Twenty-four years ago, on July 7, 1994, my first newspaper column was published. It appeared in the South County Lifestyles section of four Orange County Register community newspapers.

People often ask, “Did you learn to write in journalism school?”

I answer: “No journalism school. I learned to write sitting on bar stools, while trying to meet women after my divorce.”

That answer probably needs an explanation.

On Christmas Eve 1993, my wife of six years took what furniture and belongings she wanted from our Monarch Beach home and moved out of my life. I was in Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco, visiting my 83-year-old mom.

I did not know about the move out. Oh, I knew we had some issues to discuss, but most couples do. I found out the morning after Christmas when she telephoned me at Mom’s.

On the drive home, I had a notepad in my lap. When you’ve got nine hours to drive, knowing your wife has bailed out, a million thoughts go through your mind.
Being very careful, I jotted them down. The first item: What about my dogs, Amy and Kira? Were they gone? Were they still there? Had they been fed or left water in two days?
The next item: Why did she do it without us discussing it first?
Although I wasn’t a writer, by trip’s end, I had a mishmash of notes on the notepad. I had no idea those notes would be the start of a writing career.

When I opened the garage door, the dogs barked. They were okay. We were happy to see each other.
A month later, while serving sandwiches during lunchtime at Tutor and Spunky’s, my Dana Point deli, in front of customers and employees, I was served—with divorce papers!

That night, as I did every night, I jotted down my thoughts in what by then had become a soon-to-be-divorced-man’s diary. I wrote, “Today was the last straw. I’ll get even with her. I’m going to begin dating immediately.”

I was 54 and thought dating would be a snap, as a plethora of single women came through the deli doors. What a rude awakening. Younger female deli customers wouldn’t date me. In fact, women regardless of age wouldn’t date me.

As I sat on bar stools at Brio, Hennessey’s and other local singles’ hangouts, looking for love. I’d add the dating misadventures into the diary. On those bar stools is where I learned to write.
After five months, I put the diary notes into a short story. I edited the material 25 times. It was 74 pages. I thought, maybe, I could get the story published.
I sent query letters to The New York TimesPlayboy Magazine and Esquire. No response. The Orange County Register recommended I contact the Dana Point News, the Register’s community paper.
After reading my material, the two women editors—Sherrie Good and Dixie Redfearn—agreed to a meeting at their office.
Sherrie and Dixie were right about the anticipated responses from women readers.
The first: “Who is this sniveling puke?”
The second: “He complains that younger women won’t go out with him. It’s a wonder any woman will go out with him.”

Welcome to the mid-life dating trenches, Tom.

I wrote for the OC Register and many of its community papers for 17 years.

Seven years ago, I was blessed to join the team at Picket Fence Media—the publishers of the Dana Point TimesSan Clemente Times and The Capistrano Dispatch. I am very lucky to have this incredible opportunity to write for print newspapers.

I’m very fortunate to still have my articles printed by three vibrant newspapers, published by hard-working Americans.
And more importantly, it opened the door for me to meet Greta, a partner with whom I’ve shared so many incredible experiences in the 20 years we’ve been together, I don’t have time to write about them all.
Have things changed on the dating scene in 24 years? Not much. Except now, instead of focusing on dating after 50, it includes dating after 60, 70, 80, and even 90.

Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites http://www.findingloveafter50.com; www.vicsta.com and www.travelafter55.com. To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at www.findingloveafter50.com. Email: tompblake@gmail.com.

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