Fast-forward twenty-six years: Patience is living in New York City, editing romance novels and unsuccessfully dating her way through Manhattan. Then, in 2009, the boy from that long-ago high school dance reached out to her on Facebook from his current home in Israel. After talking long-distance for a year, Sam flew to New York City, where they had their first real date—which still hasn't ended. Sam moved right into Patience's apartment; two years later, they were married.
Bloom has chronicled it all in her new book Romance Is My Day Job (Dutton), out February 6.
Marie Claire: You edit romance novels, and know that genre so well. Why write a memoir instead of a romance?
Patience Bloom: I've tried to write romance novels over the years, but they're really difficult. You wouldn't think so, but they are. I was inspired to write my story with Sam as fiction, but other people were telling me how interesting it was, and I thought, well, maybe I'll write this as a true story. It's kind of crazy and it's really romantic; maybe it'll be more inspiring that way.
MC: In the memoir, you lead the reader through your relationships up until Sam. Was that therapeutic?
PB: Yes. Writing about those periods and re-reading my diaries made me appreciate who I was back then. I thought I was this whiny, clingy desperate girlfriend, but I still like that person. You think, "Aw you poor thing!"
MC: You tackled a lot in your dating life—the go-nowhere relationships, the countless online dates, moving across the country for a relationship that then quickly fell apart—before reuniting with Sam at 39.
PB: I'm a shy person, but the one thing that kept me going was the idea that I was making a new friend. I did want a boyfriend, but instead of cancelling dates and staying home and watching TV [instead of going out], I thought, at the very least, I'll meet someone interesting.
MC: What does Sam think about Romance is My Day Job?
PB: He didn't want to read about the ex boyfriends, which I totally understand, but he loves it. He's been popular since the day he was born, so this is no big deal—but he secretly loves the attention. He's really excited for me. He's the type who will cold call people to tell them about the book.
MC: Were the men you dated ever put off by the fact that you're a romance novel editor?
PB: No, I think they found it amusing. I've only gotten a few, "Oh, you edit those books," reactions. People are mostly intrigued by it, like, "That sounds like a fun job. You must be very romantic."
MC: Has reading romance novels for a living hurt your love of the genre?
PB: Well, I do tend to read them more critically than I did before. I have some that I read for absolute pure pleasure, but I've had to change my pleasure reading a little bit, so that I can love my day job. I just read Lean In [by Sheryl Sandberg], which I loved. And right now I'm reading the new Bridget Jones book [Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding].
MC: One criticism of romances is that they aren't realistic portrayals of the world. What, if anything, can women learn from them?
PB: Romance novels are so positive. They always have that message of a happy ending. Happy endings can come in various forms, and I think that's the real lesson of the romance novel: to hope for the best.
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]