This installment was on permanent hold until I got inspired by a recentish commercial for Match.com. In earlier versions, the courtesy reads from friends all came back with comments about the ‘tone’ and somewhat caustic edge. Writing can be, as I have said, cathartic. A screenplay got me through a breakup a few years ago. But I’m really not bitter to borrow from the inscription on my sister’s headstone. Back to Match, I noticed, in this campaign, a new approach featuring a low BS quotient and some candor about the adult dating paradigm.
Hit the link and you’ll notice this singles sampling is in their mid to late 30s maybe, a touch above at the high end, and enthusiastic but surely a few notches below “giddy with excitement” at the prospect of scrolling through profiles that are often as enticing as head shots in the KGB dossier on ‘political irritants’ in Vladivostok.
Though bearing the scars of a decade or two of relationships that didn’t “work out”, these solo artists have enough bounce in them to spin the compatibility wheel one, or even two, more times. Previous campaigns have been kind of overly cute with one spot showing Satan hitting it off with another Match subscriber and then a group of unemployed wedding singers harmonizing during the pandemic over “Single As F!”.
However, this latest spot hints at the shortness of time and sports a new ‘cut to the chase’ mentality which I applaud because kissing frogs in these dark times can leave you ladies with Prince Variant rather than Prince Charming. Men, remember Fatal Attraction? I kid. However, there is nobody close to 50 in this spot and, outside of the oldsters in the ads for Senior Match, Silver Singles, Our Time or eHarmony nobody north of 60. Quite frankly, the codgers in the Our Time spots might just be 60 at the outside. So can our boomer demo still get ‘lucky’ in love?
I have my doubts. At my age, on the wrong side of 65, it’s pretty much over for a few reasons. Just as we are tiring of the office life, there is a parallel lethargy when it comes to the work of the heart. If you’ve been single for more than ten years, whether it be from divorce or the death of a partner, you are no longer, and I repeat, “giddy with excitement” at the thought of a ‘date’. Yeah, there was some anticipation when you were in your 50s. You would go out and buy a decent pair of shoes (women judge you on your footwear), a new shirt and ‘first date’ over some overpriced drinks in hopes that the human across the table could get your ‘motor running’ as Jon Kay from Steppenwolf used to sing. Why? Simply put, you were more alive. Perhaps you hadn’t been to a lot of funerals, perhaps your career/business was something you still enjoyed. You were optimistic about your kids’ futures. You could still ski the odd ‘black diamond’ run both literally and figuratively. For the guys, there was still some testosterone in the tank. Women, the lucky ones, hadn’t gone into night sweats that soiled the mattress cover.
There was a window back there but now, perhaps freshly put to the curb by your spouse of thirty plus years for whatever reason, even death, your game is stone cold. Fellas, if you are new to the single life, the last date you went on was probably in the 80s and it involved a TGIF and some second or even third base action in your Camaro in front of her parent’s house. With Loverboy playing on the eight track. Girls, all you had to do was rock the Calvins. And you did. Not so much anymore, hmmm.
That was then.
I have a card table’s worth of single guys in my circle and I can’t recommend them to anyone. All decent fellows with good bloodwork and the ability, in most cases, to buy dinner and a movie. But they are clearly done with the heavy lifting a relationship demands, especially when there are several decades of baggage going around the emotional luggage carousel, their own included. And there is not enough therapeutic makeup to cover the scars and treadwear of all the dashed hopes of repeatedly disappointing encounters. Some are lucky to have grandchildren within driving distance who can fill a lot of holes in one’s schedule. I have a woman in my life with seven grandkids. She is on call for all kinds of babysitting/schlepping/cheerleading and she loves it. And it is fulfilling enough at this point that she might not need permanent companionship. There is already enough love in her life. I think she gets a small stipend from the government for keeping me off the street.
And if I had a handful of grandkids, even one, I’d be a lot more content to go it alone and tie up a kid’s skates for the rest of my active life. Maybe get a dog and the odd appointment with a professional to fill the odd need.
Who told us that we had extra innings to play with? Probably the same people selling plastic surgery to all the bubbies shimmying around the tonier parts of town with the belt sanded faces and the balloon animal lips. Yes, I won’t even get into the vaginal restoration industry which goes right along with the testosterone radio spots exhorting men that, with treatment, they could go for 90 minutes. As if I want to. Maybe if you include dinner…
For most of us can look back, those of us who were lucky enough to have grandparents in their lives, and remember when grandpa died (they always went first because they wanted to) grandma wasn’t dusting up her crepey cleavage and hitting the Legion Hall in hopes of finding a guy who liked to twerk to Bert Kaempfert. She was smarter than that. Play some cards, do some gardening. Stay close to your friends and family. Peace of mind. And those who have borne witness to their parents’ long running show might have picked up enough relationship intel along the way to keep their own unions whole and don’t have to pay to play.
