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Transcript: Wednesday, February 9, 2 p.m. ET

Dating Advice

Laurie Helgoe
Wednesday, February 9, 2005; 2:00 PM

Laurie Helgoe is a national expert on relationships and desire, and author of the "Boomer's Guide to Dating (Again)" (Penguin Group). She has worked and taught as a clinical psychologist for 15 years, and currently practices in Charleston, West Virginia. In her practice, she helps individuals and couples to awaken and pursue desires that have become obscured by their life choices.

For more information, visit Dr. Helgoe at www.wakingdesire.com.

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The transcript follows below.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Rockville, Md.: Hi Laurie, I actually have been on a couple of dates but haven't had a relationship in the past six years. I have a hard time talking to guys. Where can I guys without heading out to the bars or clubs (which I am not really into) and meet guys in a comfortable atmosphere. I've tried the dating key and lock parties and speed dating and feel like it's not for me. What do for a quiet/shy girl to get out of her shell and meet some men? Thanks.

Laurie Helgoe: Hi! One of the best places for a shy person to meet people is in a coffee shop. If you are a reader, bring a book and read it there--that gives a guy something to ask you about. Same goes for sketching, writing, or any hobby you can take with you. Let your desires lead the way--pursue something you've been putting off, like taking a class or joining a book or running club. Volunteering is also a great way to meet people--and you have a mutual cause and activity to help you break the ice.

Meeting guys may be just the "excuse" you need to open yourself up to new interests.




Anonymous: Hi! Great timing for Valentines Day...

How do you politely turn down someone who's expressed interest in you without having to explain why, and still maintain the friendship?

Laurie Helgoe: Hi to you! The simplest way to turn someone down is to say, "You're a great person, but I don't feel that special spark I am looking for." Best of luck, Laurie


Birmingham, Mich.: What's your opinion of Internet dating sites? Which have the best reputation for boomers getting back into the dating scene? Thanks!

Laurie Helgoe: I think that the Internet is becoming more and more of a standard for boomer daters. There are so many sites, I can't do justice to your question regarding recommendations, but I have friends who have had good luck with match.com, and eHarmony seems to be good for people who are very serious about finding a partner (some have found this limiting; one friend found a soul mate). I would look over the sites carefully, check out the "top 10" lists and consumer references. Just as you look for whom you're attracted to, look for the site that attracts you! Best, Laurie


Rockville, Md.: I was in a long term relationship where I thought he was the one, but all of the sudden last month he got cold feet and needs time apart (at least a semester, maybe even a year). We're long distance now, so I don't have to worry about running into him. I've been on a few dates, but I find myself dreading the point where I have to tell any new person about the sort-of ex. How do you tell someone about this? Does it mean I'm not ready to date?

Laurie Helgoe: You are in a situation where your "sort-of-ex" is calling the shots. What are your feelings about the "semester break"? What are the terms of the "break," and are you happy with them? I would use this time apart to evaluate what YOU want. As hard as it is, I would advise letting go of outcome, and seeing the break as a time for you to see what's out there. You put yourself in a much better position if you focus on what YOU are looking for. Best, Laurie


Silver Spring, Md.: Hello! I've not had a relationship is quite awhile.

Since I've tried to go to age-appropriate singles events and (heaven help me, eharmony), I've become very discouraged. It seems that all the straight men want: 1. Gwyneth Paltrow, 2. Jessica Parker, or someone likewise... small, petite with good airbrushing or an army of stylists & makeup artists.

I'm left with the feeling that unless I can be 'ornamental', no man will consider even just getting to know me. I'm willing to overlook a paunch, any hairline issues, etc. -- why is this such a common mindset, especially in the late 30s crowd?

Laurie Helgoe: Don't get discouraged. Let's face it, the package does mean something, but we are really not all looking for the same package. An attractive male friend of mine recently met with a woman he met online and told me after that she was "drop dead gorgeous," but he wasn't happy about it. He found her appearance intimidating and distracting.

Think of yourself as a marketing consultant for YOU. What do YOU like best about yourself? What do your friends say they like about you? Compose a pitch, just for your own use, and then use first impression visuals (photos, how you dress) to highlight those features. If you are outdoorsy, have a photo taken in the woods. Also try going after people with more depth, perhaps through a class or volunteer gig. Best, Laurie


Columbia, Md.: Hello Laurie,

Dating in the true sense of the word has diminished in my opinion. Many men want you to come over to their house or come over to your house to watch a movie for a first date! I find this to be an immediate turn-off and am wondering whatever happened to courtship. I'm 40, divorced with 2 children, and have met several men, many of whom don't know the art of courting. Any suggestions?

Laurie Helgoe: Find different men! And remember, it only takes ONE to turn your world upside down. And good for you for not settling with ones that turn you off! Best, Laurie


Washington, D.C.:

I have begun to re-enter the dating world
and noticed that I only attract losers,
married men and younger guys. I am
starting to feel that "normal" single guys
don't want me. I am told I am attractive
and I have a lot going for me but not in
this department. Am I "giving off"
something or doing something wrong?

