(This was originally published across several magazines in Tampa Bay as a three part series, I included all three parts in this post)
So there I was, suddenly single after a 20 year marriage. I could go live in the hills in a cabin like the Unabomber and never meet anyone, or I could start dating again. I had met my wife in 1995, and married her in 1997. Dating was very different back then, you actually met people… then called them on a LANDLINE and asked them out on a date. Imagine that kids!
So how does a single guy meet people in 2018?
My work in the solar business is primarily with married people who own homes, and 99% of my coworkers are male, so I wasn’t going to meet anyone at work. How about church? I go to the traditional service at Harvester Methodist… the average age of our congregation goes down by a decade when I walk in the room. There are very nice single ladies in church, but they’re all 82 years old, and I’m only 44.
My single friends told me to go online, that’s where are the lovely single women are hiding, right?
The first site I tried was E-Harmony. This site asks you 500 questions that delve into your inner psyche and match you to the perfect person. I figured I would find someone awesome in 20 seconds. E-Harmony started matching me to 3 or 4 people per day, and they were… not attractive. About a week in I was finally matched with a woman whom I found attractive so I sent her a text message through the site. No response. Let me say in my defense that I’m rather hideous myself, with an average body and a very forgettable face.
It was much easier to date when I was 21 and trim.
What I did not know at the time is that women on dating apps only respond to about 2% of the texts messages they get, and pretty women are inundated with “shout outs” from men online. After talking to some single women I was shocked to learn that some pretty ladies get 200 to 300 messages per DAY from various online dating sites!
So I cancelled E-Harmony, it was too slow. I needed to increase the number of single women that I could contact. Several friends recommended a hook-up app called Tinder. Tinder is an app on your phone that lets you swipe a picture to the right if you like someone, swipe left if you don’t.
One of the guys at work told me “Just swipe right on everyone, see what you get”. That same day I got a text through the app that started with “Hey Daddy” then went R-rated soon after. Someone liked me… she was only 24 years old and very pretty. I began to get suspicious. After a few texts she offered to come see me at my home… “but what would I give her in return?” My response was “??” Her response was “U look nice but I need 3 bills to come see U”. I thought about this for a minute. Three duck bills? Three dry cleaning bills? Oh. This beautiful R rated woman wants $300 to come to my house. Got it.
Delete, Delete, Delete. Maybe Tinder works for younger people, but I don’t want to have anything on my phone that leads to a sting operation with the Pasco County police. Or worse, I had images of this young lady coming to my home and letting in her jealous “boyfriend” who would then beat me over the head and steal my flat screen TV. Not my style.
Match.com seems to advertise all over the place, so I finally got on the site and had some luck.
I could send a text to an unlimited number of ladies, then they could look at my profile and actually read it, something that no one on Tinder actually does. There aren’t many pictures of me that are decent, but I found a few and put together a profile. I even showed my Match profile to some female friends and they approved.
The advantage of Match is the sheer number of single people who are on the site, from 18 to 80 years old. You can reach out to anyone, and you can filter the search box for variables like distance and age range. The disadvantage is that Match will keep your profile up even years after you cancel the service, which means you might be reaching out to someone who is no longer on the site!
But there is also a feature that shows you who has looked at YOUR profile. I started to text the ladies I liked on Match, then I would look to see if they took a gander at my profile.
There are many kinds of dating sites for many different demographics. FarmersOnly.com for folks who know how to milk a cow and muck out a barn, JDate for people seeking a Jewish partner, Tinder for young people looking to hook up TONIGHT, BlackPeopleMeet.com, Grindr for men seeking men… and many others.
As a 44 year old middle-class guy I discovered that Match.com was the best fit for my stage in life. There are a ton of single people on Match from this area, and users pay a small monthly fee to interact with other singles. Charging a fee eliminates the people who are not serious, or can’t afford $22 a month! I made sure my profile was coherently written and free from egregious grammar errors.
From discussions with several women I discovered that men who can’t write are quickly eliminated from consideration, so are guys with fishing pictures, shirtless gym selfies and pictures of their Corvette. (However, I understand that pictures with your favorite Holstein gets you lots of attention on FarmersOnly.com!)
I tried to design my Match profile in such a way that I came across as an attractive human being with a job who was not harboring Ted Bundy proclivities on the side. After all, the major problem with online dating is the safety issue for women, and since I have 2 adult daughters I worry about this from a father’s perspective. Bill Cosby looked harmless when he was hawking Pudding Pops but he turned out to be a monster, who saw that coming?
