It’s time to go: departing on 82-day cruise

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – September 28, 2018

by Columnist Tom Blake

It’s time to go – Senior Travel – taking an 82-day cruise

Reality hit me this week when a Federal Express driver came to the front door of our Dana Point, California, home and picked up two suitcases belonging to my life partner, Greta, and two suitcases belonging to me.

Those four suitcases will be waiting for us in our stateroom when we board the ms Amsterdam, a Holland America Line cruise ship, at the San Pedro (Port of Los Angeles) Cruise Terminal this Sunday. Before the Fed Ex driver arrived, this cruise, which Greta and I signed up for almost a year ago, seemed like a dream far into the future.

Holland America ship Amsterdam (photo courtesy of Holland America Line)

Why the big reality check? We’ve cruised before. Our senior travel philosophy:  travel as often as we can, while we are physically able to do so.

We’ve been on three 30-day cruises and several shorter ones as well, so what’s the big deal? Why is this cruise any different than previous ones we’ve taken?

This cruise is called the Grand Asia & Pacific Cruise. It’s duration: 82 days! That’s two older dudes living together 82 days in a 297 square-feet stateroom. Maybe we could define it as a new type of relationship: a LTICQ (Living Together in Close Quarters).

People say to us: “Are you nuts?” And in the understatement of the year, they also say, “That’s a long time to be together.”

Here’s how it happened: Last October, we were on a Holland America Line cruise around South America. The future cruises director made a presentation to a very captive audience (passengers already on board) about the cruise that now departs in two days (September 30, 2018).

It appealed to us because there was no added expense of flying to get to the departure port or to return home. San Pedro is less than an hour from Dana Point.

For a cruise of 82 days, Holland America dangled quite a few perks to the audience, enticing them to sign up. And we did. Picking up the luggage ahead of time was one of the perks. Paying the tips to the crew was another (a savings of $15 per day).

Greta and I are truly blessed in retirement to be able to travel to distant lands. We do not take that for granted. We realize there will come a day when we can’t. And we also realize that not all people age 50+ can take a trip like this. When I blog or write about travels, many Champs tell me they enjoy traveling with us vicariously by reading about the trips.

As has happened in many of our trips to foreign lands, it seems events occur beforehand that make us think twice about going. In 2004, we were going to Madrid to take a train from the Atocha Train Station to visit other cities in Spain. Ten days before we were to board the train, Spanish separatists bombed Atocha. I asked my newspaper readers if we should cancel.

The overwhelming response: if you cancel, you allow the terrorists to win. We went but traveled by car instead (should have traveled by train, driving in a foreign country is far more dangerous).

Three years ago, we were going to France. The terrorists killed many people in Nice on a boulevard where Greta and I had walked a couple of years before. Again, we decided to go.

Two years ago, same thing happened in Brussels, Belgium. A few days before we left the USA, terrorists attacked there. We were scheduled to be on a train from Dusseldorf to Paris, passing through and stopping in Brussels. Again, we decided to go. And we did ride the train through Brussels.

This year has been no different.

On February 19, a volcano erupted on Mt. Sinabung in Indonesia. And on July 30, a 6.4 earthquake jolted an island in Indonesia. Our ship stops at three different ports in Indonesia, which is prone to quakes as it lies on a 25,000 mile-long, quake-affected area called the Pacific Ring of Fire, where 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur.

Our itinerary includes eight stops in Japanese ports. Also, on July 30, typhoon Jonqdari hit Japan, thousands had to be evacuated. Then, on September 5, typhoon Jebi hit Western Japan, including Kobe, where the ship is scheduled to stop.

On September 7, a 7.8 earthquake struck Fiji, where our ship is scheduled to make two stops. Fiji is also on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

And then this also on September 7: another earthquake, 6.7, struck Japan, Hokkaido Island, triggering a massive rescue effort.

So yes, there are things to think about. But, now that the luggage is on its way to the ship, we’re not turning back.

We will be stopping at 33 ports and cities, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Cairns, Darwin, Sydney and even a place called Honolulu (on the return). Besides Japan and Indonesia, we will stop in Russia, China, Viet Nam, Australia, and many smaller countries. We had to get visas for four of those countries.

Greta and I usually go ashore and explore ports on our own. However, one ship’s tour we’ve signed up for is a day-trip to the Great Wall of China.

