Q: I appreciate that you tell it like it is instead of telling people what they want to hear. I heard you on the radio saying that an online dating site isn’t a very good venue for women over 40 who aren’t very physically attractive. Honestly, on a scale of 1 to 10, I’m probably a 5. My marriage ended last year, and I’m ready to start dating again. Should I bother with online at all?
A: Like the 24-year-old part-time model you’re competing with on the online dating site, you are female and have owned swimsuits. In fact, you’d wear that same tiny little gold bikini she’s got on in her profile pic — if it were socially acceptable to go out on the town in a little gold sleep mask.
Online dating is like going to a very snobby bar where everybody has the attention span of a firefly. People do find love and even marriage online, but those most likely to get lucky are hot 22-year-old women just looking to get lucky. Hot 40-something women will get dates, but because guys tend to go for younger women, many of those messaging them are one foot out of the nursing home (if they aren’t using the computer in the nursing home’s Activity Room to troll for younger meat).
The problem for anyone online dating is that the format — endless choice — is overwhelming to our quaint little human brains, according to research by social psychologist Dr. Sheena Iyengar. Although we think having loads of options is ideal, when presented with more than a handful, we often choose poorly and are bummed out afterward, or we find ourselves unable to choose at all. So, like a rat pushing a lever for more cocaine, even a man who sincerely wants a relationship and who’s just gotten home from a promising date often can’t help but make a beeline for the computer. (There’s always another one…thousand where that last one came from. No need to stop and smell the 45-year-old roses.)
Especially for women who are over 40 and physically underfabulous, a more fruitful and less confidence-eating option than a dating site is a group meetup site like meetup.com or grubwithus.com, where you sign up for group dinners and other activities with people who share your interests. Some groups have hundreds or thousands of members, and the criterion for joining is whether you, say, like to combine tennis and Bible study, not whether you have a waist the size of a chewed pencil.
Also, online, the risk of humiliation is low for a guy who’s a 5 messaging a woman who’s a 9.6 (on the off chance she’s bored with rich guys with movie-star looks). In person, it becomes clear that he can either go home alone for the rest of his life or go for the more evenly matched. That’s when he starts talking to the nice 5 lady on his right — giving you a chance to sparkle in a way you can’t online. But, all the better if you sparkle inside and out. (Get “Staging Your Comeback,” by Christopher Hopkins.) A little money smeared around in the hair, wardrobe, and makeup departments can be a powerful thing. Without it, as you see in shots of famous actresses caught sans makeup and groovywear, even some pretty stunning women can end up looking like they’ve taken a break from picking their pimples in the doublewide to duck into the holler and shoot a squirrel for dinner.
Q: I’m a woman whose online dating profile states: “If you have or want kids, we are NOT compatible. Move on. Non-negotiable! I don't care if you think your kids are different. They're not.” Yet, somehow, men with kids read this and still ping me! Are they stupidly optimistic? Horrifically lacking in reading comprehension?
— Nobody's Stepmom
A: Maybe they’re hoping it’ll be like getting a 6-year-old to eat his green beans: They’ll just pour some ranch dressing on the kid and you’ll suddenly find him appealing.
Your irritation is understandable. What about “No kids/non-negotiable!” says, “Octodad, I’ve been waiting all my life for you”? The answer is, you’re hot. I’m guessing you are, anyway. In the face of female hotitude, men have an incredible capacity to rationalize: “Shouldn’t have to miss out on a babe just because I got some girl pregnant in high school!” or “You’ll change your mind when you see what a sexy beast I am.” Consider the annoyance an attractiveness tax, and try to focus on the joys of unparenthood, like how you can spend the estimated $200K you’re saving (by not having kids) on white carpet, sharp-edged furniture, and homeschooling your cat.