Small-town dating is not a Hallmark movie

‘Do I keep casting a 1,000-mile-radius dating-app net and pray that someone out there is in the same boat?’

A scene from Hallmark Channel's "Holiday Date."
A scene from Hallmark Channel's "Holiday Date."Allister Foster/Crown Media/Hallmark Channel

Q. In the era of Coronapocalypse and feeling isolated, I figured I would shoot you an e-mail and see if I could get your thoughts on my situation.

I live in the middle of nowhere. I quite literally live almost in the dead center of the US. I have lived in larger cities, but now I’ve ended up in my hometown, 41 and divorced.

I am definitely happier being out of my miserable marriage. And I have actually gained a greater appreciation for this small town. But dating in the small town you grew up in when you have three kids in tow is NOT what it looks like on the Hallmark Channel. Which is why I am e-mailing you.


I’ve created accounts on dating apps, but I am limited to about three people in a 100-mile radius that I match with. I met someone online a few weeks back, but he was about five hours from where I live. We really clicked. I genuinely was interested in him. But he had no interest in dating someone long-distance.

So while I love your podcast and hearing the stories and advice you give others, I have NO IDEA how to relate to the people you give advice to in Boston or NYC. It is so easy to meet people in a larger city. I’ve done it. There’s just more fish to shoot at in that barrel. In this town of less than 200,000, I have no idea how to meet anyone. I feel like I likely will be single until I can ship my kids off to college in eight years and finally move. At which point I will be almost 50 and feel like I will be all washed up.

How do I do this? Do I just give up and wait? Do I keep casting a 1,000-mile-radius dating-app net and pray that someone out there is in the same boat?



A. People in cities might tell you that it’s not so easy for them. When you have too many options, it can present another kind of problem. But hopefully this letter will give them some perspective.

My thought is that yes, you should continue with the 100-mile-radius search ... maybe 150. See what you find, and in a world where people are working remotely, maybe it’ll be easier to make a date.

Also, remember that your town is just one small town. The other lead in your own personal Hallmark movie might be six towns over, thinking the same thing. I just feel like ... our current events have inspired many people to return home, seek more space, and visit relatives who can help them with expenses and kids. Who knows how the demographics of your area will continue to change?

I also wonder whether you have to be exactly where you are until you’re 50. It’s not that I think you should move to find love, but the best place for you is wherever you can have your own fun with friends. You should be surrounded by some people you like. Does your hometown offer that kind of community?

That’s a lot of advice you could have come up with yourself. For that, I apologize; there are no magic answers here. I’ll remind you that dating is a slog and takes patience no matter where you are.


I’ll also say that 50 is not washed up unless you want it to be.



Less than 200,000 isn’t a small town. I live in a town of 95,000 and there’s no way I’ll meet the same people over and over or exhaust any opportunity to make new friends.


Don’t worry, one day you are going to have your car break down when you are short on cash. A middle-aged, gruff, but heart of gold mechanic is going to bail you out. He is too shy to ask you out, but when you start dating the town Lothario, he will find the courage to tell you, “You can do better than that...” meaning himself. Love will fill the air, the end.


^And it will happen on Christmas Day.


I hope 50 isn’t washed up!


^It wasn’t for me, and that was 23 years ago.


^"Washed up" is a state of mind, not an event on the calendar.


Send your own letter to loveletters@globe.com. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.