Thursday, April 25, 2013

Finding Love Online--Nancy Kelton (WSC '69) Tells Us About It

Photo Credit: Nathaniel Welch
Nancy Kelton (WSC '69) is an essayist, an NYU writing professor, and an in-house "dating expert" for the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), helping to launch their new online dating site. She was recently featured on NBC Nightly News, and is known for her essays, her articles in the New York Times and the Boston Globe, her blog (Love 'n Stuff)--and also for successfully finding love through online dating.

We just got back from a coffee "date" with Nancy at the Starbucks in Fayes where we talked about her experience using online dating and her work for the AARP. Be sure to subscribe to her blog.

Do your students ever ask you for dating advice?

I give it free! I seem to get a lot of single and divorced women in my class actually. And when they start writing about bringing guys home, I can barely be a teacher. I become a Jewish mother. Don’t bring them home right away! I tell them to go slowly. Don’t wonder why they disappear. So yes, I do give dating advice, not that people ask for it.

Can you talk about how you first started getting involved with online dating?

I wasn’t really “out there” in any way, except for my classes and different writing events. Online dating seemed like a faster way to do it. I’ve always been very cautious in terms of my dating life and being a single woman in NYC. I was very careful online with regards to who I’d reach out to and who I’d respond to. I wouldn’t let anyone come to my apartment to pick me up.

But I actually started doing it after my daughter got engaged. That’s when I thought okay, I’m going to get serious about this dating thing. And I didn’t want to just date, I wanted to find the right person. I wasn’t online for a long time though. It was sort of a short time. I did it once in my mid-fifties.

I met a lot of creepy people, a lot of withholding kind of guys, some unavailable guys, a few married guys, tons of liars—who would lie about their age or about their marital status. I learned how to walk out of a restaurant.

Are there any horror stories that you can recall in particular?

Oh yes! There were some guys who were still really angry at their ex-wives, and would share it before the food came. There were guys that would come on to me and let me know upfront what they were interested in.

One guy I met at the athletic club in Central Park, I think it was during the Clinton years, and I said something that made him reply, “you sound like my sister who is a real liberal democrat.” So I said, what are you? And he was a real staunch republican. Then he asked me what I was looking for, and I said I’m looking for someone I connect with, what about you? And he said he was looking for someone who would like to go have sex. So that’s when I left.

There was another guy who found out that I taught writing and asked if he could bring me his manuscripts. He told me he was taking a class at the New School, and I happened to know the teacher. He said, “may I bring you some of my work?” And I said, “no, I don’t even know you nor would I want to do that after hours.” Then at the second date, he brought piles and piles of papers for me to read. I found that very off putting.

Most people are more hesitant to talk publicly about their online dating. Were you ever uncomfortable being open about it?

That’s what the interviewer said to me at NBC. I’m not sure if that’s really true anymore, though. It’s sort of like what divorce or therapy was years ago, especially in New York. Online dating is becoming so much more popular. I was comfortable being open about it. I asked my husband Jonathan if he was uncomfortable telling people we met online, and he said no. He’s very upfront, which was one of the things I really liked about him.

In giving dating advice on AARP, are there any common mistakes that you find people are making?

Yes. I think you have to be really patient. It takes a long time. College is a really great meeting ground, and it helped me find my first husband. But then as you get older, the pool gets smaller and you have to be really patient. I think you do have to persist. Being a freelance writer for so many years, I’ve gotten a lot of rejection. But dating is like freelance writing in that you need to keep at it and be persistent. And have a sense of humor about it.

Was there an “ah-ha” moment when you met your husband?

There was an “ah-ha” moment when I saw his profile online even before we met. He was cute. He wrote that he was a good listener. He went to law school but didn’t practice law, which was great news. I come from a family of lawyers who didn’t particularly like law and went on to other things. He said something about his two grown kids and that he was close to them, which was absolutely important to me. All of these things just seemed like they would work.

What did you do for your first date?

We went to Cornelia Street CafĂ© in the West Village, and I actually let Jonathan pick me up. We had such a long conversation beforehand, like two hours—he laughed at everything I said. It went back and forth so easily on the phone. With others, it was always like they were reading a script. Conversation didn’t flow. With Jonathan it flowed. It was easy. I remember thinking, you know, when you click with someone I think it’s supposed to be like this. It’s not supposed to take so much effort. It took years for me to get to “easy,” but I did find it.

So he picked me up. In the restaurant, he was a little uncomfortable with me initially. But once we started talking, I asked a lot of questions, and he told me things that he said he’d never really been comfortable discussing with other people before. After dinner I didn’t want the night to end, but I didn’t want to take him home. So I took him to the top of Kimball Hall, and he put his arm around me. Then we walked through the park and he walked me home.  

Can you talk about what you do with AARP, and how you got started with them?

They found me actually. I’ve been writing for the New York Times and the Boston Globe lately. I wrote a piece for the Times about my first and second mothers-in-law and how I learned to deal with them differently. And I wrote some pieces for the Boston Globe about my new step family, and things like that. So AARP was putting together this dating site, and after seeing that I had written about online dating, I’d come to it late in life, and I was sort of a “success story,” they thought I could write essays for them and give advice online.

Giving advice online made me a little uncomfortable at first. They called me a dating “expert.” And like my daughter said, why couldn’t they just call me a “coach” or a “guide?” Being called an expert felt a little weird. I’m more of an essayist, and I write on a lot of things. Dating just happened to be one of my topics. So I’ve backed off on giving advice and now I mostly write essays on the topic.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.