Dear Belladonna Rogers,
I’m a 55-year-old widow. I was happily married for 30 years. Before he died four years ago, my husband Jack asked his closest friends to fix me up with a great guy. Not that year, of course, but in the years ahead. He asked seven couples to do this. Each promised him they would. Did they? Never. Not one of them. Do you have any suggestions for how I can meet my next husband?
Hopeful in Harrisburg, PA
I’m brimming with suggestions on this topic. One of them is going to work.
ENLISTING HELP FROM OTHERS
Let’s start with those seven couples. It’s appalling that none of them made an effort to introduce you to anyone in the past three years. The first year, I understand. If you’re still in touch with any of them, send an email, copying all the others: “I miss Jack every day of my life, but I’m ready to meet any of your male friends you think would be appropriate for me. I remember that you promised Jack you’d do this for him and for me, and I hope each of you will keep your promises. I’m eager to get back into the world of dating in the hope of finding a man worthy of being Jack’s successor in my life.”
Don’t hold your breath for an introduction from any of them.
Rule 1: Inform everyone else you know — including doctors and your dentist — that you’re ready to move on to the next chapter of your life. I mention doctors and dentists because they know so many people so well. I have a good friend whose marriage came about because she mentioned to her dentist that she was ready to re-marry and her dentist told an eligible man that the only appointment time he had was when my friend would be in his waiting room.
Then his nurse announced to them both that the dentist was working on an emergency root canal and was sorry they’d both have to wait. Within six months they were married. There was no root canal. The dentist had an inkling they’d like each other and could start getting to know each other while waiting to see him. And you thought dentists only caused pain.
Think of yourself as a detective. If you were a detective, would you leave any stone unturned? Your motto from now on is: “You never know who will introduce you to the second Mr. Right in your life.” Send out emails to all your friends, including from high school and college, if you attended. Someone you haven’t been in touch with in decades may know just the man for you, but would never know you’re ready to date without a clear signal from you. So send out a clear (but not desperate) signal. You could add a few words about what you’re doing these days, what you did between high school and now, and what you especially loved (and now miss) about Jack, but end with a clear statement that you’re ready to begin a new chapter in your life and you look forward to reconnecting with them and with any men they think would be appropriate. Scour your brain! Go to Facebook, go to your high school’s web site, find every email address you can to reconnect with everyone you’ve known over your lifetime. As anyone who’s attended a high school reunion will attest, it won’t matter that these men and women haven’t heard from you in 35+ years. The time melts away when you’re in touch with friends from your youth. Find them and write to them. Also inform members of the clergy, absolutely everyone whom you know and trust, that you’re ready. Neighbors, too, can be good sources of appropriate men. Maybe your dry cleaner knows of a man your age who never brings women’s clothes or children’s snowsuits to be cleaned. Maybe your favorite salesman in your local hardware store knows just the widower for you. But first, three warnings:
This column is for women over 50. It’s on the Internet, so anyone can read it, but in terms of acting on this advice, you have to be at least 50: it takes about half a century to be able to do the things I advise without getting into trouble. What kind of trouble? Man trouble. Big, bad man trouble. To repeat: This isn’t advice for any woman under 50. And it’s not advice for men at all, although men may well find it helpful to understand the feminine perspective. Advice on how men can find Ms. Right will be published next Tuesday.
This will not be brief. It’s the distillation of a lifetime of experience and observations. If you wanted a short answer, you shouldn’t have asked a question of such monumental profundity, magnitude, and major significance to the entire human race, especially to you.
THIRD WARNING: IT’S A WHOLE NEW WORLD OUT THERE
It’s not 1977 — the year you and Jack got married — anymore. It’s a whole new world. If you want to remarry, and your friends haven’t come through in introducing you to an appropriate man, you may have to resort to one of the acronyms of our era: DIY.
You may have to find the man yourself. I’m not referring to Internet dating. Despite all the treacly ads, I wouldn’t go there. You can find others who will advise you to go that route, but I’m not among them. One man I greatly respect found his wife through Match.com and they’re very happily married.
