dating books

Linx Q & A with Jodi Klein, Author of First Date Stories: Women’s Romantic and Ridiculous Midlife Adventures

Linx Q & A with Jodi Klein, Author of First Date Stories: Women’s Romantic and Ridiculous Midlife Adventures

What is the book about and why did you write it?

First Date Stories: Women’s Romantic and Ridiculous Midlife Adventures is a collection of true hopeful, hilarious, and horrific tales, plus takeaway tips and inspirational quotes told to me by women in midlife. I wrote it to provide entertainment, camaraderie and guidance to readers who are riding the dating rollercoaster or considering a comeback.

I want all daters to believe that they will find love, no matter how unlikely it may seem at times. To do that, they must keep going on first dates. Dating is a numbers game. The more people you meet, the greater chance you have to encounter your “Mr. Yes” or “Ms. Yes.” Also, you’re much more likely to fall in love after you’ve accepted and embraced who you are and truly love yourself. 

Not all the stories in the collection conclude with “happily ever after” endings, but each woman kept showing up for first dates because she believed that she was worthy of receiving love and that there was someone worthy of consuming the gift of her love. 

It is my hope that their stories inspire readers to do and feel the same. Millions of women in midlife are riding the first date rollercoaster. First Date Stories will help them take the ride together. 

Where did you get the idea from?

The idea was born out of my personal experience. I know what it’s like to date longer and later in life. A demanding career and desire to find my “Mr. Yes” led to me becoming an alumna of nearly 400 dates over the course of 26 years. As friends peeled off into coupledom, it became increasingly difficult to find women who were single like me. By the time I reached midlife, dating had gone from being a supportive, shared adventure, to what often felt like a solo journey.

I discovered that I wasn’t the only person who felt this way. I also came to realize that women derive empathy and connection through the sharing of our stories. But when you don’t know others who are in the same place in life as you, there are no stories to hear. If you don’t have people to connect with who relate to where you are, you can feel baffled by today’s dating scene, as well as frustrated, disconnected and possibly even lonely. Many of the women who I met for whom this was true were giving up on finding the love that they desired.

At the time, I was a member of a short story writing group. I casually began chronicling some of my first dates. As I told women about what I was doing, more of them wanted to share their tales. The momentum built. My fellow writers told me that they were curious about what happened following each date, so I inserted a section called “The Rest of the Story.” Realizing that there were lessons to be learned from each tale, I added Dating Takeaway Tips. Quotes from renown women are placed throughout for laughs and to instill some words to live by.

What started out as a side project evolved into this book. But the publishing process takes a long time. Creating a podcast doesn’t. So I launched the podcast and the blog in tandem while I continued to work on the book and the “First Date Stories Initiative” was born!  

Do you have a target reader? 

Absolutely! The target reader is a woman in her mid-thirties to early-60s who wants to meet a loving lifelong partner. I wrote it for “seasoned daters,” which is a term I coined for people who are in the dating scene longer than they’d anticipated they’d be. It was also written for women who have come out of long term committed relationships, who are divorced or widowed. Early reviewers have also pointed out that men dating in midlife who’d like to gain insights into the female psyche should also buy the book.

Has a book like this been written before?

To my knowledge, this collection is the first of its kind. Through the years, I’ve continued to search for a book that features a collection of true first date tales of women’s midlife dating travails. I have yet to find another one. 

How did you keep dating after so many years?

I kept believing I would meet my match. Not every hour of every day, but more often than not. I started writing First Date Stories a few years before I went on the most important first date of my life—with my future husband. We got engaged 10 months later and I became a first-time bride when I was 49 years old.

I share with readers how he and I met, and the first date we went on, in the book’s final chapter. Now I know that all the dating ups and downs that I lived through before meeting him were worth it, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. 

I hope that First Date Stories will motivate readers to continue going on first dates. The reason is simple: if they don’t go on a first date, they’ll never go on a second, a fifth, a tenth, and move toward a lifelong, loving partnership.  

What are you working on now?