In this regard I applaud all the brave women who have the courage to get out there and date online. There are basic ways to be safe; meet someone publically, look them up online, etc… but there will eventually be a point when you are alone with a new boyfriend, and you want to make sure he is a good guy you can trust.
So how does one go from looking at an anonymous profile to sharing a glass of wine at a nice restaurant? I would send her a message (through Match) and ask her if we could have a phone conversation. Apparently there are folks who will text each other forever and never go on a date! The goal is to actually meet, so if I was able to finagle a conversation with someone I could figure out if our personalities were a match before we met.
These conversations were really revealing. I had a phone call with a woman who had stunning pics on Match, she was lovely, no doubt… but I could tell our personalities did not mesh. I told her so over the phone: “You are a beautiful woman, but we are not a match, I can tell from this conversation.”
Then there were the times when the conversation was great… but when I met her she looked NOTHING like her profile pics. This is a common problem with online dating. People use decade old pics from when they were thinner, had less wrinkles, less wear and tear on the old chassis. I tried to use recent pics (last 2 months) on my profile.
For a few months I went on several dates per WEEK, perhaps trying to prove something to myself… and making the mistake of DATING quantity over quality. I’m old-fashioned in that I believe the guy should pick up the tab if he invites a woman out. Dating started to get expensive.
I discovered that being the FIRST to date someone after their marriage has just ended is a waste of time. It takes time to process a divorce, I dated a lovely woman who had been in a 15 year marriage with an abusive spouse, she had a ton of unresolved issues that she had not dealt with yet. My heart went out to her, I was the first guy she kissed since the end of her marriage, but the shadow of her past abuse darkened everything between us.
A little bit of therapy is not a bad thing, especially if you just ended a marriage.
And this is when I realized that I was being a knucklehead.
I was not ready for another relationship, especially after ending a 20 year marriage. I took a realistic assessment of my own life and decided to shut down my Match profile for a few months. I manage a sales team for a solar company, so I invested my time in working with my team. I started teaching a Debt Free class at my church. I took my daughter hiking in the Rocky Mountains and we had a great time together. I even finished writing my third book.
There are times when dating online makes sense, and there are times when that time is better spent working on other goals…
In the first 2 parts of this series I wrote about my experiences with different dating sites, and making the mistake of dating too much before one is ready.
Quick disclaimer; this is written from a 44 year old hetero-male perspective, so some details might be different for a straight woman or someone dating within the LGTB community.
But there are also some things about dating that are universal, no matter your gender or your preference. After taking some time off from dating (and using that time to write, pay down debt, grow my career, etc..) I realized that I wanted a very specific type of partner in my life; someone pretty and nice, with great character and honesty, intelligent and organized, a woman who was impressive in every way.
BUT, in order to attract a great partner with all those amazing characteristics I had to work on the guy in the mirror FIRST.
In order to attract an honest woman I had to make sure MY integrity was unimpeachable! We can’t change a mistake in our character from the past, but we can decide to be unfailingly honest moving into the future. Integrity and character can be intentional.
If I wanted to attract a healthy and attractive partner how was my health? I started to exercise more and clean up my disastrous eating habits. I had been ignoring my health for a few years, it was time to fix that!
If I want to have a partner with good finances how good was I at paying down my debts? For the last few years I had been paying off all my debt, at one point I started teaching the debt free class at my church! During my time off from dating I paid off over $20,000 in mortgage debt…
If I wanted an emotionally stable partner how stable were my own emotions? Sometimes this is hard to self-evaluate. At one point I found myself mourning the loss of my marriage, so I leaned into that and let the tears flow. Emotions come and go, like clouds in the sky… and there was a point when I needed to ask God for forgiveness and move on.
I’ve been single for just over a year now, and I’m ready to meet the right woman. She’s out there right now, maybe even reading this article!
I’ve been blessed with a big heart and the capacity and willingness to really love the right woman. God has a plan for me, and that plan might be a period of time as a single man. 1 year, 5 years, who knows?
One of my big goals is to totally pay off my home in the next year or so, something that very few men in my age range have done. The right type of woman should appreciate a man with that level of work ethic and financial discipline, right?
If you have an unusual online dating story feel free to email me:
Thanks, and Merry Christmas!