I have been in the dating pool exactly twice.
The first time, I was a pretty, young Ohio State University freshman.
The second time was 35 years later, and believe me, I certainly wasn't a young and pretty co-ed any more. But I was an older and wiser and, in many ways, much better catch.
The years in between were filled with a marriage, but that's a story for another day — or maybe a Jerry Springer show.
Hello. I'm Patti Ewald, the new editor of LifeTimes.
When Pickles cartoonist Brian Crane agreed to let us talk to Opal and Earl for this month's post-Valentine's Day feature story, I got the idea for this, my debut, column. They are giving advice as long-marrieds, so I thought I'd give advice as recently divorced. New job. New life. New beginnings.
I was 50-something a year ago when I went looking for love.
I found it on match.com, something I probably wouldn't have admitted five years ago (see, I told you I'm older and wiser).
What a great place to find someone … I mean the whole online dating thing in general, not just match.com.
You fill out a profile — what amounts to an "order sheet" for a mate — and voila, they appear. In droves. Yeah, yeah. Clunkers abound, but one woman's clunker may be another woman's Rolls Royce.
The sad thing is I've talked to a lot of lonely people who pull up their noses when I suggest looking for a date/mate online.
Is there a stigma to that? There shouldn't be.
Where are people our age supposed to find someone? We could die waiting for that lucky day when we swoon over the guy behind us in the checkout line or just happen to have our car fixed by the man of our dreams.
I say, go shopping. Online dating sites have made looking for love as easy as shopping for shoes. In both instances, what does it matter what they look like if they're not a comfortable fit?
Here are some pointers I hope you take to heart because they worked for me.
• The first thing is, don't be so picky. If someone looks like a match on paper, and his or her photo doesn't give you nightmares, give it a chance. What's the worst that can happen? You wasted an evening? It wasn't a waste if it was a learning experience — or if the seafood platter at dinner was good.
• When you are filling out your profile, tell it like it is. Want to be rich? Say you're looking for someone who makes more than $100,000. Don't like the opera but love Nascar? Say it. But, for heaven's sake, don't lie.
Saying you're 50 when you're 60 is okay in a roomful of people you'll never see again. But what if your date ends up being your spouse?
You don't want the truth to come out when the two of you are filling out a marriage license. Plus, and I don't have to tell you this, relationships based on truth and trust are the best.
• Along the same lines, don't let age dissuade you. Ten years older, 10 years younger … what's the difference at our age? Think about how many 50-year-olds you know who look and act 70. Or vice versa.
• Do, however, let money (or lack thereof) sway you. Love won't find a way if the two of you can't afford a night out now and then, even if you are splitting the bill.
• The biggest revelation I had is that there are a lot of people who want to do an elaborate online dating dance. They are reluctant to meet in person, seemingly happy flirting and texting like teenagers.
You have to wonder if they are really available or just playing single online. I say give me a half-hour with someone mano a mano and I'll know what our chances are. It's easy to be witting and charming online; not so much in real life.
Give them credit for mustering up the courage to actually meet you, especially if you're a piece of work like I am. Don't mislead a casual date (someone you have mentally put in the "no way" category) into thinking the relationship is something more than it is.
• Although it's tempting to always want to find someone better, remember: Play the field at your own risk. There are just as many fish in the sea for the other person as there are for you.
That's my advice. Now I'd love to hear your stories. Drop me a note. I plan to be around for a while.
Patti Ewald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8746. Send mail to Tampa Bay Times, Newsfeatures, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.