So what changed? First, the divorce rate. It exploded just about in sync with the consumer revolution and the commodification of everything including ‘thy neighbor’s wife’. Combine that with the new “Merry Widowhood’ and you’ve got a fairly wide swath of the population deeply deluded in a permanent state of Dorian Gray Power.
We have been sold the idea that a second, third or even a fourth act is out there and we have subscribed to the algorithms that, for a low monthly subscription, will deliver Mr. or Mrs. Rite-Aid. We sift, we swipe, we wink, we like, we bite, we take a hike. There’s some half-ass texting, the promise of a call…then….nothing. Yet, if the converse is true, and I do have some friends who have rebounded nicely, if you can surf through the profiles with an open heart, if you hold a modicum of faith in some sudden death heroics out there for us, one last Hail Mary pass to the end zone of emotional fulfillment, how do we make the most of what we have left in the tank? Sadly, most of you don’t even know the score on virtual meetups let alone have the skills to play. In fact, there are those working ‘the room’ so poorly that they end up on the sidelines after too many failed ‘fumblerooskis’.
For the simple reason that we need to remain optimistic, that we need to keep our dreams in front of our regrets, I’m going to offer some tips on using the Match algorithm and its format as the first line of offense when out on patrol, so to speak.
I’m no Matthew Hussey but after a discussion of proper profile presentation, I will put forth a future post with some advanced guidance on actual physical dating. Holy shit, how some of you need it.
YOUR PHOTOS ARE BOMBING
Yes, let’s start with that first impression. Guys and gals, this is where whatever chances you had with anyone are quickly dashed on the rocks of ‘What exactly were you thinking?’ Do you not have the ability to actually get your face in the frame? Can you not upload the photo so that it is oriented properly? Is your periodontist taking those closeups? Boys, women are not going to throw down at the sight of you with a 20 lb musky in your arms. And save the shirtless look for your doctor because you look very “before” rather than “after”. Ladies, I can’t see your face because the IPhone with which you are taking the picture is in the way. And the setting appears to be the ladies room at an IHOP somewhere off the New Jersey Turnpike. You are paying for this shit. Please respect your own dollar.
I will speak to this problem through an experience I had with a Florida woman with whom I had a brief back and forth. Her ‘gallery’ started with perfectly good shots dated four years previous that I would forgive for not being quite current but she made the mistake of posting new shots against them. The stringy hair did not do her any favors. Worse, she closed the portfolio with a sepia-aged shot that had to be at least forty years old. I confronted this Ivy League grad about it and the explanation was apparently to show off her proximity to a legendary Hollywood actor who didn’t even pose with her. Many women were attractive in their 20s and this woman was no exception. A gamine beauty then, not so much now. In fact my internal reaction was, “Gee you’ve aged badly” followed by some dark thoughts about what address on Sunset Boulevard her head calls home. As for us men, according to a single lady friend in Miami, you have the habit of posting a lot of pre-Rogaine photos, evidence of male pattern stupidity. Bottom line, keep your act up to date. Other things to avoid – seatbelt selfies, shots of your fucking pets, travel photos and my favorite, the ‘Xed out Ex’. Hey, I get it. You went to an REO Speedwagon/Kansas/Blue Oyster Cult triple bill at the local tribal casino, you had a great time rocking the leather jacket, jeans and thigh-highs. Men, the same but without the thigh-highs. But ‘that guy’ or ‘gal’ no longer in the picture was in every shot. So you use the crayon attachment on your Commodore 64 to smudge out their faces and post the shot of the two of you by the merch stand. What are we to think? What happened to this person/victim? Is he or she dead from a suspicious boating accident? If not, do you have this guy’s number so I can call him and he can tell me what a crazy bitch you are? Ladies, you should do the same with the guys. I’m probably not alone on this.
What is the solution to all the shots in bathroom stalls, the endless yoga poses or the hoisting of drinks that are way too sugary to impress? Just get someone with an actual camera to take three good shots in focus, no more than waist up, sporting maybe a couple of different frocks. Smile for God’s sake and post them. Is that too hard?
I didn’t work at the local fair guessing the shills’ ages. Nor do I want to now. You say you’re 59? My dear, you might have a daughter that age but you are most assuredly not. I had one bite from a woman who said she was 59, then admitted she was ten years older but that “I play forty”. Sounds like a trick question on the Math Institute of Wisconsin finals. I get it, the algorithm is heartless when it comes to age and a number is just a number. There are some spectacular older women on Match, many of whom have insulted me for keeping them outside my parameters. I do have some empathy for those that claim an age but cop to the truth in their profile because they want to stay inside ‘the bracket.’ I don’t lie about my age because I don’t lie about my hair. And yes, it is impolite to ask a woman’s age and I don’t care as long as they have a smokin’ body. That was a joke for those of you that don’t get the jokes and we will get to that. Lying speaks to insecurity and perhaps more significant fibbing. I think we have to be as upfront as possible with the understanding that it is competitive out there and you have to have more going for you than the ability to subtract years from your birth certificate. Here’s an idea, go the other way. You’re 62? Put in for 68 and let the compliments come to you: “Wow, you look fabulous for your age”. At our vintage, I am more attracted to the well-preserved than the surgically enhanced.
