Single and almost 40

Hi Meredith,

I am approaching 40 and I've never been in a serious relationship. Never brought anyone home to meet the parents, no one who has ever met my friends, etc. I'm not a virgin, but I'm not promiscuous by any means. I've tried online dating a few times, but no one I have a real interest in getting to know responds, and the ones who do just end up stopping the conversation before we even meet. I wasn't a shy child, but the older I get and the more shy I become, the more difficult it is to get to know any guy I actually meet (which isn't many). I feel like my inexperience and lack of past relationships is going to be a turn off to the majority of guys. People always tell me "Just be patient," and "It will happen," but my response is that I HAVE been patient. I've joined organizations that interest me, volunteered for causes that are important to me -- all the things that people suggest to try and meet guys. But I'm failing miserably. I would really like to have kids (at least ONE) someday, and being that I'm approaching 40, I'd like it to be soon. Do you have any other advice for me?

– Hopeless(?) Romantic, Walpole

I'm not going to give you any clichés, HR. There's no need for patience right now, and love doesn't always happen. (Sorry. It's true.)

My advice is to go out with as many guys as humanly possible on that dating site. I mean, skip the ones whose profiles actually offend you, but if someone contacts you, make a date -- because you never know.

As you date and meet people in the real world, remember that everyone feels inexperienced. Many 40-somethings are just getting out of long-term relationships and first marriages. They probably feel insecure and inexperienced too. You know what it's like to be alone and on the scene. They don't. You're more experienced than you think. Your past doesn't concern me at all. Please stop dwelling on it.

I also want you to ask yourself some big questions about your future. I can't promise you that you're going to meet a magic guy in six months who will fall for you and want to make babies. If I told you that you weren't going to meet a guy until you were 44, would you want to have a baby on your own right now? Are children a necessity? Be realistic about your needs. If "approaching 40" means that you're 39.5 and want a kid no matter what, start figuring out what you need to do to make that happen.

The goal is to be hopeful and realistic at the same time. No clichés. Just do the best you can, ask your friends for help, and make plans to get what you want, with or without a partner.

Readers? Why hasn't she had a relationship? Is she like any other single 30-something who writes in wanting a partner? What about the babies? Should she assume that she will meet someone eventually? Help.

– Meredith