FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Uncoupling after years of marriage can be unsettling, especially for mature men. Harold “Hal” Spielman, 85, a part-time Lake Worth, Fla., resident who was stunned when his younger wife died five years ago, decided he could help others.
The retired co-founder of McCollum Spielman Worldwide, a research company whose clients were Fortune 500 companies, applied his skills to tackling some of life’s more complex questions that he unexpectedly found himself facing.
Will she be insulted if I pick up the check on the first date? Will she like me if I’m losing my hair? Do I really need to carry a condom at my age?
For his market research, he spent $200,000 on sophisticated surveys that included 1,000 men and 600 women, all older than 55. The result was “Suddenly Solo,” Spielman’s self-published book and spinoff website (suddenlysolo.org.)
Nothing dry or analytical in this dating advice book: “Suddenly Solo” is designed to be fun as well as informative for anyone post-60 and on the prowl, with tips, cartoons and an “Ask Hal” column.
Although his research hasn’t (yet) led him to the new love of his life, it has landed Spielman on national talk shows and promotional tours. “I’m having a lot of fun with this,” he said. “It really is an interesting, worthwhile project.”
So what about dating by the numbers? Spielman’s numbers, that is. Well, here are some tips.
Q: What the heck should I wear on this first date? Is he going to be looking at my flabby arms? Will she care that I’m balding?
A: Survey says 36 percent of mature women and 31 percent of the men surveyed said the first thing they notice about a person is their eyes, the highest category. Second highest for both genders is smile: 30 percent of women, 29 percent for men. But 20 percent of men do say they are going to check out a lady’s bod on that first date; only 6 percent of women say they’ll do the same for guys.
Spielman says: Concentrate on the neck up when it comes to first appearances. “A smiling face is a big, key attracting element.”
Q: Gee, we’ve just finished our meal. Should I reach for my wallet?
A: Survey says 92 percent of senior men say they pay for the first date, and 80 percent of women expect them to. But 19 percent of women said they go dutch the first time out, as compared with 6 percent of men.
Spielman says: Women who offer to pay their way the first time out may be doing so for two reasons: They want to show their independence. Or they don’t like their dining partner and don’t want to feel obligated to accept a second date. “The man can say something like, ‘I’ll get it this time and you pay next time,’ and see what happens,” Spielman said.
Q: What the heck do women want these days?
A: Well guys, a good joke is still a chick magnet. About half of senior women said a sense of humor was very important to them, the most common response. About 48 percent mentioned honesty and integrity. Appearance? Eight percent.
Spielman says: While humor may be important, don’t completely neglect your appearance. Toss out those frayed shirts. Treat yourself to new bed linens. And underwear. “You never know,” he said. “With men, there always is that aspect of hope. It never dies.”
Q: How many dates are required before I can pop the question: Let’s get naked?
A: Senior men said three was the magic number, with a response of 32 percent. And 18 percent said they were ready to go on date one. Women? Half of them want to wait until the fifth date, with only 2 percent saying they would go to bed on a first date.
Spielman says: “We were surprised we got any mature women who wanted to go to bed on the first date, but I guess we shouldn’t have been.” He is convinced this three date-five date disconnect is why many older men move on, convinced they’ll never get more than a peck on the cheek when all they might need is to wait two more dates.
“The man needs to be patient,” Spielman said. As for the ladies: If you’re interested but just not quite ready, let the guy know you want to keep seeing him.
Oh, and fellas, take heart: 80 percent of those sweet grandmas you’re meeting are packing condoms in their purses, according to “Suddenly Solo” research.
Q: What do you call the person you’re shacking up with when you introduce them to your friends, kids and grandkids?
A: “Significant other” is the most common term for mature couples, cited by 49 percent of women and 56 percent of men. But 26 percent of women and 28 percent of men used the more traditional “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.”
Spielman says: There are no great alternatives here. “I know one couple that uses ‘fiance’ and they’ve been engaged for 12 years,” Spielman said. Boyfriend and girlfriend sound like you’re back in high school, he said, and significant other is a clumsy mouthful.