IT HAPPENS AROUND AGE 40, GIVE or take a few years. You walk into a club where you used to go on dates or looking
for dates, where you used to feel comfortable flirting or dancing or having a cocktail, and, suddenly, you see the
obvious-you could have given birth to these kids. Working the numbers through your mind, you realize that you are 15
or 20 years older than that cute guy or girl across the bar. This is//?e;rplace now, and you have entered the
Twilight Zone of Dating. You bave been dating for more than 20 years.
But don’t despair. If you’ve never been married, or if you’re divorced and single again, there is a dating life
after Nostromo, the 8.0, and Studebaker’s-and it’s not at Arthur’s. Like the sweet couple in Beetlejuice, forever
doomed to the same old haunts, all you need is a guide to the other side to find your way. And here it is-a glossary
of advice to the date-worn from survivors and experts in the trenches.
A FEW YEARS AGO, TIRED OF BEING FIXED UP AND OF GOING OUT WITH her girlfriends, a 35-plus North Dallas professional
we’ll call Stephanie tried one of those video dating services. After making her video and dating profile, the dating
service found her a match with a fellow we’ll call Todd, who suggested they meet for dinner at an area Chick-Fil-A.
At the first sight of white crew socks and short shorts, Stephanie knew she was in for a pretty bad evening. Her
date told her to knock herself out and order anything on the menu. When she did, going all Out with the fries and
the large drink, he swallowed hard and said he wouldn’t be eating. Then he brought out pictures of his pet ferret.
“We can laugh about it now,” says Kim Crosskno, 40, who tried the same dating service as Stephanie, who has since
moved to Australia. “The whole video dating experience was really humiliating,” she says, like living in a game of
Mystery Date and getting stuck too often with the Dud.
Children of the ’60s should be able to remember the game-and probably even sing part of the jingle, “.. .open the
door for your Mystery Date.” Think back. There was the Dream, dressed in a white dinner jacket, and the Dud, in his
unmatched plaids, horned-rim glasses, and white crew socks. In between episodes of “I Dream of Jeannie” and
“Bewitched,” which taught us that magic and trickery were required to get a man to marry, we learned through
commercials for “Mystery Date” that dating was a game of chance. If you didn’t like the date at the door, you just
rolled the dice for another one.
Of course that’s no problem when you’re 20, and mystery dating is new and exciting. But when you’re 40, and you’re
not living happily ever after with Major Nelson or Darin Stevens, the game can get old.
“It’s hard, especially for women,” says Crosskno, a human resources manager who has been with EDS for 16 years and
has never been married or had children (“much to my mother’s dismay”). “Men are still seen as ’bachelors,’ but women
are ’old maids.’ People even start questioning your sexual preference if you aren’t married. ’What’s wrong with
her?’ ’She’s too picky.’ ’Does she prefer women?” This is what we have to deal with just for being single, for
taking a different road in life. “
The End of Saturday Night Fever
ROGER ALBRIGHT, 43, A DALLAS ATTORNEY WHO HAS NEVER BEEN married, believes it’s more common now than ever for people
to stay single into their 30s and 40s. But he acknowledges that many people, especially married people, do think
there’s something wrong with anyone who reaches their 40s without marrying.
Using his own anecdotal evidence, Albright maintains that the growing number of never-marrieds is a Yuppie
phenomenon and a sign of the times. Like the characters on “Seinfeld,” he and his single friends have been busy at
work and at play. Echoing Kim Crosskno, he says, “the timing was never right to get married.”
In the 70s and early ’80s, love-and sex-were in the air, Albright says. The club scene in Dallas was at its height,
and dating was an endless walk through a candy store. But by the mid-’80s, dating attitudes began to change. Many
women were growing tired of being perceived only as sex objects, and the fear of AIDS had cooled the fires of many
Veteran singles like Crosskno and Albright found themselves looking for a different kind of dating life, one that
fit their more settled lifestyle. For them and for many other .55-plus singles, having a date every Saturday night
was no longer the be-all and end-all of existence. Instead, dating became one part of a busy life.
” I had been to enough openings of bars, restaurants, and galleries. I realized I could skip one and not be afraid
that I would miss somebody,” Albright says.
