16 July 2011

No man's land

You're great, but I'm, um, just refreshing the, er, page.
When I saw the article saying that online dating leaves middle-aged women in the 'wilderness', I wasn't surprised.

I'm a veteran of online dating. I've been trying it off and on since I first divorced in my early 30s (ie, a long time ago).  And I've been single for most of the time since then.

In my early 30s, I found internet dating…well…not bad. This was when internet dating was in relative infancy – people who did it didn't really talk about it. But the guys I met were, generally, not bad. I didn't meet that many guys who lit my fires, but I met plenty of nice guys, so even if there wasn't a spark, I took heart from the fact that there were lots of nice available men out there.

Internet dating now – when I'm in my 40s, and when internet dating is much more mainstream – is a very different experience.

When a long-term boyfriend and I broke up when I was in my late 30s, and I tried internet dating again after being in a relationship for 4 years, I found myself in an entirely different landscape than the one I had explored earlier. I soon realised that I was in a strange place, demographically speaking. And it got worse the further into my 40s I went.

Men my age, I've found, aren't looking for women my age. They're looking for younger women. Now, whether that's because they want children so are looking for someone more…er… fecund, or are looking for a younger woman to validate themselves, or think that women over 40 crumble into decrepitude, I'm not sure. But whatever the reason, the men in my age group just weren't looking for me. They all wanted someone younger.

This left me with two types of men: the younger men, looking for a “Mrs Robinson” experience, and the much older men (and I'm talking pensioner here) who were, just like the men in my age group, looking for a younger woman.

Time after time, I would see a man in his early 40s like me, and his profile would pique my interest. Then I would look at his profile, and his age bracket for an “ideal” partner was, typically, 21–35. I would come up as an “incompatible” match because I had the temerity to be over 40.

In “real life” this isn't an issue. I may not be the spring chicken I'd like to be, but I'm not crumbling just yet, so on the rare occasion when I get chatted up, they don't run screaming from me yelling SHE'S FORTYSOMETHING! SHE HAS CATS! GET AWAY!

Unfortunately, “real life” doesn't turn up many available people, since either they're gay, married or just not out and about, so internet dating seems a natural and brilliant solution. What better way to meet someone with similar interests and desires?

But internet dating forces people into a “shopping list” mentality. If one doesn't fit into a very specific ideal, one won't even turn up in searches.

My last boyfriend was considerably younger than I am. I met him in “real life” and I didn't consider the age a barrier, but it did become one, because I was in a different point in my life. One where I knew I didn't want and wouldn't have children, and he was ready to start a family – which he did, immediately after we broke up. So a man my age would be ideal. But the men my age on dating sites still want that younger woman.

The other night, I idly mused “aloud” (ie I tweeted) that I was considering internet dating again – I've been single for about a year and I'm getting bored of the dating wasteland – but knew I'd find myself in the same old position of being too old for the men I'd be interested in meeting. This tweet met with incredulity. Age doesn't matter, does it? Especially when the men are the same age as I am? But in the strange world of online dating, it seems that it does.

And so I'm in a literal no-man's land. I don't meet men in “real life” and internet dating shuts out women my age.

So “Plankton” didn't surprise me at all. The only thing that surprised me was that it was newsworthy at all. It wasn't news to me.

Image: Ambro at freedigitalphotos.net


  1. As someone who is trying Internet dating as well I wanted to try and draw a comparison from what you said and the experiences I've been through with it, but I can't. I find it quite disturbing to think there are men out there that are shopping for the 'Younger Model' for some kind of validation. Actually quite disgusting.

    As someone that would be put in the Younger Guy pot on this one it troubles me that men of any age really, can't see that women in your situation are more often than not more emotionally, mentally and forgive the mention, sexually mature and at ease with themselves, having a far better idea of what they want out of a potential partner and/ or relationship.

    I don't hold with the Mrs Robinson thing either, as far as I am concerned a woman's age shouldn't really factor in (ok within reason) so long as the confidence and intelligence is there and there is a spark.

    Can't say that I know what you are going through with this, but I know that there are plenty of men out there missing out on meeting you due to narrow minds and emotional inadequacy.

  2. As a man now in his late forties who divorced in his thirties, I can see where you're coming from. Although, if I'm honest, I have a lot of trouble with the idea that men or women in general are so well clued up to their own needs that they can tick a box stating what they want and that's a true reflection of their desires forevermore. When I look back to my dating disasters and relationship failures in the past decade, I thought that I wanted something different each and every time. We fill in a form because that's the rules of the internet thing that we didn't make up but the truth is that men are no different to women in that we are looking for a companion, a lover, someone to make us laugh and feel happy in our souls, someone who we can trust with our innermost thoughts and feelings, who we can be at our most vulnerable with and come out of the experience feeling like a better person for it. Ultimately we all seem to be looking for someone who we can just BE with and all of these stupid questions on forms are nothing more than a distraction on someone's latest venture to trying to find that special someone.
    Mind you, I am very aware that my take on these things may not be the same as many others. I have two brothers who both say that I am alone because I am far too fussy. I ask them how that's possible but that's not a debate for now. The point is that they are both prepared to forego the notion of finding the right relationship, they are far more concerned with not being alone. For them, it is the ultimate failure that cannot be tolerated for anything and it is utterly amazing to me what they will put up with in terms of someone else taking charge of their lives while I have to suffer the pity of all the players involved. So, if you do not have any realistic hope of attracting the mate you really want, for whatever reason, then why not wish for what you think others would be impressed by. Because, truly, from where I stand, the focus most definitely would seem to be what others think they should be looking for and not failing rather than looking within to what they actually want and that, to me, seems to be as true for women as it is for men.