I will be writing about the trip in the three Southern California newspapers where my column appears. The newspapers’ General Manager, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, suggested the final article be on how to hang in there with your partner for 82 days, and still be walking down the gangway hand-in-hand when disembarking.

I will also be posting articles and photos as often as I can to my travel website: If you go to that site, the current post opens on the home page. On the right-hand column you can see Recent Articles and under that Archives. All the October and November trip articles are listed there. The itinerary will be posted there also.

I will have internet access on board. So, don’t hesitate to email me. It might take a little longer to respond, but I will. Hopefully, we will get some good On Life and Love After 50 news and stories from other passengers.

Wish us well. Your thoughts will help us complete our journey safely. It’s time to go.

Who HASN’T been ghosted?

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – September 21, 2018

by Tom Blake Columnist

The question is: Who HASN’T been ghosted?

Two weeks ago, I didn’t even know what the term “ghosting” was as it pertains to senior dating and relationships. So last week I wrote about it. Nearly 25 Champs shared their ghosting thoughts.

Virginia said, “It speaks to the core of the person who uses this self-centered, rude method of ending a communication. Someone should write a book of ethics for dating, starting with ‘be respectful’ of the other person’s feelings, it doesn’t take much to do it properly.

The person you are ‘ghosting’ may very well know somebody who could be a better fit for you, and certainly wouldn’t recommend you to friends if you participate in this ghosting practice. It shows your substance is weak, rude, low-class, and you have unethical character traits.

Maybe Champs could offer enough suggestions to create guidelines for dating seniors…sort of like the ‘Amy Vanderbilt Socially Responsible Guide to Dating for Seniors with Class,’ except it would of course be ‘Tom Blake’s Guide to Dating with Class.’

Wouldn’t it be nice to accept a date with someone who was a member of this new branch of your club? It would take some of the anxiety out of first dates. Sort of like belonging to a country club where at least you know people will have some manners!

Who knows? it might make the best seller list!”

Terry Lee, “I have had it both ways many times. If a person doesn’t want to continue, it is his or her problem. I have many things to offer and recognize there are areas others could care less about. I would at least let them know nicely.”

Liz, “Two weeks ago, I was senior ghosted for the first time. Had a first date with someone I knew slightly. He acted as if he was very keen and then nothing. Made me feel insecure as I have no clue why. Usually, you have some idea.”

Terry: I get “Ghosted” or “Shun-Moded” a lot on Facebook due to my political beliefs and affiliations. Facebook calls it ‘Unfriend’ and ‘Blocking.’”

Margaret: “I was recently ‘ghosted.’ A friend set me up with his widower pal. We met for lunch and I thought we had a nice time and he told me he would like to go see me again. This was a few weeks before Christmas. After the date, he sent me this email:

“Just wanted to say thanks again for a great afternoon shared with you Saturday. It was so refreshing to sit with someone as vibrant and fun as you are. I hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas. I look forward to sharing time with you again soon. Talk soon.”

I responded: “Thank you for lunch and a great conversation. Looking forward to spending time with you.”

After a couple of emails wishing each other “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year,” I never heard from him again. Finally, my buddy that had set us up told me this man had met and was dating someone he really liked. Knowing this, I felt so much better that it wasn’t something about me; but, that he had met someone he had a lot of chemistry with. I wish he had simply let me know.

I also “ghosted” someone 18 months ago. We had dated for six months and I realized there were too many qualities and warning signs this man was not the right person for me. He was a kind, nice and generous man so I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by telling him the reasons this relationship wasn’t going to work. I stopped answering his calls, texts and emails.

In retrospect, I feel bad that I didn’t tell him the relationship just wasn’t working for me. I was nervous he would ask me why.”

Don: “I went for a first meeting after talking and/or emailing women I met on Plenty of Fish. In most cases, the woman was older than her picture. Noticeably older, decades older in one case.

I learned to ask to meet for coffee on the first date. This way it was not a big deal. It just made for an interesting encounter. But, I was not attracted in a romantic way. I always tried to be kind by saying ‘I’ll call you.’ I guess I was ghosting.

I met some women who enriched my life with travel and affection. I had one experience where I flew from Texas to Calif. to meet a woman for the first time. She met all my expectations, but I knew at the airport she was uncomfortable. We hugged three days later when she dropped me off at the airport.

