If You’re New to Dating, Work Out What You Don’t Want

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:

  1. A conventional relationship
  2. Boring, humdrum or ‘average’
  3. Rudeness, poor communication, poor spelling, arrogance
  4. To create a list of all the qualities I sought in a man, or needed in a relationship
  5. Dinner dates, assumptions or expectations about my time and our status
  6. Just one lover
  7. 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

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

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.

A Dating in Midlife Adventure

One man’s search for sex on tap, a full belly and a roof over his head

Within the first half hour in his company, 50-year-old Simon told me that he’s looking for a good cook and a regular sexual partner to meet his daily desires – he prefers oral over penetration because the old fella doesn’t work so well anymore, and he’s got a bad back. He’d like a blowjob every day and if he likes the smell of me, he’s happy to pleasure me in return.

Later, on my drive home, I decided that despite his generous offers of near-constant orgasms (assuming of course that I met his olfactory standards), the guy was living in fantasy land. He also lived too far away from me and had an unreliable availability pattern due to working on demand in a low-paid service industry.

In short, Simon was a bad match despite our chemistry, which undeniably did exist. The way he’d brushed my nipples and when I allowed him to briefly explore my naked breast, his fingers knew exactly what to do to make me gasp.

I should have listened to my instinct when we first connected a couple of weeks ago on Plenty of Fish.

I’m making a strong effort to meet and give chances to men in my age bracket, or even a little older. This cougar’s trying new tricks because the young ones are problematic, to put it mildly.

Simon’s profile photos showed an attractive mid-life guy in good shape, with a winsome, hippy-flavoured user name – plus 16-year-old photos of his heyday living on an African commune wearing sun-bleached dreadlocks and just a pair of skimpy shorts over his all-over bronzed tan. (What was that about? Imagine if I posted photos of the same vintage! And why would I?) We’d shared an opening line each on POF and then he disappeared for a week.

Our next messaged conversations were disconnected and jarring. After his brusque request for more photos (I already had six uploaded), I deleted his thread and moved on to other conversations.

Simon was persistent and returned to our conversation, asking why I had disappeared. I told him frankly that in my experience if a guy immediately asks for more photos, what he really means is ‘show me your tits’ or ‘give me a nude’. He backpedaled and so I decided to give him a decent go at convincing me.

We moved our messaging to kik and the awkwardness continued until I confronted him about his bull-at-a-gate attitude. He seemed to expect that he could achieve the delicious highs of smitten new love immediately, with little or no effort or time to get to know the other person and their authentic self.

“Are you new to this?” I asked. “You need to allow time to get to know someone – you can’t just have instant intimacy on a plate and happy ever after,” I said, feeling as if I was explaining the obvious to a kindergarten child.

“I know that, hun,” he said. “I’m not angry with you I’m just sick of this online dating shit.”

Fair enough, I thought. It is sometimes crappy and often frustrating, but that’s a naïve attitude to begin with. We managed to develop a tentative rapport after that, and seemed to be on the same page sexually, so I suggested we meet up for a coffee on my day off – a couple of days away.

The frost was still thick in the winter air when we met at the café and I noticed him watching me from his driver’s seat as I climbed out of my car. He looked like his pictures, which was a pleasant surprise, and as he hugged and kissed me on the lips I felt his enthusiasm.

I don’t actually like to be kissed on the mouth on first greeting – I find that presumptuous and invasive, but I warmly greeted him anyway, and we ordered our drinks. I insisted on paying for my coffee. He baulked, but I already knew he earned a lot less than I do, plus I didn’t want to feel obligated in any way.

As we nursed our coffees and talked, sitting on a bench under a historic, winter-bare oak tree, the feeble sun warmed our bones. I kept the conversation bubbling smoothly by focusing my questions on him and his rather interesting life.

As a citizen of three countries, he’d only lived in Australia for the past 14 years and his accent was a hybrid proof of his past. His manner was blunt and strangely detached, incongruous for one who claimed in his POF profile that keeping the honeymoon period alive was his greatest desire.

