Friday, July 8, 2016

In life, opportunity often arises from adversity

On Life and Love after 50 Newsletter for July 8, 2016

Senior issues: In life, opportunity often arises from adversity

By Tom P Blake

Today’s newsletter begins my 23rd year of writing about finding love after 50. My first newspaper column appeared on July 4, 1994, in a local Dana Point, California, newspaper. Some Champs know how this all came about but a lot don’t so that’s what we are going to write about today.

Back then, I wasn’t a writer, just a guy who owned Tutor and Spunky’s, the Dana Point deli I had opened in 1988. On Christmas Eve, 1993, my life changed dramatically when my wife of six years--without informing me of her intentions--cleaned out the house and moved away. I was so surprised and shocked that I started keeping a journal to try to gather my thoughts and figure out what the hell had happened and why I didn’t see it coming.

It was one of those unexpected curve balls that life pitches at you that you cannot be prepared for. Almost all of our Champs have had one of those pitches tossed at them as well at various stages of their lives.

In early 1994, an unknown man came into the deli during a busy lunchtime, and in front of a few customers and employees, said, “Are you Tom Blake?” I smiled and said yes, thinking we had a new customer. He handed me an envelope, saying, “You are formally being served with divorce papers.”

That was insult being added to injury. I chased him out of the deli with a breadknife but he was gone in a flash. Soon, I became single, free to date again. I added the events of each day to my journal.

I thought mid-life dating was going to be easy. After all, I owned a deli in a So Cal beach town where lots of attractive women came in for lunch wearing bikinis, and other beach garb, many of them half my age or less.

I quickly discovered that southern Orange County women had no interest in dating a newly divorced, 53-year-old guy, who was bitter at how the divorce gods had treated him. I am surprised I didn’t alienate every woman customer that entered the place and decided to stop asking women customers out altogether. With every failed dating experience, I added to the journal.

After six months, my journal had grown to more than 100 pages. I converted it to a short story. I naively queried Playboy, Esquire and the New York Times, thinking they might be interested in story about a divorced man’s dating woes.

Eventually, two women editors of the Dana Point paper agreed to review my material. They felt that single women in Southern California would have a field day taking pot shots at my woe-is-me, feeling-sorry-for-myself, age-50+ single-guy-can’t-get-a-date, saga.

The two editors gave me my first writing opportunity, and they were right. After my initial column appeared, which was titled, “Home alone with only dogs for company,” a woman wrote in, “Who is this sniveling puke?” Another said, “Get the boy a crying towel.” The column soon appeared in 10 local area newspapers and for eight years in The Orange County Register, which at the time, was the nation’s 20th largest newspaper.

In June, 1998, I met Greta, my life partner. Women readers told me that my writing became less controversial and more palatable after she entered my life. And I stopped complaining in my writing that I had to pay for the dates.

Now, in 2016, I’ve written approximately 3,500 articles and newsletters on finding love after 50; writing on this topic has been good to me. I’ve published four books and have been interviewed by Matt Lauer on the Today show and Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America—humbling experiences for a deli guy.

In 2011, Norb Garrett, the CEO of  Picket Fence Media, the publisher of the Dana Point Times, San Clemente Times and The Capistrano Dispatch, invited me to write for his newspapers. In my 23 years of writing, I have never been associated with such a hard-working, friendly and warm group of people. My columns appear in those papers twice a month.

My writing scope has broadened from the early days of strictly writing about finding love after 50, to including “On life and love after 50,” as older singles deal with personal issues often beyond the scope of just dating and seeking love.

When I first started writing, Internet dating hadn’t been invented yet, and now, seniors routinely break up by text message.

My advice is applicable to people age 45 to 90. Yes, I do know people in their 90s who have found love. One of our most prolific Champs in contacting me is Shirley, aka the wise bird of Manhattan, so dating and seeking love doesn’t end at 80.

While my articles target singles, approximately 35 percent of my readers are married. Many tell me that reading about the hardships singles endure encourages them to appreciate their spouses more and to work harder at making their marriages last. My advice to married couples is usually pretty simple: stay together and work out the issues.

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from this writing experience: opportunity often arises from adversity and it’s up to us as individuals to recognize the opportunity and make the best of it, although we may not see or understand it until months or years later.

I hear this message repeated often as Champs write me and talk about how they found opportunity and capitalized on it after experiencing adversity.

I enjoy hearing from our Champs. Your comments, questions and observations are the meat and potatoes that help keep the newsletter ongoing.

Email me at and I will respond quickly.

Dana Point Times July 8 2016

San Clemente Times July 7 2016

The Capistrano Dispatch July 8 2016 (San Juan Capistrano)

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