A guest post from writer Dawn Reno Langley:
When I started dating at sixteen, I never expected that I’d be going through dating spurts throughout my life, but then again, life takes over, doesn’t it? And here I am, at 58, with hot flashes to tend to, hormone pills to take every night, and an active (and funny) dating life. It’s not what I necessarily imagined at sixteen, but it’s my life.
Dating during the menopausal years is decidedly different from dating at sixteen. Gone is necking in the backseat of my beau’s car. I don’t even know if I could get into a backseat now (or whether a guy would even interest me enough to consider doing so!). And it’s been a long time since I’ve felt butterflies upon seeing a man. Instead, I’m wondering whether my Spanx is holding in my ever-softening stomach when I open the door to the “date of the evening.” But the biggest difference between dating now and dating then is that most of the introductions to new men are now done online at Plentyoffish.com or Match.com, and that leads to some complicated and “interesting” situations.
First step to dating online: constructing your profile, a narrative that one must design so that readers will get a snapshot of your personality and become intrigued enough to “wink” or “nudge” you – or perhaps send the first email to determine whether you want to get to know each other better. I suffered over my first profile, trying to make it a little funny, a little romantic, and most importantly, truthful.
And I must admit that I pay quite a bit of attention to those the guys write. But we all lie. The guys will tell you that women lie about their weight, and I counter that men lie about their height. My single girlfriends and I all groan, “He’s nice, but he’s so short!” It almost feels like the guys are shrinking while our waists are expanding. What’s up with that? Do we get both shorter and heavier as we age? Where were the Tweets about that phenomenon? And how is this fair?
The second step: the photographs. This one is, well, amusing. The general trend among men is to photograph themselves with their cars, motorcycles, fish or deer. None of which interests me or any other women I know. Do they not know that? Or is it just that they want to be sure to let US know what THEY like so that WE can keep THEM happy? Instead, I find myself wondering whether they smell of fish or deer blood, or whether I would be expected to straddle that big Harley in my ever-tightening Spanx.
And, finally, the first dates themselves: I have to admit that there’s a lot of judging going on between the sexes the first time you meet on a date that originates online. We both have expectations of the other, particularly because there is usually a “relationship” of sorts that already exists between the two people involved.
Typically, we email back and forth for at least a week before meeting face-to-face. During that time, you find out some basics (though I tend to stay away from talking about one’s exes), ask some interesting or kooky questions (designed to do some sort of amateurish psychological evaluation, that almost never works), and some flirting. We’re no good at the flirting anymore. Either the guys are downright sexual or they try too hard to be funny. Neither works. And we’re not the coquettish sixteen-year-olds we once were. Personally, I have no interest in the flirting until (or IF) the guy interests me. But it’s a necessary evil.
The guys pretty much fall into categories after a while: (1) The Mr. Me Guy – he talks about himself as if he’s reading his own resume aloud. You are not required to respond other than to nod occasionally and to look appropriately flabbergasted when he talks about balancing the books at his organization and how fascinating it is that they actually came out in the black.
(2) The “I Was a Star” Guy – this is the guy who’s still living in the past, usually as far back as high school, when he was the reigning basketball/football/soccer/baseball/chess team star. He’ll tell you in graphic detail about the time he scored the winning basket/touchdown/goal/hit/move, and if you didn’t hear it, he’ll tell you again. He hasn’t done anything since, so don’t ask him about last year.
(3) The Relationship Guy – this one wants to regale you with stories about all the other women he’s dated on these websites and how they just didn’t realize how great he was or about how they all lied about their weight/relationship/financial status. What he won’t admit is that he states on his own profile that he’s 6’ tall but you’re 5’7” and not wearing heels, yet you’re his height. How’s that possible?
(4) The Mr. Needy Guy – you can tell the minute he sits down that he’s going to want a second date, but you’ve already decided it’s not a possibility because he looks like he hasn’t met a dry cleaner in years, might not make as much money as you, and probably will stalk you at every hour of the night and day whining about how he needs you to take care of him and won’t be able to live without you
(5) The Mr. You’re-not-the-right-age/weight/height/hair color-and-I-can’t-wait-to-find-someone-who-is – this one makes you want to run for the back door immediately, but before you do, he’ll make you feel absolutely horrible about not being the right . . .
And did I tell you about the guy who is 20 years younger (or more) and insists he likes older women? Sometimes that’s a bit of an ego boost, but when the guy is younger than your own children, watch out. One challenged me (and I can’t resist a challenge) to give him a chance. I did, and I thought he was fun/handsome/smart, but then I realized how young he was when it was obvious he thought phones were just for texting and that it was fun to put all his friends online with me just to prove to them that he’d “snagged himself a cougar.”
And then there are the plain and simple weirdos. One looked like Einstein – wild white hair and glasses – and sent photos of himself drinking tea with cats on the kitchen table and at least ten cages with parrots in the background. (Ah, no. Not interested.) Then there was the one who asked if I owned high-heeled shoes with ankle straps and would I mind wearing them on our date, then slipping one off under the restaurant table and running my bare foot up his leg. (Again, ah, no. Not interested.)
But, as my mother always told me, all you need is one good man. And there are plenty out there who are looking for exactly the same type of relationship I am. I see them online and meet them for dates all the time. They are good men with good jobs who are looking for a good woman to come home to at night and to spend the rest of their lives with. I think about those men (and about my mother and the women of her generation) when I consider this latest adventure in my menopausal life.
The difference between my mother and myself is that my mother wouldn’t have even considered dating if she and my father had divorced or if he had died before she had. She would have spent the rest of her life alone, surrounded by family, and would have been happy, the way my great aunts and grandmother were. None of them ever complained about being without a man (in fact, I think most were fairly happy about it). Maybe they realized that dating after menopause is no easier than dating at sixteen.
Be that as it may, I’m at least entertained on a daily basis – and can work my “adventures” into my writing! And I still believe Mr. Right is out there and that he will be the one who’ll rub my feet while we’re lying on the couch watching sappy reality shows on TV and that we’ll be just as happy in our 80s as we were when we first met – probably because, by that time, I’ll be post-menopausal!
Dawn Reno Langley is considering putting her cat on a dating site and seeing whether she has any better luck than Dawn has, but in addition to doing that, she writes (29 books and counting), does yoga, loves the arts, is an avid coupon/thrift store shopper, and acts as an academic dean for a local college. She looks forward to the day she can retire to the beaches of Ecuador.
Booming Memories: Dawn writes a boomer blog that focuses on growing up in the Boston area during the 1950s/60s, recently posting about Saturday matinees and Disney television shows. Read it here!