“It is just not as important to me now to have something to do on Saturday night,” Crosskno says. “When you get to
be my age and you have gone out on a limb and not been married and settled down and done the traditional things, you
have an extended family and friend -ships. I invest a lot of time in my friendships. In your 20s, you needed a date
to have something to do or because you were looking for someone to take care of you. Well, I have plenty to do, and
I know I can take care of myself. Soif someone can’t enhance my life or add value to my life, and if they don’t
share my values, I am not interested.”
Q BVIOUSLY THERE’S NO EXACT SCIENCE TO SUCCESSFUL DAT-ing and mating. Some find the formula for Mr. or Ms. Right.
while others cook up Frankenstein’s monster, But veteran daters and those who have escaped the circuit offer these
bits of advice.
SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. A male friend once shared his dating criteria with me, leaving me slack-jawed and
in awe that men and women ever connect. These requirements, he said, were simple: earrings had to be smaller than a
50-cent piece and the woman could have no cats and no more than two dogs.
I’ve no doubt that the men reading this story will respond to that anecdote with, “What’s wrong with that?” while
women will understand. Women are often accused of being too picky, but at least we have some standards. But as we
grow older, those standards can harden into impenetrable and unrealistic barriers that screen out all but the
non-existent Mr. Perfect.
“You can be guilty of setting your expectations too high,” says Lisa LeMaster, 41, president of Fairchild LeMaster
Oppel, a media training and crisis communications firm, “and that’s a quick way to find yourself alone. If every
date has to be the man you are going to marry, it puts too much pressure on him and on you.”
It’s easy to find those unspoiled dates when you’re younger, when background is simply where you grew up and where
you went to college. But as we get older, all of our stories get too long and our baggage too heavy. It becomes
nearly impossible to find candidates unmarred by nicks and scratches.
THINK “JOURNEY,” NOT “DESTINATION.” Nina Atwood, a Dallas psy chologist and author of Be Your Own Dating
Service: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Maintaining Healthy Relationships, says the most important factor
to dating successfully is having an open mind.
” Relationships are a journey without a destination. If you are focused on an end point, whether that’s marriage or
a commitment or children, that becomes all-consuming. The most unsuccessful people are those who desperately want to
find a partner and get married, and the most successful ones are those who are happy with their lives and think
their lives would be enhanced by a partner.”
The main difference between dating in your 20s versus your 30s or 40s, Atwood says, is attitude. People in their 20s
are natural optimists; they haven’t had enough relationship experience to discourage them. After the inevitable
disappointments that come to veteran daters, it’s harder to feel good about yourself and remain open to dating, she
PRACTICE VALUE-ORIENTED DATING. Singles in their 20s and 30s during the 1980s may have been out there looking
for “foxes,” but for the 35-plus crowd today, the operative word is “values.”
“I used to look for superficial qualities,” says Andrea L. Alcorn, a 34-year-old public relations professional who
has never been married. “Looks, athletic ability, whether they went to the cool places and were accepted by the ’in’
group-these were things that were important to me. Now I pay more attention to mutual goals and values, whether they
are intelligent or not, and whether they have ambition.”
Ginny Hathoot, 38, a regional vice president for a sports publishing company who has been married once, puts
honesty, stability, and a sense of humor on that list. Vera Anderson, 37, owner of an advertising and graphic design
firm, adds character and reputation.
While you may be able to spot a “fox” in a bar, it’s hard to discern whether someone in a crowded, music-throbbing
room is honest and stable and has a sense of humor and values similar to yours. So in this era of value-oriented
dating, singles are more dependent than ever on mutual friends to make matches.
“I would say that 99.9 percent of the time I meet the people I date through friends,” says Anderson, who has been
married once and has two children. “Face it, we know more now than we did in our 20s, which naturally leads to a
more conservative, social-networking approach to dating.”
TRY GOD’S MEET MARKET. A common destination for value-oriented daters is church. In the mid-’80s. Lovers Lane
United Methodist Church was the place to go. Hundreds of singles in their 20s and 30s flocked to Sunday School
there, and the church earned a reputation as “God’s Meet Market.” Today, many Sunday School classes for the 35-plus
set are geared more to divorce recovery than to singles looking to be couples, and the Rev. Ben Marshall, minister
of adult education at Lovers Lane United Methodist, senses frustration.
