This article is part of the CelebrEighty series by Judy Katz…Sometimes when we say something happened to a “friend,” we mean ourselves. In this blog, when I say friend, I mean a friend, and I will fess up when it is my experience.
Online dating is difficult and frustrating for everyone, woman or man, and at every age. It’s not the same as being matched up by a trusted friend. But the days of friends, relatives, and work colleagues setting you up with someone have dwindled to a precious few. Most of us no longer meet a future partner at church, temple, or special events in someone’s house or while at a business cocktail party or meeting. What does that leave? Match.com and all the other online dating sites.
I’m no expert, so I cannot offer you a critique of one online dating site versus another. I will tell you that if you want to meet someone online, you had better prepare for the fact that you’re going to be looking for a needle in a haystack. You’re great—we all know you’re great, so why would there not be a great person searching for YOU? The catch is—you—woman or man—may have to go through many frogs to find your prince or princess.
For those in their mid to late 60s through 80s, and perhaps beyond—because why not keep dating in your 90s—I’ve learned that online dating comes with unique challenges for those of us in our later years. I am generalizing, but generalizations often hold broad truths. I have personally observed and been told by others, men and women, that some men focus on and almost immediately tell their “matches” about their health issues. In contrast, women may have just as many health issues but tend to keep them to themselves longer. People often find these rapid confessions off-putting and can view them as deal-breakers. Had we been given a chance to get to know the other person for a while, some of those health issues might not have loomed as large.
Men also have some legitimate pet peeves. Several I met online, as well as some men friends, complained that on the first date, usually over drinks and dinner, some of the women they meet will spend the whole time trashing their former spouse, while others try less than subtly to determine their date’s wealth status. The men also found that some women put younger photos of themselves in their profiles, while others used filters when they met on FaceTime. “Those filters have got to go,” one man said. He reasoned that filters could take a decade or more off someone’s face. Likewise, women, why describe yourself as “athletic and slender” if you’re essentially not very active, and your body type might best be described as “Rubenesque?” Men, if you’re carrying an extra 50 pounds or so, saying you have an “average build” is not accurate. When you finally meet in person, you are not the person the other expects to show up. Why set yourself up for possible disappointment? Lots of men like curvy women, and lots of women like huggy-bear men. Be honest. It pays dividends!
Many people of both genders also shave a few years off their age. However, some people show up looking a decade older than they said they were in their profile. Understandably, we want to put our best selves forward and not be judged by stereotypes based on age, but taking a decade or more off your descriptive profile sets you up for a perhaps deal-breaking reveal later. To this point, my friend adds: “The same with height. Why say you are 5’11” if you are 5’6”? Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”
We all have to get used to the fact that when we hit “a certain age,” pretty much everyone will have some sort of limitation or medical condition—some more serious than others. While no woman—or man for that matter—wants to be “a nurse or a purse,” the realities of aging are that we are not as firm of body—and in some cases of mind—as we were in our younger years. One gentleman, my friend, went out with—once—forgot they had met. When she sent him a friendly text thanking him for a delightful evening, he wrote that she must have him confused with someone else. She certainly did not. He insisted. Three days later, he remembered their evening and told her, but not with an apology. He just said, “Sometimes I forget things.” She, understandably, forgot things too—like being in contact with him, concluding that he was possibly senile or perhaps denying meeting because maybe he was married and his wife was present when the date text arrived!
“Matching” up with someone online is filled with minefields. No one has the same body, full head of hair, perfect sight and hearing perhaps, that they once enjoyed. We all genuinely seek someone who will appreciate us for who we are and give us the reassurance we crave that we are desirable and exciting and worthy of love.
So here’s my bottom line, dear reader: by all means, do online dating, but be prepared to compromise. Be ready for the realities of decline in others—and yourself—even as you openly rejoice in all the experience, wisdom, beauty, and affection you can bring to the right person.
To me, it’s a blessing to meet new people. It can be fun even if it turns out to be one date and done. Do not take it personally if the person “ghosts you” by mysteriously disappearing without explanation. That behavior is all about their level of communication skills or lack thereof. Thankfully, there are always more people waiting to meet you. On a hopeful note, my dear friend recently went to a special event, and two couples at her table, all in their late 60s to mid-70s, had met online in the last few years. One woman with a gorgeous guy said that she found her partner when she let go of preconceptions and agreed to meet a man with a few tattoos, maybe not so geographically perfect—but a great business person with charm and masculine energy that made this stage of her life joyous and exciting. Another woman, a widow with advanced degrees, said that her now-partner was older than she might have wished for and had some health issues, but now, just a few years later, he’s doing fine, and they enjoy traveling extensively. I have heard several just as wonderful online dating success stories from men.
Yes, what you want may be a needle in a haystack—but someone has to find that needle. If you have the fortitude to keep trying, you might be that fortunate person. If you enjoy the life you built without another “significant other,” that’s fine too. Actress Bette Davis famously said, “Getting old is not for sissies.” Well, neither is online dating.
What about YOU? Are you currently online dating? If so, what would you like us all to know?