How to Use a Dating Service

I was talking with someone who reads my posts.  She is married, and in no need of a dating service. Lucky her!  However, some of her friends are dating.  As we spoke, it became clear that while my last post, “The Dating Game,” gave people a sympathetic experience to relate to, it didn’t offer much practical help.  I started to give her a few pointers that I had already passed on to a couple of friends, when I realized that this information would be useful to more than a few people.  My advice is mainly oriented to the woman’s point of view.  Guys also might find some of the information helpful.  Some of the content could work for the gay and lesbian dating scene, as well.  I know that dating services do serve the gay community.  So, gals, here goes.  Take a deep breath.

Women, you have to recognize that in our age group, there are many more single women than single men.  There have been more women than men in our cohort all along, since the Vietnam war.  As we get older, the ratio of women to men increases, due to the difference in longevity between the sexes.  This means that in the dating world, we are the job seekers and men are the employers.  You know how in today’s job market, there are over a hundred applications for each advertised job opening? You can’t just stand around waiting for the job to find you.  It is the same in dating.  Many of us have been taught that it is the man’s role to seek out women.  There are undoubtedly strong cultural and biological reasons for this, but we have to counteract the impulse to just wait, to a certain extent.  Not too much, because men have the same programming, and want to maintain a semblance of leadership in the mating game.  It gets tricky.

If you do use an online service, how you look and what you say is very important, just like in life. This is equally true for men, by the way:  I have simply clicked past and disregarded many potential dates because they didn’t have a photo or say enough in their profile.  Put your best foot forward.  Several photos are better than one.  You probably want both a head shot and a full body shot, unless you can’t get one or the other to come out flattering.  There is nothing wrong with photos that aren’t you, but show things that you like. I learned this from the men on the service I’m using.  Some are great photographers and have wonderful landscape pictures, others have snapshots of pets or prized possessions. It’s like a little photo essay that tells a lot about you.

When you write your profile, try to think about things that make you stand out.  How are you different?  Everyone likes candlelit dinners and walks on the beach.  Think about what you really like, even if not everyone might think it’s special.  It’s special to you.  Do you do needlepoint? Do you especially like old monster movies? Fishing trips? Tell about it.  Why do you like it?  Do you particularly like fresh brook trout for breakfast or is it more about spending the whole day in nature? What’s your idea of a great first date?  Oh, going to dinner.  How original!  Of course, that might be what you do, but what would you want to have happen?  Would you laugh at each other’s jokes, discuss Elizabethan love sonnets, or compare lives?

Usually, the service invites you to say what you are looking for in a relationship or in a partner. Think about your values.  What is important to you?  Honesty, financial stability, social activism, romance, travel?  My sense of this question is that you want to make sure to mention the things that are absolute deal breakers for you and then leave it kind of general.  People will self-select away from you if they don’t recognize themselves in your description. I know I do, when I read men’s profiles.  Think about the quality you are describing and whether or not it’s really important to you.  For example, you may write that you want to meet someone “adventurous,” and you are thinking about being willing to try a new sushi place, but a very nice man may avoid you because he’s been thinking about sky diving but hasn’t worked up the courage.

OK, women, now here’s the hard part.  Once you have enrolled and posted your profile, you might have to take some initiative.  You may get some response from men, but not necessarily the ones you want to meet.  I, for example, have no interest in a long-distance romance, and have to politely refuse offers that come from across the country.  To find men in my area, I had to use the search function and put in some criteria.  I selected an age range, a distance I was willing to travel, and non-smoker. Then. start looking at the pictures and profiles the service provides for you.  Don’t be disappointed if you don’t find much at first.  You really have to stick with it, just like selling cosmetics or looking for a job.  If you haven’t dated for a while, it may be a good idea to go out on a date or two, even with someone you think you probably wouldn’t be interested in, just for the practice.  A friend of mine said she did this, and I think it’s a super idea.  Think of it as a lark and a free cup of coffee!

You have to expect that you will often make the first contact, in the form of a written message through the service.  Don’t just pick one guy and write a long letter to him and then sit waiting for him to write back!  You don’t know enough about these people to be that selective.  Write to as many fellows as you can find that meet your criteria.  Say something nice about them, a little bit about yourself, maybe something that isn’t in your profile, and ask a friendly, curious question.  Is that an antique desk in your photo?  What kind of fishing do you like? Are your dogs both Pomeranians?  This invites a reply.  The person to whom you are writing will look at your picture and read your profile, and if he is interested, he’ll write back.  Gentlemen write back, politely but firmly, even if they are not interested.  You will do this, too.

Now.  Here’s the tricky part.  You write to him once.  You do not write to him again until and unless he writes to you.  The ball is in his court.  It is exactly like a game of tennis.  You return the ball promptly when it’s in your court, then it’s his turn.  Then your turn.  Keep doing this until someone, probably the man, suggests a meeting.  Say yes!  You aren’t doing this to brush up your writing skills! It’s fine for you to suggest a time and place.  Do not give your phone number, email address, or street address before you have met this dude in person.  This common-sense rule works for men as well. Scam artists come in all ages and genders, sadly.  This having been said, at some point you have to trust your gut feelings about a person.  The first meeting should not be a big-deal date.  Meeting for a drink or a cup of coffee is a good idea.  That way, if you are uncomfortable, you can get away rather soon, and if you’re having a good time, you can extend it.  Better yet, make a second date.

