A question people sometimes ask me is;

“Linny. You have been divorced n’ that. What was the dating scene like for you as a more mature lady?’

Well frankly that’s not a question I feel qualified to answer. I didn’t really do the whole dating thing as such. I kind of bumbled along for eighteen months and then happened to meet someone.

After the shock of a twenty two year marriage ending, my main focus was on my son, on trying to earn enough money to keep putting food on the table, and on selling the family home and moving somewhere smaller. At the time of the house move, my lovely 88 year old dad became ill and died a few weeks after I’d moved in.

So you see I really wasn’t in the correct frame of mind to go man-wrangling.

I did have one or two male acquaintances who people around me suggested may have been interested in more. I can’t say I really noticed, although one chap did ask if I’d like to see him. He was nice enough but not my type anyway and his sales pitch was enough to put anyone off.

“I like you,” he said. “Although I should say up front, I don’t really have any friends, I hate my job, I’m completely skint, my ex-wives and kids don’t speak to me and I live in a shit hole. Dinner?”

However, I did (and still do) have a number of single friends. I also have other friends who are now in a relationship having been single for a while before.

Out of these relationships, four couples have met each other in middle age, via a dating site. Two are married and the others have been living together for years. (When I say ‘the others have been living together’, I don’t mean all four of them are living under one roof, that would be mad.)

So I know that dating sites do work. I guess some of it is down to luck, just as any connection with another person can be. I also think it’s down to the type of dating site you use. I know of one woman in her fifties who has dated several candidates from a certain site I don’t think I should name, but – we’re talking about an abundance of marine life in the ocean if you get my drift – and I’ve heard that she has found some real bargain basement types but sadly prefers being with absolute scumbags rather than be on her own. I find that heartbreaking.

Clearly, some thought needs to go into choosing the correct matchmaking site. It’s no good joining The Telegraph dating service if you are a staunch socialist for instance. It could make for some lively discussion but it could be kind of like Jacob Rees-Mogg contemplating having a passionate affair with Diane Abbot. And no one wants to think about that.

Another thing I’ve noticed about female friends joining dating sites is that they temporarily forget that men and women will approach the whole affair in vastly different ways.

I have a friend who is in her late fifties with a lovely personality and a kind heart. She’s been on her own for about a decade now despite my attempts to jolly her into joining a dating agency. She has dipped her toe in to be fair and if nothing else, we’ve had a couple of hysterical evenings looking through potential matches. But she refuses to see that men are just not going to invest  the same amount of time and effort into it that women are, as a rule.

For example, when we had our fun looking through her potential dates, she would often comment about the photo they had used. Sometimes, they are not really smiling; the picture maybe slightly out of focus or often is a selfie they have taken where they are wearing a slightly bemused expression, as if they were in complete surprise that they themselves were holding a camera to their faces to take a snap.

My friend found this casual approach very odd. She had spent several weeks finding photographs, sending them to me to crop, lighten, darken, tint or whatever so that she would look ‘natural but better.’ It was tedious. She eventually chose a lovely photo in which she is smiling and holding a champagne glass. Great, I thought, she’s finally made a decision. Then I got the call.

Her:  “Do you think we should crop out the Champagne glass?”

Me: “What? Why?”

Her: “Well what if someone is teetotal? What if he won’t drink alcohol on religious grounds?”

Me: “Would you actually want to be with someone who doesn’t drink, bearing in mind your penchant for a nice white Burgundy?”

Her: “No.”

Me: “….”

Talk about make it complicated.

She made the mistake of assuming that EVERYONE, including the men, would be stressing over their on line profile. I pointed out to her that most of the men I encounter are far simpler beings. Their thought processes are probably more like;

“I know I’ll join a dating site. Oh, I see, got to have a profile pic. Where’s me phone? How does this thing work? Oh, bingo there we go, I’ll shove that on.”

Not all men are like that I know but many are and their lack of concern for getting a photo perfect or trying to be immensely creative with their personal description should not be confused with being self-centred or uncaring.

They are pretty much just being men. And what’s wrong with them being prepared to show their true selves? Because there are some characters on line –men and women – who frankly could be accused of false advertising. We all have those friends who use social media profile pics which have been airbrushed to within an inch of their lives or were taken in 1991 when they were still in their thirties. I’m not talking about a little enhancement either, I’m talking about those photos you look at aghast and think, ‘Bloody hell, THAT doesn’t look like Sue/Nigel.’

And the written profiles are hard to decipher. Everyone has, or thinks they have, a ‘GSOH’. The vast majority of people do have a great sense of humour but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same as yours. The only way to decide if it is the same is by actually meeting them, and that surely has to be done sooner rather than later because the written and photographic profiles can’t give you a real sense of the person behind it. We are all way too complex for that and no-one can be packaged into 100 words and a thumbnail pic.

One of the married couples I spoke about met up for a drink fairly soon after the first contact online. The lady of this couple, a friend of mine, is a no-nonsense type anyway. She had decided that she wasn’t going to waste time chatting coyly by email or phone, and would soon arrange to meet her dates for a drink. (Her tip: make the first meeting an early evening drink. If all goes swimmingly, there’s always the option of suggesting moving on to a restaurant. However, if he is spectacularly awful you can easily do the old, ‘gosh, it that the time?’ after one glass of Macon and make your escape.)

This approach worked well for her and after just a couple of non-starters, she met the man who later became her husband. Very little time wasted, and once she had enjoyed a couple of meals out with him, it was plain to see that this was the one, and we were all able to go and buy hats. Perfect.

So to sum up – from personal experience I really can’t answer the question posed at the top of this post. But I have noted the lessons learned by friends, so let me put that into a few bullet points.

  • Men and women are different, online or in the real world. Don’t judge them by how YOU would have done things – they have probably done their best.
  • You can’t make a decision based on a profile. That’s not to say you won’t disregard a huge number who are in the wrong profession, totally fugly, or sound weird. But give the better ones a chance.
  • Useful as it is to have a list of attributes of your ‘perfect man’ it can sometimes be helpful to start with a list of what you absolutely don’t want.
  • Meet up as soon as you feel ready. If it’s not right you’ll soon know and will save you and him a lot of time and will be free to put your energies into finding someone you click with.

Finally. And this, for me, is the most important. PLEASE don’t be like the woman I mentioned earlier. I know it’s lonely sometimes. I know the visceral feeling of despair and worthlessness, the hollow feeling inside and the shock and disbelief of suddenly finding yourself alone when a relationship has ended and you didn’t see it coming.. I know you may look around you with a permanent lump in your throat wondering ‘why me?’ and feeling like a stranger in a foreign land even among your friends. I totally get it, I’ve been there and could write pages about it. And if you’re in that place, I’m sending you the biggest hug. But don’t settle for a worthless piece of shit who treats you badly and makes you feel even more worthless. Never think that being in a relationship, any relationship rather than being on your own somehow validates you. It doesn’t. It devours you soul and will suck all the life out of you. PLEASE. DON’T. DO. IT.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. If you would like to find love, just have some fun along the way and always, always, stay safe.

Linny x

© 2017 Linny Bartlett

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