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A field guide for frolicking after 50

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In case you haven't read or heard how hard it is for a woman to find a man at age 30, 40, 50 and beyond - you're one of the lucky ones.

For women and men, the search for love is a ubiquitous exercise that leaves a stream of lonely hearts of all ages. But each month hordes of books, magazines, self-help guides and tapes are unveiled - all poised to assist the masses in finding that special person.

A new book in the mix is Flings, Frolics and Forever Afters: A Single Woman's Guide to Romance After Fifty (Ten Speed Press, $14.95) by sisters Katherine E. Chaddock and Emilie Chaddock Egan. It's important to note that the title reads A Single Woman's Guide to Romance After Fifty - not Love After Fifty. Not all romance leads to love.

Love aside, this little book at 244 pages offers an all-is-not-lost/it's-never-too-late mantra for woman beyond the half-century mark who are looking for quality relationships.

Chaddock, a two-time divorcee, and Egan, a widow, explain, "Based on our experiences and others' success stories, we developed an eight-step plan to help single women over 50 find and enjoy men, from guy pals to romantic partners."

It's hard to find many nits to pick with a book that is this candid, upbeat and filled with good ideas. Although by age 50, most women probably already know that a positive attitude is one key to truly enjoying life (it's a lesson they have taught their daughters), or that our external shell can and does reflect one's self-image (it's something women learn from the time they start shopping).

What you get with this book are reasons to act. Reasons to spiff up, meet new people, get fit, take charge of your life and put the spotlight back where it belongs - on you. Flings and Frolics wrests away dating excuses you made long ago (I'm too wrinkled, too fat, too shy, too dull) and arms you with 21st-century information for getting your relationship house in order. As the sisters write in the introduction: "Single at 50-plus is a path in the sun, not a dead-end alley."

According to the Chaddock sisters, there are more than 10-million single women over 50 and about 5-million datable men, which means there is no time to waste if you want to get in on the action. The book includes stories and quotes - some irreverent ("I love men, but I don't need a man!" - Sunny, 61, after marrying husband No. 4); some thoughtful ("I've been through two marriages that ended in divorce and a string of male friendships and romances that started when I was fifteen years old. I think by now I know what my Mr. Right looks like, thinks like, acts like and even smells like." - Marilyn, 61, corporate executive.) These tales from the front add just the right touch of humor and realism.

What about Mr. Right? In step three, "Define and Conquer," readers can select answers from a chart with 20 relationship questions. This is a handy exercise, because women need to focus on what they want out of life, men and relationships. These questions are helpful because, as most women know from experience, "some of us are willing to accept a lot less than what we want - and a lot less than what we deserve."

Any woman entertaining the idea of dating will have to face the issue of sex. Step six, "Better Sex Now Than Ever," encourages women to think of sex as a health issue that is "essential to your well-being." There is good information in this step, but because sex can be such an integral part of a relationship, don't stop with what's here.

If you have been out of the dating scene for years and have been looking for a reason to snap back, Flings and Frolics is a good first-step guide. You don't have to be 50-plus to enjoy this book, but you do have to be mature enough to know when you could use a little help.

No formula for love

The day I talked to Katherine Chaddock, one of the authors of Flings, Frolics and Forever Afters: A Single Woman's Guide to Romance After Fifty, she was in Charleston, S.C., preparing for her first book signing. Her sister Emilie had already done a few in California and Chicago. Chaddock sounded energetic and hopeful. The book has a good vibe, so I wondered what one of the authors would have to say. Here are some of her thoughts.

Whose idea was it for the book's title?

My sister fell in love with the word "frolic" and wanted it in the title. I simply added some words to fit "frolic" into our theme, so it was a true collaboration.

Do you really think 50 is the new 30?

Absolutely. Women today are the youngest 50-year-olds to come along. We are healthier, better educated, more independent and more stubborn about what we want out of life than the 50-year-old women of previous generations.

Tell me one dating tip that is not in the book.

It is okay for a 50-something woman sometimes to be the aggressor. In the book we talk about waiting a bit, seeing how the man responds, calling him only when you have something to say. That is usually a good approach; but, if in doubt, it is better to err on the side of being too aggressive than too timid. At this point in life, what do you have to lose?

What's an ideal dating situation: a woman dating one man or several men at once?

The ideal dating situation is the one that makes a woman feel good and joyous. There is no formula for what a relationship should be.

What topic did you leave out of the book?

We left out Viagra, and other drugs for erectile dysfunction, mostly because of the diversity of thoughts we heard from women whose partners used it. The jury is still out on how they feel about it, and we didn't want the book to add to uncertainty.

-- Sheila Reed, Seniority editor, can be reached at 727 893-8452 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 8452. Write to her in care of the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731; or send e-mail to

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