I know a talented, vivacious, woman living in Greenwich Village, who creates fixed and ephemeral art installations in New York and Rome. She’s fifty-eight and single. Which probably accounts for her success as an artist. But cynicism aside, she no longer wants to be single. So she asked for my help creating a profile on OKCupid.
I told her to post recent photos, write what gets her creative juices flowing, all the ways she’s interesting and not insist on a checklist of what she was looking for in a mate. I thought her final profile looked superb. But about three weeks later she wrote to me to say she was getting absolutely nowhere. I initially assumed she was simply waiting for the men to come to her and figured she needed to get a little proactive. But she told me she had written thoughtful messages to at least thirty men and had yet to procure a single date. In fact, most of them never wrote back.
I knew from my own experience that women get more dates if they’re willing to make the first bid for connection. So why was my friend striking out? She’s lovely. And there’s no reason why a similar aged man wouldn’t enjoy coffee and a chat with her. So I did some research into how an older woman might increase her online desirability. What I found was disheartening.
What OKCupid’s cornucopia of self-analysis data shows is that, while older women on the site generally send messages to men around their own age, older men overwhelmingly message women much younger than themselves. Yep. Not only that, but after age forty, the number of women using OKCupid overtakes the number of men using it, so the pool of suitable suitors is not only smaller for these women, but their similar aged counterparts appear averse to dating them.
Do men simply not want to grow up?
I put this question to a friend other night who I met myself on OKCupid and who is four years my senior. His response smacked me right upside the head.
“Well, in my experience, women don’t tend to be as enthusiastic about sex once they reach a certain age. My ex-wife went off me after she had the kids. So I guess, in the back of my mind, I’d message women younger than myself hoping that their interest in sex would keep pace with my own.”
“Yeah, OK,” I said. “But would you seriously date a woman in her twenties?”
“Well, no. Not date one. But have sex with one? Maybe.”
This is a tricky issue for those of us beyond fifty. In many ways we’re in our prime; career wise, financially, finally comfortable with who we are and where we’re going. But menopause is a notorious libido killer. And yet men don’t suffer the same precipitous drop in their hormones of desire as women do; their testosterone levels decrease very gradually. Whereas a woman’s hormone levels, once those ovaries have gone into hibernation, drop like a stone. Men also have little blue pills that allow even the most overworked willy to function like that of a teenager. And though medical science has been beavering away at the holy grail of synthetic sex, there is still no pill available to drive a middle aged woman to want a lusty shag at the drop of a hat.
But here’s my advice: Men, don’t assume a middle-aged women isn’t capable of being the best lover you’ve ever had. We’re confident, more experienced and generally more accepting of your sags and our own than those younger gals. A woman who hasn’t had a lover for a while is going to surprise you with her enthusiasm. She may very well let you do that thing you want to do because she’s more relaxed than the young ones.
Women, just because sex became a chore with the person you were raising kids with and fighting with, you may find yourself on fire again for a new lover. A neighbor of mine started having the best sex of her life in her 70’s when she discovered unprecedented chemistry with a man she met online. Desire is cerebral and doesn’t necessarily require robust levels of estrogen and testosterone. Which is another reason why men would be better off seducing women their own age who can match them mentally. A healthy attitude and an open mind can do wonders for vaginal lubrication. So can Astroglide.
Dating in middle age can be fraught and fantastic. It can also take time, lots of time, as our choices are fewer. But get rid of your assumptions about age and look instead for spark, for ambition and openness. Look beyond wrinkles. Good sex is not about having a great body and a high aerobic threshold. It’s about finding a partner who is giving and game. And in my experience, those qualities are more abundant in those who have been around the block several times already.
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