I’ve been on the dating scene for a long time. My friends who are married or single but not looking, love to be regaled with stories about dates – the good, the bad and the ugly. After telling these stories and talking to my friends, both married and single, I’ve discovered that I’ve learned a lot about dating. A LOT. Allow me to try to summarize what I’ve learned into convenient bullet points.
- Dating is not fun. I know dating should be fun. Let me make two points here. 1) I am over 40, an age when you know who you are and what you want. So, it is particularly disappointing to go on date after date, occasionally meet someone you really like, and have it all blow up for one reason or another. 2) I am a very pragmatic person. Dating is a means to an end. Does that mean I’ve never had fun on a date? Of course not! Forgive the Forrest Gump reference, but dating is like a box of chocolates. Some of those candies are pure heaven and some are just gross and many are simply in between. Overall, however, dating is not fun for me.
- Meeting someone “organically” gets harder as you age. I’ve gone through periods where my goal was to meet men without the aid of modern dating tools, namely online dating or speed dating. I even had a “Year of Yes” (interesting read if you haven’t already) where I said yes to any activity that wasn’t dangerous and to people I might not ordinarily have considered. Nothing. Nada. Zero results. Last year I met a dating coach who told me that you should do everything all at one time to meet someone. He recommends online/app dating, meeting people in public, doing the things you enjoy doing, being open at the gym or grocery—basically all the advice you’ve already heard. I have met so many wonderful people. Women, couples, and a few single men…very few. I am a cyclist, theoretically a male-dominated sport. Yet, I have met more nice women and couples cycling than I can count and very few eligible, single men.
- Nobody who has been out of the game for a decade or more understands modern dating. Everyone I know who has been off the market for more than a decade, can’t understand why I can’t meet someone. Everyone I know who has tried to date in the last decade says the same thing: “It’s just not as easy as it used to be”. Nope! First of all, when we were in college, almost all of us were single and we were constantly with other single people. Now, I’m lucky to meet an age-appropriate single person…anywhere. When my mother and step dad met, dating was much simpler. There were no apps or online dating sites and, frankly, I think that made things easier. We now live in the Amazon.com era of dating. You can sort through many screens of eligible candidates and “shop” for your ideal mate. The problem with that, you ask? Well, it creates an environment where people are always seeking a bigger, better deal. If you constantly search for something better, it’s hard to appreciate what you’ve already found.
- Online dating is a science. Some people think the science of online matching is, as Sheldon Cooper would say, hokum. While I do think there might be some validity to it, matters of the heart are not as cut and dried as science. There is, however, a science to being a good online dater. I update my profile in some way every 2 weeks or so. I believe that doing so shuffles me to the top of the dating deck and I am more visible on the site. More views means a better chance of seeing and being seen.
- Online dating is also an art. I haven't had much luck. One of my friends had great success on the same site. Once you’ve found a site that works, it’s important to develop a strategy to maximize your success. Over time, you learn how to spot the people who really aren’t worth your time – the players, the still married, the single but angry, etc. That, my friends, is an art you must master if you want to minimize wasted time. For example, as a woman, I find sending a message to someone I find interesting counterproductive. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve always been told that I should get out there and message!” My experience is that it never amounts to anything. That may not be a successful strategy for everyone, but it has saved me a lot of frustration.
So, there you have it. The lessons I’ve learned in my 11 years as a date. This advice is not meant to be prescriptive, but rather to help you forge a dating template that works for you.