It’s a funny thing dating in your 40s. On one hand, your confidence is good, you are starting to be more assured in who you are and for me personally, having been married and having a child meant that I wasn’t quite as over-eager as I was in my twenties and thirties. For me I want to find someone I ‘want’ rather than I ‘need.’
I think I’m a good catch. Not too hard on the eye, financially stable, funny, I look after myself, I have lots of friends, well educated and live a good life.
Dating Is Different In Your 40s
When I dated in my 20s and 30s I met people through University, friends, work, nights out and built up friendships and then dated. Now that seems positively old fashioned and apparently somewhat out of reach. Most of my friends are married with small children so nights out are fairly sporadic and regular interrogation of most of them has resulted in no one being able to name one single man that they know or that they would recommend I go on a blind date with.
And so, it was then that my friend recommended online dating. I had avoided it like the plague but after one sporadic night out I realised that the drunken slim pickings I could see before I meant that I may need to take a different approach. Her view was ‘even if you don’t go out with anyone you will see that there are decent men out there.’
Setting Yourself Up for Online Dating
After 16-months on my own, I decided I was ready to dip my toe back in the dating water and set myself up online. Find my best photos, make some quippy remarks and wait for the magic to happen. I was probably a little cocky as during my non-online dating career in my teens, twenty’s and thirty’s I had never been short of attention and generally got the man I wanted.
My first online dating shock was that it is a numbers game. You have to sift through a lot of people to get to even one man that I would half consider communicating with. I suppose this isn’t so unlike old fashioned dating as clearly I didn’t go out with every man I ever saw but the volume of men that you need to swipe through can be both overwhelming and demoralising.
Looks Come First
Shock number 2 was that men who quite frankly I wouldn’t look at once let alone twice in the street seemed to think that online I may be fair game (I wasn’t) and would make contact with a cheeky ‘hello gorgeous’ in the hope of a response. And therein is the first problem with online dating. The reality is that it is about looks. Whatever anyone says the reason you are swiping left or right is whether you find them physically attractive, that’s it. And we all know that in reality that isn’t how attraction works.
Yes, you need to find someone attractive but it is also about the connection, the spark, the indescribable something that draws you to find that other person attractive. Online dating does not in any way allow for you to gauge that magic, it is purely a case of immediate physical attraction based on 3 or 4 photos. And that takes me to issue number two. You have no idea if the people you are chatting to are actually the people they say they are, you have nothing to anchor yourself to them. No friends in common, no work colleagues. The photos online may be from 10 years ago, or worse still not even them. I didn’t know such a thing existed but I have been ‘Catfished’ once and my spidey senses started tingling fairly quickly but not before we had exchanged a few messages and I thought he might be a good catch (turned out he was a good catch – too good to be true in fact). Young people ‘social screen’ means that they search up the person online and on social media to check out who the person really is and if that matches with what they have said. Having seen Dirty John on Netflix I highly recommend you all take this approach, millennial or not.
You Need to Filter Out Perverts and Non-Starters Quickly
And then there are the chats. Going from a full day at work, cooking and putting your child to bed to then trying to come up with a witty repertoire with a man you don’t know at all, have no idea if you want to know and trying not to make the whole first few messages sound like a job interview. It’s tricky. You want to sound interesting, but the reality is that you are sat in your marmite stained dressing gown watching Gogglebox, not out at Soho House mixing with Kate Moss and Elton John.
I quickly sifted out the ones that just want sex or ask for ‘extra photos’. I know there are plenty of people out there that are looking for all that and good luck to them, but it’s not for me. Even as a teenager I was never a one-night stand girl so I am unlikely to start at 42. I would rather just be upfront. When they start with the ‘I find dating a bit boring I think I am looking for something else’ I respond ‘Do you mean just sex’ and they say ‘Well..yes..what about you and so I say ‘No..but you fill your boots and I wish you much fun and wear a condom.’ I think it’s a nice way to end off the brief 4 message relationship we have built up.
