Reston Woman Finds Love Is Still There For Those Over 50
Posted On July 2, 2020
RESTON, VA — On Thursday, Laura Stassi of Reston posted the latest episode of “Dating While Gray,” a biweekly podcast focusing on love and relationships in the 50-and-over crowd. The new episode marks the end of the podcast’s first 10-episode season.
The 59-year-old writer and editor, who has authored several nonfiction children’s books, never imagined she would get the chance to host her own podcast. It’s not what she had planned.
Stassi got married young, right out of college, and thought she was going to be married forever. But that changed when she and her husband divorced after 30 years.
“I went through what’s called a ‘gray divorce,'” she said. “Researchers have coined a term for longtime marriages ending in divorce, and apparently it’s a phenomenon that’s happening all over the world. In the United States, we call it ‘gray divorce.’ Overseas, some countries call it ‘silver splitting.'”
The divorce occurred just as Stassi’s two children, then ages 19 and 23, were beginning their own lives, so it was as if she was starting her life all over again.
“I had lived with this man my entire adult life,” she said. “I’d had his last name longer than I had my own last name, so I started researching it, tackling it like a research project.”
Stassi began interviewing people who had met after they turned 50, because one of the things people at that age wonder is whether they are ever going to be with someone again.
“We all know we should be perfectly fine on our own, financially and emotionally, but most of us would like to couple up,” she said. “Or for the first time — a lot of people have never been married after 50.”
At first, Stassi thought about turning her research into a book. But in July 2018, she was driving in her car while listening to WAMU, Washington’s NPR station, when she heard a callout for creative people who were interested in learning how to do a podcast.
“I had never even thought to it,” she said. “My entire career had been in print. But I thought, ‘That would be interesting to learn how to do audio journalism.'”
Researching it online, Stassi learned that WAMU’s callout was really for more of a contest and not so much the how-to session she had first imagined. Still, she filled out an application, and her project pitch was one of the five chosen out of the more than 500 submitted.
“We spent from September to November working on the pilot episode of our creative project, with no promises,” she said. “They gave us a stipend. They told us what equipment to buy, like the recorders and the microphones, and they showed us how to use them.”
In the end, WAMU offered Stassi a 10-episode contract to produce her podcast.
“I feel like I kind of lucked into it,” she said. “It was perfect timing. It was really interesting, because it really spoke to a lot of people. If you’re not in the age group, maybe your parents are going through a divorce, or some of the advice for dating is pretty generalized that anyone could relate to.”
Stassi is quick to credit WAMU for choosing a podcast — and a host — interested in talking about the concerns of an older demographic in a positive and constructive way.
“Here I am in my 50s,” she said. “I thought, ‘I’m never going to get this,’ because it was millennials basically choosing the podcasts. But what they said was that I took an approach that wasn’t slamming men or slamming women. I was trying to be diverse and inclusive. It’s for anybody 50 or older.”
“Dating While Gray” recently garnered notice from the New York Times, which included it on its list of “Podcasts Inspired by Love and Relationships.”
What Stassi loves about her podcast is hearing ordinary people talk about their experiences.
“I’m pleasantly surprised about how open and vulnerable people are when I talk to them,” she said.
In one episode, Stassi talked to a woman who’d been a virgin when she was married and got divorced after 25 years.
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