Iannelli Column: New rules for dating after 50

A widowed friend was picking my brain about how to meet eligible men. The idea of dating after many years of marriage terrified her. She knew I “came out” and tested the shark-infested waters also known as dating. OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but it may as well have been sharks. Who knows who you’ll find lurking in those murky uncharted waters: a frog, bottom feeder or a dolphin.

Being twice widowed, I suppose she thought that I was an expert in the dating game. Well, not exactly an expert, but I’ve had my share.

Bill Maher’s TV show, “Real Time with Bill Maher,” has a segment aptly named “New Rules” in which he uses humor, irony or ridicule to get his point across. I’m gonna borrow a little from Bill and issue a new decree: At this stage of life, old dating rules no longer apply.

For those who find themselves single, the rule of thumb (I don’t know who makes this stuff up!) is to wait one year before dating. I don’t get it. Your ex or your deceased spouse will never walk through the door and say, “Hi honey, I’m home.” It should be an individual choice, don’t you think? If you feel ready to move on, why shouldn’t you?

Ah, but wait … remember those aforementioned shark-infested waters?

An old crush from my high school days looked me up after my first husband died. Back in the day, he resembled “The Fonz.” His hair was slicked back in a D.A. He sported a black motorcycle jacket and drove a Harley. My kind of guy! We agreed to meet for dinner. I felt like a freshman who was invited to the senior prom by “The Fonz.”

After much gal prep and anticipation, the night of the “senior prom” was upon me. I arrived at the restaurant early. I spotted a balding rotund guy wearing a plaid sports jacket walking toward me. My excitement turned into panic as I looked for the exit door. I pulled it together, barely. While catching up with each other’s news, I learned that he now drove a Honda Civic. The flame in my heart fizzled quickly, but not because he had traded his bike for a Honda Civic. I’m not that shallow!

I had a memorable date with a pharmaceutical representative. While dining at an upscale supper club, he took my hand, gazed into my eyes and said: “I have something to tell you.” He went on to say his wife was in a nursing home, but he had “needs.” Yup, he said “needs.” I smiled politely, excused myself to use the ladies’ room and walked out the back door.

Then there was the unforgettable dentist. We belonged to the same organization and we would chat after the meeting. I was flattered when he asked me out; he was a tad younger than me — only 10 years. During the evening he disclosed that he had been married and divorced three times. He kept falling in love with his dental assistants. And here’s the kicker: Loverboy felt that a gal like me could keep him in line. I made a beeline to my car.

Now, about those new rules:

Back in the day, the guys did the calling. Gals, if you’re interested, get off the couch, nix the wine and cheesecake and call him.

Should a guy always pay? Not necessarily. Going Dutch is fine, especially if the gal doesn’t want to feel beholden (if you get my drift).

We hear a lot about “good chemistry” or what I refer to as “lust at first sight.” Back then, kissing, aka making out on the first date, was a no-no. Nowadays, sleeping with someone on the first date is deemed acceptable, so they say. For me, it’s still a no-no. New rules don’t apply here.

Today we can cherry-pick online. Yikes! The idea is both scary and appealing. One can get an idea of the likes and dislikes of a potential date, thereby avoiding the horror of the “first date gone bad.” Then again, what’s conveyed online could be pure fiction.

At this time in our lives, we shouldn’t be concerned with the fancy car, the full head of hair, tons of money or looks (well … some looks). Been there, done that. Wanted: A decent guy — one who isn’t married or attached. (Ah, me, those sins of omission.) Been there, too!

Getting out there is intimidating. We single folks of a certain age have gotten to this place after embarking on a difficult and painful journey — a journey most of us were forced to make. While dating is scary, the idea of spending the rest of our life in grief, bitterness, loneliness or living in reverse is equally frightening.

I’m writing this column from Key West, Fla., while lounging on the beach. Seated next to me is a handsome man whom I’ve been dating for two and a half years. I’ve made a conscious choice to remain in the game of life. For me, staying stuck was worse than to risk finding love and happiness again.

Life goes on — or should. So dive in, murky waters and all!

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