My grandson did it – found himself a girlfriend “online.” She lives in Malaysia, so he did what any young man in love would do, he moved there. That was two years ago; they’re still happy and in love.
Anything a 20-year-old male can do, I, a 60-something woman can do better. Right? I hummed those words from the musical, Annie Get Your Gun as I logged onto a popular (free) dating site, created a user name, found a photo of me looking my age but not decrepit, and agonized over writing about myself. Interests? Taste in music?
Favourite entertainment? Ideal first date? Age? Intent (was I looking for casual dating, a serious relationship, marriage or friendship)?
It took a bit of soul searching, but I came up with what I thought was a witty and enticing description of who I was.
The first response came almost immediately. “Hey there, you into younger men?” He was only five years older than one of my daughters. There were more approaches from younger men, then a week of silence.
I took the next step and began browsing “candidates.” “Retired engineer, likes good food and reading.” Sounded okay, so I sent a “hi there, want to meet for coffee?” message. No reply.
After a half dozen of my approaches went unanswered, I took a hard look at what I had written in about myself. Likes: CBC, old radio shows, especially Dragnet, history, graveyards…” Perhaps I was not reaching a large audience. (I can explain the graveyards, there’s lots of history on headstones and I like history, but Dragnet?)
So, I updated my profile. “Willing to learn how to dance. Likes movies, walks, beaches. Loves ethnic foods…” What else could I say about myself? I recently left a decades-long relationship and am very naïve about many things.
Responses began to come in. Although the younger men had stopped asking me if I was interested (in retrospect, I’m not sure if that was a good thing or not) there were a few grandfathers out there who also liked CBC.
After checking with Google for tips for “safe online dating for women,” I headed out to my first date.
I had selected a recent photo of me to post on the site, and I was honest about my age when I filled out my profile. But I swear the gentleman waiting to meet me was 10 years older than his photo. I sipped my Earl Gray and listened to him talk about his landlord, his buddies, his car and his ex-wife. He didn’t ask me a thing about myself, but did ask for a second date. “You could come to my place and we could…” The actual invitation was for cooking dinner together, but the unstated invitation was for something else. I refused and he looked disappointed, which was, I suppose, a compliment.
My rules for how much intimacy on the first, second and third dates were established in the 1960s, but surely they haven’t changed that much. Or have they? Am I living in a Doris Day world? “Cooking” in that gentleman’s use of the word, occurred in the bedroom, not in the kitchen and was not a second date activity according to my personal guidelines.
Seniors are increasingly drawn to online dating. There are sites especially for us, and among North American adults ages 55 to 64, online dating use has doubled since 2013 according to a Pew Research Center Survey.
“Companionship is key to a healthy happy life at any age,” says Jennifer Cairns, technology expert and CEO of eGurus, a technology tutoring company that specializes in the 55+ market. “Of the 49 million people who have tried online dating, 12 per cent are seniors and that number continues to grow. It’s no wonder that popular online dating sites such as eHarmony and Match.com are now focused on the 55+ market.”
A younger friend, who has been online dating for more than 10 years, told me to assume that anyone I met on a dating site was flirting with, if not actually dating, at least five other people. “Try not to fall in love too quickly,” she warned. “You don’t want your heart broken.” She didn’t add “especially not at your age” but I know that’s what she was thinking.
Four months after I joined an online dating site, I had sent out approximately 30 “want to meet?” messages (many of which went unanswered), been contacted by as many men and had been on eight first dates. There were only a few people I cared to see again (or, let’s be honest, who wanted to see me again.) One was special. He’s kind, considerate, doesn’t want to marry me, move in with me or even see me every day. He is a good match for me because, as it says on my profile, “Robin is looking for casual dating, not a serious relationship.”
That’s an important aspect of online dating: make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for before venturing out there. But do give it a try. Let’s face it, where else do we meet new people in today’s online world?
- Chose a user name and stick to it, both on the site and for the first few dates.
- Don’t share personal details on the dating site. Your phone number, where you shop, get your hair done or go for yoga – keep these details private until you’ve met a person several times and trust them.
- Be selective with the photo you post. Don’t use one that’s on any of your social media sites. (Try dragging a Facebook photo of you into Google Images and see how much information about you comes up.)
- Develop a thick skin. It’s not unusual to reach out and be ignored. Or you may want to see someone again after meeting them, but not get a response to your invitation or worse, be turned down. Don’t sweat it, you haven’t invested much, let it go. Conversely, you don’t have to respond to every “hi there” that comes your way.
- Get yourself to and from the first few dates – drive, walk, bus, cab. Meet only in public places, stay in public places and don’t accept offers to pick you up or take you home.
- Be honest with your photo and profile (don’t use a 20-year-old photo or claim you’re into meditation and mountain biking when you are a Downton Abbey couch potato.)
- Listen to your gut. If something feels wrong, get out. You don’t owe this stranger anything. If you’re pressured for your address, real name, money or sex, run.
- Don’t think you have to meet someone a second time if you didn’t feel a connection on the first date. You don’t! You can block that person from contacting you on the site if they make you feel uncomfortable with repeated requests.
- If the relationship progresses as far as a sleep-over, let a friend know where you will be, the name and phone number of the person you’ll be with and when you’ll be home. Arrange a time for a “checking-in” phone call or text for the next day.
- Before that sleep-over, brush up on safe sex habits. Seniors are as susceptible to STDs as teenagers. Times have changed; condoms now come in colours and flavours and they are no longer used only to prevent pregnancy. Go shopping and have fun!