Monday, June 21, 2010

Finding love at 40

I was lucky enough to find the love of my life at a young age, but can’t help but wonder how hard it must be for friends who are still ‘out there’ in their 30s or even 40s. I genuinely don’t know if I would have the energy for dressing up and heading out to bars and other public places in hope of meeting the one over a casual cocktail.

I can certainly see the appeal of online dating for busy and older professional men and women. In fact, I know several couples in committed long-term relationships who met online. According to social dating website, Oasis Active, men and women over the age of 36 years make up over 30 per cent of those signed up and looking for love online.

At 50-something, Australian psychologist Andee Jones headed out to the world wide dating web looking  for companionship with a view to love, but not marriage. The result was Kissing Frogs – a true but cautionary tale of the pleasures and pitfalls of the online dating scene.

So, what advice does Andee have for the thousands of Australians who reportedly sign-up to social dating websites each month? “I wish everyone well in the lottery,” Andee writes. “Watch out for danger signs – losing track of the hours and days spent glued to the profiles, trawling in the wee small hours, forgetting to eat, palpitations, and so forth.

“Tip? Meet the BigBoys and the Blonde-nurseys in the flesh sooner rather than later, and on safe ground.”

Check out this extract from Andee’s book Kissing Frogs. Well worth a read:

I leave a voice message for him. So do eighty or so other women. Mr Former tertiary lecturer contacts every woman who leaves a half-decent message and meets more than thirty. He’s taking the idea seriously. Mr Former tertiary lecturer—‘Call me Mitch’—phones and suggests we meet for a cuppa. I recommend a certain laid-back bayside café with an upstairs balcony overlooking the water. ‘I’ll be in jeans and a white T-shirt,’ says Mitch. I’ll be sporting a red scarf.

I get there early, sit out on the terrace, eyeing the skittering yachts and watching for Mitch’s arrival, scanning all possible entry points including amphibious. This is my first dinky-di date since 1967. So, I muse, how did I meet the other men in my life? I met my one and only hubby at school, we got pregnant, married, had two children, and separated in the space of four years. Dating simply didn’t occur among my set in the seventies—we just hung out together at a handful ofcommunal houses and social happenings and fell in and out of love. If a man was interested in you or—praise be for the seventies—vice versa, you just kept turning up at the other’s group house and edging in closer until something happened one way or the other.

Up on the terrace I can’t sit still, want to run away, but somehow stay, sit, attend fitfully to my book, fine tune my scarf. Should I appear to be lost in Bridget Jones as Mitch arrives or should Bridget lie casually, calmly, coolly closed on the table? Should I wave my scarf in greeting or pretend I haven’t noticed his approach? The book lies. I wave. Too late to walk away. The man who waves and smiles hello couldn’t look more at ease with himself, with the world, with dating. Tanned and taut of body, attractive of face and manner, fabulous smile, Mitch has an open-faced dignity about him, a lowkey quietly confident demeanour, Adonis’s gift, perhaps, to the older woman. Introducing himself, Mitch shakes my hand.
‘What a lovely spot;’ he says, sitting down next to me, ‘thanks for choosing it.’

Looking out over the bay, we while away a few hours and cappuccinos, chatting about books, philosophy, politics, families. I’ve confessed to Mitch that I’m nervous on this first date in forty years and he has put me at ease. He tells me the more dating one does, the easier it gets. He should know. I’m roughly his thirtieth this month. Mitch admits to being eight years older than he had advertised, a pensioner, and partly disabled by a chronic ailment. He’s an engaging man, a first-class communicator, genuine, kind, intelligent, generous. A feminist in philosophy and, as far as I can tell, in action. I can imagine him in his nineties still beating ’em off with his walking stick, good company in or out of a walking frame. Mitch and I part warmly, neither of us mentioning the idea of meeting up again. With thirty dates on the scoreboard and marriage in his sights, Mitch has some weighing up to do, and I’m pleased just to have survived my first foray into the game.

Are there, I wondered after meeting Mitch, lots of engaging Mr Former tertiary lecturers out there? Why not place my own ad? ‘Former tertiary educator,’ I write [it had worked for Mitch], ‘artistic, smart, open-minded, looking for winter escape from televised sport into conversation and laughs….’ Six weeks of advertising, eight respondents max. The first one, inarticulate with rage, splutters, ‘Cor… you’re so far up yourself; I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone so far up herself! Cor….’ The second guy doesn’t say a lot either, merely, ‘You say you’re open-minded but I don’t care whether your mind is open; are your legs open?’

Mitch invites me to a movie at The George and dinner in Fitzroy Street. I’m chuffed to have made Mitch’s short list, but we both know he wants to marry in haste and that I’m just beginning this game. Over the scaloppini and Shiraz I tell Mitch about the two replies to my Personals ad. Glowing in the candlelight, Mitch commiserates with me. ‘How disappointing,’ he says, ‘it wouldn’t have happened had you been a man. No woman would dream of being so rude. Don’t be disheartened.’ As you would say if you’d been dating thirty attractive, appreciative women. Mitch and I say goodbye, wishing each other well in our respective searches. No doubt some lucky woman is pleased she carted home The Age that Saturday. I imagine Mitch met his match, and I meant to meet more Mitches…

Andee is a Melbourne-based psychologist, writer, and former academic. The book is currently being adapted for the stage by AFI-award-winning actor Annie Byron. Available July for $24.95 rrp.

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