At age seventy, I signed up with a matchmaking website for seniors. If you haven’t tried online dating (and it was all new to me), the first hurdle for a woman ‘over a certain age’ is to get past the idea that meeting someone online is too much of a fringe thing, and that goes against everything our generation was warned about.
But if you decide to give it a try, here are some things to consider. First, you’ll need a ‘handle’ for your profile. Remember the days of truckers on their CB radios using nicknames like GoodBuddy and RubberDuck? ’ Well, a dating site is like that. So how do you choose a name for yourself that gets attention without being . . . what? . . . too coy, as in Needaknight? Too suggestive, like Sweet&Low? Too anything?
Since you’ll be in the category of ‘Female Seeking Male,’ you won’t see other women’s profiles to assess the ‘competition.’ You’re on your own in figuring out just who you want to be in this online world.
In the ‘Male Seeking Female’ profiles, some men choose mildly descriptive names like ‘NevadaBob’ or ‘TallLarry.’ But some pick inventive ways to reveal their goals regarding women, and many aren’t appealing.
So how to identify myself? Be straightforward and use my own real first name? Invent something like ‘FunAndSmart’ or ‘DreamComeTrue?’ Finally, I logged in as ‘Johanna5,’ Johanna being my grandmother’s name; the 5 because it’s my favorite number, neither lucky nor unlucky. Now I had a handle.
Moving on: List my real age? What the hell, I am indeed seventy.
Post a photo of myself: Use a recent picture? And does that make this an ethical question? I chose a slightly younger photo in which I’m wearing a hat that slants a few shadows across my face. No way to know if it’s recent or not, right? And, anyway, I still have the same hat to wear for that first get-acquainted date over coffee. And who would be rude enough to challenge the age thing, right? Right?
Wrong. Coffee date #4 did exactly the rude thing. The meeting hadn’t been going well anyway when suddenly the seventy-five year old man stood up and said, “You should change the picture in your profile. You’re way older and I wouldn’t have even known you if you hadn’t brought that hat along.” He walked out, got in his late model silver Mustang convertible and drove away with the top down even though it was a very cold day. I finished my coffee and chalked it up to ‘well, what do you know. . . another new experience.’
Back to initially filling out the profile form. Create a short narrative about yourself. Who are you? Describe yourself. So am I sincere, fun-loving, free of baggage, and a great conversationalist?
After a couple of drafts, my own entry (like in a sweepstakes contest) read, “I love humor, travel, reading, and don’t mind inconvenience. Willing to drink warm white wine and cold coffee.”
You need to check boxes from the following selections: are you ‘Slightly romantic,’ ‘Very romantic,’ or ‘Extremely romantic.’ I selected slightly romantic.
Are you seeking marriage, a serious relationship, a casual relationship, a friendship, travel partner, and/or pen pal? At this point, looking for friendship and a travel partner.
Like to cook? Choose from I love it, enjoy it, or I cook rather than starve. I chose cook rather than starve.
So far, my profile wasn’t racking up qualities wildly attractive to men on Viagra and/or who want great home-cooked meals.
Then there’s space for color of hair, eyes, and body type. Also, fill-in-the-blanks on religion, political leanings, number of children (how many living with you). Are you widowed or divorced (I’ve been divorced; now widowed). Where did you grow up? That’s where I might add ‘just how old were you when you grew up?’
Pets: In my case: dogs, fish, an Agama lizard named Domingo; and Nelson, my Ball python. Until recently, I had chickens, and no, the python didn’t eat them.
There’s no category for ‘how many times married’ but there should be.
Then there’s space for ‘I’d just like to add . . . .’ so I said, “I’m impatient with mediocre books and movies. I don’t want to take up cross-country trips on the back of a Harley, and I hate the cold.’
The upshot of my profile is that I’m kind of quirky but not in the category of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, which any man in our age group has seen at least once.
That was the scoop on me, so I pressed Enter and waited. Really, what nice, intelligent widower between 65 and 75 wouldn’t love to make my acquaintance? The answer is . . . quite a few. Was it the warm white wine? The resistance to Harleys? Being only ‘slightly romantic?’ That I don’t like to cook? The python? What?
Here are some of my "matches." Their profile handles were like making sense out of automobile vanity plates:
Bravehart4U, Bitmetwice, 52pickmeup, Funitsme69, Oldcruzer, Oohhjohnny, Varmintman.
Oldcruzer is waiting for a bridge to be built to Hawaii so he can get there on his Harley. Varmintman has “a few extra pounds.” Oohhjohnny is a heavy smoker. Most proclaim they “love to listen to your hopes and dreams,” are “compassionate, caring, funny, easy-to-get-along-with” and ‘love to walk hand-in-hand in the sunsets.” Some bundle all of that into an even bigger package that includes ‘patient, loyal, adventurous, hard-working, love to cuddle, and trustworthy.” What’s not to like?
There was JustLooking4u, Hotletsgoforit, Backrubs4u2. Booboo prefers “a woman with a job that can help make our lives better.” One man was married three times. “Not my first rodeo,” he said, “but two of them died.”
I stopped clicking on names with the words hot or wild in them. One man wants a woman who is humble but otherwise didn’t seem picky. Another said “I am honest, trustworthy, and loving… something I have yet to find in a woman.” A man calling himself Zipperlinechaser didn’t need to describe what he’s looking for.
Out of the dozens of male candidates I looked at, I met for coffee with only six. During our date, I asked each of them, "So how's it going, being on this dating website?" They were candid and funny about their experiences, and it turned out that they, too, could probably write a piece like this, but from the other side of the equation. It seems that being on a dating site isn't for the faint-hearted. It's a trip into the sociology of our times . . . where our generation is living longer and more likely to find ourselves alone for one reason or another . . . and it appears there are a lot more of us lonesome folks out there than I'd imagined. Bless us one and all.
Karen Hayes writes what she thinks of as both whimsical and dark fiction and creative non-fiction. She's currently working on her memoir, True Places. For more information visit: hayesforwords.com.
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