Dating with disease

Dating is no picnic. And dating with a disease —  for instance, breast cancer, which took both my hair and my boobs — is practically impossible.  But I’m hardly the only single out there trying to find a bit of romance while saddled with a disease or disability. 

Yesterday, Salon published a great essay by Meghan Holohan on the trials and tribulations of dating with narcolepsy, a condition that causes her to pass out whenever she experiences an intense emotion, like, say, an attraction for the opposite sex. Something she discovered in sixth grade, when she passed out on top of the cutest boy in class.  Check it out:

I was in sixth grade in Catholic school when I began fainting. I was a lanky, clumsy 12-year-old with a mouthful of braces and big plastic glasses, enamored with an Irish boy named Liam Brady. All the girls had a secret crush on him — brown hair, bright blue eyes and milky skin.

As we stood in line for Communion, inching forward, hands folded, I heard a ringing and my limbs became heavy; it took a Herculean effort to move. A blush flooded my face, and then I couldn’t see. Everything turned black and bright lights shot at me like I was going warp speed on the Starship Enterprise. The next thing I knew I was lying in the lap of Mrs. Tupper, an eighth grade teacher who lived a block away from me. I smelled the hideous burning sulfur of smelling salts.

“What happened?” I asked.

“You fainted right onto Liam Brady.”

I burned with confusion and embarrassment. I fainted? On the cutest boy in class? This was grade-school death. No boy would ever look at me the same. Every girl would relish my humiliation. Lucky for me, it was the last time I fainted on Liam Brady. But it set the stage for a lifetime of strange romance.

Meghan goes on to talk about the difficulties of dating with her disease. And how (much like me), she just wants to be like other women, “women who can date men casually without having to explain their mysterious spells.”

I don’t have spells. I have missing body parts, body parts that will eventually be methodically reconstructed, thanks to the wonders of plastic surgery. But until they’re back, I have to field questions from the guys I date about my missing breasts and when they’ll return (and occasionally, how large those returning breasts will be — sigh). Much as Meghan has had to explain to her dates why she sometimes passes out in alleys or galleries or the kitchen floor of her apartment “like a person who has blacked out without drinking seven cocktails.”

Some people have questioned my decision to date during cancer treatment and recovery, gently suggesting that I might be better off “just staying home and healing” than slapping on a wig and war paint and a tucking a couple of gummi boobs (or “sandbags” as one suitor called them) into my bra and heading out the door. I’m all for healing, but when it comes to cancer, I’m also all for distraction. Seriously, I can only sit around my apartment taking cleansing breaths for so long before I go a little bonkers.

So like Meghan, I date, even though I have a disease (despite treatment, the docs won’t tell me I’m disease-free for a few years). And like Meghan, I fill in the blanks for men when I absolutely have to.  And like Meghan, I occasionally write about the whole bloody mess, which may just be the most healing thing of all.

Dating with a disease may not be the smartest thing in the world. It may or may not be the healthiest. But it helps me feel normal and keeps me supplied with a slew of entertaining stories for my friends and family. Besides, if everyone with a little something wrong with them were to climb out of the dating pool, that sucker would be mighty empty. 

As always, thanks for the read. And for you singles with narcolepsy, cancer or some other disease or condition, I’d love to hear how the dating world’s been treating you.

Single women: it’s okay to look before you leap

Can’t believe I almost let Leap Day go by without making some mention of the only holiday that actively encourages women to proposition men. Oh wait, that’s propose to men. Gosh, I need to get those two straight one of these days. ; )

I actually wrote a column about this venerable holiday back in 2008 when I was doing the Single Shot column for the dearly-departed Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  The holiday (and the column) both came out on the heels of an infamous story in The Atlantic by Lori Gottlieb, entitled “Marry Him! The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.” Here’s how it starts:

Happy Leap Day, everyone, especially all you single women.

Whether you know it or not, Feb. 29 is your special holiday, the one day every four years when you’re “allowed” to propose to a man.

And, no, I’m not kidding.

The whole thing actually started as a joke, back in the fifth century. As legend has it, St. Bridget asked St. Patrick if there could be one day out of the year when women could legitimately propose to men and he chose Leap Day. From then on, it has become what you might call a backhanded holiday, proffering a bit of independence for women but mainly poking fun at their predilection for wedlock.

Leap Day postcards from the early 20th century are rife with images of nervous bachelors being pursued by wart-nosed old maids and portly matrons, each with a hungry bridal gleam in her eye. “Help, they’re after me!” shouts a man being chased by a desperate female with one grossly oversized hand. “Rope him now or never!” reads another featuring a lasso-wielding bride on horseback.

Although they’re pretty horrible, these musty old stereotypes are also kind of a hoot. Except when you stumble across one in a current publication, such as The Atlantic, which is where I read Lori Gottlieb’s retrolicious “Marry Him! The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.”

As you can imagine, reading Gottlieb’s arguments for marrying the overlooked “alcoholic who doesn’t always go to his meeting” just so you can have somebody in your bed (and bank account) every day and night didn’t sit too well with this happy singleton.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the matter if you’d care to share. If not, simply feel free to peruse this oldie but goodie (and yes, I’m talking about the column, not me) as you enjoy your extra day of fun and freedom. Take care and have a great Leap Day, people!


What’s my story?

I'm a former freelance writer, now gainfully employed at Fred Hutch (views and f-bombs all my own).

I write about health and health care; cancer research and the cancer experience; dating, lifestyle and singles issues and lots of other stuff including humor and fiction and a few songs here and there.

Book info below.

Looking for my breast cancer blog? Go to doublewhammied

Where are my books?

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Fifty Shades of Brains
Sex. Zombies. Really annoying present tense narration.

Follow me on Twitter!

June 2023