I have been a member of a popular online dating service for a little over a year now, and I have to say that, overall, I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality of men I've met online. While I haven't yet met "the one," I remain hopeful that eventually, I will. Yet despite my generally positive experiences, I have come across a few (hundred) profiles that completely baffle me in a these-men-clearly-were-not-raised-with-sisters-and-can't-possibly-have-any-female-friends sort of way. Like the man who thought that selecting the username "Undertaker" was a good idea, or the guy who shot his photos in a room that clearly screamed "locked residential facility." Or, the childless man who expressed his deep desire to meet a woman with young children (preferably boys). One of my all-time favorites though was the man who spent half his profile narrative writing about how he was still deeply in love with his ex-wife, but since she wouldn't take him back, he was forced to find love online (yay us!).
Some of these profiles represent random oddities, the one-in-a-hundred profile with an eyebrow-raising narrative or a few gasp-worthy photographs. These profiles can actually be a wonderful source of entertainment, particularly if wine is involved. But what I find somewhat troubling are some rather disturbing trends I've noted in many men's profiles who seem to be quite normal otherwise. I do empathize, really. Many of us are dating novices, jumping back into the dating pool after years (sometimes decades) of marriage and child-rearing. We're all winging it to a certain extent, unsure of what the other sex is looking for, or how to get their attention. But these gaffes are so obvious that I think it's time someone opens a dialogue and asks the important question: Why? No really, why?
One of the most painful and life-impacting human emotions is shame. Shame is a powerful universal emotion that often emerges when we feel deeply vulnerable about something and believe that others have the power to judge us, and ultimately reject us. Shame tells us that we're not good enough, that we're unworthy, that we're damaged goods.
Shame elicits feelings of embarrassment, and often, a profound sense of humiliation that makes us want to either fight, flee or freeze. The fact that we most often experience shame in response to feeling vulnerable is one reason why shame is such a powerful emotion. Another reason is that shame usually emerges at the very moment we need unconditional love and acceptance the most.
Envision what you feel most vulnerable about – anything that fills you with a sense of fear that those who you love and care about the most will abandon you if they found out. But before they abandon you, they will laugh at you, gossip about you, hurl insults at you, and then abandon you. The feeling you’re experiencing in response to this scenario is most likely shame.
Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt is something we experience when we’ve made a mistake and we need to fix it. Once we take responsibility for our behavior, and do what we can to remedy our mistake, the feelings of guilt should eventually subside. Unlike guilt, shame doesn’t subside after we’ve taken responsibility for our mistakes, and in fact, regardless of what we do, shame often gets worse in time, hitting us in triggered waves, sometimes for years, sometimes for our entire lives.
Guilt tells us our behavior is bad; Shame tell us that we are bad.
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!
I had my son during Christmas break in my second year of graduate school. I decided to go back to school on the heels of a very painful divorce, which involved years of infertility, two failed In Vitro fertilizations and just as many miscarriages. Starting graduate school represented a new direction in my life, one that did not involve any remnants of my old life. I was a bit of a hot mess during that first year of school, while at the same time enjoying my newfound freedom from a crumbling marriage that was unable to survive the rigors of daily hormone injections, weekly trips to the fertility specialist and heartache; so much heartache. When I realized I was pregnant from a brief rebound relationship, I was stunned by the news, as well as the irony. I quickly cleaned up my act though and powered through the rest of my graduate studies, because I was certain that in no time at all, I'd be back on track. A traditional family life was once again on the horizon (albeit with a different husband).
While I waited for Mr. Right to come into our lives, I worked full-time and attended school at night, which almost killed me. I spent most of that time racing from task to task in a where-are-my-keys-my-car-my-baby sort of haze. Every morning, seemingly without fail, I pulled out of the driveway (late, of course) baby-in-tow, with my head leaning out the car window (for the blow drying effect) and my coffee cup precariously perched on the roof of my car. So while I remained optimistic about finding Mr. Right, dating was honestly the furthest thing from my mind.
A few years ago, when I first poked my head into the world of online dating, I was perplexed by the seemingly global "no drama!" admonition I was seeing on most men's profiles. As someone with a rather animated personality, I was certain that the no-drama-dating-deal-breaker and its no-emotional-baggage cousin were signs of most men's self-centered, commitment-phobic nature. In fact, I was certain of it.
"Why do virtually all men's online dating profiles emphatically disavow drama?" I asked my date one evening. He responded that not all drama was good, and that there were some women out there who were carrying around excess emotional baggage, and what was worse, they were often indiscriminate in their projection of said baggage. "Well, maybe the cumulative effect of years of men's emotional unavailability coupled with their unceremonious departures results in said emotional baggage, which then causes some women to become drama queens. Did you ever think of that?" I responded to this man on our first (and last) date.