I’m continuing to work on the “First Date Stories Initiative,” which, with the addition of the book, is comprised of three components. 

There’s the “First Date Stories Podcast.” On each episode, I interview a woman about a memorable date she’s been on. Guests have revealed all kinds of stories, from whacky to wonderful. There was the veterinarian who showed his date the paintings he made from the blood that gushed out of his nose when it bled, the man who made a racist comment at dinner not realizing that the woman he was out with is half African American, the woman who met her boyfriend during the pandemic in a Comic-Con group on Facebook, and many more!

At the end of each episode the guest shares advice to help listeners become more in-the-know, confident daters. 

There’s also the “First Date Stories Blog,” which showcases writings by dating and relationship coaches and self-care experts. All of it can be found at FirstDateStories.com. The podcast can also be heard wherever people listen to podcasts.

You mentioned that your guests on the podcast share dating advice. What’s the advice you hear most often?

Guests have shared an array of advice over the nearly 50 episodes we’ve recorded. There is one theme that’s most common, though. It’s to be open! And by “open,” they mean open in multiple ways. 

Be open to being with a partner who’s different than you’d imagined your future partner to be. Be open to meeting them in a way or place that you hadn’t expected to. Be open in your communications with the people you date by telling them what’s essential to you in a loving relationship and what your boundaries and unacceptable are.  It’s when we’re open in both heart and in mind to what may come next that we’re more likely to welcome wonderful people and experiences into our lives and grow as human beings. 

How did you meet your husband? Please share with me some details about your first date. 

Actually, our first date almost didn’t happen! The final story in the collection, which is titled “The Traffic Trifecta,” chronicles how my husband and I met and our first date. There’s a lot to the tale and it’s a wild one. I’ll summarize it. 

We’d met at a business networking event earlier in the week. Shortly after unexpectedly asking me what my relationship status was as I munched on an appetizer, which I then nearly choked on, he left the event with my business card in hand. The next day he contacted me on LinkedIn and we set up a coffee date. Given that he’d messaged me on a business platform, I wasn’t sure if we’d scheduled a networking or personal rendezvous.

Although I’d given myself what should have been more than ample time to drive across San Francisco on a Friday afternoon to meet him at a café, I got stuck in the worst city traffic jam I’d ever experienced! Only then did I discover that downtown streets had been unexpectedly shut because the President of the United States was at a meeting! Multiple times I considered canceling and turning around. The longer I stayed locked in traffic, the shorter our date would have to be, as I was celebrating my birthday that evening with family. 

I decided that not even President Obama was going to keep me from getting to the date! So I channeled Steve McQueen from the movie “Bullit” and circuitously wound my way through the city’s streets and down alley ways, arriving at the café 45 minute late! 

Our time together flew by. We discovered numerous shared interests and a similar sense of humor. I was attracted to him and comfortable in his company. It all felt easy. Natural. When we said our goodbyes, he commented we should get together again. 

Later that evening, my mother asked if it had been a date or a business meeting. 

“It was a date,” I responded. 

“How do you know?” she asked. 

“Because he didn’t ask me one question about business!” We burst out laughing!

He asked me out for the following Friday, and we’ve been together ever since. We got engaged 10 months later, and I became a first-time bride at the age of 49 years old.

What a wonderful synopsis! How do you think women who are dating will be helped by reading this story?

First and foremost, I hope that it will be an entertaining and enjoyable read for women and for men who want to learn more about the women they’re courting. 

I believe there are at least three lessons to be learned from this story for people who want to find their match. One is to go to events alone. Yes, go solo. Shake off any uncomfortable feelings you might have showing up somewhere without a companion. You’re much more approachable when you’re not with a friend. It was because I wanted to talk to someone at the networking event, and the man who is now my husband was eating alone, that I walked up to him. 

The second is to talk to strangers. Forget what you were taught as a child. When you see someone from across the room, you should approach them and try to start a conversation. It’s so easy to miss these opportunities¾these gifts¾to connect with others. You lose out on saying hello to someone new who might add something special to your life, and they’ve been denied the chance to get to know you, even a little. 

