As Spokesperson for Match.com, I recently attended the annual AARP convention in Boston, where I participated in a panel titled “Love at First Click.” To be precise, love at first click is impossible, just as is love at first sight. However, LUST from the get-go is a definite maybe—and it could pave the way for more to come—if you keep your head in reality.
When some of my friends heard I would be speaking to AARP-ers, they teased me about seeing a bunch of old people. For those who think this organization consists of mothballed seniors biding their time until the inevitable, think again. There were 30,000 participants on site, and those I saw were distinctly vital and thirsty for ways to increase their longevity. Of course, those I actually addressed also had a determined desire for love.
Our room had every one of its 200 seats filled, with bouncers outside to prevent fire code violations by love-anxious trespassers. When it was announced that there were a few vacant seats still left, a woman called out, “Fill them with men.” Another chimed in, “And be sure they are willing to drive at night!” These folks were hardly what anyone would call “old”!
Online dating has become the best way to meet folks with whom you would not ordinarily make contact. The moderator met her husband on JDate, and the Black couple on the dais with me connected on Yahoo, while they only lived a few blocks from each other. I discuss the ups and downs of Baby Boomer love on my weekly Match.com Suddenly Single column, posted on MSN’s Dating & Personals page (http://msn.match.com/msn/suddenlysingle.aspx?lid=413). For this group, the one thing that stands out is their concern, not about aging per se, but about the stereotypes placed on them because of their age.
The participants in the room shared some of their Online dating horror stories, along with their love connections. Of course, the lure of the anonymous behind a computer screen can camouflage many sins. One of the funniest, yet unfortunately true, cautionary tales of Online romance is the country music video by Brad Paisley, called “Online.” Jason Alexander from Seinfeld directed the video, and also enacts a geeky social outcast, who mouths these lyrics:
I work down at the pizza pit,
And I drive an old Hundai.
I still live with my mom and dad.
I’m 5’3 and overweight.
I’m a Sci-fi fanatic,
Never been to 2nd base.
But there’s a whole ‘nother me
That you need to see.
Go check out MySpace.
‘Cause Online I’m down in Hollywood.
I’m 6’5, and I look damn good.
I drive a Maserati,
I’m a black belt in Karate,
And I love a good glass of wine.
It turns girls on that I’m mysterious.
I tell ‘em I don’t want nothing serious,
‘Cause even on a slow day, I can have a three-way
Chat with two women at one time.
I’m so much cooler Online . . .
I get home, I kiss my mom
And she fixes me a snack.
I head down to my basement bedroom
And fire up the Mac.
In real life, the only time I
Ever even been to LA
Was when I got the chance with the marching band
To play tuba in the Rose Parade.
Online I live in Malibu.
I posed for Calvin Klein, I’ve been in GQ.
I’m single and I’m rich.
I got a set of six pack abs that’ll blow your mind.
When you got my kinda stacks, it’s hard to get a date,
Let alone a real girlfriend.
But I grow another foot,
And I lose a bunch of weight,
Every time I log in . . .
I’m so much cooler Online . . .
This song is funny, but the video is a scream because of its honesty. Since most people would like to think they are “so much cooler Online…,” there is a lot of truth bending in tender e-notes. Much of it concerns pre-meeting self-descriptions, where men are conditioned to boast about their success, and women feel compelled to brag about their looks. To prevent the continuation of prefabrications, I recommend that people meet in person as soon as they believe there is a connection to explore.
Back to reality, a man in our audience said he chose to meet a psychologist he conversed with Online. When they were face-to-face, she volunteered that she was really 3 years older than the age she had posted. He said he’d never see her again because she had lied to him initially. After I asked him, he said he would still have chosen to meet her, even if she had posted her true age. But now her lying was something that would stand in his way—forever. Participants complained that every Online site requires they post an actual number for their age. If they lie, they are dishonest, which they know is a romance derailer. But if they tell the truth, they fear being passed over. At the end of the discussion, a good-looking man in a baseball cap approached me. He, too, had a grievance about this age business. He said he would like to go Online, but couldn’t because of the necessity of revealing that number. He shocked me when he said he was 80! He was in great shape! He said, “You see, your reaction matches that of everyone else. I date 60-year-olds. But if I want to meet new people Online, once they hear my age, they steer clear.”
What is this thing we call “age”? I myself question this all the time, especially being in the business I’m in. One night at New York’s Elaine’s, some drop-dead gorgeous male model walked in, as people turned their heads at break-neck speed. He looked twenty-something. He took his seat with a bunch of guys, and everyone returned to their private conversations at their tables. Before I knew it, baseball great Keith Hernandez came over to me and whispered in my ear, “Doc, my friend wants to meet you.” I said, “Who’s your friend?” He said, “That guy over there,” pointing to his young pal, the same male model who made women swoon. I said, “Keith, the guy’s a little young for me.” But Keith said, “Oh, don’t worry, he loves older women.” I had never thought of myself as an “older woman” before. I didn’t know whether to thank Keith or slap him. But I invited the guy to my table, and we flirted all night. I told the story on the Fox News Channel a few nights later, and explained that I had recently been out with someone 60. I guess that makes me a loose woman when it comes to age! But the truth is that I enjoy men with whom I have a deep spiritual connection—into which age does not enter.
At a time when 60 is the new 40, why are we all still hung up on stereotypes? Plenty of people may be missing out because of their pre-conceived notions. For centuries, it’s been okay for men to date much younger women. These days, years after Cher and her twenty-something “bagel boy,” Demi Moore and countless others have thumbed their nose at convention by being with younger men. A fifty-something friend of mine with a 3-year-old grandchild is dating a man with a 3-year-old toddler! When Mary Tyler Moore married her physician husband 18 years her junior, she attributed it to a meeting of their souls that surpassed all else. Coincidentally, I observed this couple’s interaction while I was waiting for a plane in a private airline lounge. Amid the quietness of the room, I was taken aback by a loving man asking his wife, “Honey, would you like me to get you some coffee?” She said she didn’t want any, and they took their seats. When I looked up, I saw who it was, and I watched them. They had already been married for years, and their interaction was tremendously respectful and loving. Age never entered into that equation.
Singles are forever complaining about the difficulty of meeting someone wonderful. I told this AARP group, “Everyone who wants to be married gets married.” A lot of folks took issue with that proposition. Out came my Gilda-Gram: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always go where you’ve always gone.” I exemplified one of my clients who left a marriage to an abusive, alcoholic, who was also a wealthy man. Now on the prowl again, she would only date guys with money. The problem was that some of her castaways were terrific, far nicer than her ex, and good future marriage material. As I told her, and I told my audience, “She had some reassessing to do.” The Black woman on the dais chimed in, “During my search for Mr. Right, I even experimented with men outside my race.”
Many daters are still stuck in old habits and tastes. No matter what our age, no matter what our goal—dating or otherwise—if we get out of the box that we ourselves constructed, we get out of our own way. We can all take a page from the AARP participants who traveled to Boston from across the country, all in quest of MORE. If you’re one of those people stuck in your past habits, mindsets, and preconceptions, ask yourself, “Who’s really donning the mothballs?”