Move Conversation Away From The App To Take It Further
And so, when you have had a few messages with someone who suggests that they aren’t Dirty John or doesn’t appear to be an immediate threat to my personal safety then it’s usual practice that one of you suggests (I normally wait for them to offer) that we move to Whatsapp. It is the modern-day equivalent of moving to a quiet lounge after chatting in a loud bar. Big Brother Online Dating App isn’t watching you and you have taken a small step into trusting them with your phone number in the hope that they won’t be stalking you for the rest of your life. You start to get a glimpse into their world. Does their Whatsapp photo match the ones you saw on their dating profile? Yay if it does, Block immediately if it doesn’t.
And Whatsapp chat is great..flirty..saucy..immediate..but also crap for knowing that someone is online but not responding to your message. You know you mustn’t look like a crazy bitch and so you play it cool whilst knowing that the chances are they are chatting to at least another 5 women on Whatsapp that they have met on the same dating app. And of course, women can do the same. That’s the great thing about Online Dating. You can meet lots of people, you can have a lot of lanes swimming at the same time. But for me…I am not sure if I am just of a bygone era, but it just seems so soulless. I have had men ask to move to Whatsapp tell me about their job, their children and share amusing stories with each other to then just disappear without a trace (well not totally as you can see they are online on Whatsapp of course..just not to you) and so you just delete those ones and wonder what the hell happened in a casual calm way.
You Might Get Ghosted – Be Ready For It – It’s Not You
And then there are those that you go on a date with and it seems there is a mutual spark, they arrange another date with you, flirt over messages between dates and then as quickly as they came into your life and made you feel excited and special..they are gone. Not a word, not a goodbye, not an explanation. I think the youth call it ‘ghosting. To me, it’s just bloody bad manners and a bit shit. It’s lacking in the ability to just be honest and say ‘I have changed my mind’ or ‘I’ve met someone else.’ Everyone likes closure even if they don’t want to hear it. Anyone (men or women) who ghost genuinely need to take a good look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves a few harsh questions. And of course, after being ghosted you dust yourself down, try not to think ‘was it me?’ ‘was I too boring’ ‘did they just find someone better looking’ and instead think ‘ ‘fuck ‘em if they can’t see how amazing I am then I’m not interested..it’s their loss’ and try and grow a slightly thicker skin and chalk it down to the online dating experience.
Online Dating Is Great, But It’s Not For Everyone
My experience of actual dates has been good to be fair. 3 online dates met. One I dated for a year, one I decided to call it off after 1 date (in a nice way obviously) and one who I liked but turned out to be Casper the Ghost (see above!)
But the thing is, I just don’t like it. I’ve decided to take a hiatus for a while. I’ve deleted the App, politely ended any conversations I was having with any men (I’m no ghost and far too polite to leave even those I haven’t even met in limbo) and decided to take a break whilst I work out if it is for me.
I know of people who have met and have very successful relationships online. But I also know plenty of women, like myself, who have had some pretty rubbish experiences with online dating and who it leaves them questioning themselves. Online dating, as my ex Tinder King friend tells me (he has now found a lovely lady) ‘It’s not personal, everyone gets rejected doing online dating and you just have to remain cynical about everyone on there until someone proves you wrong.’ But jeez. Is that for me? I admit I am still getting professional help for my Disney Princess approach to love and I accept a white knight is never coming to save me (and nor would I want him to even if he did I can save myself thanks very much) but I do want someone who meets me and values me.
Who is willing to try a couple of dates with me and not be thinking about dating 5 others at the same time. Who doesn’t just disappear off the face of the earth after making you think they are interested in you. Who can, over time, see what an amazing person I am and how lucky they would be to share their life with me. And I want to feel the same about them. I want us both to have the spark and the zing. I want someone that is attractive to me, who I can laugh with but that I want to get to know more.
I think online dating means no one puts their eggs in one basket or even tries to see if someone might be worth dating more than once even if there is a spark. As why bother, with another swipe you have 4 more fabulous people at your disposal so who wants to commit when it’s like being a kid in a candy store. For me, a relationship has to be built on trust and online dating affords a way for people to keep all their options open and potentially pretend to be someone they aren’t.
And so, for now, I am going back to the old fashioned method. I will keep busy, have lots of interests, say yes to invites out with my friends and trust that when I am not looking that I will meet the man of my dreams. Who knows where he will appear from, it isn’t my job to worry about that. But my Disney Princess head believes that sorry Tinder, this might just be the best way for me.