Charlotte Metcalf takes an amusing look at why so many online dates end in disappointment for women, and concludes that the whole thing is a mug’s game. Step away from the dating sites!
“I’ve got a confession,” he said. “I lied on my profile. I’m not really 65.” He leant forward conspiratorially: “I’m 71.”
‘Well, you look terrific on it,” said my friend, Ella.
He beamed, gratified.
“And I have to confessed that I also lied,” she said.
His face darkened. “You mean you’re over 50?”
“But you were 48 in your online profile.”
“Well, we both lied,” said Ella as she laughed and raised her glass.
He frowned and signaled for the check. “I’m afraid this isn’t going to work. To be honest, I don’t feel there’s really any chemistry between us.”
Male fantasies of younger women
Since that date, Ella, who organizes singles’ drinks parties for a living, has worried about confessing to the apparently insurmountable mental peak of being over 50. One friend of mine won’t go out to a party with me if she thinks I might tell someone how old we are.
For men, whatever their age, 50 is often a step beyond which they are unprepared to venture. Once they are free from their marriages or long-term relationships, the majority of male fantasies revolve around younger women.
Even if they’ve never settled down, when they finally decide to do it, it’s usually with someone young enough to produce a family.
One life-long bachelor, approaching 60, who’s never lived with anyone, told me he was ready to commit to someone who could give him children.
Another, who’s even older, asked me to introduce him to my 36-year-old friend when he heard she wanted to become pregnant.
My friend Anna recently set up her 52-year-old girlfriend with a man of 56. “They would have suited each other perfectly,” she said. ‘It wasn’t until half way through dinner that I realized he was actually hitting on my daughter.”
A friend gave a dinner party recently for 30 single people and the only woman who received any follow-up whatsoever was still in her forties.
Statistics on new dads over 50
Before you dismiss all this as anecdotal, in 2013 the National Office of Statistics found there had been a 40 percent increase in men over 50 becoming new dads since the beginning of the millennium: 21 men over 50 were becoming new dads every day and two over 60.
It’s no wonder that so many blind dates or online encounters end with humiliation for older women.
Of course I think my friends are beautiful, accomplished, intelligent, amusing and fun. But the reality is that men, however old, prefer their women a little juicier, as if conjunction with a menopausal or post-menopausal woman might condemn them to instant decrepitude.
One 60-something man I sat next to at dinner recently asked me, “Are you still the right side of wet?” I am rarely at a loss of words but I gaped.
Life competence and sexual confidence
Is it any wonder that so many of us have lost confidence in our sexuality? Even before we know what vaginal atrophy means, most of us realize that we’re unlikely to experience that coup-de-foudre across a crowded room ever again.
We’re more likely to resign ourselves to being invisible while men years older than us eye up the waitress.
While we have far more self-assurance than we used to in our competence and life skills, most of us are terrified of wearing a swimsuit, let alone ripping our underwear off in an erotic frenzy and thrashing around naked.
A few of us feel intimidated by men’s sexual appetites, worrying that we won’t be able to match them with our own shrinking libidos.
I still believe in love
Even so, I am less cynical now about true love than I’ve ever been. But I certainly don’t expect to experience it within the stifling confines of a conventional relationship. Nor do I believe in looking for Mr Right via online dating or organized singles’ parties.
Given we only have a couple or so decades left, what’s the point of doing anything if it’s not fun? Sitting with a stranger and fretting over who’s going to pay for dinner or how he might react when confronted with my wobbling nether regions is not my idea of fun at all.
Besides, many of us are carrying hurt that cannot be mended by a quick romp. A lot of us have been through a split up that has riven our families and as we’ve nurtured our children through the fall-out we’ve often neglected to acknowledge our own spiritual and emotional bruising.
Many women I talk to find it difficult to trust again. Or they find that they enter a relationship fast in an effort to cheer themselves up and then make the same mistakes all over again, emerging more hurt and wary than before they went into it.
Why look online? Choose life!
So why are so many of us trying to find love online? Among my friends, I am yet to find an example of a successful online encounter.
Why go through the humiliation of watching your date’s face fall as he assesses the difference between the real you and the gorgeous photograph you posted on the dating site that probably made you look ten years younger?
I have never online dated but recently I arranged to meet a man I hadn’t seen for years at a party via a series of flirtatious emails. I arrived and saw his eyes narrow as he tried to work out who the woman grinning and bearing down on him was. By the time he recognized me, I’d already seen his eyes assess and then dismiss me.
Kindly, he hugged me warmly to conceal the rejection but I knew it was his memory of my younger self he had been anticipating, not the 56-year-old he was now confronting.
But has anything really changed? If anything is different now it’s that we expect to have it all well into our dotage. Plastic surgery has meant some can go on pretending to look 35 at 55 and an enlarged sense of entitlement means lots of women believe they deserve a nice man to cuddle up to on the sofa and plan city breaks with.
What some of us forget is that there are so many other routes to happiness later in life. Being single means never again having to compromise. We are the generation that fought for independence and freedom but now that we have it, we’re moaning about where all the men have gone.
Well, as they always did, they’ve gone off to look for fertile women and procreate again because they can. So rather than risk chaos, dejection and heartbreak, shall we just leave them to it?
“Seek and ye shall find,” is a misguided piece of garbage. Though it’s a cliché it’s also a truth that it’s only when people stop looking for love and quit trying so hard that they’re able to allow in the unexpected – and so many of the greatest love affairs begin suddenly and surprisingly.
After all, if we’re out having fun and not being anxious about whether we have hairs on our chin or our pubes need dyeing, we’re far more likely to bump into someone to have a good time with than if we’re poring over some random man’s online photograph. Step away from your computer right now and go to the pub or a party. Get out among it.