I haven’t dated in 30 years

We chat at 1 p.m. today. In the meantime ....
Dear Meredith: I have read your column from afar. I moved away from New England 25 years ago and wonder what advice you can give me. Here's my story: I married my college sweetheart 27 years ago, supported him through professional school and raised three great kids with him. He informed me a year-and-a-half ago that I was not the "soul mate" he needed in his life and filed for divorce. After the devastating news sunk in, I came up for air, checked for a pulse, and realized that life goes on. Starting over at the age of 50 is what I must now do and it is both scary and freeing. Fast forward one year later and I just finished my first year of graduate school and am healing emotionally from the experience. I can honestly say that I am hopeful and excited about my future. So here's my question: What is your soundest advice on navigating the single world to a woman who literally has no experience in dating in over three decades? The world seems to have changed quite a bit since 1978 when I fell in love with a man I thought I would be with forever. I am not looking to get remarried but I am certainly hopeful that I will share romantic love again.

– Nancy, Manitowoc, WI

Nancy, first of all, my condolences. You sound like you’re in great shape emotionally -- but ending a marriage is miserable. So sorry. I’ve done my best to come up with a list of things you should know about dating in 2009 -- how dating has changed since 1978. Here’s what I’ve come up with: People are weirder. Really, they’re as weird as they’ve always been, but they’ll seem weirder to you. After being with the same person for 27 years, you probably have a specific definition of normal. Try to throw that out the window if you can. These new men will have different routines and philosophies. Get ready to be surprised, and try to have an open mind. Grooming got big. I don’t know when this happened, but sometime in the 1980s (maybe the 1990s?) women decided that body hair wasn’t OK. I’m quite sure women my mom’s age didn’t wax and shave everything off in the 1960s and 1970s. You don’t have to take part in this, but I’m just warning you. It seems worth mentioning. Age doesn’t matter. I don’t buy into the media hype that younger men are looking to date much older women, but I do think that it’s possible for women to date younger men successfully. Just something to think about. You're not limited to a specific age range anymore. I also recommend making friends of all ages. I find that hanging out with a variety of people -- some younger, some older -- makes me feel like we’re all in it together. Age does matter -- to some. If you go online to date, you may notice that some men only want to date younger women. They won’t even consider women their own age. Ignore those men. They are crap. The Golden Rule still applies. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you don’t want to communicate by text message, don’t send texts. If you want honesty, ask honest questions. Friends are soul mates. I don’t know what soul mate means to you, but I like to think soul mates are people who understand us and make us laugh when we’re feeling lost. At the moment, you need a group of supporters -- some friends who will love you while you figure this out. Nothing has changed. I mean, dating has changed since 1978, for sure, but people are still selfish, there are still mixed signals, first kisses still make stomach butterflies, and it still hurts like crazy when it doesn’t work out. Welcome back. Stomach butterflies. Good name for a teen band, yes? Readers? What have I forgotten? Tips? Thoughts? Share here. Letters to the right.

– Meredith