1/16/2023 update: One of my ongoing tasks is culling my 17+ years (!) of blog posts. Working backwards from 2005, I’m working on deleting those that are outdated, no longer interesting or useful, reviews of sex toys that no longer exist or from companies I no longer endorse, and so on.
Occasionally, though, I hit upon a topic that is as relevant now as when I wrote it, such as this one from 2011. If you’ve been rejected by a date or potential date — or done the rejecting — in a way that’s kind and respectful, please share in the comments.
Originally published January 2011:
My dabbling in online dating continues to be interesting, often funny, sometimes frustrating when the dating sites seem to ignore my criteria when announcing with great fanfare that they’ve found a match for me.
I’m going into this to expand my social life and meet good men who might become friends, or provide an hour of interesting conversation, or stimulate me to pursue a deeper relationship — or just remind me why I enjoy my single life. I’m not earnestly seeking a soul mate or looking to get married. This gives me the advantage of being able to take this whole process lightly, and my day is not ruined by a rejection or by the paucity of applause-inducing matches.
Sometimes I read a profile that leaves me saying, “Wow! I’d like to know this person!” and I send an e-note expressing why his profile interested me. Occasionally my interest is returned, but that’s rare (I’m not sure why). Usually I’m ignored. I really like it, though, when the recipient of my interest sends me a polite “No, thank you.”
To encourage you to do this, here are some of the nice ways I’ve been turned down:
- Thanks for the note and kind comments. My age range is general, like any sensible man would say, but it can be a factor. Equally, if not more, important, is the geographic range. While I know that your city is not on the other side of the moon [comment from Joan: we live about 40 mi. apart], it is too far for me at this point of this odd online dating process. I have tried the long distance relationship a few times, and each time, it proved too much the struggle. So, thanks for reaching out, and I wish you the best.
I am so honored that you would send me an email. You look and sound like a delightful woman, and I enjoyed reading your profile. However, as flattered as I am by your contact, it’s my strong hunch that we’re really not a match. So, let me send you my best wishes for meeting your match.
- Actually, I am looking for a soul-mate. Dating and friendship is fine, but I would like to “go all the way” as it were. About four years ago, I dated a woman who had lost her husband and I thought we were a pretty good fit, but she loved her husband very much and had no room for me. You seem like a smart and interesting person, and I could be making a mistake, but somehow I feel that we aren’t a good fit either. You may be right in looking for a widower. Thanks for writing me.
- Thank you for the contact and the nice words. I am in a process of transition, learning to listen to myself and find out what I am looking for at this juncture in my life. You seem like a beautiful and interesting person. However at this point I don’t feel that we would be a good match for dating. I send my heartfelt wishes to you to find the person and love that you seek and deserve.
Readers: Have you received “no, thank you” notes that made you smile instead of cringe? Have you sent any you’d like to share? Please comment.
“Online Dating Over 50: The Rules of The Game” on Huffington Post began,
Monica Porter, who dated “dangerously” for a year, shares nine top tips to help protect yourself, including: don’t believe anything, be careful who you get into bed with and split the check. If you’re looking for romance through online dating, make skepticism your starting point, says Monica.
Sure, “be careful whom you get in bed with” and “split the check” are reasonable, whatever your age and whether you’re dating online or some other way. But the negative attitude overall made me cringe For example,
Rule #1 of dating over 50: Don’t believe anyone. Emotionally, you need to construct a wall around yourself which nobody can penetrate until you believe it to be safe. People will plunder your emotions without compunction if you let them. It is up to you keep them locked up, like jewels.
Really? I’ve been online dating for a while now, and though I have my own frustrations with it (see my advice to men here), fearing that my precious emotions will be plundered if I don’t lock them up is not one of them.
Personally, I think that most people of our age who are using online dating sites are looking for love/ lust/ sex/ adventure/ friendship/ companionship, or some combination of these; feel as vulnerable as we do; and have good intentions. Am I naive?
