Neither of us had dated since our early 20s. How do you find single men when you’ve been out of the dating pool for 30 plus years? Stand around in grungy bars? Wait to be fixed up? Start talking to single men in grocery stores with shopping carts filled with stuff for single guys who sit on a couch eating alone?
Truth be told, neither of us had any idea how to go about dating like when we were young, beautiful, full of hope, and--yes, so naïve. And let’s face it, it doesn’t get any easier when you’re AARP-eligible, seasoned, wrinkled, sagging, and realistic about love and life.
After her husband left, Barbara needed verification that she was still desirable. She wanted to love and to be loved again. That’s when technology stepped in. A relative who had success with online dating, suggested that she try it. At first, she felt like a kid in a candy store. There were so many men to choose from. In doing so, Margaret began to jokingly refer to her as a “cyber slut” when Barbara eventually went out with 350-plus men over a 12-year-period. In the spirit of full transparency: some dates were for a drink, some lunch, some dinner, and some she went out with more than once.
Margaret was more skittish about dating after her spouse died. She would never become a cyber slut like her friend but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t help with the hunt for Barbara. As Barbara perfected her online profile, which she showed to Margaret to okay and edit, here are nine tips they learned about how to write a winning online profile.
1.) Use a current photo with both head and full body shots, which most viewers want to see; be sure it was taken in the last year unless you state otherwise; and check to see if your family is okay with your choices—not too much or any cleavage, no hairy bare male chests, and definitely no pets unless you want to attract someone who's definitely a pet lover;
2.) Write in an upbeat tone with no jargon and provide enough information but don't think you have to write the next War and Peace; this should be a snapshot of you not a full resume;
3.) Be brutally honest—about your age, body type, height, weight, number of marriages and divorces, children, finances, and the location where you live or work;
4.) Make yourself stand out from the pack—Do you bake award-winning pies? Have a great vegetable garden? Have you climbed Mount Everest, like to ride a tandem bike, walk or lift weights every day? If you don't garden, don't say you do. One of Barbara's male friends urged her to put in gardening when she didn't at that stage. She did at his urging. Did it make a difference? No, except she felt guilty for fudging the truth. She now does garden, however!
5.) Admit any deal killers from the get-go so you don’t waste each other’s time—if you’ll only date people from your religion or political party, dislike pets, can’t imagine being with someone who wears gold chains, doesn’t drink wine or smoke, has tattoos, or never travels or is adamant that climate control is a myth;
6.) Don’t whine about an ex-spouse, your parents, siblings, kids, illnesses, or injuries. It’s a major turn-off and casts you in a negative light from the start;
7.) Use proper grammar even if you have to check a writing guide, use a spell-checker or ask a friend to edit what you write; you want to put yourself in the best light;
8.) Be a bit open-minded; you may have a checklist of wanting this and that, but think about how exciting it can be to try a different recipe, read a different book, watch a new type of movie; the same holds true for a date; each one doesn't have to make you wonder--is he marriage or partner material; some dating can just be for fun;
9.) Be kind—if someone takes the time to contact you, respond even if you're not interested, and say so politely with something such as, “I don’t think we’re a match, but thanks for writing,” or "Good luck with your search," rather than "I think you sound so boring," or "I can't believe you think I'd go out with you!" And if you meet someone that you plan or hope to see for a while, get off the site and give others a chance. You can always get back on. Barbara went out with one man who told her after their first date that he had been seeing another woman for three months, but that he was so intrigued with her. If she could rewind the tape, she wouldn't have gone out with him that second time--or third. But it all helped to teach her some very valuable lessons, which is why we date: to try out relationships and find one we hope that works.
And now you probably are wondering about the results. Internet dating made it easy for Barbara to avoid bars and pick up lines from shady guys. Although Barbara’s dates were the good, the bad, and even the ugly, she did have a few protracted relationships and made some new male friends. And then the only fix-up she had became the best relationship of all. Almost four years later, she’s still with that guy whom she calls "Fix-up," inspired by former New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser, who used to refer to her boyfriend (now husband Tad Friend) as "Mr. Latte." Margaret never went online but ran into an old high school boy friend who she dated more than three years. But now they've parted ways. She hasn't quite made the leap to online dating, but it could be an option down the line.
Read all about Barbara’s hilarious online dating escapades in Chapter 10: “But Who’s Counting” in our book Suddenly Single After 50: The Girlfriends' Guide to Navigating Loss, Restoring Hope, and Rebuilding Your Life (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).
We can say with pride that life is really good today.