LEARN TO SEPARATE THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF
YOU ARE NOW YOUR OWN PRIVATE EYE, AND DON’T FORGET IT
There’s no substitute for sizing up a man in person. But in this new world of highly detailed information available on the Internet, I cannot advise you more strongly than I do not to give your first or last name, your email address, your telephone number, your home address or even the general neighborhood where you live, or your place of employment to any man you meet in public. Get his email address, full name, and telephone number. Tell him you’ll contact him and the subject line will read, “From the person you met at the [give name of supermarket] on Wednesday, August 31.” You are not being paranoid nor am I being paranoid to suggest some “due diligence.” Remember, you’re not trying to uncover every twist and turn of a man’s life. You just want to be sure to rule out — in advance — two specific problems:
What is the main characteristic (other than a rap sheet) you’re trying to detect? A married man. A married man is worse than spending the rest of your life alone. A married man is, by definition, a liar and a cheat. To whom is he lying and whom is he cheating? That would be the woman he promised “to love and to cherish till death do us part.” He can be God’s gift to humanity, a surgeon who goes to Third World countries to operate on the wretched of the earth. He can be a dentist who flies to Haiti for Operation Smile. It doesn’t matter. If he’s married, he’s off-limits. He’s trouble. He’s heartache. He’s the perfect answer to your prayer to be hurt like you’ve never been hurt in your life. He’s the person who’ll make you want a 300-year-old oak to fall on your car, crushing the life out of you so your family will avoid the post-mortem humiliation of your suicide. He’s the guarantee that if you have king-sized sheets, you’ll end up with a 108-inch handkerchief into which you’ll blow your nose and cry yourself to sleep for months on end. He is, in short, a very bad idea.
Start by checking for a wedding ring. Far from dispositive, since many married men never wear them, but it’s a start. And of course, if you see a non-sun tanned band on a tanned ring finger where a wedding ring would be, you can bet your bottom dollar that the ring is in his pocket, secreted there while he was talking to you.
After getting his contact information from him, go to www.whitepages.com and see if he’s listed as living with any women. If you Google “search for people online” you’ll find many additional ways to find more information about anyone you meet.
Your research should also include calling his home from a phone that isn’t yours to see if a woman answers or if you get a voicemail message saying, “Janet and John aren’t home now.” Funny how he never mentioned Janet when you met him. That’s his prerogative, the scumbag, but it’s your responsibility to yourself to discover if “Janet” exists before you take your first sip of latte with him.
* * * * *
The next point may seem obvious, but it bears stating: you will not meet your next husband when you’re at home — unless you have a lot of home repairs done with a lot of men, as it were, coming and going. Other than finding a plumber-husband or a painter-husband — which could be great — my first piece of advice is: get out of your house or apartment. But read this column first.
GETTING READY FOR YOUR RE-ENTRY INTO THE WORLD OF MEN: LOOKS MATTER — YOURS
Rule 2: Don’t go out without looking your best. I don’t mean getting all dolled up, but look as you would if you and your husband were going to the movies together, or going out for a casual dinner with friends. You’d wear some make-up, wash your hair, and generally look as good as you could without going all-out.
Rule 3: That brings up your appearance in general. It’s important. It’s not the only thing that matters, but to pretend it doesn’t matter at all is like living on an absolutely charming but different planet.
Down here on Earth, a woman has to help nature along, or work with nature to achieve the best results. You could say, “Belladonna, I’m never going to look like Catherine Zeta-Jones.”
The point is, you could look like the best possible version of yourself. Here’s an analogy to keep in mind. A college student who failed his first midterm exam went to see his professor. “How can I get an A?” he asked. His professor replied, “First figure out how to get a C.” How do you get a C? Or even a B?
a. Lose unneeded pounds. Even if you never meet the man of your dreams, you’ll live a healthier life and be freer of all manner of illnesses from arthritis to diabetes to heart disease to high blood pressure — to name but a few conditions where extra weight doesn’t help. There is no condition where being overweight is an advantage, except being a Sumo wrestler. Then it’s invaluable.
