Wednesday, June 18 — Q: I am a single 58-year-old woman with a one-year subscription to eHarmony. In the six months I've been on, only two men have contacted me. Of the dozen men I've reached out to, only one responded, and nothing came of it. I’m stumped as to why I’m getting such a sparse response. I am attractive, am very fit, have a career, and own a home. Is my online dating experience typical for women my age? Sad to think I’ll face the next 20 to 25 years without a partner. And I am NOT just sitting at home waiting for a man to fall into my lap. I’m in a cycling club, a wine group, a music lovers group, and a craft beer group. Yet none of it has produced a boyfriend.
A: On dating sites, where the face-to-face embarrassment of overstepping the bounds of reality has been removed, 70-something men are hitting on 30-something women as fast as their wrinkly fingers can hit “send.” In other words, the youngest guy to even include 58-year-old women in his search criteria will likely want to talk about Titanic — not the movie but the boat wreck he survived.
Sure, dating sites promote themselves as a bonanza-in-waiting for people of all ages, but the truth is, online dating is heavily skewed toward younger people. It works like dog years. You may be 58 on your passport and driver’s license, but in Match.com years, you’re 406 going on 407. Also, men on dating sites care first and foremost about your four or five profile pictures (in which you’re competing with pix of women in their early 20s — typically the height of female hotitude). Musical interests? Favorite hobbies? You may as well list them in Cantonese.
But there is hope for you, and it comes from behavioral economics research by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. It turns out that we decide the value of things not out of the blue but rather by comparing them with similar alternatives. In other words, you need an “anchor” to make yourself look more attractive to men, and no, I’m not suggesting you start accessorizing with the big iron thing from a ship. An anchor is a reference point for comparison. For example, after hearing about this concept on my radio show, a lumber company owner started stocking an expensive ceiling tile next to the one he sells a ton of, in order to make buyers feel they were getting a really good deal.
Likewise, as a 58-year-old who takes care of herself, you’ll look far more appealing in a neighborhood filled with 58-year-old reference points than 20-something ones. Like, for example, on a dating site specifically for singles over 50, such as OurTime.com. The same goes for activities. The best groups for you are those where you aren’t the anchor making some 22-year-old of average attractiveness look hot. It may also help to acknowledge and even try to laugh about how hard dating is for women your age. Seeing this simply as an annoying fact of life after 50 may help you take it less personally. It could also lead you to a greater appreciation of later life’s small victories, like when sex ends with a man rolling over and snoring (as opposed to being zipped into a bag by the coroner).
Q: My best friend’s new boyfriend is a convicted sex offender who has three children from three different women. He has no job and pays no child support. I’ve tried in vain to convince her that he’s a bad bet. They keep insisting we all go to dinner so I can “get to know” him. How do I explain that I want nothing to do with him without ruining our friendship?
A: When your friend meets guys online, it shouldn’t be on MegansLaw.com. Unfortunately, pointing this out to her is probably futile. We’re slaves to our ego, determined to see ourselves as smart, lovable, and making wise choices, even if it takes believing the unbelievable: “Soulmate, inmate — what’s the difference?” What you don’t have to do is accept their offer of a ringside seat. Instead, tell her you’re happy she’s happy but you’d prefer to spend time with her alone. Her knowing you disapprove of him may put a gash in your friendship, but it may be a smaller gash if you stop trying to convince her. This may mean you’ll be around when she needs you most — after things go south. Maybe you can at least keep her from immediately seeking his replacement, like by dolling herself up and lingering outside parole hearings: “Hey, handsome…didn’t I see you on ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’?”
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