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Dating at 69 is tough. Would a red dress really make a difference?

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Mom had a vision.
(Irene Rinaldi / For The Times)

My mom always had a sense of humor. Before she moved in with me over 10 years ago at age 80, she told me she would not meet anyone I was dating until I had been out with them at least three times. Because, she felt, what’s the point?

At that point, I had been single for many years after a second failed marriage. I enjoyed dating, but I was also busy with a career, traveling, family, friends, sorority sisters, an active book club, etc. I always felt I would eventually meet that special person. I just hadn’t gone around the right corner, or the moon and stars hadn’t yet lined up in the sky. I even had a prayer I would say from time to time, in hopes of someday crossing paths with The One.

I did online dating off and on. And as the years went by, I entered the senior dating sites. Although I met some interesting men, none was a long-term prospect.

Mom, meanwhile, was always practical and had a positive outlook on life. The only time I remember seeing her cry was when the love of her life died after over 50 years of marriage. She and my father were college sweethearts and had enjoyed a long and happy marriage.

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Mom had lived in her own house in Irvine for a number of years after Dad died. So when she moved in with me in Long Beach, I decided to remodel my home to make it comfortable for her. When I remodeled my master bathroom, she suggested I put in two sinks instead of one as I had planned. When I was buying one lounge chair for my bedroom, she said: “Buy two.”

Little did I know at the time that Mom had a vision I would indeed meet that special someone.

Mom was an avid reader of Women’s World. She would always point out articles she thought I should read — from health tips to makeup and fashion suggestions. One day she called me into her bedroom and said there was an article that suggested that wearing a red dress for your online dating profile picture would attract more potential dates.

Couldn’t hurt. When I looked back on my old profile picture, I realized that the colors I typically wore — browns, blacks, navy and grays — did not “pop.” I also was not “smiling” with my eyes. (I remember Mom told me once when she looked at my old pictures from elementary school, “Your eyes are not ‘smiling.’”)

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A grin just does not project in a dating profile.

So I followed my mother’s advice and submitted a new profile picture with me wearing a red dress, hair done up. I hit the send button and, wow, Women’s World was spot on. I instantly received multiple inquires, but one stood out from the rest. Dennis was a widower, this was his first time on Match.com, and he had recently moved to California from back East after living 40 years in Silver Springs, Md., and its sometimes harsh winters. (Dennis’ sister persuaded him to move to Southern California, where she and his brother both lived. He was retired, so he sold his house and relocated.)

We exchanged phone numbers and he called the next day.

He asked if we could meet Saturday. I suggested Shoreline Village in Long Beach. I suggested 2 p.m. because this would give me a chance to make my sorority meeting. (I wasn’t sure I wanted to completely rearrange my schedule for him: In the back of my mind I had one major concern: He lived in Chino. It seemed like an awfully long distance from Long Beach.)

I was excited about our meeting, though. Well, he called that Saturday about 11 a.m., said he was already at Shoreline Village, and asked if we could meet early.

I asked him why he was so early, and he said that he was just overly eager to meet me.

“Wow,” I thought to myself, “that’s a first.”

I didn’t want to keep him waiting, so I decided to skip the sorority meeting and headed over to the Yard House restaurant.

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I parked and was about to enter the restaurant when this tall, handsome man almost knocked me over as he came racing up to open the door for me.

Our eyes met, and there was an immediate connection. This might sound strange, but I felt I was home. He quickly put me at ease. I instantly felt I had met my soul mate. At our table, we discussed faith, family, movies, theater, fishing and his love of dancing.

I love to dance too.

Six months later we were married, just days before my 70th birthday. (Actually, Sept. 3 was our third wedding anniversary.) We spent our honeymoon in Maui.

The wedding was small but elegant and held in my home. I was married in a pretty royal blue dress that I found online. A close friend with a great eye for decorating turned the house into a wedding wonderland. Flowers were everywhere. The ceremony was held in front of the fireplace. Dennis’ playlist was the background music.

Mom was there, of course, along with close family and friends. She was thrilled to give her blessing to our union and felt proud she had played a part in our meeting by getting me to put on that red dress.

Mom died four months after we married, at 93. Her two oldest friends later shared with me that she felt like she was leaving everyone in order, including me.

She was thrilled with Dennis. She had broken her rule, meeting Dennis after only our first date.

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The author is a retired Long Beach Unified School District administrator.

Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary: L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles — and we want to hear your story. You must allow your name to be published and the story you tell has to be true. We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.


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