Online dating newbies Carol, 55, and Jeremy, 62, share glimpses of their dating diaries – the lows, the highs, and the little swipe lies…
Carol Gardener, from Surrey, says: ‘The idea of meeting someone through the internet once made me shudder. I could sell furniture on eBay, but compose a listing to market myself? Never.
‘I’d been divorced several years, but didn’t have a clue how to meet anyone at this stage of my life. I didn’t know any single, heterosexual men, except those who were on their own for good reason. No one I knew threw parties. I didn’t fancy walking into a bar on my own. I wasn’t into golf or church and was too exhausted for Spanish or salsa-dancing at night.
‘Stop making excuses,’ my daughter said, dragging me to the computer.
Creating a profile: daunting. Haven’t faced so many questions since my O levels in 1979.
Male or female? Easy one to start.
Honesty is my middle name, but scrolling down all the way to 55 makes my spirits dip. Maybe I should put the age I feel inside? No, 30 would be pushing it. The age I look, then? People say I could pass for 49…at least, in a good light, with full make-up on, when they’d had a couple of drinks. I settle for 52.
I put the obligatory ‘GSOH’, (good sense of humour), add ‘loyal’ and ‘affectionate’, though that makes me sound like a spaniel
Now to list my best traits. I can’t think of a single one. ‘Think of a word to describe me!’ I panic to Christine, my best friend.
‘Bonkers,’ she cackles.
I put the obligatory ‘GSOH’, (good sense of humour), add ‘loyal’ and ‘affectionate’, though that makes me sound like a spaniel.
Day 2: Profile finally done. Pinpointing who I want to meet is so hard. ‘Just a nice bloke really’ doesn’t cut it in the algorithm age. That song Escape keeps playing my head: ‘If you like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain…’
Oh God, cheesy 70s pop. That dates me.
Day 3: Messages start to pop into my inbox. Instinct yells: ‘No! Yuk! Delete!’
Day 5: Start chatting to a man who claims to be in my age range. ‘I love mature women,’ he says. Finally get him to admit he’s 26. He’s keen to meet, but a 30-year age gap would make me feel more like a dinosaur than a cougar.
Day 7: Exchange messages with a surveyor from Sydenham. Seems nice. Tell him I’ve just had my first grandchild. He cuts me off. So much for his “strong family values” and “love of people”.
Day 12: After chatting for a few days, a 56-year-old divorcé wants to meet for real. Zoom in on his photo to scrutinise further. He looks normal. Nice eyes. Messy kitchen, but who am I to talk? I agree.
Day 14: With my brother on amber alert close by, I walk into the pub, nervous as a teenager, having spent all afternoon picking a dress that’s flattering but not too sexy; young, but not too young.
I needn’t have bothered. He was in crumpled chinos and unironed shirt. Pleasant enough, but without the internet, the pair of us would never be sitting side by side. It was like ordering avocados on Ocado and being sent potatoes as a replacement.
At least he was real. Not a fraud or a freak, just a 50something wanting to meet another 50something to see what might happen.
I could walk away with my GSOH intact…
It took four post-divorce years for shop manager Jeremy Thwaites, from Norwich, to log on looking for love.
‘It never occurred to me to lie in my online profile. I’d read about conmen on dating sites, so I was determined to give my real age. I even explained I had 70% of my hair and measured myself against the kitchen wall to give my accurate height.
‘To me, the joy of using the internet was that it removed the randomness of meeting strangers. It could keep people safe and scientifically match data, so why provide false information?’
September: Having sifted through several possible matches, I take the plunge and arrange to meet Allie in a café. I recognise her blonde bob, but the rest of her photo has been digitally enhanced. No way is she “55, tall and slim”. I’m disappointed. I don’t care that much about body shape, but I could never love a liar.
October: After sending messages back and forth with an accountant, I invite her for dinner. She arrives in a brand-new Mini and is even more attractive than her picture. I check on the chicken in the oven and when I turn round, she’s stripped down to her underwear. Shocked, I tell her I’m sorry, but I’d need to get to know her first. She bursts into tears and says: “I left work early for this.”
It sounds like every bloke’s fantasy, but I felt a bit violated
Disillusioned, I go for a beer with my mate Simon, a widower and experienced online dater. “It sounds like every bloke’s fantasy, but I felt a bit violated,” I confess.
He tells me he’s had to instigate a ‘no sex on first date’ rule. “Too intimidating. One lady brought along Superman pants, saying she went out with so many men, she wanted something to remember me by.”
January: I take a deep breath and invite another woman for dinner. The day before, I see someone peering through my windows. It’s her. She says she wanted to check me out in advance. I’m taken aback, but we both see the funny side and end up having a good laugh.
It made things more normal and we’ve started seeing a lot of each other.
The internet may have introduced us – but it took real life to make us properly click.
LITTLE SWIPE LIES – SOME TIPS
Dating expert Tinderella says a few fibs are acceptable when online dating. “It’s like flogging an old car. You know the gears stick and the paintwork has seen better days, so you rave about the leather seats and reliable engine instead.”But there’s spin, and there’s bulls***, so…
OK to use a profile picture taken a couple of years ago to reflect the ‘you inside’.
NOT OK to use anything over four years old.
OK to give yourself a teensy work ‘promotion’ to make your job sound more exciting than it is. Think what you tell your family at Christmas or an ex you bump into.
NOT OK to say you’re a neurosurgeon when you’re a nurse.
OK to wear a hat in your picture but people aren’t daft. They’ll know it’s covering up your bald patch.
NOT OK to lie about your age, height, marital status or kids. Ever.
A few dating websites that we quite liked…
UK Mature Dating – for first timers
Dating Over 50s – has lots of useful advice
Toyboy Warehouse – no prizes for guessing what goes on here
Old Style Dating – for anyone 25+ looking for vintage-style dating behaviour