Deep in the heart of a recent NPR piece there is a link to an article in the Journal of Women & Aging, “Positives and Negatives of Online Dating According to Women 50+” Among the positives: access to others, control, and friendship. The positives are what one would expect: a larger pool, the ability to control the level and means of contactAmong the negatives: deception and lying, lack of success, and unwanted sexual messages.
“Others described lack of responses to e-mails, instant messages, phone calls, and planned in-person meetings as reasons they consider themselves unsuccessful or “unlucky” in online dating. One participant highlighted her feelings of disappointment with online dating when she stated, “I always think I was going to meet a lot of nice guys, but so far, I haven’t met anybody worth dating again” (White, 50). These sentiments were commonly reported.
Women reported a lack of success across a variety of different dating sites, including pay sites (e.g., eHarmony, Match), sites targeted toward older adults (e.g., Ourtime), and free sites (e.g., PlentyofFish). Some women reported cancelling online dating accounts because “It just wasn’t working” (White, 58). Closing accounts due to lack of success was more commonly reported for dating sites that charge money. This was clearly summarized by one participant when she stated, “I wasn’t getting anything from it, and I decided, I’m not going to keep paying for something that I’m not really meeting people” (White, 56)
This is the same stuff I encountered when I was single in my late 20s and online dating was in its infancy. I had three responses and one date in the two years I was online. Mostly, my profile was ignored completely. This is why I can’t bring myself to go online again. It’s one thing to be ignored in the real world. I’d rather that not happen in the virtual world again. How can I be so sure? Because it’s already happening. If you substitute work for college/grad school, my social life is nearly identical to what it was. Most of my friends are pair-bonded, the ones who aren’t are single women, and my guy friends in relationships complain to me about their partners. Were my life a romantic comedy, I wouldn’t even be the protagonist. I’d be the best friend.
I think my social circle was wider when I was married. While I kept the vast majority of our friends, they are married and most with children. When you are married, most of your friends are married, and their friends are married. When you have children, certain social networks are built in. Past a certain age, your friends don’t have any single friends, churches and synagogues no longer have single men your age (the remaining single men are looking at much younger women), you’re too old for “young friends” groups associated with cultural institutions, and should you venture out to a bar/club prepare to be ignored for your younger friends.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, 22% of adults between 25-34, 21% of adults between 35-44, 13% of adults between 45-54, and 12% of adults between 55-64 had used an online dating site or app. There aren’t plenty of fish in the sea. The same fish are swimming in multiple ponds.
This is why I’m giving up. I just don’t see a point. I don’t care. I don’t need statistics to tell me what I already know. I see it all the time. I had a couple dates with a guy at the end of 2016. As time went on his text messages got shorter, his responses went to just a couple of words. He wanted to drop me and move on with nary a word. I wouldn’t play ball. On the phone he was hostile and churlish. I’ve seen him in town a few times since then, always in the company of a much younger woman. My ex’s girlfriend is around seven years younger than he. I have a friend whose wife at least 11 years his junior. At 48, I’m done. That bird, I tell people, has flown.
I can’t even imagine dating now. In three years, I’ve established a routine. I work. I go to the gym. I pay bills. I go out with friends-married couples or single women. Once a year I go on a trip. Having zero illusions about my looks, packing for a trip is remarkably simple now. Then there is this. The brain tumour has doubled in size in the past year and I have started another course of drug therapy with a different drug which also makes me nauseous. The list of things I can eat fits on a post-it note. That list is shrinking. I have to check every restaurant menu in advance. I’m going out for breakfast. Do I go with the high-fiber pancakes made with milk or the vegan pancakes made with AP flour. Both will likely contain enough sugar to make me nauseous. Try explaining this to anyone. It’s not that I want to announce to the world, I’m on drug therapy and everything makes me sick. Drug therapy makes it sound like I’m in rehab, not that I’m on a drug to shrink a tumour in my brain.
Meat, apart from tuna, makes me sick. I can’t have any dairy. Anything more than bare minimum sugar and I am nauseous. Chocolate, even dark chocolate, is iffy. I can tolerate tempeh, tofu, jackfruit, beans, nuts, whole grains, and most vegetables. Popcorn is fine, so long as I don’t use butter. I drizzle it with just enough oil or vegan butter to make the nutritional yeast stick; nutritional yeast instead of freshly grated parmagiano. The less sweet the fruit the less likely it is to make me nauseous. Raspberries and green apples are lifesavers right now as are dried sour cherries, and apricots. Prunes are too sweet and make me nauseous. It’s a game I’d rather not play, but here I am. One thing about living in Philadelphia is that it’s a vegan haven. Even my favourite dive bar has vegan sour cream for their potato pierogi (they’re vegan too); not that I can eat potatoes. All that being said, I can’t even imagine doing this on a date. First dates will quickly become lasts as the assumption will be, she has fucked up food issues, not, hi nice to meet you I’m on chemo and can’t eat anything. And since, barring the complete failure of this drug, I will be on it for 18 months to two years, I think it’s safe to say that ship has sailed.
As often as I say those things to myself, I still get the lump in my throat. I hoped I wouldn’t have to put that part of myself away for my own protection. Yet here I am telling myself over and over it’s best not to want, it’s best not to look, it’s best not to think. I am the sexless best friend in my own romantic comedy.