Most of the women I know have spent the bulk of their lives in search of some magical relationship formula that promises a lifetime of lasting love. The formula that most women seem to have settled on, and that's supported by about 500 of our favorite romantic comedies, involves the rather traditional notion that men are by nature, hunters, and the nicer a woman is, and the more available, the more bored a man gets in a he's-just-not-that-into-you sort of way.
About 18 years ago when my son was just two years old I went out for a wonderful dinner with my father. That may not seem like something worth writing about, but it was my first dinner out without my son since he was born, and so for that reason alone, it was a really big deal.
I had spent the last two years covered in baby food, baby spit, baby vomit, baby excrement, and well, just about every kind of goo associated with babyhood. And despite loving being a mom, I spent most of my time feeling tired, dirty, fat(ish), slug(ish), and was just plain wiped out. Mostly, I didn't feel like myself, and I was yearning to feel whole again, to feel attractive, to feel like me. Since I was a single mom I had no one to remind me that I was still a human being under all those layers of goo. So my father, no doubt having pity on me, offered to take me out to dinner, without my son in tow, and I joyously and graciously accepted.
He even offered to watch my son while I showered! I couldn't remember the last time I'd showered alone, and actually could take the time to blow dry my hair (the back as well as the front), and put on makeup. I then did the unimaginable and dressed in real grown-up clothes - not one stitch of Spandex adorned by body.
Since venturing into the world of online dating, I’ve perused hundreds (okay, maybe thousands) of online profiles.I find myself consistently baffled by what I find in many men’s online profiles. (Picture me scratching my head while cocking my head slightly to the side as I squint at my laptop screen). So, I’ve taken the liberty of writing a generic letter to all men who are searching for quality women online with the hope that they will clean up their collective acts, and then we can all get on with the business of finding our one true love.
Dear Mr. Online Dater,
Since you are trying to attract women, not men, I am baffled by the number of fish photos I see on your profile. I do not care, (nor do I believe most women care), that you caught a 16 inch smallmouth bass. Delete these photos, now.
A brief mention of your love of sports is fine, but again, you are attempting to appeal to women, not your buddies, thus boasting that you spend every single weekend watching sports, and selecting the username “Iluvdabears13,” “#1Hawksfan,” or “Cubbies4life,” sends the wrong message, plain and simple.
Also, posting 13 photos of the last White Sox game you attended without you in any of them doesn’t appeal to me, or most women I’d guess.
Number one rule of online dating: know your audience.I can’t say it any clearer than this:
Do not post any selfies looking into your bathroom mirror, period.
Seeing a man standing next to an open toilet, or even a toilet paper dispenser is an immediate turn off.
Take a selfie the way that everyone else in the world does, by selecting the reverse camera view on your smartphone, extending your arm, pointing and clicking.
I recently decided to join the ranks of millions of midlife online daters and joined the world of Match.com.I was more than a little excited (as well as somewhat nervous) about the prospect of finding someone to date (after more than a decade of self-imposed “I’m-busy-raising-my-son” dating hiatus). Before I could find my one true love though, I had to create my personal online profile. And because it’s been years since I really thought of myself in any objective way, describing myself in a manner that would 1) accurately represent who I really am, and 2) attract suitors, was no easy task.
On most online dating websites the profile consists of a series of practical questions, such as basic demographic information like age, marital status, education level, cultural background, religion and several questions that allow a narrative response where members get to expound on what their friends have told them about themselves.
So I poured myself a glass of wine, and settled in for what I thought was going to be about 5 or 10 minutes of tedium before I got to the juicy part—picking the man of my dreams.
Read the rest on Elephantjournal.com
When my son left for college this fall, I decided it was time to consider the possibility of dating again.I made this decision because I’m lonely (I know it’s very unfashionable to admit this); whenever I see cute couples walking down the street holding hands I find myself tempted to run them off the road with my car; and my most compelling reason, I don’t want to die alone.
I’d been so busy working full-time, raising my son as a single parent, and going to school that I just didn’t have time to give dating much serious consideration, but when I found myself alone after so many years of controlled chaos I realized that I had a choice—I could passively allow life to happen to me (i.e., gain 50 lbs. while laying on the couch watching BravoTV), or I could take proactive control of my life by grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns, and carefully and considerately, craft the life I want to live.
And since I am petrified that the inevitability posed by Nora Ephron’s character Harry to his new friend Sally, (When Harry Met Sally) may actually be my reality:
“Suppose nothing happens to you. Suppose you lived out your whole life and nothing happens, you never meet anybody, you never become anything, and finally you die in one of those New York [aka Chicago] deaths which nobody notices for two weeks until the smell drifts into the hallway,”
I decided to take the plunge that millions of other adults in midlife are taking, and I joined Match.com.
Read the rest here on Elephantjournal.com
Welcome to my Blog!
This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being, with fewer masks and a lot more fun.