I tend to warm up to some well-written prose. A little sass, a little class and I am good for a similarly intelligent reply to get things going. If you can turn a phrase and let me know that you have some ‘game’, I’m interested. Sadly, this is where the Match subscribers are lacking. I can’t tell you how many stunning East European women ruined it for me with their longing “…for super money man who know luxury travel, class first hotel and where to hunt Moose and Squirrel”. If you didn’t get that last bit please stop reading. Nothing is more of a turn off than atrocious spelling and a complete lack of proofreading. Worse, they throw in the stock answers provided by the site for their Wish List. Yeah I want to skydive into a world championship safari like anybody else but show a little imagination. Reveal a little of your soul if you are going to expose something. It’s not what you want but what your values are in the context of a mature world view. Come up with an anecdote that shows that you are still capable of an open heart. I only say this because I have read a couple of terrific profiles written by incredible women who were not right for me. I responded just to say that their words resonated with me. Share your feelings. Not your needs. I still dine out on one profile from Miami in which the woman made a request, “Please, no hard drugs on the first date.” Cue Sonny Crockett.
The most difficult leap in this whole experience is getting from the ‘like’ to a decent exchange on the protected texting platform to an actual phone call. Men don’t text but it’s the preferred mode of communication for women. I had a girlfriend who would send me scrolls and scrolls of nothingness that included a short test at the bottom to make sure I had completed her regular reviews of my behavior. She did the wise thing and rid herself of me. Unfortunately, I am still stuck with me. But back to the topic at hand. My own problems with texting are that I try to lighten things up with a joke which is usually not taken as such. Things quickly slide to shit and they block their profile. Trust me, the joke is not directed at them. Then there’s the rookies who send a first poke and if you don’t respond in a nanosecond they come back with “Well I guess you’re not interested….best of luck.” You can taste the insecurity. Please chill. Some of us might be working instead of sitting at the beach with a ‘spicy marg’ just waiting for you to give us a ding. Seek common ground, some intellectual ledge that you both can cling to as you try to hoist yourselves to a safe place for conversation. It’s not enough for either sex to say, “I like your smile” or “How are you?”. Say something erudite. Continue with your personality to show it’s not fake. Me, I had an opening quiz which wasn’t that hard but you’d be surprised how many women think Central Park is a New York borough. My rule of thumb is a max of three separate encounters on the texting and then somebody has to share a phone number.
Guys, get your smarter daughter to write something for you. At least she will create the illusion of empathy that might get you a coffee date before your date sees through your charade. Just change your handle to Cyrano.
Amazing what a human voice can do to warm up a situation. Just don’t ruin it by taking a call coming in on yours. Don’t be doing this in the car. Ask the right questions, “What are you looking for on a date?” Not life. And don’t back up the dump truck and unload the aforementioned baggage of your lousy ex or divorce. Save that for never. Or at least until you’ve topped up the relationship bank account with your incredible list of compatible likes, interests and skills. Me, if you don’t think Annie Hall is one of the great films of all time, please move on. I’m not interested in being the Square Peg and neither are you. I won’t call if there are any red flags in the texting. Political compatibility is a thing now and can be a huge problem. You can risk it all on a Zoom and bypass voice but I find then that the looks come into play too soon. You should be okay with the photos until you meet up in person. The sound of a calming, collected voice can airbrush over some physical flaws. Fellas, I’m talking to you. A good joke, a laugh, the ability to state your position without drawing a line in the sand, these are the things that work on a call. If you’re going to spar then do it over something with low stakes, like coffee dealerships and airports. Show you can mix it up without being mean. And keep it warm. I can notice a chill fairly quickly and it’s off-putting. And girls, yeah, we know there’s no such thing as ‘friends with benefits’ at this superannuated stage so keep that to yourself. But if you can get past a call or three and actually pull your horses up to the saloon you will have come farther than most of the prospectors working the river, panning through the sediment for the elusive nugget.
We are on this earth at this point in our lives to create memories, good ones if I have to say it. If by chance you meet someone that you can hang out with over a coffee, drinks or even a meal, you will have reached a peak to which few ascend. If you get involved with someone whose downside is less than 25% of their total package, live with it. You can’t fix it and they can’t fix yours either.
At our age our most valued commodity is time. If someone is prepared to share some of theirs with you give it the exchange rate it deserves. Guys, please pick up the fucking check. That is an absolute in my book. And ladies, if you’re thinking about ordering the lobster, think again.