A few weeks ago, I met a recently divorced woman for coffee and she lamented, "Oh my God, this online dating thing is like having a part-time job. I can't manage all the emails I'm getting. I'm mixing up all these guys who text me. I'm afraid I'm going to call one of 'em the wrong name! It's exhausting!"
Hmm... I cringed. That hasn't been my experience. There's no line of single men wrapped around my cyberblock. "Yeah, I don't know," I confessed, "I think it's time for me to throw in the towel on the whole online dating thing for a while. It all seems so disingenuous."
"I'm all for having fun, but the online thing never seems to work for me. I had a short run with some widowers but that just felt wrong. Another weirdo insisted I send him a picture of me on the scale before he'd ask me out. Another said he was divorced when he wasn't. And the last guy I actually liked, didn't feel the same about me. I might just buy sweatsuits and give up," I said.
"Lemme see the profile you wrote," she insisted.
I thought my profile was pretty decent, I'm a writer after all. I sounded smart, creative and kinda funny. But after careful examination, I realized it read more like a homeless dog poster: friendly, outgoing, dependable, loyal... Sounds like code for: please take me home, pant, pant... I'm desperate. The only thing missing was: great at licking balls.
My friend started, "Dude-"
"Whoa," I interrupted, "I'm a middle-aged mother of three who goes to book club, plays golf and makes chicken casseroles. Sure, I can snap my fingers in a Z-formation, but I'm the furthest thing from a dude, in any sense of the word. K?"
"Fine, whatever, but men are looking for a sexy, confident woman, not a lonely pup from the pound. You need to jazz up this profile. Add stuff like: adrenaline junky, high adventure addict, former gymnast, financially independent culinary whiz, who specializes in aphrodisiacs and overspends at Victoria's Secret."
"Yeah, but I'm not all those things, " I said.
"Duh," she said, "but the key to successful online dating is to create an enticing image - real or not - in 200 words or less. There's plenty of time later for the truth to come out."
"Oh God," she moaned, continuing to read my profile. "Here's a major problem. You can't mention you've got three boys."
"But I do have three boys."
"Yeah, well, don't go braggin' about it in online dating. It's a total turn off. The mother-thing is a drag to a lot of men."
"What? The mother-thing? Most of these men likely have their own children."
"True. But honey, here's a news flash: divorced 45-year-old men don't want to date 45-year-old women. Even though you're the same age, they consider you to be too old. 45-year-old men want to date women in their twenties and thirties. Younger women -- even if they have six kids. Even 50-60-year-old men want to date women in their twenties and thirties. It makes them feel young. However, some will settle for a 45-year-old."
"Settle? How generous. Sheesh. Don't hold back."
"Yeah, well, this is the sh*t people don't tell you when you get divorced."
"You see," she continued, "for the most part, men 55 - 65, the ones who might have an interest in you, have grown children. They're done with the kid stuff. They don't wanna carry your lawn chair to soccer games, spend Saturdays at YMCA swim meets or help with homework on school nights. They did those things with their first wives twenty years ago. You need to appear as if you're flexible, carefree, and can do things on a whim. These guys are done busting their humps and want to have fun. They won't invite you to the BVI or whisk you off to Vail if you've got three kids. They want a playmate, not a second family to raise."
"So, let me get this straight," I said. "I should fake that I don't have kids... in order to get dates with guys... who have kids ... who are too old for me... and who I'd have to turn down anyway because I have kids..."
My friend tapped her fingernails on the table. "Yeah," she said, "basically you're f*cked. Good thing you have a dog."