And the third lesson is that you can find love at any age, at any moment in time, anywhere. Believe that you’re worthy of receiving love, that there’s someone out there who’s worthy of receiving the joy of your love. Don’t settle and keep showing up!

What’s your “secret sauce” to a happy marriage? 

There are numerous factors that go into making our marriage such a happy one. What I view as our “secret sauce” is that we are each other’s biggest champion, cheerleader and evangelist. We respect and believe in one another so deeply that we support each other’s goals and dreams unequivocally. It’s an amazing feeling when you find someone who believes that your success is their success and vice versa.

How can readers get your book? 

First Date Stories: Women’s Romantic and Ridiculous Midlife Adventures will be published on September 14 by She Writes Press! Readers can pre-order it from their local independent bookstore, Bookshop.orgBarnes and NobleAmazon and wherever they like to buy their books. 

For a signed copy, they can purchase the book from Books Inc. or come to one of the upcoming events that are listed at FirstDateStories.com/Book. They can also find more information about the book, podcast and blog on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.

Jodi’s Bio:

Jodi Klein is the author of First Date Stories: Women’s Romantic and Ridiculous Midlife Adventures, which will be published on September 14. She founded First Date Stories as a platform for women to share their tales and wisdom so that others can overcome the trials of dating in midlife and find the long-term love they seek. Jodi is a graduate of UC Davis and holds an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, where she spends time working with local non-profits and rooting for her favorite sports teams. For more information, please go to FirstDateStories.com. 

It’s 2021…Ladies Make Your Move

I met Jon Birger seven years ago, over lunch in Palo Alto.

A Fortune Magazine writer working on his first book Date-onomics, Jon wanted to talk about Bay Area dating — specifically how the region’s rather unique oversupply of educated men impacted people’s love lives.

Published in 2015, Date-onomics argued that shifting sex ratios among the college educated are behind the rise of the hookup culture and the decline in marriage rates. In nearly every other part of the country, it’s the college-educated women who are in oversupply. Nationally, one-third more women than men have graduated college since 2000.

This might not matter so much if we were more open-minded about whom we date and marry. Thing is, college grads still like to date other college grads, and this preference leads to lopsided sex ratios in the dating pool. And lopsided sex ratios give the scarcer sex the upper hand.

For Jon, San Francisco and Santa Clara County were the exceptions that proved the rule. The Bay Area is the one well-populated region of the country where educated men outnumber educated women. Yes, we’ve still got our share of playboys. But generally speaking, the Bay Area boasts some of the highest marriage rates and lowest divorce rates in the country for college-educated women.

As you can imagine, Date-onomics generated a ton of buzz when it was published. Glamour, Time, Good Morning America, The Washington Post, National Public Radio and countless other media outlets all produced stories or segments about Jon’s first book.

Now he has a new dating book coming out in February — MAKE YOUR MOVE: The New Science of Dating and Why Women Are in Charge. I read an advance review copy of Make Your Move, and it’s terrific. So terrific that I asked Jon if he’d answer a few questions about it for the Linx blog. He obliged.

AMY ANDERSEN: Jon, what inspired you to write another dating book?

JON BIRGER: It had a lot to do with being on book tour with Date-onomics.

The first book was more pop science than self help. Yeah, there was a little bit of advice tucked into the final chapter, but it was only there because my editor demanded it.

My primary goal with Date-onomics was simply to explain why dating had become so hard for young, successful, college-educated women. I wanted to shed light on this strange phenomenon so many of us are familiar with — this plethora of fabulous women in their thirties and forties who cannot seem to find a decent guy.

When the first book came out, I had it in my head that women would be relieved to hear that their dating woes were not their fault. I thought the knowledge-is-power thing would be enough.

Well, you can probably guess what happened when I got out on book tour and started taking questions.

Women still wanted you to tell them how to find a husband.

Yep.

