One thing about being older is realizing life isn’t going to deliver everything you once hoped, and when you look back at your decisions you regret more the things you didn’t do than the things you did. You do get braver.
I’ve done lots of research on second-time-around single life, and there are pitfalls aplenty (follow back the tags on website dating), but whether you want to meet a man for company, or just wish you knew more people, the dating websites are a useful resource. Life isn’t going to drop Mr Right straight into your outstretched hand – Mr Will Do Nicely is the most you can really hope for – but don’t waste your wonderful Indian summer in vague restlessness, sitting lonely at home.
The idea of a singles website, especially for mature singles, is that you look for people near you, read profiles, and if you like the look of someone, shyly indicate interest by whatever means the website provides, or send a cautious message. When you’ve exchanged enough messages to feel fairly confident this is a real person, not a scammer, you might exchange purpose-specific email addresses, phone numbers . . . the usual process towards meeting.
I do know a lovely woman who spotted a man in her own village and cut through all the conventions. She sent a message saying ‘tea at 3.30 tomorrow in the Ivy café?’ She is sixty one, he is sixty four, and they got married seven months later, shining with happiness. Those are the stories that fuel the huge singles market, and although they are the exceptions rather than the rule, they do happen. As often as lottery wins: but like the lottery, got to be in it to win it.
Every older man on a singles website can tell you he gets messages, practically daily, from gorgeous young women far far away, speaking slightly fractured English but so charming that he can’t resist replying. Pretty early on she’ll suggests something like, ‘I come to you. These are my bank details. Send money for flight, I love you long time.’ There are genuine success stories, men a little long in the tooth proudly posing for photographs with their lovely young golden-coloured wives, but most of the time money flies, the girl doesn’t.
However, this blog is for us autumn roses, and that exciting moment when a rather nice bloke is showing a really flattering amount of interest. Trouble is, he’s hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles away. Blast. You really enjoy his messages, he’s funny and interesting, and he looks out eagerly for yours and responds promptly. The attraction is instant, and mutual. Phew. Suddenly the local guys look rather boring. And you do need a holiday . . .
Whoa, Silver, don’t get carried away. There are a lot of conmen out there, and some are very good at their job, and make a nice living from women who are flattered and susceptible. There are also a lot of damaged men a sensible woman wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. An eligible man coming on the market gets fixed up so quickly by his friends’ wives he barely touches ground between the last relationship and the next, never mind having time to sign onto a singles website. The only way this lovely man you’re flirting with hasn’t been snapped up locally will be because either he isn’t actually lovely, or he’s blotted his local copybook.
But the man you found is different – yes, I know he is. Just don’t, to continue the horse metaphor, rush those fences. You like each other’s messages, emails and texts. You’ve exchanged flattering photographs, and you like those too. Stage one is going well. However, some LDR relationships never move off the launching pad, and I wrote a blog about those. Do you have matching expectations? Not all men want to meet up. Lots of women don’t. Don’t assume, never assume . . .
Stage two: you do need to talk on Skype. Go buy a webcam, if you don’t have one. You’ll look hideous on camera but everyone does. When you’re over 50, webcams can be downright spiteful. They seek out folds, creases and sags that you never even noticed you had! Experiment with lighting before you go live – sometimes the best is the brightest. Not exactly mood lighting, but at least you won’t look like Deputy Dawg. I’ve said this before, by the way, but never, ever, do anything on Skype you don’t want photographed – the facility is built in, you won’t even know the photo has been taken.
Create a separate Skype account for experimental chats. Use the name (and password) you use on the singles website for maximum convenience.
The webcam really is worth it, even if you go off each other instantly. (Well, especially if you go off each other instantly!) It is impossible to hide during a live conversation. Maybe he can’t meet your eyes, or his mouth hangs restfully open between sentences. Those wonderful flowing speeches in his letters are now halting conversation, with lots of ums and ahs. You sign off after a polite half hour with a sigh of both relief and regret.
