Online Dating Over 40… or, I Thought I Was Out of High School?
Is cyberspace the way to go for the bar and social club-weary over-40 set? Let's examine the pros and cons with some tales from the front lines.
To call myself a veteran in the realm of Internet dating over the age of 40, might hardly seem a badge of honor. I offer the following account as a purely cautionary tale to those of you who are considering internet dating in middle-age (sorry, but no other way to describe us) with the hopes that it will help you avoid some of the bumps and pitfalls—and perhaps garner a good laugh or two!
Quantity Does Not Equal Quality
Think back to high school dating and try not to shudder! Remember that popular boy or girl who had his or her pick of the litter? It's the same on Internet dating sites. If you're only interested in a random encounter, or a social connection—and who am I to judge—then, by all means, include the world in your search criteria, broaden your age range from barely legal to geriatric and set no parameters as to marital status, education or common interests.
In my experience, the narrower you make your criteria, the more likely you will be to yield quality results. If that means you sign up with more than one dating site, so be it. Do you really want to waste your time with a 23-year-old who lives 4,000 miles away, has yet to backpack through Europe, and doesn't know—or want to—the meaning of Apgar scores? (And yes, it happened to me). Which brings me to…
Age Is Not Just a Number
Yes, there are May-December romances that work out just fine; or as far as we know as of this moment (Demi/Ashton, Catherine Zeta-Jones/Michael Douglas—see, not such a long list). I'm not saying it's a bad idea to open up your Internet dating parameters to a wider number, which I did with mixed results. If you are a very youthful 50-something and want to include an age range of 45-65, then do it. Just expect to hear from 30-year-olds who will have no first-hand knowledge of what it was like to hear Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" live and who only know Jimi Hendrix via his compilation disc—forget as a well-worn record album!
Not saying that someone five to seven years younger isn't a good idea (I think it can work), just be careful about moving outside that age range because… and I know you won't believe this, people lie about their age, which brings me to…
A Picture Is Just A Picture… Isn't It?
Admit it, you scroll right past the pictures that are unappealing, or worse yet, the profiles that don't have a picture. People don't post pictures for several reasons: they don't think they photograph well, they don't want you to know who they are, they don't have a camera or the ability to download an image to the Internet. Now ask yourself, isn't it easier to just bypass the profile with no pix or would you rather wait until you have emailed back and forth several times to discover that the person in the picture didn't match the image in your head? As for reasons two or three, enough said.
On the other hand, to dismiss a person just because of a poor photo, or to decide that he is not dating material just because of his picture isn't a wise plan either. I have met people who bore no resemblance whatsoever to the person in the photo—i.e., 50 pounds heavier, 10 years older, no hair versus hirsute.
Too Good to Be True? They Probably Are
There is such a thing as "too good to be true." If you're an average-looking, reasonably articulate middle-aged human, and you're being inundated with heartfelt, but over-the-top sentiments of love or affection from a total stranger, do not walk, run to the nearest cyber exit!! (If you're Jennifer Aniston, you can ignore this description, but still run and welcome to the over-40 demographic!)
I guarantee you that most of these people will at the very least not be good relationship material, and at the worst, be scamming you. To illustrate my point, I share my own brief encounter with such a "person" and I use this term loosely. This individual commented on my attractiveness, didn't seem bothered about the considerable distance between us geographically, and vaguely alluded to being on a "project" out of the country.
His project, of course, revolved around scamming unwitting women out of money. After a series of back-and-forth emails, he launched into a very reluctant commentary about his lack of funding to finish his "project." I don't think I need to tell you how that conversation ended or how quickly I "blocked" him from further communication.
My Life Is an Open Book
I will admit to being guilty of revealing too much about myself to others. Perhaps I feel it is only fair as I pry into other people's lives for a living! But having said that, don't do the "Big Reveal" too early on, particularly in cyberspace.
Ask yourself: In my everyday life, would I walk up to a total stranger and tell him about my divorce, my kids' squabbles, my hopes and dreams, my actual weight? Well, maybe the last one! There is a false sense of intimacy that being on the Internet engenders—think of how many details of your life you share with your "friends" on Facebook! Just don't confuse it for the actual intimacy that comes from face-to-face encounters.
Author—Johnnie McArdle is a writer at apps ratings service and a coffee enthusiast.