That was our only contact. It was embarrassing to me and I assume her. If a woman tells me she will call and doesn’t, the message is clear.”

Gail, “I’ve been ghosted and it was painful, but, later, I realized it was for the better. The act of ghosting is passive, aggressive and I cannot stand people that have that trait. I am no longer on dating sites and haven’t been for a while. Ghosting–but maybe not the term itself–has been around for ages.”

Stella, “I would prefer being ‘ghosted’ vs. being told ‘I’ll call you,’ and wait for the call that never comes.”

Linda, “I wouldn’t mind being ghosted on the first date. We all do it to some extent. Have you ever had a needy neighbor or relative who just keeps calling or tries to engage with you and you’ve had enough for a while?

Some of us have children we have ghosted. I love my children but one of them has so many problems from the decisions he makes, that a good ghosting from mom is a form of protection.”

Jeanne: “Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned truth? What about saying at the end of the date: ‘I enjoyed meeting you (having dinner with you etc.) but I don’t think we are a match?’ Or, ‘I wish you great good luck in your search!’

This has worked for me many times! These are human lives and egos and feelings we are dealing with here. I am not so abrupt sounding as the above sounds, but you get the drift. Kindness and honesty together.”

Kim: “Two years ago, I was ghosted after 30 years – that was pretty tough on me, but all good now that I am independently owned and operated. I am a Champ from Galveston Island, Texas. It has been interesting – small dating pool! Dating is complicated at 56, but intriguing. A great learning experience regarding people, personalities and pasts.”

Note from Tom: Kim answered the mystery photo question from last week. She said, “I wanted to show you my picture of Sonny Bono and me in Palm Springs.”

Champ Kim, 56, from Galveston Island, Texas. Statue of Sonny Bono is in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, on Palm Canyon Drive, adjacent to Ruby’s. (Photo courtesy of Kim). Email me if you want to contact her. 

Elaine, “Being online essentially means you’re cloaked by anonymity. Disappearing (ghosting) is easy. It lends itself to dismissive behavior and discards manners, which is prevalent in today’s world anyway. If a man meets a woman and he’s unimpressed or there is no chemistry, it’s probably easier to hit the road without explanation than explain that we’re not a Match and I’m moving on. It’s part of the dating world culture and though it’s rude, it isn’t personal.

There’s always a bigger, better deal out there or at least that’s what many believe. Women do it too. If ghosting hurts your feelings, online dating may not be for you. It’s a great way to meet people but some don’t look like their pictures and meeting someone is the only way to determine attraction. It can be disappointing especially for seniors who are often unfit and set in their ways.”

Joel, “Way before the ghosting term was invented and for several years in my quest for a mate, if I had no interest after the first meet-up, I just walked away. To those women today I would say I’m sorry, that was a cowardly thing to do. I did it because I didn’t want to have to explain what I was thinking because it might hurt the woman and make me look stupid and shallow.

Later in my dating life, I realized the value of giving and receiving honesty and candor. A turning point came when I received a response from a woman I had emailed on She wrote, “I’m not interested.”

Wow, I thought, what a time saver.”

Tom’s conclusion: So, there you go Champs. Lesson learned, in my opinion: Instead of saying nothing, this is better. “We are not a match, but you are a good person. Thank you.”

Also, wanted to say, there were other terrific responses last week, on other dating topics, which I will include in future newsletters. Thanks to all of you.

In next week’s newsletter, I’ve got something big to share with you. Until then,  adios.

Ghosting – a senior dating term

September 14, 2018

Ghosting – a senior dating term

Every time I think I’ve heard it all about senior dating, something new comes up.

Rabecca, age 70, emailed: “Have you ever written about ‘ghosting?’”

I said, “What the heck is ghosting?”

Rabecca said, “It’s a term used in dating.”

She sent me links to a few articles on ghosting. While reading the material, I was surprised that in 24 years of writing, I had never heard the term. The Urban Dictionary defines ghosting as: “The practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.”

Some articles suggested that ghosting is prevalent among Millennials, ages 24 to 38, and even some Generation Xers, ages 39 to 53. Rabecca said it happens to seniors as well.

Although I wasn’t familiar with the term, I had been “ghosted” before, there just wasn’t a term for it in 1993, when my wife of six years left with no notice or explanation and shut down all communication.

