Where Are All The Middle-Aged Men?

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Lots of men in their 40s are active in online dating, but none of them seem to want a woman born in the same decade, says Lori Day.

In the last 11 days, 47 men have viewed my profile. I think that should make me feel good about myself, although for all I know, the lady who dives the Great Barrier Reef and rides her Harley on weekends has been viewed 147 times.

When I initially ventured into online dating, I had the usual first-timer’s skepticism and it definitely got worse. Who are these people who claim to manage hedge funds while running marathons, building houses in Honduras, and climbing Kilimanjaro in their spare time? There are hundreds of virtual lives like this, although I have never met someone with a real life like this. I certainly hope they have installed yield signs on Kilimanjaro with the foot traffic there approaching a stampede.

So what’s a 45-year-old woman who doesn’t snowboard supposed to do? One-upmanship when it comes to adventure-seeking is really one-upmanship in the mating game, and neither are competitions I care to enter. I like to play games I can possibly win. Like Scrabble.

How much weight would a travel set of Scrabble add to my pack if I did decide to take on Kilimanjaro? Knowing me, I’d soon be choosing between paying the African equivalent of a Sherpa to haul me up the mountain on a backboard, and tossing my Scrabble set and all other belongings over the side of the mountain like Bill Bryson’s friend did on the Appalachian Trail. Either way, I likely would not be conscious at the moment of summiting, although this detail could be left out of my online profile. 

One thing that can’t be left out of my online profile is my age, and its numerical placement right below my photo, before a click can reveal anything of my written personality description. The problem with that is not my own feelings about my age, but the feelings that my single male romance-seekers have about my age.

In ninth-grade geometry I learned about inductive and deductive reasoning, and the lesson has stuck with me. Because the vast majority of emails I get through my dating site are from men 15 to 20 years older than me, inductive reasoning tells me that I hold irresistible appeal to older men. Because my stated age preference of 40 to 50 pulls up virtually no men in their 40’s, despite their presence in great numbers on my dating site, deductive reasoning tells me that they have set mandatory age parameters excluding women within their own age range. I can see their profiles by browsing, but they have cast their cyber net for younger fish. What’s up with a man who sets age parameters that do not go up to, and include, his own age? I am torn between indifference and outrage. This hypocrisy bugs me so much, but why should I care? Maybe because I’d rather suffer delusion than despair.

Here’s my problem, and I guess it’s sociological. I have seen so many women marry men who were 10 to 20 years older than them. That’s fine. Not criticizing it. It’s a personal choice. But here’s what I’ve seen happen to all of them: They spend their 60’s nursing sick, declining husbands, and are then widowed for the last 15 to 20 years of their lives, at which point women outnumber men 10:1, and most end up in nursing homes alone, surrounded by other elderly women. I’d rather avoid that.

From an evolutionary standpoint, the dating double standard makes sense. Older women can’t have children anymore, but older men can, and so, some say, they seek younger women with whom they can theoretically mate. But it’s the 21st century. The planet is overcrowded. Most of these men on my dating site already have children and even grandchildren. Furthermore, it’s a bit of a cliche, the exclusive seeking of younger women, and not merely Darwinian survival of the gene pool.

And I’ve read a lot about the other reasons men are drawn to younger women. OK, but here’s how I look at that: Women outlive men by seven years on average, so from that standpoint it makes sense for the woman to be older and the man younger. But then those women get called cougars.

I’m not interested in way younger men. I’m also not into men who have online photos that look like my dad. Sorry, no offense, but I can’t help it. I just want to date a man born in the same decade as me. Is that so wrong?

Fortunately for me, my thus-far failed quest to secure my first new relationship since the Reagan administration has brought me a lot more laughter than disappointment. What could be more entertaining than the window on midlife culture in America provided by my laptop monitor from the comfort of my living room? Perhaps the biggest belly laugh so far arose from a discussion with my teenage daughter, who considers herself a feminist yet mumbled to me that it was at least “less gross” for older men to be going after younger women than the other way around. I don’t think either of us will soon forget the conversation that ensued from that comment. Chalk one up for mom.

My best friend told me that my analysis of the online dating scene is prematurely negative, since it only takes one good apple, and that apple is surely out there. She also told me that the best way to meet men is to engage in an activity you enjoy for its own sake, without attempting to use it as a vehicle to meet men. 

I wonder how many 40-something men join Scrabble clubs? On second thought, I wonder if I could learn to ride a Harley? At the very least, that might get me to the top of Kilimanjaro where all the middle-aged men are hanging out.

(Note to readers: This was written five years ago. I did finally find my one good apple on Match.com.)

Lori Day is an educational psychologist and consultant with Lori Day Consulting in Newburyport, MA, having worked previously in the field of education for over 25 years in public schools, private schools, and at the college level. She writes and blogs about parenting, education, children, gender, media, and pop culture. You can connect with Lori on FacebookTwitter, or Google+.

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