You can tell yourself as much as you like that some big men like big women. That’s true. But those big women will not be as healthy as they would be if they lost their extra pounds. Same goes for men.
b. Makeup: I’m not an advocate of the loaded-for-bear look — the slash of scarlet lips, the turquoise eye shadow, the “blush” that looks like the aftermath of an assault, the Tammy Faye Bakker mascara. Far from it. But any woman over 50 who thinks she looks “natural” without a touch of make-up is absolutely correct, and is also making a major mistake. Not everything “natural” is a plus. As Michelle Pfeiffer says in the comedy I Could Never Be Your Woman, “Think about it. Tobacco is natural, Prozac is unnatural. Earthquakes are natural, television is unnatural.”
In real life, it takes a good deal of make-up to look appealingly natural. So, let’s get going.
c. A word about changing your hair color: as a general rule, don’t. Many women do it very successfully, but many, alas, don’t. Please be very careful. You may think that a happy brunette or reddish rinse will hide all the gray and make you look 30 years younger. Actually, no. What it will do is make your hair have glints of crepuscular purple or other-worldly coppery tones, colors that look better as a vehicle’s paint job than as a woman’s dye job. You won’t look genuine, authentic, or real. Subconsciously, this will translate to the male brain as this: if she’s trying to hide her gray hair, what else is she trying to hide? It’s like your reaction to a toupee. First you spend a lot of time wondering if it is or isn’t. Once you decide it is, you can’t help but wonder what else is the wearer hiding? Note how stunning Jamie Lee Curtis looks with her silvery gray hair:
She looks gorgeous, confident and real. She wouldn’t if she tried to hide the gray. Real men aren’t afraid of being with a woman with gray hair. CNN’s brilliant, luminous Jill Dougherty has never looked more beautiful than she does today:
Rule 4: Get a free makeup lesson. Did you know that cosmetics counters in big department stores will give you a free makeup session? Be sure to begin by telling the salesperson that you want makeup for everyday, and specifically for daytime, not for a special occasion. Their default mode is to make you up for an evening event and that’s not what you want because you’re not going to meet your next husband in a bar, a dance-hall, or any other dark and sultry place.
The cosmetics salesperson will make you up, and will also want you to buy the products you try on. But you don’t have to buy them. How can you avoid it? By bringing with you a blank piece of white paper or a notebook. Whenever the salesperson suggests a lipstick, ask him or her to dab a little on your paper. Write down the name of the product next to the dab. Same with the eye-liner pencil, the eye shadow, the makeup base, and blush.
Treat this experience as a tutorial. Ask questions. If the salesperson advises you to stay away from lipsticks with “blue” in them, ask for an explanation. They have their own color language that most of us don’t understand. They see blue where you see pinks or reds. Get them to explain every suggestion they make — not as if you’re challenging their authority, but because you want to learn.
When the session is over, thank the salesperson and say that you now want to go outside to see how the makeup looks in natural light. Make sure to bring a good-sized mirror in your purse that day.
Department stores and cosmetics shops use very flattering lights. Mother Nature doesn’t, except at night. There’s nothing more cruel than sunlight. OK, water-boarding.
Go outdoors, take out the mirror, and look very carefully at how all that makeup looks in the harsh light of day. If any of the colors look good in daylight, put a check next to the color on your piece of white paper or in your notebook. That means it’s a good color to buy. Any color that looks ghastly in the harsh light of day, cross off your list.
If everything you see in your mirror in daylight looks horrible, go back and tell the cosmetics person, “You know, I bet this would look great anywhere with lighting that’s like what you have here inside the store, but I need a look I can wear outdoors. Could we start all over again and try for some colors that won’t look as if I’m very made-up?”
If the answer is no, don’t worry. Just walk over to a different counter of a different cosmetics manufacturer. They all do the same free makeup session. Say you’ve just had a session at one counter and you went outside and found the colors too garish for daytime. Remove all the makeup from the first counter and start over.
Ultimately, if you devote enough time to this you’ll get a great new look.
Now what do you do? If money is no object, you could buy the suggested cosmetics at the department store. But if money is tight, take your white sheet of paper with your favorite lipstick and other makeup colors that you’ve checked off, and head to your local Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Rite Aid, or CVS and match the colors that looked best to less costly equivalents.
