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Mature Online Dating – Decoding the Profile

I’m writing this as someone who has been dating online, on and off, for over 5 years now. I’m well on the wrong side of 50 years old, and since I started online dating, I’ve learned a lot about how it works and had some interesting adventures along the way. I’ve also met some great ladies, a few of whom remain close friends.

Prior to that I was fortunate in having a partner for 15 years who I do consider to have been a soulmate, although we met through a dating agency when it was all done by snail mail and not email! We’re still good friends too.

I guess that good 15 years has coloured my view somewhat, as I know what a great relationship can be, and therefore my expectations may be too high.

Maybe I’ve corresponded with maybe 50 ladies in that time, on a variety of site. I’ve met maybe 30, and got to know maybe 8 beyond the first couple of dates. Anyway, if you are just starting out on the internet dating trail, then perhaps I can give you some guidance about the process. Specifically, this article is about decoding the online profile of the lady (from a male perspective), and conversely maybe some of the common mistakes you might avoid in your own profile. I can speak about this because my good lady friends have told me about some of their experiences and disappointments.

We start from the premise that you are an honest and straightforward person. If you are a ‘game player’ then this article is not really written for you – game playing is an approach I don’t understand and cannot therefore provide guidance on. I assume therefore that you are looking for more than a one-night stand.

Just an aside on that subject – one lady told me about going on a first date and during dinner the guy excused himself to go to the bathroom. He didn’t come back – he’d climbed out of the window! She was an attractive and pleasant lady in my eyes and she couldn’t understand what the problem could have been. So, if you are someone who can’t handle at least a couple of hours on a date and exit gracefully on good terms, then you perhaps need to consider how you would handle such a situation.

General Points about Mature Dating
Give some thought to the fact that as you go through life you collect experiences and your ‘personal CV’ gets longer. Similarly on the other side, and so learning about one another takes longer and there is more information to assimilate. That is why many people in the mature age-range can find the process of meeting new people exhausting and slow.

You’ll get used to meeting people who have recently divorced, and maybe haven’t yet come to terms with their new reality. I’ve been on a few dates where the lady has started talking about her marital breakup and started crying at the dinner table. Some people (both genders) take a very long time to get over things such as betrayal and marital breakdown. You may meet ladies who have been widowed and to whom no-one can surpass their husband. Think about these situations and how you might deal with them.  You will need to consider whether the person you are meeting is really ready for a new relationship. And how about you? Are you ready, can you talk comfortably about your recent relationship(s) with a relative stranger?

It’s not unusual after starting to get to know someone over a couple of dates and being disappointed, that you may feel that you need a break from the process. That’s fine, refresh and reflect. Also, think about how you have described your own history and experiences during the dating process.

I sometimes wonder what I used to talk about when I was dating as a student!

Many people will be comfortable with a few days or weeks of emailing back and forth, learning about one another leading to a phone call. That reminds me - during an introductory phone call to a lady, as we were speaking, I thought “her laugh is going to get on my nerves”. We went out for a while, but after a battle trying to organise one another and her decision to emigrate to Australia, our brief time together came to an end. Small things, I did get used to her laugh.

Back to my point – many people don’t want to waste time. Many ladies are naturally cautious, others are gung ho and after a brief chat may suggest an early meeting.

It's a problem if you live a long way apart, and a paradox of online dating that it removes distance, unless of course you have set a maximum distance in your profile. I did once meet someone from overseas, and we flew back and forth a few times. I eventually moved home to be with her, but it just didn't work out. So, perhaps better to meet with people who are nearer (say 50-100 mls maximum), which gives greater flexibility.

Moving on to basic profile details (and I concentrate here on what I see as the ‘hot buttons’ for want of a better phrase) then:

Many people, male and female, do not tell the truth about their age. When you start to mislead, then you know that at some point you will either have to ‘own-up’ or explain. If you continue to hold to the line of untruth then you will likely be found out at some point.

You can’t do anything about your age, except to try and look younger and behave younger, as long as you do not stray too far from being yourself. You can be 60 years old and have a preference for much younger partners – there’s nothing wrong with that, but be honest about it. Remember that there are people on the other side who are looking for older partners too.