Isn’t the point of a first date to know each other enough to decide whether we want a second date? Isn’t part of that being ourselves, talking openly, and, yes, risking a little? I’ve met people who have their emotions locked up, and I have no interest in dating them.
I invited the fans of my Naked at Our Age Facebook page to weigh in. Boy howdy, were you willing! Here are some of your points:
Janet, 55: I agree, it is very negative. If you go into online dating with fear and negativity, that is what you will attract. I suggest: Know yourself, be clear about what you expect from the site, be clear on the qualities of a date you are seeking, be ruthlessly honest because you have nothing to lose — you don’t want to waste time in a charade. This is the time of life to be real. Be you, be positive, have fun and you will attract what you put out.
Dana, 62: I tried online dating and it seemed like every man I met had a laundry list, and I was too short, not brunette, too chunky, not enough like their ex wife, too much like their ex wife, too independent, not independent enough, too sexual, too frigid, and on and on. They had this woman pictured in their mind and were looking for her and her alone. My strongest recommendation would be not to make snap judgments at the first meeting. Be willing to let things unfold, be curious. Resist the temptation to judge a book by its cover. Just relax and don’t be on the hunt for your “soul mate” (whatever the heck that is). Find a true friend, a joyful companion, a kind soul and be nice. Let life, God, the universe, fate (whatever you want to call it) choose for you.
Jim, 58: As negative as it may be, is the article accurate? I say, for the most part, yes. Photos are old, many of them are of flowers, their dog, whatever. Would it be nice for a woman to offer to help pay for a nice dinner? Never happens. Not that I would accept it either, but the offer would be nice. I think we all have preconceived notions of what we want, but I agree that you need to let things flow. I find that many women aren’t ready to date, let alone have a new relationship. After 3-4 dates, it’s “I just don’t think I’m ready,” or “my ex BF is really trying to be a better man so I’m going to go back and give it another try,” or “I thought I was ready but now I’m not sure.”
Ruth, 67: I think the Huff Post article is valid to some extent — don’t believe anybody! It doesn’t mention that you can ask for a reference after you’ve met someone for the first time and before you hop into bed with them. You can find out about the person’s honesty and relationship history from someone else’s point of view. I don’t agree with the statement, “If you meet someone you fancy, by all means enjoy good, fun sex. But – hard-nosed as it sounds, and I can’t pretend it’s always easy – take the emotion out of it or you will be hurt over and over again.” I can’t take the emotion out of sex and I’m not sure many people can.
Paula Ellen, 53: I find the photo with the article pretty offensive. Why isn’t there a photo of a 60-year-old, gray-haired woman with a thirty-something male? Jesus.
Brian, 64 :
I’m a verbal guy, I’m not interested in profiles without a lot of writing either in the profile essays, or in the explanations of the questions on OKCupid. That’s where I gauge such things as sense of humor, care for others, and intellectual curiosity. I wonder what women are thinking when they post a profile picture showing them scowling or otherwise looking unhappy. My correspondents tell me that they get tons of messages from men on the model of “Hi beautiful, what’s up?” (That sort is the more tasteful) I can’t give advice on how to handle this, except to put clearly in your profile something that you ask for a comment on, if only to see if someone actually read it. I sent a woman one of my usual cheerleading notes, telling her how much I loved her profile and wishing her good luck. Six months later, we’ve got a very fine romance going, despite the long distance. As it happened, one of my lovers had just said goodbye for reasons best known to her, and I had some time/energy to spare.
So, be careful what you don’t ask for. You may get it.
Ashton, 62: I agree that that article is way too negative. I’m a fan of OK Cupid and I think you need to go into it open-minded rather than paranoid. My #1 rule of online dating is to meet sooner rather than later.
Cyril, 65: While I agree that the wording is negative and excessively emphasizes the need for caution, we should not be gullible or leave ourselves open to exploitation, whether by a date or a rogue trader. Simply put, make sure they have earned your trust before you open up.
Chuck: I’m 74 and my honey is 78. We met on JDate two years ago. The obvious catalyst is honesty–and candor. We got the heavy lifting done on our first date (my alcoholism and depression, her husband’s dementia) and moved on from there. Respecting one another’s history and allowing space for individualism, these have worked so well for us.
