I use online dating tools to meet people.
I also coach daters of all ages and genders (including my own mom) on how to successfully navigate the world of online dating.
And I’ve learned that online dating has a serious prejudice: our age.
Okay, the entire world has a problem with aging but, the dating world is especially cold and harsh when it comes to age and the love selection process. With our instantaneous swipe right or left dating culture, most of us make a judgment about a potential date based solely on age and a photograph.
It’s ironic, given that the majority of us using dating apps are supposedly searching for the love of our lives or soul mates. You’d think we would take a little more time and care on this search instead of making snap judgments based on a number.
Does anyone even look like their age or photograph anymore? Everyone is getting their pictures and faces doctored these days! And what happened to exploring each other’s chemistry and commonalities? I know that requires meeting someone in person but isn’t finding lasting love worth it?
As a single person, I go out all the time and use online dating as a backup plan. I also change up my routines, which increases the likelihood of meeting new people. I often tell my single clients who’ve experienced ageism online to do the same.
The topic of age is never the first thing to come up when you first meet someone in the real world.
I’m not saying the real world dating experience isn’t filled with ageist singles too, but it is different from the virtual world. I was sitting at my local bar and restaurant a few weeks ago, contemplating this very blog when a vivacious, well-dressed, single Latin man sat down next to me. From the corner of my eye, I saw him look me over so I turned to him and smiled politely. (If you’re not interested in someone, being kind or polite even if it’s to say, “No, thank you,” is good practice for all involved.)
“Cheers!” I raised my whiskey to meet his Kahlua and cream. Not exactly a match made in drink heaven but I was more interested in hearing his perspective on dating and age.
He smiled like a Cheshire cat, (always a warning sign for someone who is seriously looking to settle down) With those perfectly white teeth flashing, he adjusted his cuff to add his pricey watch to the display. He was once the un-loved, penniless dishwasher from Ecuador who couldn’t speak English. Today he declared himself to be the well-dressed, highly paid man, with two master’s degrees under his belt looking for the love of his life.
Cheers to that! To ever-lasting love! We toasted our drinks as he talked more about his love life. What was his criteria for this soon-to-be-lucky lady? How was his process working out so far, I wondered.
He scanned the restaurant as we chatted. (I assumed searching for his next conquest…I mean soul mate.) Then, he rolled his eyes referring to a group of joyful diners made up of older men with younger women and gave a chastising sigh. The one thing that bothered him most about dating in L.A., he said, was that.
I raised my eyes and turned to look at the table of men and women. What I saw was a group of men and women having a good time. What he saw was “gross” and “weird.” He didn’t understand how all these young women in L.A. could date older men.
I put my glass down. I was not toasting that ageist statement. Ageism in the real world happens too, it’s just a little quieter and less direct but equally as offensive.
Weird? Gross? I wonder if he knew I was older than him? He certainly had no idea that I was just like those girls he just judged. My first serious boyfriend was 35 and I was 18. He asked my parents permission to date me and it was a lovely relationship. I’ve been happily dating older ever since.
Dating older also occurs more among heterosexual women than men. It’s a known fact that most women date older starting in high school while men of the same age don’t. It’s more of an emotional maturity issue than anything else but, this dating older pattern continues for many women well into college and as the enter the workforce.
When it comes to dating, there is a social stigma attached to age. We have all these unspoken rules about acceptable age brackets, and reasons why we won’t date someone because of their age.
It is forcing too many of us into shame, causing us to lie about our age and spend tons of money on invasive and non-invasive cosmetic procedures so we don’t get judged, trashed or rejected because we are too old or too young. (Yes, ageism happens to the young as well).
“What’s gross about it?” I asked
“Without making sweeping generalizations…” he said. I smiled. Too late. But, it’s okay we all do it. He continued, “…these girls must have father issues and they just want to be taken care of.”
Okey-dokey! Time to get my bill. This conversation had given me enough fuel to go home and finish my blog.
As I was leaving, I reminded him:
1. Everyone has issues. It’s called being human, and
2. Everyone wants to be taken care of in one way or another if we are looking for a relationship (which he claimed he was) with someone else. Otherwise, we’d choose to stay single.
He proudly stated that he had no issues and of course had no interest in being taken care of. He was completely independent. Of course! And that’s when I said good night to my perfect friend.
The problem with an ageist attitude in dating is it is preventing people from falling in love with someone who could be perfect for them.
The search for love should motivate us to let others in, not wall them out with silly barriers like a number.
Ageism effects all genders, ages, and sexual orientations. And although engaging in a little white lie about our age may seem like it’s the only way to break that age-shaming barrier, there is another option. We can choose not to not play the age game at all. We can choose to set a new standard in the dating world by embracing our own age and that of others. Set a new trend!
The only person who should be concerned about age is a woman who desires to biologically have her own children and be in a relationship. Age and fertile eggs do go hand in hand and that is legitimate. But, even that timeline has significantly increased due to longevity and technology.
The reality is, we can’t control aging and the alternative to aging isn’t so great.
We can control our judgments and points of view. We can work on changing our behaviors and prejudices one number at a time. We can use compassion, love and acceptance as a guide in the dating world by saying yes to number that may seem outside our acceptable age bracket, and test the waters by meeting up with that person.
And when you come across someone who just wants to stay shut down, judgmental and closed-minded, pay the tab and walk away. We help change others by changing our own behaviors first.
No need to stay engaged in a conversation with someone who is ageist when walking away is a much stronger statement.
Stop playing the ageism game in dating and play the love game with an open non-judgmental heart instead.
Love is more about celebrating what you have in common and learning how to import what we each have to offer that’s different from one another. Even if that difference is based on age.
More on dating outside your age bracket:
Author: Heather Dawn
Editors: Khara-Jade Warren; Sara Kärpänen