So, there’s a possibility that the person you are corresponding with may not be the age they claim, and will probably be older. What about you?

Body Type
Many people will promote themselves as at least one category slimmer than they actually are, assuming of course that they are not in the slimmest category to start with. Bear this in mind, so that you do not get a surprise at that first date. And, of course, most people in this mature dating arena will not be ‘spring chickens’. However, optimism is good!

If there’s no picture on a profile, then it could be for several reasons:

- The person is not technical (though most people today can load a photo or get someone to do it for them)
- The person has just started setting up a basic profile and hasn’t organised a photo yet
- The person doesn’t think other people will find them attractive
- The lady is very attractive and wants to restrict her picture to those who are interested in her profile first. Private photos (e.g. for Favourites Only) help to get around this problem. This is not usually a problem for men, so get your photo loaded straight away (and do try to look happy)! Strangely, it’s the opposite with good looking guys.
- Some people are just nervous about a visible online presence

Photos are important, because if someone’s appearance is not attractive to you, then that’s not a good start (and similarly from the other person’s point of view). That’s the view of the other person. Of course, when it comes to a photo of yourself, then you will get a much lower response if you don’t have one posted! Be fair though, and make it a reasonably recent one.

It’s important to smile in the main picture, and preferably not a forced smile – when posing, just think about a time when you were happy. Think about what you like to see in another person's photo. I don’t particularly like formal studio photographs. On the contrary, photos taken quickly with a mobile phone in poor light will probably not do you justice.

And remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you can always ask for a photo (at the risk of being accused of being shallow, but that in itself is an indicator). I would definitely recommend though that you do include people without photos in your searches. Your main or primary photo though should not include other people's faces. Also, of course, the background often relates to people's pastimes.

This can be important to some people as generally in my view it’s good to be on the same intellectual level as your partner (I have learned the hard way). However, many men find really clever ladies to be intimidating. Some clever ladies know this and may have learned to cover it up. Obviously, the level of education is no reflection of a person’s intellect, in the negative sense. Yes, OK, if they have a doctorate then it’s a sign of high intellect, though you can meet some very clever people who lack basic common sense! On the other hand, some very clever people have never progressed to a high educational level because of their life’s circumstances.

I did get to know, briefly, a lady who didn’t progress beyond high school, but ended up as an aerospace engineer and who is now writing a doctoral thesis.

So, if educational attainment is important to you, then don’t necessarily pass by the lady because of the tick in her educational box.

You will find that quite a few ladies are retired or semi retired. Many will have recently become ‘single’ with the children just having left home. They may be building a social life to fill in their time, and have thrown themselves into a variety of projects. Some may be so busy that you may wonder whether they have time in their life for a man. This can take some adjusting to, particularly if you are retired or semi-retired yourself.

Indeed, after marital breakdown, some may have spent many years without a significant man in their life or period of cohabitation, and that does lead one to question why that should be so. Some divorced/separated ladies throw everything into seeing their children through school; then, when the children fly the coop, they have a big gap in their lives. They then put in considerable effort to fill their diaries. During the years raising the children, they have been in charge of their own lives, taking responsibility and making decisions. This will usually have changed them. Then you come along. Suddenly, they have to consider another person, and you have to work around a full diary. It can be frustrating, particularly if you have a full diary too! So, be prepared to set aside time and be flexible if you want a relationship to flourish.

On the other hand, if you have plenty of time on your hands, and the lady is still working in a demanding occupation, then you may find that planning time together is quite challenging.

What relevance is this to an online profile? Well, these aspects can be apparent in the Narrative. Narratives are important for what is not said, as well as for the statements they contain.

Hair Style
Well, this is one area where your photograph is a dead give-away. You may look at the photograph of the lady and be attracted, then at first meeting find that she looks completely different. Ok, we’re not all shallow and can see past a hairstyle, but don’t go along to first dates with set expectations about looks. That’s why an up-to-date photograph is important, both ways round.

