From the beginning of my journey into online dating, I knew what I didn’t want and the list was extensive.
I didn’t want a conventional relationship. I didn’t want boring, humdrum or ‘average’. I didn’t have a pre-prepared list of all the qualities I sought in a man, or needed in a relationship. I didn’t want dinner dates, assumptions or expectations about my time and our status. I didn’t want just one lover. I didn’t even necessarily want a man my age.
Instead, I wanted novelty, flirtatious, rambunctious fun! I wanted lots of other things too, but I couldn’t name them at that early stage. In hindsight, I was a fairly typical midlife woman out to reclaim her sexuality and experiences of youth and dating!
Idealistically at first, I dipped my toe into this new world. You can picture me as wide-eyed and relatively innocent at the start but gradually I became wiser, more familiar with patterns and common issues and sadly, somewhat jaded.
Online Dating is not for the Faint Hearted
If there was just one point in my favour when I began dating online, it might be this: I didn’t have any preconceptions.
I hadn’t touched another man in more than 20 years and frankly, I was curious. I soon became very focused on sex, which is probably a natural result of the novelty and choice that flooded into my life.
But it’s one thing to be focused on sex and quite another to manifest it into your everyday. I eased myself into the idea and reality of sex gently, resisting the potentially crippling doubt and embarrassment masquerading as a pervasive body loathing.
It was a balm to the bruised ego; being appreciated and desired by others can be immensely healing. Each of my stories, and the men behind them, played a part in helping me to examine my own limiting beliefs or prejudices about my body. Some men played a huge role in freeing my sexuality, and I’m happy to say that they have stayed in my life to this day.
From the outset, a part of me wanted instant intimacy along with satisfying sex – and that was never going to happen, so I was setting myself up for disappointment. It’s very rare that you can meet a stranger and feel immediately close to them, ‘connected’ in a genuine way. It usually takes time to get to know their character, personality, likes and dislikes, and to build rapport.
And while there’s nothing wrong with relationships that are primarily sexual, I wasn’t sure if I could do that. I was soon about to find out.
During the first year of online dating, a positive attitude kept me buoying back up and much of the time, I could heartily laugh about it. You need a sense of humour to face all the bigotry thrown at women and girls! This begins as soon as we become sexual beings (if we’re allowed to), continues after we become mothers (maternal and definitely non-sexual), and is perpetuated after we reach a certain age (so the story goes, non-sexual and invisible).
As with trying anything new, especially something as risky and daring as plunging into dating again, it’s realistic to remember The Learning Curve.
We all start out as somewhat innocent. We all think we know what we’re doing but it’s possible that we don’t!
Debriefing With Trusted Friends is a Good Strategy
I regularly shared experiences with people close to me but I was careful which ones. Only a few understood where I was at, and talking to people who have experience here really helped. My two main ‘go-to gals’ listened to my excitement, my confusion and my tears, as I listened to their stories. One dear friend helped me to express my feelings about the socio-political in the every day.
I’m very grateful for these support networks, because to deal with this world alone would be suffocating. It also helped to have women I could have a laugh with, or ask ‘curly’ questions (for example, how come so many men ask about the status of my pubic hair?!)