Laurie Helgoe: Hi Washington, D.C.,

Please collect your stories of your misadventures! Don't miss out on the dramatic value of your experiences--the good, bad and ugly. If you want straight feedback on what kind of signals you are giving off, ask for it. Ask a friend you really trust, a family member who knows you well, or often best, a therapist. We all have patterns to how we relate, and if we really want to get feedback on what we're setting up, we can get it. Problem is, most of us don't have the courage to ask. Best, Laurie


Gaithersburg, Md.: I am a 40 year old woman (never been married, no kids) who moved in with my 49 year old SO after 10 months of dating. I would like to have a baby with him but he wants to wait until we've been living together a year. Should I wait (he has two children from a previous marriage in college)?

Laurie Helgoe: I'm sure you're hearing the biological clock, although a year may not make a big difference (check this with your gynecologist). I would give yourself the gift of enjoying living together for awhile, because once children come, you will be consumed with baby care. Of course, a conflict like this is best negotiated between you, with each of you asserting your desires and working to find a place where you both can get most of what you want. And congratulations on your commitment to each other! Best to both of you, Laurie


Herndon, Va.: Laurie -
Is the old dating rule of women can't call men still true? As a 40-something woman who's just back into dating after a divorce, that seems so archaic. Are women really still supposed to play hard to get?

Laurie Helgoe: No no no!!! If you go by "The Rules" books, you are not supposed to initiate much of anything with a man. However, I have talked to numerous men who find it a relief to have a woman initiate. Just as it is oppressive to many women to feel they have to wait on a man's initiative, it's oppressive to men to feel they always have to put themselves out there. Approach the situation with a little humor, acknowledge breaking the rules, and if the guy has a problem with that, he's not likely to be a good match for you (he'll need a "rules girl"). Go for it! Laurie


Albany, N.Y.: Silver Spring wrote, "It seems that all the straight men want: 1. Gwyneth Paltrow, 2. Jessica Parker, or someone likewise... small, petite with good airbrushing or an army of stylists & makeup artists."

There's probably a lot of truth to that. There's some truth to it in my case. I don't know what the reasons are for other men, but in my case I stayed in a dead marriage for 15 years for my son's sake. So even though I'm 49, my clock stopped running when I was 34, since I lost 15 years. I still tend to think like I did when I was 34. It think it will take some time to adjust.

Laurie Helgoe: Hi Albany: Thanks so much for your honesty. It can be an adjustment to deal with the time lapse between now and when you were first dating. Fortunately, as the baby boomers age, the market follows us, and hopefully we will see age honored for its beauty.


Gaithersburg, Md.: How do you feel about a significant age difference in a couple? I'm 40 and I'm very attracted to a man 20 years my senior. Any hints or things to take into consideration?

Laurie Helgoe: A combination like yours can be both a challenge and an incredible learning experience. With a 20-year stretch, you have different reference points for your lives and, of course, differences in your life experiences. But don't we all? I would have to go with the "Boomer Babes" advice here: if you've both been through at least one midlife crisis, you're probably in good shape. A challenge may be whether you both have similar energy levels (one ready for adventure and the other ready to settle in). The more you can be upfront with each other about hopes and fears, the better sense you'll have of the relationship's potential. Bottom line: if you're attracted, check it out! Laurie


Washington, D.C.: Is 30 really the kiss of death for a woman? I turned 30 last year. Decided to do match.com recently, in the past I have always been inundated with responses to my profile and this time I am getting practically none. I am not going to lie about my age, just curious if men see a 30-year-old woman and automatically dismiss her as marriage and baby hungry.

Also, what to do about a guy who becomes ridiculously infatuated on the first date? He has some potential, but I am so uncomfortable with the allegedly strong feelings he developed in the course of one date that I don't really want to see him again.

Laurie Helgoe: I think 30 is just the beginning! Check out MORE magazine and look at all the incredible women over 40. I have talked to many men who are drawn to women past 30 because they find these women more confident and less neurotic! I also have seen my fair share of baby-hungry men. Regarding the guy who's infatuated with you, credit him with his good taste! Let him know gently that his strong feelings are intimidating at this stage and that you'd like to get to know him better so you can assess what you are feeling. Best, Laurie


Sterling, Va.: Hi!

Thought you were right on the mark when you suggested pursuing hobbies that interest, volunteer activities etc. I never hear anyone advising women to get involved with women's and church groups-it could pay off if you really want to meet decent guys. Years ago I was on a "calling committee" (they would call members to remind them of upcoming events) at church when I was given a list of about a dozen people to remind them of the annual picnic. I was so dense; it took me a few calls to figure out that the ladies had given me the names of all the eligible guys about my age in the church! I thought that was really sweet. These were some really wonderful men too. Guys that also weren't interested in the bar scene etc.
By the way, I am blissfully married to someone that I was really impressed with initially because he volunteered teaching English as a second language -- good guys don't finish last!

Laurie Helgoe: Hi to you, and thanks for sharing your experience! Yes, church can be a great place to meet people. There is a reason for the word "sanctuary," and it seems that many people feel safer meeting people through church activities. And AMEN to good guys don't finish last!


Laurie Helgoe: I wish I could answer all of your questions. So many great ones! All the best and, remember, the world can change in a day. I see it all the time.

Savor the adventure,



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