Hello, welcome and please introduce yourself.
I’m Sunny Chanel, the main character in Middle Ageish, Shirley’s novel. Fifty and dating. A lot. Did I have a choice? Shirley invented me.
She invented you? How?
You know that piece of advice writers always get? Write about what you know. She did exactly that. She dated then wrote about her dates in a little gray mini journal. Took notes in the toilet stall. Nowadays, you can dictate straight into your phone. But this was a few years back, or maybe she likes journals. Anyway, she scribbled little details about her dates, like did the guy talk too much? Wear white socks or old man pants? Mean-talk about his ex?
She invented us all, from the ex-husband down to the students in her classroom.
How much of the story is autobiographical?
All I know is Shirley’s got a photo on Facebook, sort of a reenactment of her taking notes in her friend’s bathroom, like she’s on a date. I think it’s pretty funny. But who can tell true from truish? I’ve lost track myself. I’ll bet Shirley’s lost track too.
There are writers who say their characters have a mind of their own. The writer sits at the computer and the characters take over. Maybe they do.
I’m not telling you anything she wouldn’t tell you herself, by the way.
Tell us about your background.
Married and living in Paris for twenty-three years, working as a French teacher. With a husband who ignored me. Your classic long term marriage. What a cliché, huh? But starting over at fifty, that’s gutsy. Going back to school, supporting myself, online dating. Great stuff. I did it all.
And then Shirley broke my heart.
Look, I’m not complaining, just telling you what happened.
Was online dating difficult for you?
You wouldn’t believe how many guys I had to meet to keep the story moving forward. Take Bob, for instance. (I called them all Bob. So much less confusing than trying to remember names.) Nice guy, on time for our meet, chatty, but not overbearing. Until he asked me whether or not I––no, I can’t tell you. It’ll spoil the story.
Anything to add?
You know how people talk about their lifestyle? Their oh-so-chic lives? Well, before Shirley put me in the novel, my life was short on style with not much happening. She kick-started my mojo.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
You’re joking. No? Well, a sense of humor is a given, because I wouldn’t even go out with a guy who doesn’t get my sense of humor. If he gets my sense of humor, he gets me and I get him. Simple. Otherwise, how do you greet the world? Laughing is the best thing we’ve got as humans, separates us from animals, don’t you think?
So, kindness would be the quality I most like in a man. But who can separate out qualities? It’s not like you’re talking about M&Ms. “I like the orange ones and he eats only the yellow and green ones.” Honesty and integrity and a moral compass all go together.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Hmm, that question is a problem. If I answer it, I’ll give the whole book away. Could you ask me another question, please?
Sure. What do you most value in your friends?
My friends stuck by me even at my worst, as those of you who read the book know. Great friends are the few people in your life that you can say anything to, behave badly with in a bad moment and––nothing needs to be forgiven. It goes without saying.
Friends also tell you what you need to hear when you least want to hear it. That’s even more valuable. Everyone needs one friend who’ll slap her across the face––metaphorically, of course––and tell her to snap out of it. Reminds me of Cher in that old movie, Moonstruck.
Except Cher slaps Nicolas Cage across the face and yells, “Snap out of it!.”
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Probably temperance. There’s virtue in being passionate about what’s important, even if you’re over the top. Getting angry for a good cause is more important than being in control.
What is your best virtue?
I like to think it’s my sense of humor. I never leave home without it.
How important are looks in a relationship?
Good looks help, but they’re no substitute for that little thing called chemistry. The thing is you don’t earn your looks. You’re born with them or you aren’t. But the more you like someone, the better he looks.
How about a couple of Speed Dating questions? Two or three word answers. What’s your favorite movie?
Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Um, I need more than three words, is that okay? The Apartment, you know, with Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon. Moonstruck. I love new movies, too, but I’m partial to the old classics. It Happened One Night. An Affair to Remember.
Nice. Let’s move on. Best place you’ve lived?
Paris. I go back every year.
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?
Easy. Renée Zellweger. Are you suggesting my life is movie material? Just because I went on a few dates? You know, when Shirley originally got the idea for the dating contest between Dana––my good friend in the book––and me, she was planning on having me meet a hundred guys. Can you believe it?
That would be a ten-hour movie. How about the future? You’re in the first book in a series called Starting Over. Will you be in the next book?
Yes, and I’m thrilled. Eat Your Heart Out is the title. Dana’s the main character. And Pluto, my dog, will be making a guest appearance.
Oops. I don’t know if Shirley even knows that yet.
I’ll tell her.
