Can an “old dog” learn new tricks? Yes, according to several “mature” Jersey City singles who insist their romantic lives were jumpstarted after they stepped out of their comfort zones and took the risk to try something new.
When Jenna Ricks divorced her husband of nine years back in 2004, she figured she’d date again – eventually. As it turned out, “eventually” took a lot longer than she initially thought. Like many recent divorcées, Ricks admits she spent several years after her break up focusing on her kids and career, and tucked dating away in a closet.
“I just wasn’t in the mood to date, really, and I felt like I had other priorities that required my attention at that time,” recalled Ricks, who is now in her mid-40s. “I decided to change careers and go back to school. And being a single mom was like managing a three-ring circus every day. My life was busy and full enough without the dating. So, for many years I was happily single.”
A chance invitation from an acquaintance she met through her job reopened that door she had shut years ago.
“It was about three years ago that I had my first date since the divorce,” said Ricks. “We only dated for a few months. But when that little relationship ended, I decided I was ready to really go back out there again.”
Frustrated by not meeting new people through friends, church, or social organizations, Dern finally decided to go online.
“My single co-workers were all much younger than me and were doing a lot of online dating, which just seemed so foreign to me,” she said. “The social events I went to had people who were more my age, but all the men at those parties were married! At some point I guess I realized I needed some hobby or outlet through which I could meet new people.”
A year ago Ricks met her current mate, Marc Krasney, through what some people might consider an unusual route: Cooking classes.
A divorced father of two teenaged girls, Krasney had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and heart disease in 2011.
“For years I had been cooking for myself, which really means I was eating takeout a lot and eating out a lot, all of which was terrible for my health, as it turns out,” he said. “I was taking the cooking class to learn how to cook healthier meals so I could save my life. Jenna usually sat next to me in class and she had some great advice and recipes she was willing to share.”
Before long the two were sharing more than recipes and began dating seriously about five months after meeting.
“Whenever my friends gripe about not meeting single men, I always tell them to try something different, something new, something they haven’t done for a decade,” said Ricks.
Take a hike
It’s advice her friend Evette Martins, another Jersey City resident, has taken to heart.
A self-described “closeted hiker,” Martins said she has always loved hiking, but has had few friends who have shared her passion.
“My friends have always thought it was sort of a cool thing to be into, but no one ever thought it was cool enough to get up at 5 in the morning to join me on one of my hikes,” said Martins, who got tired of hiking alone and eventually gave up hiking altogether sometime around 2002 or 2003.
Two years ago, at the urging of her longtime friend Jenna Ricks, Martins decided to join a loosely-knit group of hikers who periodically meet to hike throughout Northern New Jersey and New York. Through that group, Martins was invited on other outings that included white water rafting and canoeing.
“In hindsight, I don’t know what I was thinking. I love hiking. But suddenly I found myself wearing life vests in rafts and canoes,” said Martins, remarking on how “one thing led to another.”
Admittedly less skillful in the water than she is on a mountain, Martins said she made several friends on these outings, including her current boyfriend, Rob Sweeney.
“Eve and I were in the same situation, I guess. We were both into these things that our friends wouldn’t do,” said Sweeney, 51. “As my friends got older they stopped doing some of the stuff we did 20 years ago. I never stopped going on white water rafting trips. But a lot of the people on these trips were in their 20s and 30s.”
Feeling like a fish out of water, Sweeney said he was pleasantly surprised when Martins started showing up on some of these outings.
“She really stood out. She was close to my age, but fit and attractive,” said Sweeney. “I was able to talk to her as a peer without feeling like I was her father or something. It was actually very refreshing and I liked that.”
Opening the ‘closed’ circle
“I think it’s harder to meet people as you get older because your world gets busier and smaller as time passes,” said Joanne Dern, a grandmother in her late 50s who met her current beau online. “People filter out of your life over time, they don’t really filter into your life. For those of us who went to college or graduate school, when you think about it, there was a period of time when you were literally exposed to hundreds or thousands of people each school year. You could meet a new person almost every day. What opportunity to you have to do that in your normal daily life when you’re 30, 40, 50?”
Dern, a divorced resident of the Jersey City Heights, estimates that most people “close off” their social circles by the time they are 35, “which makes it very difficult for those of us who are single to break into those social circles.”
Frustrated by not meeting new people through friends, church, or social organizations, Dern said she “decided to do what I think all the younger folks are doing these days. I went online. Why not, I thought?”
An avid golfer, Dern joined an online social group that helps people organize foursomes for rounds of golf. Through the group, she met Tom Waters in 2008. The couple is now engaged to be married after their youngest children finish college.
“It isn’t challenging meeting new people as you age, necessarily,” said Waters. “I think the real challenge is forming real bonds with people and sustaining the friendships and relationships that you make. Few lifelong relationships are formed when you’re 50. Let’s face it. But it can be done. You have to find or create those social circles that aren’t closed and then try to make your way in.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.