To some extent, the evolution that has taken place in the Dallas bar scene-a proliferation of clubs and an influx of
younger and younger patrons muddying the waters-has also happened among the large singles ministries. “There are a
lot more games on the block now,” says Marshall. “Singles can be much more selective, and the ’hot’ place moves
This blossoming of singles ministries means it is no longer obvious where to go to meet other singles looking for
love in the neighboring pew. But while seekers may have to cast a wider net, Marshall maintains that church is still
the place for people in search of a spiritual match. He sees couples meet and marry all the time. “In fact, that’s
an ongoing problem with the leadership in our singles ministry,” Marshall says. “The leaders tend to marry each
MAKE A LIST. When Ginny Hathoot decided it was time to date again after a long-term relationship ended, she
turned to her sales expertise and came up with a new dating tool she calls The List. “I solicited the help of
friends and other people I trusted and respected. I made a list of 10 names and 1 went down the list and asked each
of those people to recommend people to date,” Hathoot says.
As if working a list of business prospects, she pursued the best leads; fairly quickly, some good candidares showed
up, leading Hathoot to the conclusion that dating again isn’t all that bad.
“At this age, you have more self-con-fidence. You’re not devastated if something doesn’t work out, and it’s not the
end of the world if you spend some time by yourself or with friends,” she says.
EXPAND YOUR CIRCLE. But there’s no magic bullet. Lisa LeMaster found her friends weren’t helpful when she
began to date after her divorce from business partner Ken Fairchild.
“I think your friends can have more trouble than you adjusting to your new lifestyle,” says LeMaster, a mother of
two. “I did the ’putting the word out’ bit, and it didn’t work well for me.”
For some time, LeMaster feared that she was intimidating or that men weren’t calling because she and her ex-husband
still work together. She couldn’t figure it out. Then a friend pointed out that she needed to look at herself like a
client. Like Hathoot, she found that when she applied her business acumen to her personal life, dating came
“My friend pointed out to me that I would not let a client trying to meet people sit home on a Saturday afternoon
when she could be out learning tennis,” LeMaster says. “I realized I had to expand my circle. Go out for coffee
instead of having coffee at home. Try new things to meet new people. I would rollerblade if I could do that. It’s
not about being ’out looking,’ it’s about being open to meeting people.”
HIT THE CHARITY CIRCUIT. Chris Cole, a 37-year-old engineer recruiter who has never been married, has also
combined a calculated approach with a relaxed attitude about dating. In his20s, Cole says, his goal was to be
married by 28 and tohave kids in his early 30s. “But my attitude now is to enjoy myself and let things happen as
they may,” Cole says.
When things were no longer happening for him on the Dallas nightclub scene, Cole found that charity events were a
good alternative. He got involved in the bachelor and bacbelorette bids that became popular in Dallas in the late
’80s, and he played a role in forming the Sterling Society, a group that organizes large happy hours for singles.
The proceeds benefit local nonprofit organizations.
At a charity-oriented event, the pressure to meet someone is not so great, Cole explains, because everyone has
another reason for being there-to benefit some nonprofit that does good work in the community.
WATCH THE CLOCK. For obvious reasons, the time factor is increasingly important to singles as they get older.
Hence the value of meeting at an arts or charity event, where seekers can get well into first-date conversation,
thus eliminating the Mystery Date step.
“I’ve dated quite a lot since my divorce, but I’ve dated more calculatingly,” says Mary Wilkinson, a 35-year-old
divorcee who is in the financial services business, Like many women in their 30s, she no longer sees dating as
merely spending time out having fun with different people but as the means to an end: marriage and children.
“I have specific goals and ideas in mind, and I use the first date to screen potential prospects for marriage. If
they don’t want a family or have the same values and beliefs, I won’t go out on a second date.”
“Women in their 30s know what they want,” says Vera Anderson, “and they don’t have time to waste time.’’
REMEMBER THE VOLVO FACTOR. Anderson has two chil-dren, so she’s not talking about time in the sense of a
biological clock but the very real time constraints on busy people in the ’90s. A business owner, a mother, a
friend, a daughter, she wears many hats that can all take priority over being someone’s date.
“Women are less approachable in their 30s,” Anderson says. “Especially if you are driving a Volvo station wagon and
bave ’mom’ written across your forehead.”
Kids add more complications to dating, Anderson says. “You have to be even more responsible in the choices you make
when you have children to consider,” she says. “I think you are less likely to date a number of people casually when
you have children, because I don’t think you should involve your kids with your dates unless you are serious.”
LET A MATCHMAKER HELP. Sometimes it’s just easier to write a check and get the job done. That’s where Robin
Oberlander and Devonshire Ltd., a Dallas matchmaking service, step in. For $2,800, Oberlander finds “very special”
dates for her mostly male clients from an inventory she says is drawn from the upper echelon of Dallas singles.
