Joan Vassos is a hot blonde lady who looks stunning in a pair of leather pants. She made her reality television debut Thursday among other hot ladies vying for the love of a charming, handsome man.

On its face, that description matches thousands of other folks in stunning formal wear that you won’t remember a moment after they’re sent home crying in the Limo of Rejection. But here’s what makes Vassos, a private school administrator from Rockville, instantly heroic to me: She’s also a 60-year-old widow.

Gerry Turner, the titular “Golden Bachelor” and dashing object of the affection of Joan and 21 others, is 72 and also widowed. And many of the wooing women, whose average age is 69, are widowed, having lost the loves of their lives but willing to throw their hats, flouncy “Dynasty” dresses and knowing smiles into the romance ring.

I am eight years younger than my fellow Marylander, Joan — too young to have applied to date Gerry, who is four years younger than my mother. But Joan and I do have something in common. I, too, am a widow. I thought I had the romantic part of my life figured out, but was dealt an unexpectedly cruel dose of reality. And now I’m ready to get out there and try again, despite being older, having less interest in leaving my home after 7:30, and with one more fourth grader than I did the last time I found love. Joan is hotter, braver and bolder than me, out there making it happen, and I’m kind of in awe.

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I have absolutely no interest in being on a reality show. I’m fortunate enough to have made a living for 30 years crafting my own public persona as a columnist, and I’m not about to hand over story control to strangers who would probably give me the “quirky single mom who falls asleep on her veggie burger in the middle of ‘Survivor’” edit. Y’all aren’t getting me like that.

But there are times, when I’m scrolling through dating app profile pics that look like mug shots and getting sporadic, “Hi, how was your day” texts that fizzle into nothing in a day or two, when I think the Joans and Gerrys of the world might be onto something.

When I’m dodging messages from guys who want to go camping or hook up five minutes after we match — also known as people who have not read my profile that states I don’t do either of those things — the idea of packing all my sparkly dresses and my best sexy puns into a bag for a free vacation in a mansion with an open bar is appealing. You show up, smile, and leave either with a fiancé or, in my case, a kick-ass column.

Joan from Rockville is one of the contestants on “The Golden Bachelor.” (Ricky Middlesworth/ABC)

Again, I’m not eligible for any of these shows. I’m too old and flabby for the nongolden “Bachelor” shows and apparently not old enough for Gerry (whose name is pronounced “Gary” and therefore not the same as Jerry Turner, late Baltimore news icon from WJZ). But the “Golden Bachelor” contestants are not 20-somethings looking to start a career as influencers; they’re grown women who already have influence in their work, families and lives. Their names are Edith, Ellen and Nancy — not one Ashleigh or Courtney in the bunch. (There’s even a Leslie!)

On the nonsenior version of these shows, people are constantly defending themselves against the accusation that they’re “here for the wrong reason,” i.e., the aforementioned influencer possibilities or reviving their country music careers. But the ladies of “The Golden Bachelor” seem to honestly be here looking for love, or at least the possibility of it. I wish there was more diversity of sizes — almost of all of them are model-thin and would look as good as our girl Joan does in tight leather, which is far better than I do, 20 years younger than some of them. Good for them.

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But so far, I enjoy their enthusiasm, their effusive praise of their fellow contestants’ outfits, and what seems to be a genuine interest in being out there, in going with the flow and deciding that the tragedies and disappointments of the past aren’t going to decide their futures.

Sometimes I feel I’m too old and set in my ways to ever find something else, but these ladies have shown me that this just isn’t true. You can show up as the older, wiser version of yourself and let her live.

That’s something I can get behind, even if it’s probably just from behind my phone screen.

leslie.streeter@thebaltimorebanner.com

Leslie Gray Streeter is a columnist excited about telling Baltimore stories — about us and the things that we care about, that touch us, that tickle us and that make us tick, from parenting to pop culture to the perfect crab cake. She is especially psyched about discussions that we don't usually have. Open mind and a sense of humor required.

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