From the beginning of my journey into online dating, I knew what I didn’t want. The list was extensive.
What I definitely didn’t want:
- A conventional relationship
- Boring, humdrum or ‘average’
- Rudeness, poor communication, poor spelling, arrogance
- To create a list of all the qualities I sought in a man, or needed in a relationship
- Dinner dates, assumptions or expectations about my time and our status
- Just one lover
- I didn’t even necessarily want a man my age.
Instead, I wanted novelty, flirtatious, rambunctious fun! I wanted kissing! I wanted lots of touch. I wanted to be pursued as if I really mattered, hunted down and staked out on the ground to be ravished. Well, maybe not literally, but you get the gist. I wanted lots of other things too, but at that early stage I couldn’t name them.
In hindsight, I was a fairly typical midlife woman out to reclaim her sexuality and experiences of youth and dating! I was fed up with feeling ignored and unseen by my ex, feeling like ‘a mother’, or ‘a colleague’ or ‘a friend’. I wanted my time in the sun feeling sexy and desired – to release my inner cheeky, flirtatious self.
Back then (about 4 years ago), this was not really a thing, but now I find these rebellious women in all corners of the interweb writing about their amazing experiences of finding life again. Life after divorce, or still loving life being single.
Idealistically at first, I dipped my toe into this new dating world. You can picture me as wide-eyed and relatively innocent at the start but gradually I became wiser, more familiar with online dating 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 was a wide-open book and also wide open to experiences. My internal regulator, and sometimes my quality metre, were on the blink. I was far too forgiving, generous of my time and body, in the beginning. Once I described myself as a shy, flighty pony unused to handling – neigh!
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 (and inbox).
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.
Readers often comment on how brave and fearless I seem but I can assure you, I am not a perfect visual feast of a woman; I have flaws just like anyone. I have experience and confidence but it can be easily shattered. I am never arrogant or stupidly self-assured because it’s pretty obvious (statistically at least) that men online consider 22 as the golden age. The further a woman drifts from this magical number, the fewer her dating chances. Unfortunate fact.
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 they stayed in my life for a long time.
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, my positive ‘never-say-die’ attitude kept me buoying back up and most 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). It’s 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, no matter our age. We all think we know what we’re doing – especially if we’ve had a long relationship – but it’s possible that we don’t!
Debrief with trusted friends
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.
People who’ve been partnered forever just don’t get it. They can be judgey or just plain unrealistic. 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, which is a big interest that I share on this blog.
I’m very grateful for these support networks, because to deal with the online dating world alone would be suffocating. It also helped to have women I could have a laugh with, or ask ‘curly’ questions (like, how come so many men ask about the status of my pubic hair?!)
In more recent times, since starting my own blog, I’ve discovered the balm that is the WordPress community online – fellow/sister bloggers who share their dating disappointments and excitements. We all open our hearts and use words to reach out, to document, to express and to understand what we’re going through. Thank goodness for that, it’s yet another example of the twin sides of technology: we see the crap, and we see the good stuff too.
PS – This story is one I’ve revisited and revised from the early archives of this blog, back when I had just a few scattered visitors. If you’re a new reader, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.