Rule 5: Warning: all cosmetics counters will try to sell you “cleansing” products, “moisturizers,” and “anti-wrinkle creams.” Don’t even think about them. I once urged a friend to get a free makeup lesson from a local department store and I didn’t think I needed to warn her about not getting anything but makeup. Result? She spent over $500 that she didn’t have for products she didn’t need. Not that she was without wrinkles, but those products are a waste of money. Sad, but true. Don’t get sucked into buying anything that claims to “moisturize,” “cleanse,” or rid you of wrinkles. It doesn’t matter if the gorgeous Andie McDowell tells you that “We’re worth it.”
You’re worth it, but those products aren’t. This is the voice of experience speaking directly to you. Who are you going to believe? A highly-paid spokesperson for a multinational billion-dollar cosmetics corporation or me? Your choice.
WHERE TO DO YOUR FIELD RESEARCH: WHERE APPROPRIATE MEN CAN BE FOUND
Rule 6: So, you’re now out of your house or apartment and you’re looking good. Where do you go? Where the boys are:
Where are they? They can be found in (1) hardware stores, (2) men’s clothing stores, (3) men’s departments in department stores, (4) office supply stores, (5) book stores, (6) tie stores, (7) hunting and fishing supply stores, (9) sports clothing stores, (9) supermarkets, (10) gyms, (11) barber shops, and (12) places of worship; in an election year, as volunteers in (13) campaign headquarters from coast to coast; and in (14) soup kitchens, delivering food to the homeless or home-bound. This is not to say they don’t go elsewhere, but those are your top fourteen.
Rule 7: Do this alone. You might think you should go with a friend, but I recommend going alone. Two women approaching one man is a recipe for trouble. Listen to some music that puts you in a great mood on your way. You want to feel upbeat and determined. An annoying fact of life is that men can sense desperation. They’re like dogs. They can actually smell emotions. So you have to go when you’re feeling terrific.
NOW THAT YOU’RE OUT THERE, WHAT TO DO AND WHAT NOT TO DO
Rule 8: Without going out and buying anything new, wear something memorable — a big red sun hat, or something colorful.
Men are a little like bulls: they respond to bright colors. And don’t make it something teensy, weensy like tiny little earrings or a minuscule pendant that’s all of 1/23rd of an inch wide. You want to stand out at a distance. I’m not urging you to wear one of these, unless it is your goal to marry an ardent fan of the Green Bay Packers, in which case, this is definitely the way to go:
Make yourself visible: You want to be memorable, seared in his memory bank for all time. This isn’t the time for beige and gray.
Rule 9: If you have cleavage, don’t show it. Button up for now. You don’t want to look as if you’re cruising for a guy. You? Cruising for a guy? That’s the last message you want to convey in such an obvious way.
Rule 10: Many classic movies depicted women as whimpering dears who didn’t know what to do without a gweat big man to tell them. Even the glorious Ingrid Bergman, who never had a more admiring fan than I, played this card in the greatest movie of all time:
Lesson of Casablanca: if you tell a man to do the thinking for both of you, you’ll end up just like Ingrid, standing on the tarmac of the airstrip outside Casablanca, about to fly into the fog with the hero you don’t love, while the man you’ll love forever walks in the opposite direction into a different bank of fog. Not the way to go.
Rule 11: Think for yourself. Speak up for yourself. You’ve been around for 55 years and you want some action. To get some action, you have to take some action.
Rule 12: Learn the difference between being a helpless dumb woman and a confident but ignorant woman. Ignorance is fine, but there’s a bright line between dumb and ignorant. Learn where that line is.
DUMB: “I can never find my way around here. It’s so big, I get confused. And when I get to the hammer section, I’m even more confused.”
IGNORANT: “I’m going to hang five framed posters on my kitchen wall. What’s the best kind of hammer to use and what kind of nails will work best with heavy glass and frames going into 40-year-old drywall?”
DUMB is a fluttery little butterfly who – poor little helpless dear — gets lost in a big store.
IGNORANT is a woman who knows what she’s doing but just needs some advice to do it as well as possible. Let’s look at how this works in another setting.
DUMB: “I’m just hopeless with melons. I always pick one that’s too ripe or not ripe enough.”
