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Online Dating At 50


One woman describes her romantic adventures on the Internet—and the incredible results. Here are the success secrets she learned along the way.

By Judsen Culbreth

t was a hot, muggy, Manhattan evening. Every air conditioner in my old-fashioned apartment was on full blast, but my skin was still clammy as I ironed a blouse for my daughter. I noticed her walk to the bathroom with a hair dryer. No, I thought, don’t turn that on. Before I could put my thought into words, we were in darkness.

I felt around the kitchen for a flashlight. I knew where the fuses were, no problem. I opened the drawer and discovered not one type, but four different kinds. I gulped and headed to the fuse box. Everything was labeled and color-coded in my ex-husband’s neat handwriting. I began to work on the puzzle.

“Lights on in my bedroom,” my eleven-year-old son called out.

“But you turned them off in the living room,” yelled my daughter.

After thirty minutes of this light show, I was beaded with sweat, but giggling with the kids at my ineptitude. “We’d better call your dad,” I finally conceded.

Hours later when I finally settled into my side of the bed (after 20 years of marriage I still couldn’t get used to having a mattress to myself), I began to think of all the tasks, like
I hoped to get a few good responses, but I was astounded—84 men had emailed me!
organizing fuses, that my husband used to handle. I had barely noticed his handiwork. What I did notice — loudly at times — was what he didn’t do, or did poorly. “How could you forget the lettuce? These aren’t the right trash bags. I told you to get the ones with handles!”

Excuse the metaphor, but a light bulb went off. I want one of them again, I told myself. I want a husband. I had two wonderful children, a fabulous job in magazine publishing, supportive family and friends, but I didn’t have a mate; someone to share every nuance of my day, to hug me and nuzzle my neck, to scratch the hard-to-reach spot between my shoulder blades, to pull up the covers when it was cold or reposition the air conditioning vents when it was hot. I wanted a warm soul next to me, a buddy who got my jokes, a romantic who liked to dance—and an in-house fixer of fuses. My long, long months of separation had taught me how much I liked and missed and appreciated the opposite sex. I’m going to find a good guy, I vowed in my enlightenment, and when I do I’m not going to scold him over trivia.

The next morning, I rifled through my desk to find the notes I’d scribbled down months before at a party. At the time, I’d been too locked in sadness, anger and self-pity to think about trying online dating. But the women at the party had had success, and I was ready to shake the blues and shape my destiny. Plus, the divorce was in progress. What was stopping me?

A couple of days later I was ready. I posted a clear head shot of myself, filled out a questionnaire and developed a profile:

GolfyGal, 49
Let’s have fun!
Smart, trim professional with kind heart and ready laugh enjoys being active and sociable. If you’re looking for a well-rounded, happy companion, I’ll suit you to a tee.

I hoped to get a few good responses, which was better luck than I was having meeting men on my own or with friends trying to fix me up. (There was no way I was going to hit the singles bars at my age.) When I turned on the computer, I was astounded—84 men had emailed me! My feminine ego, which had taken some hard lumps, soared. (My 58-year-old friend Hildy felt the same excitement when her ad generated 235 responses overnight.)

After I settled down, I realized I had to deal with these 84 emails. I was a busy working mother on my own, where would I find the time? I quickly learned that looking for love in cyberspace was much more fun than watching TV, easier and less time-consuming than going to a party or suffering through a bad blind date. I found shortcuts. I deleted, unanswered, all the men who sounded like players with about the same remorse that I’d X out a pop-up ad. I liked that the process was anonymously impersonal, so I didn’t have
With each email, with each date, I was able to practice flirting and build back my confidence.
to worry about hurting feelings. I responded politely to courtship contenders — possible dates — and more warmly to those with soul mate potential. Over the next year or so, I screened thousands of men, corresponded with more than 100 of them, and liked 25 enough to meet in person. With each email, with each date, I was able to practice flirting and build back my confidence that I was an attractive mid-life woman. Of even greater value, through trial and laughable errors, I pinpointed the unique values and traits that I wanted and needed.

When I went out with courtship contender Steven, for example, I was crazy about his outgoing personality. He kept me laughing. He charmed my friends. We had so much fun. But there was something about the way he treated waiters and cab drivers that bothered me, and one night he snapped at me. So long, Stevie.

Robert was as courteous as he was romantic. He crooned to me in his beautiful baritone as we danced on New Year’s Eve. He showed up with thoughtful presents, sent sweet and funny cards. But there was something about the way he let his career slide that I didn’t respect.

Phil was successful and good-looking; truly dashing in the exquisite pastel cashmere sweaters he wore. He impressed me with his knowledge of fine wines, and the staff at fine restaurants made a fuss over him. He tipped handsomely so we were seated at the best tables. I knew I could get used to the good life, but there was something about his coldness that chilled me.

When I met my now-husband Walter, I knew I’d found the complete package—outgoing, courteous, romantic, successful, warm-hearted and honest. His profile and our early dates pointed to other predictions of compatibility. We liked the same movies, books, music and food. We were both golfers. By the third date I knew he was The One, the man I’d prayed for, the soul mate I’d hoped for all my life. Would I have fallen for him so surely and easily without the advance preparation from the other guys? Oh, yeah. But I wouldn’t have appreciated him nearly as much. And after three years of marriage we’re still so unabashedly happy that every night I thank the divine and electronic intervention that brought us together.

Internet dating transcends geography, luck and timing, offering better odds at the get-go to match the factors that create successful relationships. These tips, which I wish I’d had when I started, can make the search even easier.

Be not afraid. Dating again, and trying online dating for the first time, may seem intimidating at first. It’s reassuring to know that you’re not in this alone. Over 37 million Americans visit online dating sites every month. Almost half of online-personals users are 35 to 50. The fastest-growing group of cyber romantics is over 55. This is now a mainstream way of wooing.

Be ready. If you’re harboring a grudge against the opposite sex, don’t waste your time. You can either date ’em or hate ’em is my hard-won lesson. Review the past and let it go. Start fresh with a positive attitude. Male-bashing or woman-hating is not an attraction magnet. What’s truly appealing is enthusiasm, along with a sense of playfulness in someone who demonstrates that he or she knows a number of ways to have fun. If you’re not engaged in recreational activities or cultural interests, try some to add a little pep to your life. You’ll feel energized, more fulfilled and ready to share your happiness.

Be a sales person. You have a natural talent to communicate, persuade and be likeable. What better time to use it than when you’re looking for love? Landing a great relationship is simply a matter of unleashing your innate salesmanship. First, compose an accurate and interesting product description. Put modesty aside for 15 minutes and jot down your wonderful attributes. How would friends describe you? Use adjectives emphasizing your joy, warmth, sense of humor and vitality—“love to laugh,” “playful petite redhead,” “travel gal wants a pal.” Next, remember your target audience. You’re advertising to the opposite sex. The key word here is opposite. Your crochet hobby is probably not date bait for a guy. It’s the rare woman who will be enthralled with a guy’s expertise at muzzle loading. Here’s a woman’s headline that effectively targets her audience—“LuvsFootball. Want to catch a game with me?” Finally, offer specific, telling details that will catch the eye of your compatible partner and distinguish you from the crowd. If you’ve seen every single Steven Spielberg movie, let the other Spielberg fans know. Tout your uniqueness with specifics: “I was brought up on the Sound and know the waters south of Boston down to City Island pretty well.”

See? Online dating isn’t so hard. Be savvy, have fun—and I wish you the blessing of a loving partner!


Judsen Culbreth is the author of The Boomers’ Guide to Online Dating, from which this was adapted.


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