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  • It had been five months since my wife had left me and I was craving female companionship. Most of the friendships we had made since moving to Florida were through her job…other nurses and hospital personnel. That all dried up when our marriage dissolved.

    My job was a Service Technician for a medical manufacturer and all of my contacts were customer related. Not conducive to any possible romantic relationships. So there I was 43 years old and on my own to make new friends. Talk about your stranger in a strange land! I didn’t even know where to start. I had never been any good, twenty some years before, at picking up girls in bars. And the suggestion that I join a church…come on, that sounds downright dishonest. Joining a church to meet girls is one of those oxy-morons like fighting for peace or military intelligence.

    Remember, this was in the days before computer dating became the rage. The early days when there was a huge “personals” section, nay, let’s call it what it really was, a “lonely heart’s” section in the daily paper. I mean it was sometimes two or three pages of ad after ad, sectioned off into columns of Woman seeking Man, Man seeking Woman, Man seeking Man, Couple seeking Goat etc. After a few weeks of reading and laughing at them, I finally gathered up the nerve to call one. Actually I called three and made “dates” with them.

    The first one was very nice and looked older than my mother. I know it sounds extremely shallow, but I just couldn’t get over that hump.
    The next one just wanted a free dinner and the third wanted to have ME for dinner. My daughter quizzed me after each date and asked how they went. After that last one I told her I was able to keep my clothes on. She laughed and said I was missing the whole point. Very funny!

    There were a lot of very lonely people out there and I was beginning to realize just how hard this was going to be. Having no social network was lonely at best and self-perpetuating at worst. Without some bold move on my part there wasn’t going to be any social life for me.

    So my daughter and I composed an ad for me to put in the paper. We laughed over several aborted attempts and then fine-tuned one down to this:

    DWM 43, Large Frame, Larger Heart.
    3 Children, 2 w/me.

    We called it in and they requested a title or catch phrase for a heading. It seems each ad has some kind of a lure, a draw to attract the unwary. We settled on “Slow Hand” which was a popular song about going slow in a relationship. Sounded appropriate to me! They gave me a code to access a phone-in mailbox and said the ad would run for a week starting on Monday. I had to go out of town on a three day seminar for my job and wouldn’t be returning from Charlotte until Thursday.

    By Thursday I was overcome with curiosity and more than a little nervous. I mean, what if nobody wanted to meet me? I needn’t have worried. There were 87 responses in those first four days the ad had run. 87 women wanted to meet me? Unbelievable. Inconceivable!

    I started calling the numbers they left in the order they were received, but I hadn’t realized the enormous scope of my problem. To be fair, I would have to spend at least 15 minutes on the phone with each before mutually deciding whether to meet or not. Some would be no thanks; but others would be yes and a date would be set to meet. A date cost money. I would soon be poor if I didn’t get some kind of plan. And what if we clicked? What if one date wasn’t going to be enough? My God! What kind of monster had I unleashed?

    By the end of the first night of calls, I had gotten through the first eight names on the list (two weren’t home so I left my call back number) and had arranged for two dates that coming Friday and Saturday. That took almost two hours on the phone and my ear was sore. There was no way I could keep this up. I had gone from a bleak and desolate existence to social butterfly! I was in way over my head; moving into the fast lane at warp speed.

    My Friday date was a man killer. A buxom redhead with her green dress cut down to there. She had two teenagers at home and was looking for a sugar daddy. Definitely not me.

    I got home early and found there was a message on my answering machine. It was one of the two people that weren’t home when I called. I called her back and we started the “get to know you” routine. When I asked her to tell me a little about herself she said she was type O. At least she had a sense of humor. When I explained why I wasn’t going to be able to take her out until I got paid again, she said that she knew a place where we could meet for breakfast for under $2. A cheap date, how refreshing. She knew that there were other dates I had lined up, but we agreed to meet at “Widow Brown’s” for Saturday breakfast.

    Widow Brown’s? Sounds like a biker place…I was imagining Lydia the tattooed lady and humming the song as I waited for her to arrive. I had gotten there early and was standing beside the entrance when a large woman straight from central casting of “The Wild Bunch” drove up. Oh please Lord, don’t let this be the one.

    I had just started to breathe again, after she walked passed ignoring me and entered alone, when a cute little blonde who reminded me of Mitzi Gaynor pulled up and asked if I was Jon. Thank you, Lord. I muttered under my breath as we started in the door. She was wearing a black and white print sundress with the back cut out of it. It was all I could do to resist placing my hand on her back as we were seated.

    I eventually became aware of my surroundings. A small mom and pop place with tables and booths. A menu that offered eggs, toast, sausage and juice for .79. I couldn’t believe my eyes. We ordered and waitress poured our coffee.

    Now I have a confession to make. At the time I didn’t drink coffee. Oh maybe an occasional cup in the past after dining with friends. Iced tea was my drink of choice,

    But, she was drinking coffee….I was drinking coffee.

    I don’t remember all that we talked about. I told her about my life and tried not to dominate the conversation. She would nod and ask a question at the appropriate spots. She told me about her life and how she and her youngest son had moved here from Wisconsin six years before. How she tried dating a few times and was about to give it up all together when she saw my ad. Something sounded right about it, so she called.

    We talked and drank coffee for two hours. Our waitress could tell something important was happening and never pressured us to leave. The coffee was working on me and I really needed to use the restroom, but I was afraid that if I got up she would take it as a cue to leave. I hurried and when I got back she was amazingly still there.

    Finally she said she had to get home to her son. He had a birthday party and she needed to drive him. I didn’t want it to end. I asked if I could see her Sunday afternoon. She said, “I thought you had a full schedule?” She was right! I had a dinner date that night and a birthday party for an old friend Sunday morning that I had told her about.

    As we left the restaurant and I walked her to her car, she raised her head and gave me a hug and a light kiss on the lips.
    “Call me after your party on Sunday”. And she drove away.

    I cancelled my dinner date for that evening and left Sunday’s party early. I called and arranged to take her, her son and my two youngest to play miniature golf. And that was our second date, some twenty years and seven grandchildren ago.

    Footnote: I never did find out about the other 79 lonely hearts.
    Oh, and the other missed call? Finally called back. Seems she was a stewardess and had been away. She asked me if she was too late?
    Friendly skies I never flew.
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