Good luck to you!  Let me know how it goes.  Next:  How to Go on a Date


The Dating Game

A couple of months ago, I signed up for an online dating service.  I don’t know what possessed me to ruin a perfectly good life that way.  Well, I do know.  A friend talked me into it.  That’s what they all say, isn’t it?  I was having a great summer – travel to Brazil and Seattle, afternoons spent by or in the swimming pool, tan and blond (an effort to go gray run amok) and feeling invincible.  We were three of us in the pool, and the older of us was telling the other two we’d better get out there and meet people while there’s still time.  Pretty dire.  “Meet people” is a Boomerism, and those weren’t her exact words.  I don’t think she said “catch a man,” but it’s what she meant.  Now or never.  Get going, girls, on the count…one…two…tackle!  Oh, please.

None the less, as I said, I was invincible in those now-past warm months.  I usually do take a dare.  That sounds wild, try again:  I respond to a challenge with a willingness to take risks. I signed up. I chose a service specifically for older people.  The first few times I logged on to the site were discouraging.  Everyone looked so old!  The men seemed to fall into one of two categories: monosyllabic every-day Joes with their ball caps and fishing gear, and the New Age Mr. Perfects, always looking for Ms. Even-More-Perfect.  Narcissus ready to attack Echo for her lack of self-esteem, and imperfect mirroring. Not to mention chipped nails. I knew they wouldn’t even answer my emails.  As for the regular guys, well, I might have to suck it up.

Dear readers, I would like to say that I am doing this for you, but that wouldn’t be the case.  I know you want to know what dating is like after fifty or sixty years of age, after years in a relationship and out of the dating scene.  I know that I have to write about this sooner or later, and I will need some experience.  Seriously, before this I was thinking I’d interview friends for my material.  I am not back out on the dating scene for Boomerage.  I am doing it for me.  Although my last relationship must be chalked up as a total failure, there are elements that I miss:  Someone to share feelings with, to tell the day’s events to a sympathetic ear; someone to laugh with.  Daily hugs.  Dancing at midnight in the kitchen.  I have friends, near and far, mostly women.  Just when I’m feeling alone, the phone rings, and there is one of my friends, eager to know the latest events in my life and wanting to share her experiences.  I get to know that I’m not alone, but it ain’t the same as having a partner at home..  No way, no how.

I finally got some emails from men in my area who weren’t so damn special and weren’t bozos either.  What do you know? I thought to myself, maybe this is OK after all.  I went out on some dates.  I got a hand-shake, followed by more e-mails.  I got a kiss, followed by more dates.  Lord’a mercy, it was working!  I can report first hand on dating after sixty.  My life is getting interesting.

First, let me say, this is something I didn’t envision for myself.  I thought that by this age I would be in a lasting relationship.  I’m willing to bet that other singles my age and older had the same expectations.  Men and women alike, straight and gay, want a secure situation for their old age:  The hug and sympathetic gaze to come home to.  We don’t really want to get dressed up and go out all that often.  It’s too much trouble.  If we were in a long-term relationship, we could mumble complaints to our partner, remind each other to take a nap that afternoon, have someone’s help to knot the tie or zip the dress.  When we are dating, we have to do this more frequently and we are on our own.  Is that tie straight?  Is the dress too tight?  Is what we want to show, showing; and what we want to hide, hidden?

Wardrobe concerns are just the tip of the iceberg.  I have to tell you, dear readers, that dating post sixty is no different from dating at any age.  If anything, it is a bit more nerve-wracking.  The stakes are a bit higher.  More than ever, we want a stable relationship.  The biological clock for pregnancy is one thing.  This is the big biological clock.  We are more vulnerable.  More than ever, we fear a mistake.  We could be abused financially.  A wrong relationship could take us just beyond the age at which we seem datable and attractive.  If we become ill, the person we’re with could fade out or become abusive.  These concerns may not be conscious, but they loom in the background, making the usual dating angst bigger and darker.

You may remember the drill:  Will he call?  What if he doesn’t?  What if he does?  What should I say? If I’m too distant, will he give up?  If I’m too forward and affectionate will I push him away?  Why did she say that?  Does she think I’m stupid?  Is she manipulating me? And so on.  I get nervous before a date, depressed afterwards.  For someone who was on a very peaceful, even keel it’s like buying a ticket for an extended roller-coaster ride.  I’m just not getting the “whee!” part yet.  I am in the white knuckles stage.  Perhaps, after a couple of times around the loop, when I’m more relaxed.  On the other hand, I am getting an opportunity to see into some of my deepest hurt places.  In my world, this is a good thing.  I can process and resolve them.

Dating should be fun.  When I was in high school, I remember it was lots of fun.  People in their twenties seem to enjoy dating.  As mentioned, the biological clock appears to up the ante and increase dating angst for many women in their thirties, while guys are still cruisin’.  This sets up a discrepancy that men apparently continue to carry in their cellular memory – the desperate woman, trying to catch any man at any cost.  A very skewed picture, far from reality, but I think it’s in the mix.

For me, I went through a divorce and was unexpectedly on the dating scene once before, in my early fifties.  My experience then was very different from my present experience.  I took it extremely lightly and had a ball!  My thinking was that the main mistake people make in dating is to take it too seriously and fail to have a good time.  I was not goal-oriented.  I was just out of a marriage.  I was in no hurry to do it again. I went out with men I met through a dating service, old friends, people I happened to meet socially.  They say fifty is the new thirty, and, physically, I felt much the same as I did at thirty.  I had already raised a family.  No clock was ticking for me.  Perhaps I was not serious enough, because I ended up in a dead-end relationship.  On the other hand, I might have landed there anyway.  At least I had fun.