Millennials often get ghosted on dating sites like Tinder where conversations often end without explanation. When that happens, there’s no first date. They hit delete and move on to the next online dater.

Psychology Today published an article by Jennice Vilhauer, PhD, on November 27, 2015 on the effects of “ghosting” (see link at end of today’s eNewsletter).

Rabecca said, “It’s more prevalent in senior dating than you realize. Let’s say you have a first date with someone you met online or via a friend and there’s just no connection–chemistry if you will—with one or both people on the date.

If the man has no interest, what does he say at the end of the date? ‘I’ll call you,’ when he won’t? No.

More likely, he might say, ‘I had a nice time. Thank you.’ And leave it at that. And he never contacts you again. That’s an example of ghosting.”

I thought about the ghosting term. It’s usually done by men, since women usually don’t phone men for dates.

Let’s say the woman would like to go out again. But he goes silent. She thinks, maybe he’ll call. But he never does. How does that make her feel? Likely terrible. She wonders, why didn’t he like me? Why doesn’t he want another date? Am I not romance worthy?

Ghosting. Why did he go silent? Why didn’t he call me? 
(photo by Tom. Can you guess who and where?)

And she probably wonders, “Why couldn’t he just have been honest? And have told me he didn’t think we were a match. That would have been the honorable and courteous thing to do.”

Why didn’t he do that? It’s awkward, almost a bit presumptuous on his part–that she even cares. She might have been insulted had he said something. Instead, he disappeared, like a ghost. To him, it seemed the lesser of two evils.

Years ago, my nephew, Derek, a Generation Xer, in Dallas, coined a dating term: “Shun Mode.” Derek explained that you implement this strategy when you like a woman, but she’s indifferent to you. You just cease communication, hoping the silent treatment sends her a message that she doesn’t realize what she is missing. You hope it works and she’ll move you up on the priority list. Then, you start communicating again.

I guess you could classify “Shun Mode” as a subset of “Ghosting,” since it’s a lack of communication, albeit for the opposite purpose vs. ghosting: you want to be with the person you are shunning.

Dating website Plenty of Fish did a user survey that revealed that 78% of its users had been ghosted at least one time.

I’d like to hear what our Champs have to say about “ghosting.” Has it happened to you? How often? How does it make you feel? Is it wrong? Inconsiderate? Or, just the comfortable way out?

And for you “ghosters,” why did you do it? Why not simply say, “I’m sorry, we’re not a match.” Or even, “It’s not you, I’m just a dork and not worthy of you.”

If you’ve been ghosted, remind yourself that it was better to find out he wasn’t the kind of person you’d want to be with anyway—and you’re far better off in the long run for not investing time with him. And it has absolutely nothing to do with you or your love worthiness.

It’s just a method in these more self-centered times.

Psychology Today link to ghosting article:

What do unwed senior couples call themselves? Part 2

September 7, 2018

Responses to what do unwed senior couples call themselves

My gosh, I received a bunch of responses to last week’s eNewsletter on what unwed couples living together, age 50+ couples call themselves. The responses were so good, I wanted to share some of them with you.

Kaitte responded with her suggestions, including her favorite:

“This is my Lady, this is my Man.”
“Mon Amour, French, meaning, Love of My Life,” (Kaitte’s favorite).
“My Partner.”
“My Best Half.”
“My Life Mate.”
“My Sweetheart.”
“Significant Other.”
“My Companion, Helpmate.”
“My Reason for Living.”
“My True Love.”
All Italian: “Amore Mia, Tesoro Mia, Cuore Mia, Cara/Caro Mia.”

Tom’s comment: As I pondered Kaitte’s list, I realized some were song titles or words from songs: “Cara Mia,” Jay and the Americans; “There Goes My Reason for Living, Engleburt Humperdinck; and “My True Love,” (an early 1950’s classic by Jack Scott, see link below). And the classic 1953 Dean Martin song, “That’s Amore.”

Art, Fla., “I enjoyed this article, since many of our friends are unwed senior couples. Joanie is 73 and I just turned 80. We’ve been together five years.

When I introduce her to friends who have not met her, I simply introduce her as “Joanie.” If I am referring to her with people who do not know her, I call her “My lady friend.”

I have never been asked if we are married, but most strangers assume that we are married. I see no need to complicate things, and just go on with the conversation.”