IGNORANT: “You look as if you know what you’re doing. I don’t buy cantaloupes often enough to know how to tell a ripe one. I’d like to serve one to friends coming over tonight. Which one would you pick?”
DUMB: Describing yourself as “hopeless.”
IGNORANT: You reveal that you have friends and they’re coming over tonight (subliminal message: you’re neither lonely nor desperate) and you’re asking advice from a guy you’ve noticed carefully feeling the cantaloupes.
Now it’s true, you may have found the one guy who’s a little too much into cantaloupes, like Portnoy and liver. But if you look him over and he looks as if he’s actually into eating them, then ask which one he’d advise for tonight.
Here’s a surefire one, unless you’re over 6 feet tall. Find something on a very high shelf. Now look around for a man, alone, attractive to you, who’s taller than you are, and tall enough to reach it. Go up to him and say, “Hi. I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m trying to reach something on the top shelf, and for obvious reasons, I can’t. If you’re not in a rush, would you mind giving me a hand?” If he says no, wait till the next one comes along. Tip: cereal is pretty light but is often on a top shelf. In fact, the healthier the cereal, the harder it is to reach.
So Mr. Tall and Nice comes over and reaches for a box. Here’s a chance to say, “Do you ever thank God for your height?” Or “Have you found that your height has been an advantage in your work?” Pretend you’re a reporter, and think up some questions. Be upbeat. Be interested in his answers. Maybe something will come of it, maybe it won’t. But at least you’ll have a box of healthy cereal and maybe a quick chat as he’s reaching up there.
Rule 13: Never overlook the check-out line. Everyone there is a captive. Even if you don’t see a man who looks interesting in the store while you’re shopping, before you get in line to pay, see if you notice a promising-looking fellow in line. If you do, look at what he’s buying. Start a conversation: “You know, I’ve never tasted guava jam. What other fruit does it taste like?” Or “How are you going to prepare that cut of beef?” Or “Those are really healthy foods. How did you get interested in healthy eating?” If he’s wearing a sports cap, you can always say, “A Red Sox fan. Are you originally from Boston or do you like them because they beat the Yankees?” Even without a wedding ring, the items he’s buying will suggest whether he’s a family man, a divorcé, or widower. If you see a box of tampons, try another line. Yes, they could be for his daughter, but still, try another line.
Rule 14: Here’s the main point: Whatever you say to a complete stranger, your words aren’t nearly as important as the spirit that comes through: that you’re curious, alive, interested in learning something even if just for a moment while waiting in a line.
Rule 15: If the effort at the check-out line isn’t going your way by the time he starts getting his items rung up, you can say, “Oh! I just realized I forgot the eggs.” And off you go. When he’s out of the store, find another guy in another line and start all over again. You do this five to ten times, you’re bound to get an email address and a phone number. And it may take five to ten times. But, as Andie McDowell says, you’re worth it, and this effort is worth your time.
Rule 16: Go into a store when men are plentiful and likely to be employed. Let’s try a men’s store. Don’t go during the day. You’ll find men who are underemployed. If they’re employed and on their lunch hour, they’ll be too rushed to chat. So go on a weekend. Go to the tie section, and take a tie, any tie. Then go over to the shirts and take a white or light blue shirt. Thus armed, look around. Look for someone you’d like to get to know.
Rule 17: Go over to see what he’s looking at, and look at it, too. Then hold up the tie and the shirt and say, “Excuse me. My brother’s birthday is next week and I want to get him a nice tie. What do think of this one? Would you wear it?”
Rule 18: When you ask the man a question, what matters is not so much your exact question but rather how you look him in the eye when you speak to him. He’ll be paying attention to the sound of your voice. What he’ll be picking up on is how upbeat you are and how great he’d feel if he could spend more time with you. If he’s wishy-washy and doesn’t perk up when you speak to him, just say, “Thanks so much” and find another guy.
