You may have read my recent article about living alone and how much I am enjoying my single status. In that piece I mentioned my foray into internet dating for the over 50’s. I wasn’t looking for another husband, rather the extra dynamic of some interesting male company. Well ladies, here’s how I got more than I bargained for…
So how did I go about my manhunt aged 69? First of all I had to get over the (perceived) stigma of computer dating. It transpires that 15 million people in the UK – from teenagers to octagenarians – are turning to the internet to meet someone. Plus I came to the conclusion that the chances of meeting someone online are probably higher than bumping into George Clooney as he wheels his trolley around Waitrose (although I’m assured there are a lot of eligible men shopping at 6.30pm on a Friday).
Having Googled ‘online dating for the over 50’s’ and asked for recommendations from friends who have had success online, I took the plunge and narrowed it down to three sites. It was free to register and browse, so I had a look at the male database on each to see if there were enough in my area. I quickly realised that all three sites shared the same database, so I plumped for the one that was easiest to use and stumped up a trial month’s fee. Paying means you can message potential ‘candidates’, see in-focus (rather than blurry) images and, equally importantly signals that you (and they) are serious about meeting someone.
In order to protect my personal details, I set up a new email account and chose a profile name that was not my real one. Then I wrote an upbeat profile and uploaded photographs that were recent and reasonably flattering. I wasn’t too prescriptive about the type of man I was looking for but I did specify age and height ranges and a proximity to where I lived. I pressed Go and waited for the ‘likes’ to come in.
I also proactively searched for suitable candidates. Depending on my mood, I was either mildly depressed at the collection on offer or in absolute fits of laughter. But it was fun swiping or ‘liking’ – a new experience but one I felt safe doing as no-one really knew who I was.
There were many men with hats (ie bald), lots raising a glass of beer towards the camera (default “I’m sociable” pose?), rather too many cuddling cute kittens/a grandchild (probably borrowed), several who were outlandishly handsome (yep, too good to be true), some overweight ones wearing what they assumed were sexy string vests, and a surprisingly large number looking manly at the helm of a yacht. I also discarded the ones who claimed to be a decade younger than they looked or had taken selfies in bathrooms (probably while the wife was out shopping).
If a man had a ‘nice’ face and met my basic criteria, I’d optimistically check out his profile. You can tell immediately if someone has made an effort – you get a glimpse into their lives and their character. The majority of men seem to love the word ‘tactile’ but, if the text was overtly sexual (such as the chap who claimed he was sapiosexual – had to look that one up – or the one who seemed rather too keen on sensuous silks) I would give them a miss. However, when I spotted someone remotely interesting I wasn’t shy about ‘liking’ his profile – no-one could see me blush as I did so!
Every day the dating site emailed me with details of the men who ‘liked’ me or had sent me a message. It was, quite frankly, rather exciting and flattering.
My modus operandi was to wait for a man to message me and, if it was friendly rather than suggestive, I would reply with, what I hoped was, an interesting question for him to answer. After a couple more messages, I would usually offer to speak on the phone/Whatsapp (you can always block someone if they turn out to be deadly dull/weird/potentially dishonest). This worked well because hearing someone’s voice gives you another insight into their character, situation and what baggage they might have. If we chatted happily for half an hour or so, they would usually ask to meet and I would agree to a daytime coffee (I’m still too old fashioned to do the asking out).
It’s amazing how much you can find out about someone from the minimal information they give you during a phone call – especially if you Google them afterwards! I turned into Grace, the detective. Conversely I never told anyone my surname or where I lived other than the name of the town.
I am quite shy but actually enjoyed meeting men for coffee. I never got too dressed up – comfortable jeans and a blazer usually, not too much make up. And I always paid my share, which kept things on an even footing. I chose venues where I felt safe and the flat whites were delish. It was fun. A new hobby!
The first internet man I met was tall, beautifully dressed and had impeccable manners… but he was, bless him, sooooo dull. Took quite a bit of effort for me to stay awake in all honesty. Then came Mark who had been alone for 20 years. Meeting him I realised why. Michael was good company but subsequently too persistent, which put me off. Henry never let me get a word in edgeways, Mitch didn’t ask me one single question, John seemed to have a few chips on his shoulder and Andrew turned out to be a very keen fell walker which was rather too strenuous for my legs to contemplate. They were all, to a man, pleasant enough in their own way and I wish them all the luck in their search for a partner. Just won’t be me.
I did however do all kinds of interesting cultural excursions with a chap called Charles. It was fun but after a few months the cracks began to show. Then, it happened. I had a phone call with J. I had flicked past his online photo on several occasions then something made me look at his profile which I found intriguing. He turned out to have fabulous voice and a quiet confidence. He is tall. He has hair. He never wears string vests. We talk for hours. It’s been six months now and it’s still interesting knowing him. Neither of us ever dreamed we would meet someone so late in life but it can happen so give it a try!