The old-fashioned widow, the one that society pictures, is an asexual creature, draped in black, content to live on memories and a nice needlepoint project. But that’s the widow of yesteryear. Many of us are dating again looking for a second chapter that includes love.

Unfortunately, today’s men don’t seem to be the men of yesteryear either. I belong to several Facebook groups for widows and they are full of posts lamenting the loser man boys we all seem to be meeting.

My theory is that older men have bought into the hook up culture generally associated with younger folk. Men who used to think they should take us our for a nice dinner and perhaps a tentative kiss goodnight now think they can offer to meet for a few drinks as a prequel to getting laid. I am sick of coffee dates where the guy invites me to go buy my own coffee while he remains seated.

So many single, middle-aged men are single for a reason. And sometimes the only fun thing about an initial meet up date is figuring out why.

My best piece of advice: What you see is what you are going to get. These guys are not going to change. If he’s cheap on a first date, he will remain cheap. If you think he has bad manners, it’s too late to call his mom to tell her to fix him. If he only seems interested in talking about himself, that’s because he is. (Unless he’s adorably flustered and nervous in which case, you may want to give him a second chance).

Most importantly, if he tells you he is not looking for commitment. he isn’t. No matter how wonderful you are. It isn’t you, it’s him. It’s good that he told you upfront. But if you want something beyond being friends with benefits, or you can’t take it when your man sees other women, run. I see so many widows in my Facebook groups who are in pain because they gave too much of themselves to a guy who couldn’t reciprocate their feelings, who’d told them in the beginning that he was limited, but who they thought they could change.

When I started dating online, I only picked men online who claimed to want a relationship. But I found so many schmucks I started a blog about dating. I will never again date a man who orders the ridiculously expensive jamon serrano then tells me when we get the check that we’re splitting it. I am not here to fund some guy’s luxury pork product addiction.

Then there was also the guy who couldn’t get over his exes, the rich artist with anger management problems, and the polyamorous doctor with the huge…ego. I wound up with enough material to become a Huffington Post blogger.

But really, I was mad at myself for hanging out with these guys for too long. I stayed weeks or even a month when I should have been done after two dates. But I was lonely. And I thought the best of people. And in a few cases, I thought I could help a man to change, to be less angry, or to appreciate life more, or to stop picking such damn expensive restaurants. Nope. It didn’t happen. They stayed the same and I got frustrated.

At first, it felt so much better to be out on a Saturday night instead of at home with Gray’s Anatomy yet again. And a few times, it was so much more life-affirming to be next to a warm body. It was like eating junk food because you aren’t near any good restaurants. But I probably should have just eaten at home.

Let’s not be ashamed of needing companionship. Sexual bereavement, missing the physical closeness that we had with our husbands, is a real thing. And it’s not just sex. It’s someone to go to the movies with, or to sit across from at a restaurant, or to ask you over the phone, even if you aren’t together that night, “How was your day?”

I finally swore off junk food guys by making a list. This is it:

1 Can be a grown up if necessary
2 Gets my sense of humor
3 Is good with time apart
4  Wants to travel
5 Socially appropriate and articulate
6 Non-workaholic
7 Emotionally available and affectionate
8 Quiet about former partners
9 Positive outlook
10 Financially stable

Every time some guy from an online dating site contacted me, I compared him to the list. And I prissed up my dating profile to say that I was looking for a committed relationship and added that if the guy wasn’t, I applauded his self-knowledge, but he shouldn’t waste his time by contacting me.

Eventually, I did meet the right person. But I went on far fewer actual dates then I had the first time around. The list worked. So did initial screening calls where I asked whatever I wanted. So first, no shame about we want. And second, no douches, quasi-douches or projects. We do not have to settle.


Debbie Weiss is a writer, yogi, gardener and former attorney. After her husband died of cancer in April 2013, she turned to writing when she found herself single and living alone for the first time at age 50. You can find her on her blog,, which offers empathy and dating advice. Her work has been published in THe New York Times' Modern Love column, The Huffington Post, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, Elle Decor, and Reader’s Digest, among other publications. She is currently working on a memoir while trying to figure out how to program her garden lights. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.