Dating isn’t easy. It’s even harder if you’re 60+, and it’s even harder if you’ve recently lost your spouse. Rockville resident Joan Vassos knows this struggle all too well.
After her husband died about two years ago from pancreatic cancer, Vassos said she felt ready to try dating again, but was having difficulty finding someone “organically.”
Vassos didn’t want to try online dating yet, and it seemed like everyone everywhere she went was coupled up. One evening, she turned on the TV to watch The Bachelor, just in time for a casting call commercial for the first Golden Bachelor season.
A lifelong Maryland resident, Vassos said three of her four adult children have remained local, as well. The grandmother of two (soon to be three) continues to work at the Landon School.
She loves living in Maryland because it “has a little of everything…within three hours you can be at a beach or skiing,” she said.
A major local sports fan, she also enjoys attending Washington Nationals and Washington Capitals games, and for many years, her family held Washington Commanders tickets; “they’re not always good, but they’re fun!”
The 60-year-old Bachelor franchise fan decided to apply for The Golden Bachelor. Before she knew it, Vassos was packing her bags for Los Angeles, ready to move from suburban Maryland into The Bachelor mansion—with 21 other women vying for Golden Bachelor Gerry Turner’s heart.
Vassos was not an early “front-runner” on the show, but her screentime increased significantly a few weeks in, when she finally got a one-on-one date with Gerry and the two were able to connect on a deeper level. Sparks started flying and she received a coveted one-on-one rose.
Vassos received a concerning text from her daughter that she needed her to return home. Her daughter had given birth just about a week prior to her mother leaving, and was suffering from postpartum depression. Vassos didn’t hesitate.
Despite the connection she was starting to feel with Turner, “my family will always be first. Once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom—even when your kids are older,” she said.
She packed her bags, said a difficult goodbye to Turner and the other women, who Vassos described as her new “tribe” of good friends and headed home.
“It was never a question,” she said. “Any good mother would do that.”
But it still wasn’t easy; “I feel like our journey ended really abruptly, and I think it’ll always play in my mind what would’ve happened,” she recounted during the Nov. 9 “Women Tell All” episode.
Although Vassos departed the show prior to “hometowns” week in which Turner would’ve visited her in Maryland and met her family, she had given some thought to where she would’ve taken him.
Vassos said she would have enjoyed exploring the monuments in D.C. with him, since “it’s iconic and…would be a great date.”
Perhaps a nice walk along the Potomac or an Annapolis visit (another area she’s frequented over the years) would have been on the itinerary.
Vassos has a few other local go-to spots.
“You’ll often find me at [Rockville’s] Stanford Grill,” where they know her by name, she said; “it’s like my own personal Cheers.”
She also frequents Mykonos Grill in Rockville, which has “literally the best Greek food in the country,” she claimed, as well as Brooklyn’s Deli in Potomac, which “has a sandwich named ‘The Vassos’ because we have been going there for so long.”
Despite her unexpected exit, Vassos had only positive things to say about the experience and, if producers were to ever tap her for a Golden Bachelorette season, she is confident she’d “give it a whirl” and has faith in Bachelor Nation to pick 22 eligible bachelors for her. Although being a lead after Turner would be a “hard act to follow,”
While she didn’t end up with Turner, Vassos departed the show with a newfound sense of hope.
“I left there for the first time feeling like I saw a future with somebody,” she said. “My heart got a little fixed from Gerry. [He] “helped make me feel visible.”
Months later, she has reflected on the experience and realized, “I went there wanting to find love; I left there craving love. I’m working hard to find it, and I’m not giving up.”