Oberlander s service differs from most dating services in that her files of prospective dates are not made up of
only her clients. She calls herself a “romantic headhunter” and wherever she goes, whether it’s a Harvard Club
luncheon or a Dallas Council on World Affairs event, she is always on the lookout for candidates. She offers her
clients feed -back from their dates to help them improve their dating skills, and she is a wealth of information
about the Dallas dating circuit.
For those who can’t pay her matchmaking fee, Oberlander has written a book, Inside Romance Ads, a guide to
exploring romance ads in magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet.
Recently Oberlander has been chinking about opening an office in another major city. Having done her preliminary
research, she concludes that Dallas is one of the best places in the country to be single.
“Dallas has a great selection of men and women to match. We have the cream of the crop here,” she says. “I don’t
know of any other city in the country that has an event like Dallas’ Margarita Ball that draws 5,000 fabulous
singles together on one night.” (Put on each November by the Margarita Society, a group of 50 bachelors, the event
is by invitation only.)
Another well-regarded service is run by former model’s rep Sarah Norton, who started her matchmaking business, Sarah
Norton Productions, in 1991 after she heard singles say over and over that they didn’t want to go out to bars any
“! still hear it every day,” Norton says. “If you meet someone in a club, you are taking a big chance. But if you
don’t go out to bars, it can be very difficult to meet people.”
Thus came the impetus for Norton’s main line of business: parties by invitation only. Norton has developed a list of
singles she describes as upscale professionals in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. She takes some of the guesswork out of
meeting someone new by checking people out up front, looking for singles who are articulate and personable. Then she
puts them all together in a room with some good entertainment. The rest is up to you. The parties usually draw
between 150 and 200 people who buy tickets to attend, Norton says.
If 200 people sounds intimidating, Norton also has Sarah’s Private Club, a more intimate group that meets twice a
month for happy hours and once a month for a catered dinner in a member’s home.
And if mingling at a Sarah Norton Production doesn’t work, Norton offers her matchmaking services to male clients
for $3,000 for one year. (Women pay $500 to be on her fix-up list.) To date, Norton says, she has 19 married couples
to tout and 20 more who are headed down the aisle.
LIVE ALONE AND LIKE IT. Having watched many friends marry and divorce, Roger Albright believes that more
singles should count their blessings. Kim Crosskno agrees. “I have friends who have finally married at 39 or 40 and
found that marriage wasn’t a fairy tale and there are no Prince Charmings,” she says. A homeowner and world
traveler, she has no patience for people who feel sorry for her because she is single.
Crosskno recalls the time her sister was taking her to the airport to fly to Europe for an eight-month stint with
“I started crying at the airport, and my sister said, ’what do you have to cry about?’ “
Her sister was eight months pregnant, had a screaming toddler in the back seat, and was driving home through an ice
storm to change a few more diapers.
“I guess it’s true,” Crosskno says, “the grass is always greener on the other side.”
Romances by the Byte
SOME SCOFF IT’S NOT POSSIBLE TO FIND ROMANCE WITH someone you’ve never met face to face, but online dating is as
real as life, just different: People meet, get together, “date” exclusively online, send presents. One cyber-beau
sent me files through the Net that, once downloaded, would bloom into roses on my computer desktop and play snippets
of Mozart. Another thoughtfully forwarded software programs he thought I’d find useful and jokes be thought I’d
like, And who’s more devoted-someone who’ll spend $50 on flowers, or someone who will rack up $50 in online charges
to exchange words with a beloved?
“It’s never too late to be popular in high school,” may sum up the fast, flirty banter of many online chat-room
encounters. But just as IRL (that’s Netspeak for “in real life”), cyberdating comes in many fashions and has
“Chat” areas, available on services such as America Online and via IRC (Internet Relay Chat), are the singles bars
and college mixers of the Net. Sign on, go in, join the discussion. Move on if it’s dull. If you read passages from
someone who seems interesting, send him or her a one-on-one message and arrange to set up a private chat.
Mailing lists, newsgroups, and discussion groups are like singles groups and Fun-Ed classes. If someone’s posted
message seems intriguing, take the plunge and continue the conversation via return e-mail. Many friendships-and
romances-are built this way, although often the new friends are across the country and the romance is a
You can also meet people who live nearby. Try the Dallas-Fort Worth Internet Singles; their web address is
http://www.montagar.com/dfw-singles/index.html. The group’s site offers you access to both an online newsgroup and a
mailing list, through which you will get e-mail about planned (offline!) group events.