If you are male and bald, then most ladies I have discussed this with do not see that as an issue. Inevitably one or two do, but I think that they are definitely in the minority, and they usually say so in the ‘perfect match’ section of their profile.

Facial & Body Hair
Most ladies don’t fill this box in! But as a man, if you have facial hair then on average it will reduce your attractiveness. I had a short beard for more than 30 years, so I should know – I’ve been told. Be truthful if you have one (or shave it off as I eventually did). And, as a bald man you can always remind them that it's down to an excess of male hormones (make sure you smile when you say it!).

I’ve seen ladies’ profiles where they explicitly mention that male nose and ear hair is a definite no-no, so I keep a suitable trimmer handy and stay neat. I have one friend who regularly suggests trimming my eyebrows, but I’ve drawn the line at that so far. I’ve no experience in, or comments to make, on shaving the other bits of myself, though it can be fun shaving someone else’s!

I’ve met ladies who loathe chest rugs and others who love them. I think you’ve just got to live with what you’ve got!

Personal Narrative
This is the free form area of the profile.

Many narratives contain phrases such as ‘evenings by the log fire’, ‘need man to take charge’, ‘comfortable in my own skin’. Each of these phrases has implications. And how many start off with “Well, here goes, I’ve never done this before….” . That may work for you, but for me it indicates a lack of imagination.

Words and phrases to watch for in narratives:

This is a big one, and most modern guys try to understand it. I think that as men get older they become a bit more aware of it and learn to interpret their own gut feelings, though they might find it difficult to follow those feelings.

Chemistry is not about a twitch in the nether regions, though that can be a part of it! It is about feeling that you really want to know more about the other person, that she excites and interests you and you want to meet again as soon as possible and develop communication. You have to meet to find out if it’s there. My view is that if it isn’t there at first meeting then it will not develop later. If you don’t recognise it then try and watch for the symptoms!

Sometimes you find that it is mentioned explicitly in the narrative (free format) part of the profile, where it is arguably more important than in a drop-down box, as the lady has put it in without prompting.

Ladies are much more tuned in to chemistry than men, and consequently react in ways which we cannot always understand – now there’s a revelation!
Women are much more adept at reading body language – I think men have to consciously work at interpreting it, whereas its almost subconscious with females. Ok, I’ve moved off online profiles into other interesting areas.

So, if you don’t know what chemistry is then start learning.

A big one this. Many ladies like to touch and make contact, hold hands. So do guys for that matter. It tends to be more a female trait in western cultures. Less so in Arabic culture where men holding hands is normal and straight. Perhaps also less an English trait in men – compare the English with the French, Italians or Spaniards. I’m a Celt, so not constrained by Anglo Saxon genes.

If ‘tactile’ is mentioned explicitly in the narrative part of the profile then it may mean that the lady has come out of a relationship where there was little in the way of hand holding, hugging and touching (there might have been at the outset of course, and it has fallen by the wayside as the relationship deteriorated). If you are not comfortable with highly tactile ladies, then be warned. They will not be happy with non-tactile guys.

This is also linked to ‘showing affection in public’, which I will come to later in the section headed ‘Turn-offs and Turn-ons’.

However, there can be another aspect. I’m fairly tactile, and did have a relationship with a lovely lady who was tactile too. However, on occasion, this was misinterpreted and led to a split. This was because there were echoes in my behaviour which triggered memories of a former husband, who had been treated for sexual addiction. In that marriage, the guy being tactile meant one thing only, and often. That led to the course of treatment for him. For me, being tactile is natural and doesn’t need to lead anywhere. So, some things to ponder on there.
Sometimes in a drop down box – eg None, Wacky, Irreverent – sometimes not.

Laughter is a tonic, and many ladies will mention humour in their narratives. Most women consider humour to be an attractive feature in a man, and will mention it in the narrative as a feature of themselves e.g – ‘love to laugh’, ‘wacky’, ‘bubbly personality’. If it’s not mentioned in her profile, and humour is important to you, then it’s definitely something to be explored early on.

