For a few years of her life, author Lucy Cavendish did online dating to death. She had became single at 44 and from match.com and Plenty of Fish to Tinder, she tried them all. “As a middle-aged mother with four children, the mature dating arena was particularly fraught. It was nothing like when I was young and you met people through friends and work”, she said.
Instead, it was like stepping in to a world she no longer understood, that didn’t seem to work in any way she recognised.
Men she thought were single and available turned out to be married and available for only one thing. She became wise to this fact after her friend pointed out that a man she’d been talking to online and was very interested in never happened to be available to ‘chat’ at weekends.
There also seemed to be a particular lingo. ‘Favourite activities’, she discovered, referred to activities in the bedroom, rather than hobbies.
“So I felt for Edwina Currie – probably the only time I will ever have feelings for Edwina Currie” she joked – “when she said that online dating over a certain age is a nightmare”.
Lucy also believes that people view sex differently these days citing the example of several couples she knowsn – one who are actually getting married – who started with the sex and got to know each other later.
Conversely, she recalls meeting many men who were terrified of women, especially sexually rapacious ones. One rather artistic South African creative spent an entire evening telling her how distressing it was that women kept on trying to entice him in to bed.
But online dating in your middle ages can undoubtedly be a minefield of subterfuge and pitfalls. After four years in the trenches, Lucy finally met her match. They had mutual friends on Facebook and he chatted her up by saying he liked her photograph.
They got married just before Christmas.
Looking back, Lucy says “If I am relieved, at 50, to be back out of the dating arena again, I am also determined to pass on my dating tips. Here’s what I wish I’d known before logging on..!
- No one puts their real age up online. Men who say they are 55 are actually 60 or even older. Also, photos mean nothing.
- Saying that, beware of anyone who posts photographs of themselves with their kids/ex/holding a pint of beer/strumming an air guitar/has half the picture ripped off (and it is obviously of his wedding day).
- Never, ever go out with a man who says he is “looking for cuddles”. This is not a euphemism for sex. It means he needs looking after and hasn’t grown up yet.
- If a man asks “what are you in to?” then what he means is “what sort of sex are you in to?” – if that’s OK with you, proceed. If not, run.
- Lots of men may well want sex but they have the same body hang-ups as women and many of them – ahem – no longer have the same libido as when they were years younger. This is a tricky area and one which, when we were all first dating, never had to think about.
- Be really sure about what you are looking for – if a man with his own house and a stable income is important, there is no point in dating the sad, miserable one who has been crucified by divorce and can’t afford to buy you dinner. They may be witty and handsome but it’s not going to work. I spent far too long dating men I felt sorry for rather than thinking about what I really wanted.
- Be aware that women and men are often looking for different things – some older men are looking for a carer, really. They can’t bear the idea of growing old alone and, underneath all the dating shtick, they are quite happy to put on their slippers.
- There are some really nice men out there, but they might be hopeless at dating. I’ve met men who are so nervous that they’ve fluffed the first date – gabbling on about their exes, for example – but got on much better when given a second chance.
- Always have a back up plan… I’d send a coded text to my best friend and she’d then text me pretending to be one of my children saying I had to go home immediately. It worked every time and it saves you from being rude.
- Be careful to make sure they are who they say they are. If someone chats you up, gets you in to bed but is never around at weekends, he is probably already married.