This is a men’s store. There are other men. Try not to let the first guy see you going up to the next one. You may have to wait a few minutes until the coast is clear. But eventually it will be clear, and then you’ll try another guy. If a salesman asks if he can help you, just smile and say you’re thinking it over or that you’re fine and will come back to him after you’ve made up your mind. Then again, maybe the salesman is Mr. Right. Maybe he retired from his accounting business and then his wife died and he likes getting out of the house, so he got this job. You never know unless you ask. The main point is not to say to your possible next husband, “I’ve always been terrible making decisions,” or “I can never make up my mind about anything. Does this tie go with this shirt?”
Rule 19: Don’t think you have to apologize or, worse, run yourself down, in order to ask a total stranger a straightforward question. It’s a free country. Under the first amendment you have freedom of speech. Just ask. You could always start with a compliment, “You look really sharp. I’m getting a tie for my younger brother’s birthday. What do you think of this one?”
Rule 20: A woman can say something positive about a man’s looks in a way that a man can’t about a woman’s. Any kind of opening line that sends a subtle or not-so-subtle positive message is not a bad thing. Examples: “You look as if you know what you’re doing, ” “I’m going to ask you this because you look as if you’re really good at this,” or “Excuse me, but you remind me of one of my best friends from high school. You’re not, by any chance, Bryan Preston, are you? I haven’t seen him in 20 years and I was just thinking he’d probably look a lot like you. Whoever you are, you look great.” Or you could say, “Wow. What a great Panama hat. My brother would love one just like that for his birthday. Do you remember where you bought it?”
Rule 21: This whole enterprise involves playing the odds. Even if they’re one in 100, your job is to find that one. I have a highly-motivated friend who found a truly spectacular apartment. I asked her how she did it. “Oh,” she said, “I looked at 214 apartments before I found this.” See? That’s what I mean by motivation. Did she give up because she didn’t want to live in the first 214? No way. She moved right ahead and took a look at # 215.
Rule 22: Let’s try the hunting and fishing store. Only go there if you want to camp outdoors, fish, or hunt. If your idea of a good time doesn’t include any of the above, skip this stop. It will only guarantee that instead of that cozy bed-and-breakfast you wanted to visit in New Hampshire, you’ll be the one in a sleeping bag, swatting the mosquitoes, and looking forward to a whole day of waiting for a fish to bite. If that’s your idea of heaven, go for it. If not, don’t.
SPECIAL RULES FOR THE GYM
Rule 23: The gym: This is a good idea. He’ll see you in action, he’ll see that you care, as he does, about keeping healthy. The one problem is what you wear. Do not believe that just because this is a gym you have to expose your entire body. You don’t. Let’s say your upper arms have seen better days. Then cover them up. Now. Don’t wear a midriff-baring top if you have rolls of fat on your midriff. You’d think this advice would go without saying, but I’m saying it because I go to gyms and I see how women dress. If they’re married, it doesn’t matter. But if one of their reasons for being there is to meet someone, then they should cover their problem areas and highlight their best points. At a gym, as opposed to a hardware store, it’s OK to show some cleavage. It’s a gym. But upper arms, upper thighs, and, in many cases, lower thighs (thighs in general) are better left unbared if you’re over 50.
“Well,” you could say, “won’t he see them at some point?” “Presumably yes,” I’d reply. “But by then he’ll be smitten by your sense of humor, your gumption, your strength of character: your upper thighs won’t be uppermost in his mind.”
All I’m saying is don’t reveal your least-appealing body parts at the start. You’re wearing a cool, loose work shirt while 20-something women are wearing next-to-nothing? So what? Not every 65-year-old man is looking for a granddaughter to call his own. Some would really prefer a woman who has actually lived a good fraction of her life.
YOUR GOAL: INCREASING YOUR ODDS OF FINDING MR. RIGHT
Rule 24: Go where the odds are highest in your favor. Most advice columns would recommend taking adult education courses. I’m not against them, but my problem with them in this context is that you’re playing the odds. If there are six students in the class, what are the odds of there being one man in your age group who isn’t married and is taking this course?
Rule 25: Place yourself in settings where you can have an actual conversation. Given that even the longest of lives are short, I’d rather see you in environments where the chances of finding Mr. Right are as high as possible. So, would that argue in favor of getting season tickets for a sports team? No, because you want to give yourself the chance to exchange your first few words without 50,000 people shouting at the top of their lungs and looking right at the field or the court. That’s the same problem with meeting someone at a large theater (although there are intermissions) or anywhere where the main attraction is going to claim too much of the other person’s attention. You need a setting where you can strike up a conversation.