What if you don’t go off him, but the mutual attraction increases? If this continues to grow legs and keep moving, you are going to have to consider stage three, and we aren’t talking tea at the Ivy. Because of the distance, this is a weekend. Or a week. Phew!
Others may disagree, but I wouldn’t invite him to your patch. An attractive, available, ideal, man is rarer than hen’s teeth and you are about to learn why this seeming catch is on the market. Don’t assume, never assume . . .He’s definitely flawed. He’s probably dodgy. He could be a full-blown nutter: do you really want him knowing where you live?
You can meet halfway, on neutral territory. The convention for that is that each pay their own flights, and the man pays for the accommodation. You’re both mature adults, and the accommodation is likely to be a double. In your position, I would discreetly contact the hotel and check other rooms are likely to be available at short notice. Just in case. Even if he is otherwise wonderful, he may turn out to snore like a foghorn.
If he lives in a part of the world you particularly want to visit, or you want to be sure he’s not married, going to his is the third option. It is the most alarming: you will be in a country where you know no-one, may not speak the language, and are risking spending time 24/7 with someone who could be truly scary. At least we autumn roses are unlikely to be sold into sordid slavery, but he could drink, do drugs, have dangerous mood swings, be subject to violent rages if thwarted. Of course that’s true of any older single man you meet, even the guy in the next village, and you’ve talked so much, written so much to each other, that you know him far better, in some ways, than you will ever know the man in the next village. There is something about him, and you could wonder, for the rest of your life, if you should have taken the chance.
Tell someone where you are going, who you are meeting, all the safety stuff. Arrange to be in touch with your safety back-up every day. Don’t assume, never assume . . .
By now you’ve been pretty honest with each other. Whatever you’re thinking, he’s definitely hoping there’ll be a little nookie. You’ve discussed your expectations, right? Your preferences, your absolute no-no’s, your maybes? This is important. Even learning that he rises with the lark and likes an early-morning five mile tramp before breakfast, while your holiday preference is to get up around ten, doesn’t need to be a deal-breaker. For a week, you can both compromise, but it is so much better to know in advance. You aren’t giggling, blushing, hopeful teenagers. Talk things through like the mature adults that you are. Don’t assume, never assume . . .
Whatever you say to each other, whatever bright hopes you have, accept that statistically this is not going to last. Don’t pin your hopes on true love, and golden years to follow, or that first holiday will be a terrible disappointment. The chances for a permanent happy ending are miniscule: frankly, about the same odds that you will be brutally murdered. Most LDRs end with the first holiday, although some may limp to a second. Bear that in mind, and set your sights on enjoying your holiday, being good company, and enjoying his.
As always in these blogs, I have done my research, although it was far more thorough than I ever intended: I was as surprised as anyone to find myself actually heading off into the blue, and vividly remember the shock of seeing the man I was about to spend a week with. I had assumed that talking and laughing every night on Skype for three months had been enough preparation. For a moment I nearly bolted back into the airport, as reality kicked in (what was I thinking?). Be prepared for that panic reaction, too!
A few LDRs do thrive on long separations and occasional meetings. We had several increasingly successful holidays as I worked on Thirteen Fourteen Maids a-Courting, which is set there, but a mutually genuine attempt to spend longer together here on home turf proved too much for something as pretty, glittering, and durable, as a soap bubble. We were temperamentally suited to short bursts of togetherness, and anything longer was definitely too real. Whether the underlying friendship will survive the ruffled feelings is anyone’s guess, but I wasn’t his first LDR, and won’t be the last. I have no regrets, put it that way: and some interesting memories!
In Thirteen Fourteen, Olga introduces her long-standing LDR friend, and regular readers learn Donald had an LDR too, which ended abruptly when he found someone closer to home. I don’t research this stuff for fun, you know. It’s all about the books. Nearly all about the books.
Ever researching on your behalf,