I have discovered a new species of the middle-aged single male, and if my discovery wasn't so frightening, I'd be really excited to report my findings. Unfortunately, what I have to say isn't good news for all the middle-aged single women out there searching for a forever partner. This public service announcement isn't just for women though; it's for middle-aged single men as well, because my discovery impacts both sexes in a not so very good way.
I call my new discovery "Cinderfella" -- the middle-aged single man with an insatiable hunger for intense emotional and physical intimacy. Cinderfellas want passion! They want fireworks! They want to feel alive! They want to be rescued from their loneliness wastelands! And they want it all by the second or third date. We often think that only women want to be swept off their feet within minutes of meeting someone new, but I've discovered that this is not so -- there are men out there, a whole lot of them in fact, who desire intense and immediate feet-sweeping as well...
Last week I shared my six pet peeves about middle-aged men's online dating profiles, and I promised everyone that this week I'd focus on middle-aged women's online dating profiles. Since I'm far more familiar with men's profiles, I recruited some of my single male friends (and the Twittersphere) to help me with this post. The following list is my best attempt at summarizing the results of my informal survey, with a few of my own observations based on a bit of research I conducted myself. Disclaimer: if you're a woman between the ages of 45 and 60, living in the Chicagoland area, and I popped up on your "Viewed Me" list, I'm sorry, really. Anyway, here goes:
Romantic relationships are wonderful. They make us feel alive, dynamic, validated and loved -- when they work. They can also make us feel deficient, undesirable, depleted and broken when they don't.
A key ingredient in successful relationships is the ability and willingness of each partner to be authentic. Authenticity requires transparency, which is pretty easy for most of us when things are going well, but throw in a wrench or two, such as middle age, kids, and a long trail of failed relationships, and for many of us, all transparency flies out the window.
Being transparent means having thoughts, feelings and motives that are easily perceived.
Being transparent requires the ability to trust, to see the goodness in others, and to give others the benefit of the doubt, even if we don't think they always deserve it, and even when it's scary.
Being transparent with friends, family, and even our co-workers can be challenging at times, but many of us can manage this without too much difficulty. Romantic relationships are different though because they often serve as a portal through which we re-experience all of our past hurt, rejection, and trauma -- both from our adult lives, as well as from our childhoods. For those of us who have had a lot of past hurt, rejection and trauma, it's easy to hide and protect ourselves from potential future pain; it's rather automatic in fact. In other words, for many of us, when we feel threatened, all transparency flies out the window.
Dating in our teens and 20s was challenging. Dating in our middle adult years, with significant exes, children, pets, mortgages, careers and a boatload of emotional, physical and perhaps even financial baggage, may seem impossible. I've single parented my son since he was very young, and didn't have much time to date amidst parenting, working, continuing my education, doing dishes, mowing the lawn and attending various kid-related activities. So when my son left for college, I decided that there was no better time to start dating again.
But as often happens when we poke our heads into an activity after a few decades-long hiatus, I realized that everything had changed - and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Rather than meeting someone at a dance, a bar, or if we go back far enough, a frat party, I soon learned that the majority of dating was occurring online. And rather than having to worry about my first impression when meeting someone, I had to worry about my first online impression.
We now have to worry about leading not with ourselves, but with an image of ourselves. We have to contend with parallel dating, encouraged by the online dating algorithms that push multiple potential partners at us at one time. We have to worry about competition that always seems to be younger, thinner, wealthier and happier. Most of us are battle-weary, still struggling with past hurts and anger, and scared to get hurt again, and now we find ourselves in completely unchartered territory, with very few ‘rules of the road’ to guide us.
So I have a question for everyone who is middle-aged, single and dating. Just when was it that sexting after the first date became the new normal? At what point in our cultural evolution did it become normative practice to send a text the night after a first date, with the words "nipple" and "naked" in it? I'd really like to know the answer to this question. I am just burning with curiosity as to how this new dating ritual became mainstream so quickly.
I'd really like to know what middle-aged person was actually the first one to say "Hey, I think this is a really good idea. I mean, we've already shared a few glasses of wine and an appetizer, so why not indulge in some dirty sex talk with a naked photo chaser exchanged on our smart phones via an insecure wireless transport?" And then once all these middle-aged men and women who are engaging in the practice of early-courtship-sexting answer me, I'd like to say this in response: "Stop it! Stop it right now! All of you! I mean it! Stop it!"
When I first re-entered the dating world a little over a year ago after taking a few decade hiatus to raise my son, I expected to update my "rules for the dating road" handbook. But what I didn't expect was for so many of my dates to turn a seemingly harmless morning-after-the-first-date texting banter session into a graphic sexual encounter. Yet at least twice this month alone I had really nice dates with seemingly nice mainstream, professional men that quickly went south when initially cutesie, fun, and banter-y texting rapidly evolved into full-blown erotica before the second date!
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This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being.