Caveats: Guys, many women are turned off by the heavy-handed “what are you wearing?” online line. And it is true
that the person with whom you are chatting may well exist only in his or her own imagination. And yes, there are
married people here, some finding new friendships, some seeking-and finding-a lot more. The term “cyberadultery” has
unfortunately entered the lexicon. The most honest will be up front about their married status, but unfortunately,
like all other real-life details, this one is easily hidden online.
Women, be aware that going online with a feminine “screen” name will often get you more attention than you want, and
perhaps the wrong kind. I once signed on with my real name, intending to meet a long-time friend, and mistakenly
addressed a man I didn’t know as “darling.” When I refused his offer to chat privately and tried to back away
gracefully from his barrage of messages, I got this response: “It doesn’t matter if it was a mistake, the fact is,
you said it, and now I am in love with you.”
Finally, if you have to ask how cybersex is done, you probably wouldn’t enjoy it. -Renee Hopkins
Where the Singles Are
Bars and Restaurants
‧ JOEY’S RESTAURANT, 4217 Oak Lawn Ave. : Not as hot now as when it first opened, but worth a fly-by
STAR CANYON, 3102 Oak Lawn Ave,: ditto
THE MANSION ON TURTLE CREEK BAR, 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd.: late Thursday nights
ROUTH STREET BREWERY, 3011 Routh St.: early happy hours Wednesday-Friday
ARCODORO BAR, 2520 Cedar Springs Rd.: happy hour nightly, dinner, and late Thursdays and Fridays
THE VELVET ELVIS, 1906 McKinney Ave.: ditto
SIPANGO, 4513 Travis St.; Thursday night for dancing
BEAU NASH RESTAURANT&BAR, 400 Crescent Court: happy hour nightly
JAXX CAFE, 14925 Midway Rd:. early happy hour Thursdays and Fridays
FERRARI’S VILLA, 14831 Midway Rd.: after Jaxx Cafe
SAMBUCA MEDITERRANEAN JAZZ CAFE, 15207 Addison Rd.: dinner and late Thursdays and Fridays
SWAN COURT RESTAURANT AND CLUB, 2435 N. Central Expwy:. great place to dance on Thursday, Friday, and
BORDERS BOOKS & MUSIC CAFE, any location: Friday nights, Saturday, and Sunday mornings
BARNES & NOBLE BOOKSTORE CAFE, any location: ditto
STARBUCKS, Knox/Travis and Preston Royal locations: Saturday and Sunday mornings
LA MADELEINE, any location: weeknights and Sunday afternoons
And Don’t Forget About..
INTERNET CHAT LINES (see page 68)
SPORTING EVENTS, especially Friday night Mavericks games
DATING SERVICES-Try It’s Just Lunch, 991-4161, a Chicago-based service new to Dallas that arranges blind
lunch dates for professionals
MATCHMAKERS-Devonshire Ltd., 490-4244, and Sarah Norton Productions, 520-0245
SINGLES EVENTS-check out the weekend Guide in The Dallai Morning News
PERSONAL ADS: Try The Dallas: Observer and The Met, two weekly papers that run all kinds of
messages from seekers
Volunteering-call the Volunteer Center of Dallas County at 826-67
CHARITY EVENTS geared to singles, such as Helping Hands for The Family Place, 443-7765, or Sterling Society,
COOPER FITNESS CENTER, 12100 Preston Rd.
YOUR CHILD’S ACTIVITIES. You may not be the only single parent cheering the soccer team.
SUNDAY SCHOOL-Prestonwood Baptist, Park Cities Baptist, and Unity Church of Dallas have singles groups that
primarily cater to divorce recovery
HOBBIES-skydiving and scuba-diving; tennis and golf lessons run a close second; for rollerblading and cycling, check
out White Rock Lake
The gallery at the Byron Nelson golf tournament
Swimming pools in townhouse complexes
TO MEET WOMEN: The fragrance counters at Neiman’s or Saks Fifth Avenue, CREW golf tournaments
TO MEET MEN: Home Depot on Saturday mornings, Micro Center in Keystone Park on the weekends for computer
wizards, FAO Schwarz on Wednesday nights to find divorced dads, Fight Night