Title Middle Ageish
Author Shirley Goldberg
Genre Romantic Women’s Fiction
Publisher The Wild Rose Press
Sunny Chanel's marriage is circling the drain when her husband marks his colonoscopy on the calendar and ignores their anniversary. With divorce papers instead of roses on the horizon, she says "au revoir" Paris and croissants, and "hello" cheap New Haven apartment and ramen noodles.
Encouraged by her friends, Sunny jumps into online dating, twenty-three years and twenty pounds after her last date. To her surprise she discovers dating might require a helmet, and occasionally armor to protect her heart, but after years of being ignored, her adventurous side craves fun and conversation. She's middle-aged not dead. Then suddenly, on the way to reinventing herself, life takes a left turn when the one man she can't forget calls with an unexpected request.
An email from Noah, the guy who lived on Long Island, slid into my inbox. What was I doing meeting some far away guy? What if we hit it off? New Haven to Long Island. A ridiculous commute.
A little thump, thump warning from my chest, an adrenalin rush. Don’t get carried away here. No expectations. We were meeting only if I liked his phone persona.
Meeting. Nothing more. I skimmed the email, smiling like an idiot.
May I please have your most honuorable presence to enlarge by far the companionment of my pleasurelyness on Saturday the eighth of December MCMXXVVIIMZQX at 1030 hrs under the auspiciscisable weather conditions of shine or no shine or falling snow or sleat yes, even that for the purpose of our ffffirst date in the way of a nice slow freaky amble on the Canal in the Towne of Hamden and of my dreams. Boat optional.
My warmest thoughts, hopes
Respect. Fully. Noah
Ps Leave the Hairy Worker Boyfriend at home. His home.
Ps. Ps. May I call you? Please.
I emailed my phone number and sat on my bed waiting for the phone to ring. All I could think of was Luke, the day we emailed back and forth until he said I can’t stand it anymore, and I’d sent him my phone number.
Well, Noah wasn’t Luke.
The phone rang.
“Hello, this is Noah—your blind date.”
“Aren’t we being polite?”
“Yes, should we be something else?”
“Well, I’m nervous, and you claim to be shy.” I picked at my toenail polish.
“You don’t believe I’m shy?”
“No, I don’t. You’re definitely not shy in email.”
“No. But I have the chance to think about what I’m writing.”
“Yes, that’s an advantage.” This guy has a great voice. I wonder if he knows it. “But it can be a problem because then you have to live up to your email potential.”
Plus, he was fun to tease.
“My email potential?” He sounded worried. “Now you’ve got me scared. Running scared.”
“So,” I said, “should we walk and then meet?”
He laughed, a friendly, reassuring laugh. “I liked it when you said that. Made fun of you, too. Did I get you mad?”
“Absolutely. Did I make you jealous when I went on that Harley date?”
“Is that why you wanted to meet me?” I asked.
“I wanted to meet you from the beginning.”
“What beginning?” This is fun.
“Oh, I think it was when you called me “honey” in your email.”
“You liked that?”
“I did,” he said. “It sorta broke the ice.”
“Oh. You have a New York accent. I hear something there, especially when you say “becawze.”
“That’s because I live in New York and grew up there, too.”
“So, let me tell you something, but I don’t want to scare you.”
“You’re scaring me. Do you have a record or something?”
What a waste. That’s all I could think. All those lovely emails, the funny French and Italian translations, the great voice. The man was hiding something.
“No, it’s not that kind of scared.” His voice became faint, as if he’d turned his head away.
“Just say it then.”
A long pause before he spoke. “I was thinking, just in case we fall madly in love, well, I rented a room there.”
“Here?” I said, bewildered.
“Holy crap, yes. There. Look, I thought if we hit it off, I could stay over and see you tomorrow. That’s my idea.”
“Oh? Is that all?” He sounded genuinely hurt.
“Well, I feel pressured, and I haven’t even met you.”
“Don’t feel pressured.”
“OK.” And after a long pause I told him I felt pressured.
“Forget it. It was a bad idea. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Yes, you should have.” He shouldn’t have.
Nook/Barnes and Noble: https://tinyurl.com/yyuwpq6o
I’m one of the authors participating in the Read a Book Month Giveaway and you can win an autographed print copy of Middle Ageish.
Runs September 1 - 30 and is open internationally for most prizes.
Winners will be drawn on October 1, 2020.
Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete, and Casablanca. She writes about men and women of a certain age starting over. Her website http://midagedating.com offers a humorous look into dating in mid-life, and her friends like to guess which stories are true. Middle Ageish is her first book in the series Starting Over. Her character believes you should never leave home without your sense of humor and Shirley agrees.
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