Rule 26: Don’t go anywhere where people are always in a rush to get out. Like where? Like a rush-hour bus where people just want to get home ASAP. It’s true that some people are always in a rush, but I think most men, when they’re in a store on a weekend, have allowed themselves some extra time to browse.
Rule 27: Speaking of which, bookstores: you can browse for more than books there. Try the political science, economics, business, or current events sections, unless you wouldn’t want to have anything to do with a man with those interests. If you see a man who looks interesting to you, you could see what book he’s looking through and ask quietly, “Have you heard good things about that?” Or something along those lines. A bookstore is a little like a library. You don’t want to be noisy, but a quiet inquiry isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a man in a bookstore.
Any and all places of worship are superb places to meet a man. If you’re already a member of a congregation, by all means, make an appointment with the spiritual leader and tell him or her that you’ve grieved for your late husband, but now, after four years since Jack’s death, you’d be delighted to have an introduction.
In addition to houses of worship, another fine place to spend some time, and very possibly to meet Mr. Right, is the campaign headquarters of your favorite candidate. You’ll be among people whose political views are congenial, which is always a plus, as I’ve discussed here, here, and here.
Rule 28: Get up every morning and repeat this to yourself: the man I seek could be anywhere and is somewhere. He could be filling his gas tank at the same gas station where you’re filling yours. If that happens, ask him for directions even if you know the area like the back of your hand! It’s not so much the question as your openness and self-confidence.
COPING WITH GENUINE SHYNESS — YOURS
Rule 29: What if you’re shy and don’t have so much self-confidence? Don’t let that stop you. You had enough nerve to write to me, so please have enough nerve to improve your life.
And remember this: all these casual chats at supermarkets, hardware stores, at men’s clothing stores, and at your place of worship (you don’t have one? Join one!) will be excellent practice in the event one of your friends does come through with an introduction. Consider it all experience that will have been very helpful when you do meet Mr. Right. You’ll be conversationally looser, more confident, and less fearful.
Rule 30: A final point about shyness, which is a genuine problem for many human beings. This point comes from the remarkable Ingrid Bergman. As a young actress, she found herself both frustrated and fearful that she couldn’t give the director, the great Alfred Hitchcock, exactly the performance he was demanding of her. As she later told it,
“I said, ‘I don’t think I can give you that kind of emotion.’ And he [Hitchcock] sat there and said, ‘Ingrid, fake it!’ Well, that was the best advice I’ve had in my whole life, because in all the years to come there were many directors who gave me what I thought were quite impossible instructions and many difficult things to do, and just when I was on the verge of starting to argue with them, I heard his voice coming to me through the air saying, ‘Ingrid, fake it!’ It saved a lot of unpleasant situations and waste of time.”
This is not like faking an orgasm (a bad idea). It is like sucking it up and understanding that you are responsible for finding that man. It’s important that you go out at a minimum of three times a week to look for that special man. No one, not your closest friend, has any greater interest in making your life what you want it to be than you do.
Even the best of friends and family members have their own problems. If you consider it important to find a man to follow Jack in your life, you and you alone must work the hardest to meet him.
There’s a great quotation from Rabbi Hillel, one of the great sages of Judaism who lived in Jerusalem during the rule of King Herod and is relevant here. It has three parts, each of them pertinent to your situation today:
If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?
It’s disappointing that none of your husband’s friends made good on their promises to him. But you’re alive and ready to find the second Mr. Right. He’s out there. Go get him. And do so now. The sooner you find him the more time you’ll have together. If not now, when?
And when you feel shy, play this, over and over again until it plays in your head without the need of a computer or anything but your own wonderful mind:
Cue “Whistle a Happy Tune”:
Do you have questions? Belladonna Rogers has answers. Send your questions or comments about politics, personal matters, or anything else that’s on your mind and Belladonna will answer as many as possible. The names and email addresses of all advice-seekers will remain anonymous and confidential. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org