This man contacted me from OK Cupid. In his photo, he had thick black hair with a little grey, and he described his body type as “average.”
When I arrived at the coffee shop for a first meeting, I spied him from the doorway. I recognized him, but just barely. His hair was white and thinning, and he was at least 40 pounds overweight. I was totally grossed out by his misrepresentation of himself, and I froze. Then, instead of approaching him, I left without letting him see me.
He sent several texts along the lines of “I’m here waiting, looks like you’re running late.” When I finally responded, I told a half truth — “I’m so sorry, I couldn’t meet you” and a total lie: “I’m having trouble dealing with a break-up.”
He sent me a scathing email calling me rude and inconsiderate, and I apologized and said, ‘”Yes, I know, I’m so sorry.”
What advice would I give to men on online dating sites? Be honest, really honest. Post a recent photo. Say what you look like. If you’re 40 pounds overweight, say so. Otherwise you’re misrepresenting yourself, and someone’s going to be pissed off. Hopefully they won’t do what I did and not even talk to you. There’s someone who will love you the way you are, so be yourself.
Do I feel right about what I did? No, I’m terribly embarrassed. I’ve never done anything like this before. I was scared to tell you.
“I need to tell you that when I saw how different you are from your photos and your description of yourself, I felt you had misrepresented yourself. It doesn’t do any good, really, to post an old photo and not tell the truth about your body type — it’s bound to come out once you meet, and they feel deceived. If you portray yourself honestly, you’ll draw people who are attracted to who you really are, and you deserve that. We all deserve that.”
Do you think that’s cold? There was no potential for a second date anyway, so maybe this could be a teachable moment.Please realize that I’m not shaming someone for an extra 40 pounds and thinning, white hair — it’s the misrepresentation that doesn’t serve him and doesn’t get him closer to a first date becoming a second date.
7/28/14: I wrote this in 2010. I’m updating it now, with a few more years of experience with dating as a senior. Here’s what I said in 2010, with updates italicized in blue.
Yes, I’ve started online dating, and I’m actually enjoying it.
I realize that my enjoyment goes hand in hand with not having anything at stake, no big expectations. I’m not looking to replace Robert (couldn’t be done even if I wanted to, which I don’t) or find someone to give my life meaning and joy (my life already has meaning and joy). I want to bring more male energy into my life, meet new people, get out, have new experiences. If that results in connecting with someone wonderful, that’s a big bonus.
I wrote this 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 soul mate that it becomes fraught with anxiety, unpleasantness, and emotional danger.
First dates aren’t scary to me in the least. 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 almost ten years, I already have some strong opinions about online dating do’s and don’t’s. (When did you ever know me to not have strong opinions?) Here are a few, aimed at men because that’s my experience. I’m sure I’ll add more as I proceed, and I encourage you to add your own. (Be constructive, not nasty, please.)
1. 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, and make those secondary photos, not your main one.
2. 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. (I can’t believe how many men wear sunglasses in their profile photos. Please, guys!)
3. Have a photo taken if you don’t have one already. You don’t need to go to a photography studio — all your friends have digital cameras. 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)!
4. Smile! Most of the profiles that men post show them either scowling or looking intently serious. I know that’s because you’re taking selfies and you don’t want to put on your reading glasses to see the tiny screen. Ask someone else to take your photo, and smile as if you’re glad to meet us.
3. Describe what makes you interesting and unique. Skip the usual “I like moonlight walks on the beach,” etc. — if everyone who said this actually did it, the beaches would be crowded at nighttime, and they’re not. Instead, think about the qualities and interests that will attract us and make you stand out from all the other profiles we’re reading.
Please, good men, I know you’re out there. How do we find you?
Since I’m a straight woman reading men’s profiles, this post is slanted to my experience. Help me expand it. I’d love to hear from you about your experiences, likes and dislikes, and pet peeves about the people of any gender whom you meet (or choose not to meet) through online dating. I hope you’ll comment!