I've been dabbling in online dating, and I'm actually enjoying it. I realize that my enjoyment goes hand in hand with not having anything at stake, no enormous expectations. I'm not looking to replace my beloved husband, who died in 2008. (That would be impossible.) I don't need to find someone to give my life meaning and joy, because my life already has meaning and joy.
I do want to bring more male energy into my life, get to know men who are not already in my sphere of friends, enjoy a new companion. There's a lot of joie de vivre in me, and I'd like to share that. If it results in connecting with someone and rocking each other's world, that's a big bonus.
I wrote this comment on a message board for women over 50 in response to one person who was scared to date:
If you think of dating as your way to learn about another person and about yourself without risking anything, it can be fun -- go for coffee or a walk or dinner with someone new, talk, see what you both enjoy discussing and doing. It's when you think of dating as auditioning a potential soulmate that it becomes fraught with anxiety, unpleasantness, and emotional danger.
I really enjoy first dates. I'm interested in learning what we do and don't have in common, and which of the divergences matter a lot. Plus, the writer in me loves hearing people's stories, and first dates are a great way to learn a huge amount in an hour, because it's expected that we share our stories.
Although I'm newly dating after 12 years, I already have some strong opinions about online dating do's and don't's. Here are a few, aimed at men because that's my experience. Are the same true of women, or are there other things that women typically do that irk you?
- Please use a current image as your default photo. It's fine to include older photos also -- I love to see the long, bushy hair you wore in 1969! -- but label them with the year (if your site permits captions), and make those secondary photos, not your main one.
- Include at least one recently taken close-up of your face. Do. Not. Wear. Sunglasses. I can't tell you how many profiles I skip over because the man is wearing sunglasses. I need to see your eyes.
- Make your default photo just you -- no buddies on a fishing trip, no arms around a woman who might be your daughter or maybe your ex-wife, and absolutely no edited photo with the woman at your side cropped out (we can tell)!
- Please give your real age and body build. If we'll eliminate you if you're older or heavier than attracts us, so be it -- that would happen once we met anyway. By the way, I'm learning that "average" build/body type can mean 30-50 pounds overweight. Is it true for women's profiles, too, guys?
- I love it when men 50+ are looking for women their age and even older, but some of you say you're seeking to date women who are at least 10 years your junior. Is that simply an attraction thing? Or are you ruling out vibrant women your age for some reason I don't understand? Sometimes I write men with this question, and occasionally it leads a man to change his upper limit requirement! Mostly, though, they don't answer.
- I really respect those of you who give me a courtesy of a "no thank you" if I write you first and you're not interested. I see you as polite and compassionate when you write something like "Thank you for writing, but I don't see us as a match. Best wishes...." rather than not answering at all.
- Be yourself, be truthful, tell me about yourself -- and I'll do the same. That doesn't mean dumping details of your last health exam or therapy session, but take the opportunity to show me who you really are and what matters to you. We're too old to play the I'll-try-to-appear-to-be-who-you-want-me-to-be game.
- Please also try to learn about me. If you do all the talking and don't ask me any questions, I don't know if it's nervousness or that you don't care who I am. As interesting as you may be, a monologue absolutely rules out a second date.
- If we've gone out to dinner, I won't assume you'll pay because you're a man -- I'll offer to share the expense. If you prefer to pick up the check, tell me with a smile, and I'll accept with thanks. But please don't make a face, shudder, and tell me how much you hate "women's libbers" who "act like men." No kidding, someone did that. He's a very nice man and we had good conversation over dinner, but clearly our values and opinions don't match enough for a second date.
I know that none of this advice applies only to people over 50 (except maybe for the 1969 hairstyle), but those of us who are starting to date again at this age may feel that all the rules have changed since we last did this. And they're right!
Ageless sexuality advocate Joan Price is the author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty. Naked at Our Age won Outstanding Self-Help Book 2012 from the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Best Book 2012 from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Joan edited the new steamy senior sex anthology, Ageless Erotica. Visit her zesty, award-winning blog about sex and aging at http://www.NakedAtOurAge.com, where Joan continues to talk out loud about Boomer/ senior sex, partnered or solo.