Trixie emailed: “This topic is mighty familiar. The only answer I’ve ever used that I like is, “He’s my main squeeze.” That isn’t an expression younger people are familiar with. I’m still refining my answers to suit the setting.

I notice my main squeeze seldom answers such questions. But several times he has said, “Friend.” Really? Hmmm.

Such questions can unintentionally call up personal issues the questioner isn’t aware of.

Repeat offenders get this from me: ‘He ISN’T my husband! We’re not married!’ (And as one restaurateur countered, ‘Really? Why not?’)

On cruise ships: open seating, same as you and Greta. We eat with different people almost every night. They just want to be correct, so my answers are not disputed.

Bonus story: we struck up a conversation with a young man at a cruise ship bar. He said he was traveling with his Father-in-law. A sentence later, he was waiting for his girlfriend to join him. That’s OK! Maybe we oldies aren’t The only ones without clear labels.”

Note from Tom: Hard to juggle—having a wife and a girlfriend on the same cruise ship-it better be a mighty large ship!

Trixie added, “Finally, loved your Sea View Pharmacy San Clemente story. We have a similar pharmacy, and a very special pharmacist. He has a gift for not caring about customers’ marital status, it’s never come up. In medical situations, I introduce my main squeeze as, ‘My friend, Main Squeeze.’ It’s never been questioned.”

Carmen, my Jackson High School, Jackson, Michigan, classmate, who lives in Mexico: “I introduce Karen as “My Lady.” She calls me “Carmen.” (his true name).

But we wear gold bands, so people almost never ask.

After a few months together, there was such a big smile on her face that I didn’t want her running around appearing to be unattached. So, I asked if she would let me buy her a gold band. She agreed.

The next day, she asked if I would wear one, too. How could I say no? I gave her a diamond ring on our 2nd anniversary.”

Champs Carmen and Karen reside in Mexico

Tom comment: Awe shucks, Carmen, in the 60+ years we’ve known each other, you’ve always been a romantic dude.

Marilyn: “I was married for five years and last year we got a divorce mainly due to issues his family had with our marriage. Should not have been their business but he did not stand up to them on my behalf at the time. We are together now as? We get along a lot better now than when we were married. We travel and spend time together and still love each other. We are platonic.

What would you call us? Ex-wifey, past partner, semi-spouse (liked that one), or what? For simplicity, I just say my husband and people accept that. Any help would be appreciated on a creative introduction name.

Tom’s suggestion: “A DBTFC.” (Divorced back together for convenience)

Linda, “Craig and I have been Registered Domestic Partners for the last five years. We have been together for 18 years. The State of California recognizes it like a marriage but the Feds have just recently been catching on.

I am on his employer-paid medical insurance. It works for us. It’s an easy form to fill out and have notarized and sent to the State. The requirements: one of us needed to be at least 62.”

Tom’s comment: So, do you introduce him as your “Registered Domestic Partner?”

Lisa, “I like the semi-spouse with the hyphen, but also wanted to mention what a friend calls her live-in partner:

‘My undocumented husband.’ This may be met with raised eyebrows or worse in our heavily, politically-correct society, but it is said with a smile and is definitely tongue-in-cheek.

I wish that people would stop being so easily offended at every little thing and regain a sense of humor. It makes life so much better.”

Lynne, “I vote for ‘My Best Friend.’ That’s who I thought of my 20-year partner Joe as. We were together by choice, not a piece of paper or a ceremony.

I believe we were ‘Soul Mates.’ I felt like I’d found the person I’d dreamed of meeting and he felt the same. On our first date, he held my hand and it apparently joined our spirits.”

Mick, a co-worker with me at the Victoria Station Restaurant Chain in the 1970s, said: “I introduce Mary Ann as ‘My sweetheart.’ She likes it. Others accept it. Few ask the follow up question for specifics.

The details don’t matter much these days. I think most people understand there are an infinite number of permutations that fall under the broader concept of ‘committed couple.’”

Sarah, “In the end, what difference does it make? Whose business is it other than the couples? I love the idea of keeping it simple.”

And the winner is? Whatever term fits your situation and feels natural to you. Lots of ideas in today’s article. For me, I like significant other best. It’s worked for 20 years.

You tube link to “My True Love” Jack Scott, a 1950s classic: