When I first realized that I would be out on the ‘dating scene,’ going through a divorce at sixty-five years old, I had no idea that would occur during a pandemic. When I thought about dating, I remembered back to when I last went out at twenty-two, before I was engaged to my future husband.
Dating at that time, in the 1970s, was all about being in-person. The guys were usually classmates or friends with one of my girlfriends or cousins. In high school, he may have been someone I saw regularly in my community– maybe working at a store, or attending the same church or youth group. During college, he could have lived in the same apartment complex or ridden a Chapel Hill City bus to campus. I knew what he looked like, what he sounded like, and I could guess about his values from who he hung out with; or so I thought. I was sure of his height, the way he dressed, his age, and the activities he engaged in. I knew the car he drove–whether it was a family hand-me-down or a sporty one he’d worked hard to buy.
But now, dating in 2021, things are different.
With the pandemic, sheltering in place has cut out the ways I’ve primarily met people in the community– through my dances. Church has been virtual and all other groups have moved to either not meeting or virtual formats. If I wanted to move forward with finding a new relationship, my only choice seemed to be on-line dating. I’ve had family and friends to meet their spouses that way so I don’t see that as unusual; it’s just untested by me.
When I told one of my friends, who is the same age as me, that I was going to set up an on-line dating account, I could see the disappointment on her face.
“Well, I hope you’ll find someone the regular way.”
We’d shared our dating stories as teens when we were going out with guys we’d met in the community, through friends or family, at school or church.
“I’d like that, too. But I just can’t wait for that to happen,” I defended. None of us knew when things would return to pre-COVID normal and the ability to meet people like we used to. Besides, I thought. I’m not good at waiting; I’ve never been good at waiting.
I would give on-line dating a try; at least I would feel I was moving forward during the pandemic– making small steps toward finding a new love in my life.
I developed a profile– that description of myself that included my personality, values, activities I enjoyed, and what I was looking for in a relationship. Then I uploaded pictures– a headshot as the primary, and others that showed me with my sons, my grandsons, dancing, hiking, and a couple from my solo journeys to show my adventurous side. When I felt the profile and pics were an accurate reflection of me, I hit SAVE and stepped into the Brave New World of on-line dating.
It took a while to get used to the first site I chose– OurTime which was one of the top five for Seniors. There’s a learning curve with anything technical, and I had to experiment with how you check to see if someone Liked your profile or pic or had sent a message. I soon learned that if you checked Like and didn’t put in a message, that site would do it for you. I was aghast when I saw the message I’d supposedly sent. “I really like your profile. Feel free to send me a message.”
“I didn’t say that,” I fumed. What I thought I’d done was simply liked a picture and didn’t want to go as far as saying “send me a message.” To my ears, that sounded ‘forward’ as we’d have called it back when I was young. As a girl, I was raised that the guy was the one to initiate a phone call or asking you out. It felt too direct to be that specific, up front about wanting the guy to respond to me.
But that wasn’t how it was in these ‘new days’ as my younger son used to refer to his time period, reminding me when he was in sixth grade, “Mama, these are the new days.” I would have to get over my shyness, my reserve that came from those early years of restraint–watching older kids dating when I was a girl in the sixties, and experiencing dating as a teen in the seventies.
In searching for a picture of online dating for seniors I liked this one because it made me laugh. Online dating is for all ages in all parts of the world; love is not bound by age.
Eventually, I learned how to use the OurTime platform. I’d heard so many people who’d done on-line dating say that it was a numbers game: the more people you meet, the more your chances increase of finding someone. I thought about it like what I’d heard about Dean Smith, the beloved coach of the UNC basketball team for many years. As I remember, players had to shoot at least a 100 free throws after each practice. The whole idea was the more shots you put up, the higher number of baskets you’d make–which would later translate into clutch shots at the free throw line in those notoriously tight games.
Likewise, the more profiles you responded to with online dating sites, the more likely that you’d land that love of your life. Eventually, with this numbers game in mind, I joined other sites– comfortable with the similarities in how they worked. It was hard to account for all the time and effort it took to maintain a presence on each site: checking several times a day who’d viewed you, messages you may want to respond to, reviewing new matches and checking yes or pass– sometimes called swiping left or right. When I described the process to one of my friends, she said it sounded like too much work, that she’d just wait to meet someone the way we used to; she was holding out for the regular way.
There were times it felt very frustrating and like too much work.
One day, I was fussing at God about it, saying I didn’t think it was fair that I had to go through divorce; it wasn’t what I’d counted on, especially not at this point in life. I ranted about all the time it took, the up-and-down roller coaster of emotions given whether I got Likes or didn’t, whether the ones I was interested in messaged me back. After I actually went for coffee meetups and a couple of hikes, I complained that it felt like a waste of time. I spent so much energy anticipating then going on those dates and then when I met the guy– he barely resembled his picture. I’d come to another low point in the process of moving forward.
But, like usual, after all my fussing and fuming, finally exhausted from my irritation then anger, God’s presence settled me down. I was able to hear that ‘still small voice’ that is tucked away inside, waiting for me to be quiet.
“Just approach this as your new Solo Journey. See these guys as the ‘people in your path.’ “
On the Solo Journeys I’ve taken over the years, I start each day with the prayer, “God, bless me and the people in my path–for their good and mine.” I go forward that day watching who’ll show up, seeing them as destined to be part of that journey, knowing we will have an impact on one another. Some of them are helpful– giving me directions or suggesting local haunts I should visit; some of them share their stories and gives me a new perspective; some of them show acceptance of me in ways I haven’t accepted myself; some of them show me new ways of being that I hadn’t considered.
Now, these guys who show up in my on-line dating path will do the same for me–and me for them. They are the people in my path.
That message from God has helped me to reframe this new venture of dating in the new days. I still have times of getting frustrated, my hopes going up and down, and at times, feeling invigorated. And like the basketball players, I have to keep putting up the shots so that one day, it will all pay off.
I know that most of you are not dealing with this on-line dating situation, but I have to wonder if you might be traveling, or needing to travel, a new path. Is there a new journey you’re being called to that you’re resisting– because it’s not your regular way of doing things? Is there a way to settle down, and hear that still small voice inside that is calling you to a different way of seeing things?
My hope is that we all can be present to whatever challenge is pulling us and that we’ll listen for God’s direction for how to navigate through what we hadn’t anticipated, what is the task at hand to take our life to where it’s to be.
Blessings on you as you find your way down your path.