Who is Jodi Klein, the woman behind First Date Stories?
That’s quite a question! There are a variety of ways in which I can answer it. I’m a loving daughter, sister, aunt, wife, stepmom and debut author. I’m an alumna of the high-tech industry who spent over two decades marketing products and services for everything from internet servers to brain health software. I’m a sports fan who loves to dance. I’m a seasoned dater who spent 26 years after college in the dating scene. I’m a woman who wants to make a positive difference in my community, in the lives of people I know, and in support of the millions of single, divorced and widowed women in midlife for whom I wrote the book.
What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind it?
The idea for the book was born out of my personal experience. As friends peeled off into coupledom and I continued on in the dating world, it became increasingly difficult to find women who were also single. By the time I reached midlife, dating had gone from being a supportive, shared adventure, to what often felt like a solo journey.
I discovered that I wasn’t the only person who felt this way. I also came to realize that women derive empathy and connection through the sharing of their stories. But when you don’t know others who are in the same place in life as you, there are no stories to absorb. In the absence of people to connect with who relate to your dating journey, you can feel baffled, frustrated, disconnected and possibly even lonely. Many of the women I met for whom this was true were giving up on finding the love that they desired.
At the time, I was a member of a short story writing group. I casually began chronicling some of my first dates. As I told women about what I was doing, more of them wanted to share their tales. The momentum built. My fellow writers told me that they were curious about what happened following each date, so I inserted a section called “The Rest of the Story.” Realizing that there were lessons to be learned from each tale, I added “Dating Takeaway Tips.” Quotes from renown women are placed throughout for laughs and to instill some words to live by.
What started out as a side project evolved into this book. But the publishing process takes a long time. Creating a podcast doesn’t. So I launched the podcast and the blog in tandem while I continued to work on the book and the “First Date Stories Initiative” was born!
What was the most difficult part of writing it?
The book is a collection of eleven true debut date tales that women in their late-30s to early-60s lived through. To author those short stories, I needed to write 22 different characters! That was challenging. Even though all of the people are real, it was difficult at times to craft nearly two dozen characters that all have unique voices and points of view.
How did you choose what to leave out and what to include?
It’s important to me that the stories in the collection are not only interesting and entertaining, but that something can be learned from each of them. The stories that were related to me that didn’t offer a nugget of wisdom were left out of the anthology.
What is the biggest message you want to get across?
The biggest message I want to get across is that people who want to find love have to believe and keep showing up!
Do you think that making meaning out of our stories is a form of therapy?
Absolutely! The ability to make meaning out of our stories is instilled in most people at an early age. As children, we learn about our society, our community, and our heritage, and get introduced to important life lessons, through the fables, fairy tales and family legends that are told and read to us.
The simple act of telling a story to someone who is truly listening helps a person feel seen, heard and valued. How we present ourselves within the context of a story can indicate how we feel about ourselves and our place within our community. Storytelling helps each of us connect with other people around shared experiences, instills a sense of belonging, and enables us to reflect upon our actions and the impact they’ve had on ourselves and others.
What has been your biggest learning experience since you started the process?
The biggest learning experience was how complicated and time-consuming it is to obtain permission to utilize quotes attributed to other people in a published book. When I decided to include citations, I had no concept of how much time and money it would take to get authorization to use the words I wanted to feature.
While I’m pleased with the collection I was able to use, I had to, unfortunately, walk away from others. One of my favorite quotes that was too complicated to get permission for was something that Mae West said in a 1934 movie called “The Belle of the Nineties.” Her line is “His mother should have thrown him out and kept the stork.” Hilarious!
What is your goal? The big vision of what you want to achieve by putting your story out into the world?
My big vision with this book is that it should be a catalyst to help daters believe that they can find love, no matter how unlikely it may seem at times. To do that, they must keep going on first dates. Dating is a numbers game. The more people you meet, the greater chance you have to encounter your “Mr. Yes” or “Ms. Yes.” Also, you’re much more likely to fall in love after you’ve accepted and embraced who you are and come to a place of true love for yourself.
Not all the stories in the collection conclude with “happily ever after” endings, but each woman kept showing up for first dates because she believed that she was worthy of receiving love and that there was someone worthy of consuming the gift of her love.
It is my wish that their stories inspire readers to do and feel the same. Millions of women in midlife are riding the first date rollercoaster. First Date Stories will help them take the ride together.
Jodi Klein is the author of First Date Stories: Women’s Romantic and Ridiculous Midlife Adventures. A demanding career and desire to find the right “Mr. Yes” for her led to Jodi becoming an alumna of nearly 400 dates over the course of 26 years. She founded First Date Stories—the podcast and the blog—as a platform for women to share their tales and wisdom so that others can overcome the trials of dating in midlife and find the long-term love they seek. Jodi is a graduate of UC Davis and holds an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. She lives with her husband in San Francisco, where she spends time working with non-profits on social causes and rooting for her favorite sports teams.