The truth and consequences of navigating the single’s scene at life’s mid-point
The kids are grown. Career is solid. Mortgage about paid off, if not nonexistent. All that’s missing is a mate. What’s a middle-age (and then some) single to do? More than one-third of baby boomers are currently single, due to lower marriage rates and higher separation and divorce rates after a trip down the aisle. So, how do you find your “ride or die” until you, well, die?
“When we dated in our 20s, you were looking for potential,” says Lisa Lyngos, co-owner of the largest matchmaking service in the Southeast, Atlanta Matchmakers. “Now, the thing that’s so wonderful, we are who we are. You want a happy, healthy, stable relationship with someone you share interests with, and you see life from the same lens. Yes, opposites can attract, but not when it comes to character and values.”
Queen of the Court
Terri Errington stands lean and tall at the net, gazing into the midday sun. The outgoing 61-year-old plays as much tennis as she can when not helping patients as a respiratory therapist. “I’ve found dating to be very challenging,” she confides. “The men who are in their 50s are looking for girls who are in their mid-30s, and there aren’t a lot of places to meet people.”
She’s tried just about every dating app on the scene since her husband died suddenly nine years ago. “I wish I’d written a book,” she shares with a hearty laugh. “The good thing is, there are some nice people out there. I had to weed through so many.” There was the guy with a foot fetish, who just wanted pictures of her feet. The guy who wore glasses in all of his online photos, only to reveal a wicked cross-eye in person. And the many, many, married men who just wanted a hook-up.
The funny, independent-minded woman has realized she’s not as interested in finding a husband as she is in simply having someone to travel alongside and share life’s smaller moments. She’s learned to rely on friends to introduce her to single men, and to head out to dinner, sometimes alone, without any trepidation or expectations. “I’m old school,” she admits. “Can we exchange phone numbers and talk over the phone? I get tired of texting through an app. I will keep going out. I refuse to be stuck in a hole at home.”
Jim Blume checks his phone for messages while on a business trip. “I’m kind of seeing someone,” the civil engineer explains. “We’ve been out a few times now.” The 54-year-old is still learning how to date in the new millennium, after more than 20 years of marriage. He uses the exact same word as Terri to describe the experience: challenging. “I never thought I’d be here,” the divorced dad of four admits with a chuckle. “It’s a whole different world. Do you try to meet in person? Do you do the online dating thing? Both have their advantages. There are so many unspoken rules.”
He’s found digital dating through apps like Bumble can serve as an icebreaker, to interact and learn a bit about the other person. But he still prefers meeting face to face. “At this point, my goal is to meet somebody I enjoy spending time with, and progress and see how that turns out,” he shares. “I had an amicable divorce, but I don’t want to jump right back into something. You’re a bit more cautious.”
With an interest in live music, he enjoys evenings at Smiley’s, and Hall’s Chophouse for its food and drink and its lively atmosphere. “Meeting new people with different interests and qualities, it opens you up to exploring new options,” he says. “After being married for a long time, I’ve learned you’ve got to get out and keep yourself busy.”
Lisa and Leisha Lyngos have matched more than 20,000 clients across the Southeast, including the Carolinas, since founding Atlanta Matchmakers in 1998. The Texas-raised twins matriculated east after graduating from Baylor University, visiting Greenville for special events. Lisa jokes that dating in your 50s is the “land of second chances.” She advises, “The thing people our age have going? We’re not old anymore. We’re healthier and more youthful than ever.” Her sister Leisha adds, “Did you know the Sex and the City girls are the same age as the Golden Girls? But nowadays, we’re young and vibrant. We want a shared-life experience. We want companionship.”
The 59-year-olds encourage those seeking a date to leave the house. “You gotta get out,” instructs Lisa. “Don’t wait for it to happen, make it happen, because Mr. or Miss Right is not going to drop through the ceiling on a Friday night. Do the thing you love to do because compatibility is where it’s at. Join a kayak group, pickleball, hike. If you like to read, or music, or karaoke, get out and do it. Put yourself in the environment of people who like to do what you love to do.”
Leisha advocates for self-care as well. “The most important thing in staying active is to work on yourself,” she explains. “Make time for yourself. The better you are, the better person you attract. Happy people are really attractive. That’s what’s important.”
Tips from the Pros
These are some of the tips the twins have shared on CNN, The Today Show and HBO for successful first dates:
- Be fun and flirtatious. The goal of the first date is to have fun.
- Don’t go into interview mode and ask super-deep questions like, “What do you want to do with your life?”
- Avoid chatting about politics, religion, and prickly subjects.
- You might have met on a fast-moving app, but slow down. Pay attention face-to-face.