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Online Dating for the Silver Surfers
A first hand account of the delights and disasters of dating websites by one who only had to kiss a couple of frogs before finding her prince!
Starting again in the dating game is something that most of us hope we never have to do especially when we are no longer in the first flush of youth or indeed in a midlife crisis, although the actions in some going through a mid life crisis may precipitate 'starting again'!. This is the story of my experiences when I took a leap of faith and decided I needed to start living life fully again and that meant having my own someone to share it with.
The etiquette of meeting someone has changed over the years and where once the Saturday dance or church was considered a suitable (and even respectable) place to meet someone of the opposite sex now the internet has taken over and it is estimated that over 25 per cent of relationship have started through dating sites and many of these are people who have found themselves alone and in their sixties or seventies and do not relish the prospect of being alone for the rest of their lives.
Once the desire or need to have another person in your life has been acknowledged and accepted (and this is sometimes accompanied by a sense of guilt or even betrayal of a partner who has died) then comes the crucial task of picking the right website to join so this where Google is really helpful as it enables you to narrow down your searches - e.g over 60s., single parent,widowed, sporty, professional and even ethnicity and religion. It is a good idea to browse the ones that you feel are compatible with your lifestyle, beliefs etc. before finally taking the massive first step and joining and that is when the fun starts.
All websites ask for your profile. Here honesty really is the best policy! There are drop down menus to help you choose and height, skin colour and eye colour are no problem but when it comes to build then what does 'average' mean? How we see ourselves is not necessarily how others sees us so maybe ask 2 or 3 friends (that you can trust) how they would describe you. I once (and only once) met a man whose profile said that he had blonde hair (it was grey) and he was a social drinker and a moderate smoker. Since when were 6 pints a night and 20 cigarettes considered 'social' or 'moderate'? Websites like you to have a photo on your profile as apparently you have a far greater chance of being contacted when you can be seen. Here is where common sense must prevail - please , no low cut revealing tops or skimpy skirts (I am addressing the over 60s here!), no group photos or no one will know which one is you and certainly nothing that would give away your location. It is helpful if the photo is fairly recent, not one taken 30 years ago or if you do go and meet a date he or she may think you have sent your mother/father to check them out!
One of the great advantages I found was that filters are in place so that you receive messages from those whose criteria match your preferences i.e 50 miles radius, animal lover, vegetarian and so on but the real bonus for me was the height category as I top 5ft 10in in heels and I do like a man that I can look up to! I have nothing against shorter men, after all dynamite comes in small packages, but I do sometimes get the feeling that they are talking to my chest rather than to my face. It is also very useful to know if the prospective 'date' has children and grandchildren, after all it may come as a shock to a man who has no children to find himself with a mother and grandmother whose progeny amount to double figures. Religion (if you are practising in your faith) can be a deal breaker so please be honest in this department.
When you have taken that first step and your profile is 'live' then the contacts start. Some websites allow icebreakers, which are messages that are sent by the website from men whose criteria match your given preferences. Personally I would only reply to those who put my name in title and who have a photo and having read the profile and seen the photo then respond with a polite 'thank you but no thank you' or message the person through the website possibly asking for a little more information. Assuming that all goes well after exchanging several messages you may agree to meet. This is where common sense must prevail. Always arrange to meet for the first time in a public place, preferably in the day time and let a trusted friend or family member know what you are doing (I know we are no longer kids and it is perhaps embarrassing to admit going on a 'date' at 'our age' but this is the most sensible precaution). If you wish you can arrange for your friend to call you at a given time so that you have an escape route if all is not going well. Meeting for coffee initially is suitable as you are not committed to a long time in the company of someone you have just met and may or may not like but if you get along like a house on fire then it is possible that it rolls over into a lunch date. Keep the topics of conversation light and non controversial and please do not discuss money or medication and always agree to split the bill so make sure you have sufficient cash to cover this. After the meeting always send a thank you message via the website until you are confident enough to swap phone numbers and/or email addresses and make your own way home. If the man is genuine he will respect this and only when he has volunteered his phone numbers, email and home address then you may if you wish reciprocate but do not feel pressured into doing this. Hopefully further dates will follow but if not, then there are plenty more people looking for prospective partners so do not be discouraged.
Of course not every encounter will result in a relationship or even friendship but online dating can and does work. I met my partner online, after being twice widowed and being convinced that I did not want another relationship especially as I was battling cancer and going through chemo, but friendship deepened and this friend became my knight in shining armour and we have shared many happy times together. We are planning a trip of a lifetime in January to chase the Northern Lights and spend a night in an Ice Hotel, things I thought impossible 2 years ago but thanks to the Internet I now have a whole new experience before me. We may no longer be in the first flush of youth but our hearts can flutter for reasons other than medical if we are brave enough to take the first step and embrace our maturity in years!