I’ll state the obvious, right away. The dating scene is a confusing, frustrating, often disappointing place. Sometimes, though, it works very well. These truisms are multiplied for singles over 60, and multiplied again if you’re an over 60 LGBT, and once again if you’re LGBT living in a small Midwestern community.
My day planner says this week is Meet A Mate Week. I laughed when I spotted it. It’s certainly going to take more than a week, for me. The last time I tried this was about 20 years ago. Even then, dating and searching for a long term relationship seemed more like a job hunt. It took at least as much effort and discernment.
One of my heterosexual friends went through similar straits at the same time, so we were a small support network for each other. It was helpful to compare notes and share suggestions. He found a wonderful companion and eventually married her. I came up with plenty of false starts. It was after I became disheartened and gave up that someone special appeared. One night, out of the blue, he phoned me at work. After awhile, we became a couple. Now, some 13 years later, the dating scene awaits, again.
Arranged partnerships and marriages are rare in the West and becoming more so elsewhere. Personally, I’m glad, because my life would have been incredibly messed up if I would have been pressured into an arranged marriage. Yet, I’ve often wondered what life would be like if parents of LGBT offspring arranged same sex partnerships for their queer kids. Oh well, dream on.
We singles can choose from a bewildering variety of dating options. These are all complicated by virtue of national culture, religious affiliation, social class, income level, age, gender, and sexual orientation. We can add to this list, rapidly changing social mores and technology.
The most unnerving part of dating is finding potential dates. Young people have the advantage of a large dating pool already, because school provides many opportunities to meet potential dates in a relatively safe atmosphere. Many successful adult partnerships begin life as a result of contacts made through work, either by referal from coworkers or dating coworkers themselves. Coworker dating comes with a lot of handicaps and is often discouraged. I once dated a coworker for several months; it didn’t turn out well. Our time together at work became quite awkward.
Some people have found agreeable partners through their social circles. Some people meet during parties or a mutual friend introduces them to each other. Many times, these are blind dates. Besides work or friends, some singles meet through other social connections linked to hobbies, public service organizations, newspaper/magazine classified ads, speed dating, and even political campaigning or activism. I once dated a guy I met while working at the regional Bobby Kennedy campaign headquarters. We had a lot of other interests in common, too.
The Internet has enabled many new ways to meet potential dates. There’s a baffling array of dating websites and meet up sites. The options, frustration, and potential dangers are not for the faint of heart. We may have heard about eHarmony, Match dot com, Adult Friend Finder, or OK Cupid. I’ve encountered some specialty sites like Tastebuds.fm that matches dates according to music tastes and VeggieMatchMakers, the Vegan and Vegetarian dating site.
If you’re only looking for a hook-up, there is Grindr for gay guys and Blendr for straight folks. Personally, I avoid Grindr and the many other hook-up sites because I’m looking for a long term relationship.
The list of dating and hook-up sites is long and filled with a mix of positive and questionable places to search for romance. So, if your date search will take place online, do your homework and scrutinize potential Internet dating services carefully.
We can reasonably expect to find realistic representations of potential dates online if we keep our wits about us. There is a lot of trial and error when dating off-line or online. I’ve learned to watch for tell-tale deception and unreasonable inflation of descriptions and expectations. If a long term relationship candidate requests an explicit photograph, I take that as a red-flag and drop him. This is not out of line if you’re using a hook-up site, but impersonal hookups are not my thing.
I expect honesty so I express polite honesty. I make sure to accurately describe my physical attributes and age. My profile also includes a recent photo of myself. I’ve been surprised, more than once, by meeting someone who looks completely different than his profile and photo led me to believe. It’s best to be honest up-front because the truth will eventually be known, anyway.
Safety should be utmost. The daily headlines report date rape, robbery, mayhem, and even murder. Intimate partner violence happens across the age spectrum, all cultures, religions, social classes, and sexual orientations. We must take reasonable measures to protect ourselves but not become paranoid. It helps to carefully screen dating candidates.
Then, when you find a potential partner, make it a date for coffee or something dutch treat, and be sure it is in a public place. If it is dinner or a fancy treat, there will be a sense of obligation.
When going out, make sure a friend or family member knows where you’re going and with whom you’re meeting. Never leave drinks unattended, even for a few moments. Before your date, be certain to plan an iron-clad exit strategy in case the date goes bad.
I’m certainly not a dating expert, so continue to investigate dating sites, potential dates, and exercise prudent care during the first few dates. I like to get to know the other person by asking friendly questions but not by conducting an interrogation. A few times I felt like I was being investigated by the KGB. I wondered when he’d bring out the bright spotlights and water torture. This is a major turn-off.
A trustworthy college mentor once quoted William Shakespeare as dating advice. My psych professor said I would understand the meaning of this famous quotation if I’m on the right track. “Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night ’til it be ‘morrow.”