Can you laugh at yourself? Some women find this an attractive trait, and I’ve seen it mentioned in profiles on several occasions.

This is a good area in which to raise the issue of whether you are looking for someone who has similar tastes in food, wine, music, humour and so on. I’ve been lucky in that through meeting people on dating sites I’ve been introduced to the music of Mali and reminded of Punk – a whole genre which passed me by.

I’ve also been given guitar lessons.

However, if someone lists only Classical Music under the heading, then that would raise a question with me. I’ve enjoyed the company of a couple of professional classical musicians and they both have wide musical tastes.

So, don’t cross a lady off the list because she has ‘Punk’ as a musical taste, unless it’s the only one she does list!

This is a challenging area. If her profile says ‘never’, then it can mean usually one of three things:

- she has a religious issue or belief
- she is a reforming alcoholic
- a husband, lover or very close relative has been an alcoholic

I did once meet someone who was on her third marriage. Two former husbands had died of alcoholism and the third was also an alcoholic. I think you’ll have guessed by now that she was also a reformed alcoholic, though she had not had a drink for many years.

If you are an alcoholic, then admit it. It’s not fair to imprint your own challenge onto somebody else without being upfront about it. Of course, if you’ve answered ‘yes’ to that question of mine, then you are at least half way to dealing with it.

A dear friend recently told me a story about a guy having a first date with a lady – she’d brought her two young children along to the beach where they met. Then the man suggested that they get the children some ice cream He had no change so gave the lady a £20 note. She left the children with him and went to get the ice creams. Some time later when she had not returned and he said to the children that he wondered why the mother was taking so long. They said “she’s probably in the pub”. They eventually found her, she’d drunk the £20, and was in no fit state to look after the children. This was a first date. What should he have done? Well, he called the police because he didn’t think he should be responsible for the children, who obviously knew that their mother had a problem.

It’s a tough issue to deal with. On the other hand, I did enjoy ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ – Nicolas Cage made up his mind how he was going to go, and just went ahead and did it!

Many online dating sites now add Drug Taking as a box to be filled in. I can’t understand that anyone would admit to ‘heavy drug usage’ – yes , and this is on a reputable dating site. I have to say I have never met anyone who has put anything other then ‘Never’ in that box!

Turn Ons and Turn Offs
For me, these are fascinating topics. It’s probably ok if something which you like – e.g. skinny dipping – does not appear under the ‘Turn Ons’  heading, as long as it does not appear under the ‘Turn Offs’ heading. However, some ladies have low self esteem in regard of body shape (in many cases without justification).

Tattoos frequently appear under the ladies’ ‘Turn Offs’ heading, so if you have tattoos then you will need to work out a way of handling that. There are obvious issues about location and ex-girlfriends names, but generally honesty is the best policy. After all, when you were a young lad in the Navy, everyone had them done. That was a long time ago, you’ve grown up since then and when you’ve got some spare cash then you are planning to have them removed. Well, it’s true isn’t it (or at least the last part is)?

Many ladies have ‘showing affection in public’ as a ‘Turn On’. This could be an issue for some men, so you’ll need to consider this if it’s a difficulty for you. A few ladies don’t mention it, and I’ve only known one for whom it was a ‘Turn Off’. It turned out that this lady suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, and she hadn’t connected the two facts until I suggested it to her.

Some ladies are confident enough to list ‘Erotica’ as a ‘Turn On’. I avoid it in my own profile as I think it could be seen in a negative light.

Wealth and Power appear about 50/50 as ‘Turn Offs’ and ‘Turn Ons’ in my experience.

The Way Ladies see You
Well, I’ve had a few disappointments in this area. I have an all embracing passion for sailing, and several ladies have contacted me and purported to be sailors. It’s not a good strategy – no way could I pretend to be a golfer for instance. They soon get found out.

So, if mountaineering, cave diving or flying are amongst your passions, and you are looking for someone to share it with, then be blunt about it.

OK, sailing is not an everyday pastime, but I hope you get my drift.

Vive la Difference!

Check my SailingSoulmates Blog!




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