Do you remember when dating would start with "My friend likes you …" and end with a cheese-and-onion-flavoured kiss? Or when, at work, a casual "No, no – let me go to the printer for you" would (eventually) lead to an invitation for an after-work sauv blanc? Or when loved-up or bored friends would try to fix you up with their other single mates over a bowl of adequate chilli con carne?
Meeting someone doesn't really happen like that any more. It can – but it's rare. Not just because most people we meet are taken (ooh, George Clooney), but because finding love in 2019 is less about looking around in bars to catch his/her eye, and more about looking down at our phones to scroll dating sites and apps.
Be open about the kind of relationship/partner you’re after; show your personality; and maybe leave out the ugly stuff about past relationships.Credit:Getty Images
eHarmony does a full-on questionnaire to make sure you and your matches are compatible; Bumble lets women make the first move; Happn suggests people you've crossed paths with; and Tinder gives you RSI from swiping – not to mention many offers of casual sex.
Lumen, meanwhile, a dating app for over-50s, helps with specific issues midlife daters might experience.
Charly Lester founded Lumen because, she says, "people in their 50s and 60s had become the forgotten generation of dating. Apps were designed for millennials, making them a miserable experience for everyone else. There are very few over 50s using the other apps – and often men over 50 are searching for women in their 30s or 40s. We're the only app designed specifically for the over-50 age group."
Online dating may seem alien if you haven't ventured there before, but there are upsides. No more going to parties hoping there'll be someone single there (most of the people on dating sites are available. Most …). And no more limited numbers: there are millions of singles waiting for you.
I am 52 and I dabble in online dating, so I've written this guide to help you in your search for love. If you're more used to the dating IRL (that's "in real life", kids) of a decade or two ago, you need to be au fait with the language and behaviours around online dating. Read and learn – and thank me later. Perhaps with dinner and drinks.
1. Write a great profile
First, you'll need a profile that brings all the boys to the yard. (If you have a yard, mention the yard. Everyone wants a property owner.) Be open about the kind of relationship/partner you're after; show your personality; and maybe leave out the ugly stuff about your most recent divorce.
Most importantly, be honest. "In your dating profile, write about things you actually do," advises Charly. "There is no point creating an overly aspirational profile if you want to attract someone who really is compatible with you."
2. Add (truthful) photos
People don't bother with profiles that are photo-less. They'll think you're a bot, or married. Choose some fabulous, up-to-date shots (don't be tempted to post a picture of yourself in your 30s. Why set yourself up like that?). Some lovely smiling ones ("Look what a happy person I am!"), and a full-body one (I know; you might as well put a price tag on your bum) are a good start.
One no-no: don't upload photos of yourself with friends. No ego can survive the "Are you the pretty brunette? No? Could you get me her number?" moment.
3. Date in daylight
Dating doesn't have to mean dinner and a film. Gosh, that's commitment. You could wander around a market. Go to an art exhibition. Do some touristy sightseeing. You don't have to sit and stare at a stranger for hours.
"Day dates are your best friend," says sex-and-relationship expert Annabelle Knight. "Meeting someone for coffee is a great way to dip your toe back into the dating world. If it's going badly, you don't have to sit through three courses, and if it's going well, you can keep the date going for as long as you like." So it's caffe lattes all round, then.
4. Don't feel deflated
The sad truth: you will have fewer people contacting you, because 50 seems to be the cut-off age for many. The fools. But don't despair (see it as a great time-saving litmus test) and don't lie about your age.
A woman I knew did just that: went on several dates with a man, got quite involved with him, and then had to break the "awful" news that she was 10 years older than she'd said. Her "but you wouldn't have dated me if you knew my age" assertions were rejected, and he was pretty unimpressed that she'd effectively started their relationship with a lie.
5. Suss the shagmonsters
Lots of people online are looking for love. And lots of people online are looking for no-strings sex. Unfortunately, many in the latter camp don't declare their true intentions. (This is dumb – lots of women want casual sex too. And cruel – it's plain nasty to lead people on.)
Also note, if someone suggests moving the conversation over to WhatsApp soon into your chat, it's likely they're wanting to get filthy. "Are you on WhatsApp?" translates as "because that is the encrypted space where I get to send you could-be-innocent-but-aren't messages". ("Are you wet?" a man messaged me recently. On a rainy day. Yes, of course that's what he meant.)
6. Think about your safety
Annabelle is very strict on this. "Safety first," she says. "Always, repeat always, tell someone where you're going, who with, and confirm when you're home safely. Screen-shot their profile and send it to a friend. You can never be too careful! I know this may sound dramatic, but safety is a big concern."
7. Remember: no one is baggage-free
Ah, baggage. Look, we all have it: the sign of a lived life. "Square with the fact that your date will have a past," says Annabelle. "There may be an ex-wife, or three, a couple of kids and a plethora of relationships in their rear-view mirror. You may not have many firsts with your potential new partner, but you can have a whole host of firsts as a couple."
8. Expect to be "ghosted"
Yes: ghosted. Ghosting is when someone you've been messaging/ chatting to/dating just disappears. They're no longer interested in you but they don't have the balls to say so – so they just vanish. It's a really lovely ego-boosting experience.
(Back in our day, when we'd meet a friend of a friend, or someone at work, they'd have to behave a little better in case of any fallout with mutuals. Not any more.)
There's also "orbiting" and "deepliking" to look out for. Dated you, disappeared, but still keeps "liking" your tweets? You're being orbited. They're just letting you know they're still around and could show interest in you again. You're getting notifications that someone is "liking" your Instagram photos from 2012? You have attracted a gone-deep-into-your-posts, deep-liking admirer.
9. Have fun with it
Swap the nerves for excitement, and you might even have a good time. "Dating should be fun," says Charly. "Use it as an opportunity to try new things. Remember it's a numbers game and that you need to invest some time in it. Most importantly: enjoy!"
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale June 16.
Stella Magazine, The Sunday Telegraph (UK)
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