I’d give speeches to mostly female audiences or go on radio shows with mostly female callers, and they wanted advice on their love lives. They wanted me to explain why other women whom they considered no more attractive or successful didn’t have the same problems they did.

I didn’t have great answers, and that’s what prompted me to write Make Your Move. Backed by the latest research on dating, Make Your Move is all about solutions and strategies for hetero, marriage-minded women who are navigating an unfair dating market. There’s a lot of fun storytelling too. I interviewed all these amazing women with romantic stories about how they found their partners by ignoring the traditional dating rules and norms that had been holding them back.

A lot of your advice in Make Your Move involves encouraging women to make the first move, right?

That’s definitely part of it.

I don’t want to give away too much, but I do believe our culture is at an inflection point. Young women are kicking ass in education, sports, business, media, politics and so much else. So why the heck would anyone tell these women that they’ve got to wait for a man to ask them out? 

Do you think men are changing too?

I do. I think the whole culture is changing — which is why this new generation of singles needs a new dating bible!

If you think about it, nearly every best-selling dating guide written over the past forty years — from The Rules to Ignore the Guy, Get the Guy — has told women that in order to bag a man, they must commit to a very complicated game of playing hard to get. The message these books ask women to send to men boils down to “not interested means keep trying.”

I don’t think this was ever a helpful message, but in the post-#MeToo world, it’s really, really unhelpful.

Men have learned important lessons from #MeToo. Maybe we’re not learning as fast as we should, but we are learning. Nowadays if a woman indicates she’s not interested, most men will just take her at her word and move on. 

Do men actually want women to make the first move?

Most do. A woman who makes the first move takes away a man’s fear of rejection. She makes it easier for him to be himself around her. There’s less peacocking. More conversation.

I’ll give you an example from the book. It involves a 29-year-old named Becca — someone I know pretty well because she was our Saturday-night babysitter years ago. Becca is attractive, but key thing to understand about Becca is she has a huge personality. She’s a real cut-up. My kids loved her.

Of course, some men find the extrovert thing intimidating. When I mentioned the new book to her, she started telling me the story of how she and her boyfriend first got together. They met at a party. They were talking, having a good time, but it was apparent he was too nervous to do anything about it. So Becca just blurted out, “Hey, are you going to ask for my number?”

That’s how it started for them.

I know there are women out there who will never believe this, but the whole key to understanding men is that men like women who like them. Too many women have been raised on the notion that men love the chase and that a man will become less interested in her the moment she’s too interested in him.

Perhaps that was true once upon a time, but I’ve yet to meet the man who broke up with a woman he liked simply because she was too enthusiastic about him. I’ve also yet to meet a guy who enjoyed guessing which women are playing a game and which just want to be left alone. This is why assertive women willing to make a first move have such an advantage over women who sideline themselves by waiting to be courted.

Is there such a thing as too assertive?

I don’t think the first move has to be anything dramatic.

I know that the rule-followers always conjure up images of women throwing themselves at men any time someone suggests women making the first move. But that’s not at all what I’m talking about. Think about what Becca did. She didn’t grab the guy’s butt. All she did was open the door wide enough to make him feel confident about walking through.

In the book, you urge women to take a break from online dating. Why?

Just to be clear, I’m not opposed to all online dating. There are some niche dating apps that I like a lot, and I do write about them in the book. I also recognize that in COVID times, online dating may be only dating some people are comfortable with.

Still, I think many singles would be happier if they ditched the apps and tried asking out people they actually know instead. Over the past year, the dark side of online dating has really been coming into focus. According to Pew Research, 57% of women report experiencing harassment on dating apps, and 19% say they’ve been threatened with physical violence. Overall, 55% of women believe dating is harder now than it was 10 years ago.

So tell me about the “Make Your Move Offline Dating Challenge.”

It’s one chapter in the book. It’s essentially a step-by-step plan for dating in the real world instead of the digital one — for finding more meaningful connections.