He felt no compunction about moving closer on the bench seat to fondle my breasts, and given our sexually charged texted conversation and my desire to build a regular sexual relationship (if nothing else, though that’s not my ideal), I didn’t mind too much. But I certainly noted that behaviour and his subtle sense of entitlement.

He hadn’t mentioned that he was father to a five-year-old until now, and he said that it seemed to repel women of his age, whose children were a lot older or who didn’t want the burden of a man who came with that sort of high-maintenance baggage. Next I discovered that he was a ‘Sunday Dad’ and his one day with said daughter fell on my one kid-free day.

And then he dropped the bombshell that fell with a muffled feathery weight. I’d been saying that a man’s kids were no concern of mine as I wasn’t looking for anyone to live in my pocket, or indeed to cohabit. Two decades of that were more than enough!

“Well actually,” he said, “I’m looking for a partner to move in with. Not right away, of course.”

The text comment about my cooking abilities floated into my thoughts, which I’d read as a bit of a joke. It now appeared that he was serious. He lived in shared accommodation, had a casual and unreliable job, and was desperately horny!

In hindsight I can see that from then on that morning, his attitude subtly changed. He stopped trying to nestle against me and the conversation remained firmly focused on him. During the entire hour and a half together he asked me one question – what I did for work.

While we strolled in the fresh air around the nearby park, he walked several steps ahead of me and didn’t turn to speak – commenting to the air instead. He pulled me into an awkward embrace on the pathway and cupped my breasts while kissing me again, but he didn’t linger, which seemed odd at the time – as if he couldn’t be bothered actually trying for authentic intimacy.

As we sat on a park bench in the sunshine, we kissed again and his hands wandered, but he barely listened to me speak as I responded to his question about my last serious relationship.

“Oh and I can’t do lots of positions,” he announced. “I’ve got a bad back and the little guy doesn’t behave himself sometimes. I really like to be sucked. I’d love you to suck me right now.”

I laughed at his boorish enthusiasm, while reeling at his gall. There was a peculiar feeling of harmony (sexual chemistry) juxtaposed with a complete disconnect around values, beliefs and what we were each looking for. “All good things come to those who wait,” I quipped. “Just be patient.”

At this stage I was still stupidly hopeful that we could become regular lovers, so we talked schedules and logistics, my mind on practicalities rather than the bigger issue of whether we were indeed compatible beyond the bedroom.

I was also quietly absorbing his revelations that his tackle wasn’t fully functional – something I am coming to see is extremely common in men over 45.

“While many women in their 50s and up say they feel more sexually liberated than they did in their 20s — finally released from the worry of getting pregnant, and more comfortable with their bodies — they are frequently tumbling into bed with men who suffer from erectile dysfunction. ‘I hear this from a lot of my girlfriends, and it’s depressing,’ writer Kerri Sackville said. ‘Finally, [they think] “I’m going to have great sex”, and it’s not working, and there’s nothing you can do about it.’” (Heart Ailments and Erectile Dysfunction: Life on the Dating Scene for Women Over 40, ABC, 4 October 2017)

As if this picture wasn’t depressing enough for those of us who like and are sexually attracted to men, comes the research findings that men who have regular sex over aged 50 may just be increasing their risks of heart attack.

“Because older men have more difficulties reaching orgasm for medical or emotional reasons than do their younger counterparts, they may exert themselves to a greater degree of exhaustion and create more stress on their cardiovascular system in order to achieve climax,” said Professor Hui Liu in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour.

Simon kissed me goodbye and fondly patted my bum. I couldn’t help but feel it was an insincere gesture and sure enough, he messaged me a day later.

As I predicted, he’d decided that he was going to focus his attentions on meeting the woman who ticked his required boxes (sex, food, shelter). Sigh. It’s so boring when my intuition is right all the time. Just occasionally I’d like to be surprised on a date by someone who is actually great!

Onwards and ‘upwards’ for me – even if not for the men I’m meeting these days!