by Judy Cowling
Let’s start with a bit of perspective.
I was married for four years and that was three too many. I stayed because I thought things might change, but mostly because I loved our chocolate lab, Mudball. I was 28 and not the person I am today.
Our divorce was painless. There were no children and the dog was his when we met. I took the wedding presents from my family friends, he took his. I asked for the antique silver and turquoise American Indian belt buckle he never wore. He got the fancy camera he loved and that I had paid to restore.
I’ve been swimming in the dating pool for 27 years now because I believe in love. I want a partner in life and to be a part of a team. But being a hopeless romantic in the hookup culture of digital dating is daunting.
I’ve tried the free sites. OkCupid’s arrows were way off target, and Plenty of Fish introduced me to men who weren’t worth keeping, so I threw them back.
I spent a ridiculously long time filling out the eharmony questionnaire to determine my “27 levels of compatibility.” This forced me to take stock of what I really wanted and where I was willing to compromise. I specified that I was a “physically active, high energy, lover of the arts who was seeking the same.”
They matched me with a blind guy in a wheelchair.
The fee sites were no better. EliteSingles was a total waste of time and money, and Zoosk’s “perfect match” was a man I was once engaged to.
Then last year, Match.com netted a catfish – a handsome engineer with thick gray hair and a devilish smile who’d found himself in a financial pickle while building some project overseas. Where oh where would he get the money to finish the endeavor and return to his third-floor Richmond condo? He got zip from me, but I’ll bet his charm worked on others.
So, here I am. One of millions of women over 50 who find themselves floating in this dating pool. At this age, your needs aren’t the same as they once were. You’ve had your kids. You’ve grown your business. You might even be ready to retire. You’re a grown-ass woman looking for love and companionship.
How do you navigate the dating scene?
First, shake off whatever reasons find you single again. All. Of. Them. Don’t take that baggage with you. Present your best self to world – but also promise yourself to take no crap.
Establish your goals and make your list. If you just want booty, I’m sure you remember how to do that. Otherwise be clear about your needs, wants and deal breakers. I mean, you wouldn’t shop for Thanksgiving dinner without writing down everything you’ll need beforehand, right? Same theory applies.
Be optimistic. Dates are research; learn from them. These people might not be “the one,” but I bet they can recommend a good book, restaurant or movie.
If you choose to go digital and you’re looking for a serious relationship, post recent pictures, your real age and your real weight. Consider it a deposit in the Bank of Good Karma.
Go slow and say no. When it comes to sex, you’re in the driver’s seat and you should determine the direction and speed. But if you just can’t wait, buy condoms and use them. Among people ages 55 to 64, reports of chlamydia cases nearly doubled – from 4,950 to 9,321 – between 2012 and 2016, Harvard Health Publishing reported last year.
Never blow up his phone, and don’t send naked pictures of yourself that you don’t want the universe to see.
Digital not for you?
Get happy being single because it’s better to be alone than in bad company. Then get busy doing the things you love. Take classes. Go on long walks to nowhere. Take yourself to the movies you want to see and the restaurants you want to experience.
Go on dates with your friends and focus on them. After all, if you haven’t developed deep and profound friendships at your age, how can you expect to do the same with someone romantically?
And remember, this is the 21st century. You can ask a man out. When you do, pay.
I don’t need a man to cover my bills or mow my lawn. But I do want a responsible man who has some money in the bank and understands that grass needs care to grow. I want to date someone who elicits the same hunger, anticipation and delight I feel at a restaurant when I see my food coming.
Last December, I met someone the old-fashioned way. He noticed me while I was out to dinner with my girlfriend and had a bartender deliver how-do-you-do drinks.
I don’t know where it will go. I figure we’ll either move in together, get married or break up. But I do know I’ll give it my all until it’s all I can give.