The reason I created the offline dating challenge is there’s too much anxiety surrounding dating right now. Online daters don’t trust each other. The whole purpose of the offline dating challenge is to make people more comfortable about dating. Less jaded. Less fearful.

When I was in my 20s, blind dates with complete strangers were pretty rare. Nowadays, most online first dates are blind dates with complete strangers. What’s so difficult about this is you have no idea what kind of person will walk through the door. Everybody who knows your online first date knows him better than you do, so you really are flying blind.

Now compare the online first date with a stranger to going out on a first date with someone you already know and like — a co-worker or a neighbor or someone from church or maybe a friend of a friend. It’s a much different experience. It’s much easier to fall in like or in love when you share common experiences or common friends — and when you’re not worried the person across the table from you could be an axe murderer.

When I was dating up a storm from online sites in my 20’s, the biggest problem was lack of filtering. Lots of good guys but those guys were looking for only fun in the here and now. Their goal was getting laid over actually finding a compatible partner. 

Hah. That’s obviously a familiar experience for lots of women, though I have seen research showing women use apps for sex as often as men do.

I think a fundamental problem with dating apps is the anonymity fosters miscommunication and mistruths — especially on that all-important question of whether the other person is looking for a hookup or a long-term relationship. It’s just easier to behave badly with strangers than with people connected to your daily life.

A woman I interviewed for the book described online dating to me as “a doubter’s game,” and this struck me as a really interesting turn of phrase. Based on past experiences, she just assumed most men on dating apps were lying to her. She’d spend first dates trying to poke holes in their stories.

Needless to say, that didn’t lead to a lot of second dates.

Well, this woman is now engaged to a man she met through a mutual friend. Before her first date with the now-fiancée, she didn’t even bother googling him. She told me she didn’t have to because she knew her friend would never set her up with a man who was unkind or untrustworthy.

“It’s more of a believer’s game,” she said about old-fashioned dating. “I was just more inclined to find the positive. It was actually the closest thing to love at first sight I’d ever experienced.”

In the book, you cite research showing that couples who meet at work, in college, through friends, in church, etc. stay together longer than those who meet on the apps. Why do you think that is?

Human beings evolved as social animals, and we bond through shared experiences. Those shared experiences — those fun stories we like to tell and re-tell — become building blocks for deeper connections. This is why couples who know each other tend to have lower breakup rates than couples who first meet online.

What’s your opinion of professional matchmaking?

I put matchmaking into the “met through friends” category.

I have no doubt that your best clients view you as confidante and friend more than as a paid advisor. The only difference between being set up by a close friend and being set up by a good matchmaker is the matchmaker has a much longer list of single men and women to choose from. (I’m always reminded of that scene from “When Harry Met Sally,” when Carrie Fisher pulls out her rolodex during lunch and tries unsuccessfully to come up with men she can set up Meg Ryan with.)

That being said, not everybody who’ll read Make Your Move can afford to spend five figures on a high-end matchmaker like Linx. Most can’t. But I still want them to know that there are other, better ways to date than swiping on Tinder.

2020 was a challenging year for everybody, but finding your dream partner can make even the darkest times seem brighter. Have you seen anything that should give people hope in 2021, at least when it comes to love and romance?

Absolutely. Maybe it’s all those “How it began … how it’s going” memes floating around social media, but I see plenty of reasons for optimism. I love all the videos of women proposing to their boyfriends, for instance. I love the then-and-now photos of couples who started out as friends — and not as Tinder matches! — and are now celebrating anniversaries.

Those are the kind of things that gives me hope.

When does Make Your Move go on sale? Where can people buy it?

Make Your Move comes out Feb. 2, but it’s available for pre-order now from all the major retailers and independent booksellers — AmazonBarnes & NobleWal-MartBooks-a-MillionIndieboundIndigo. There’s an audiobook version too.

FYI, I’m usually willing to meet virtually with book clubs that buy and read one of my books. For info on the book-club Q&A’s — or on anything else related to Make Your Move or Date-onomics — folks can reach out to me via my author website, jonbirger.com.