Online dating has a serious bias: our age. In reality (or the denial thereof), the entire world has a problem with aging. Which is ironic given the alternative to aging isn't so great.
The majority of us are using dating apps supposedly searching for the love of our lives or soul mates. Yet, with our instantaneous swipe right or left dating culture, most of us make a judgment about a potential date based solely on age and a photograph. . You’d think we would take a little more time and care on the search for love instead of making snap judgments based on a number.
But the dating world can be cold, calculating and cruel in it's superficial quest for true love. Does anyone even look like their age or photograph anymore? Everyone is filtering their pictures and doctoring their faces it's hard to tell what's real!
What ever happened to authenticity or to exploring each other’s chemistry and commonalities? I know that requires meeting someone in person but isn’t finding lasting love worth it?
In the real world...the one where you actually meet someone face to face...the topic of age is never the first thing to come up. I’m not saying the real world dating experience isn’t filled with ageist singles too. It's a little more covert but equally as offensive.
I was sitting at my local bar and restaurant a few weeks ago, contemplating this very blog when a vivacious, well-dressed, single Latin man sat down next to me. From the corner of my eye, I saw him look me over so I turned to him and smiled politely. (If you’re not interested in someone, being kind or polite even if it’s to say, “No, thank you,” is good practice for all involved.)
“Cheers!” I raised my whiskey to meet his Kahlua and cream. Not exactly a match made in drink heaven but I was more interested in hearing his perspective on dating and age.
He smiled like a Cheshire cat, (always a warning sign for someone who is seriously looking to settle down) with those perfectly white teeth flashing, he adjusted his cuff to add his pricey watch to the display he was mounting. We chatted for some time. He was once the un-loved, penniless dishwasher from Ecuador who couldn’t speak English. Today he declared himself to be the well-dressed, highly paid man, with two master’s degrees under his belt looking for the love of his life.
Cheers to that! To ever-lasting love! We toasted our drinks as he talked more about his love life, not once asking how old I was.
I was beginning to respect this guy despite his flashiness. Then, he scanned the restaurant. (I assumed searching for his next conquest…I mean soul mate.) He leaned in closer to me. He judgmentally referenced to a group of joyful diners made up of older men with younger women. He made a few harsh comments because he didn't understand how all these young women(women his age) living in L.A. could date older men.
I put my glass down. I was definitely not toasting that ageist statement.
I wondered if he knew I was older than him? He certainly had no idea that I was just like those girls he just judged. My first serious boyfriend was 35 and I was 18. He asked my parents permission to date me and it was a lovely relationship. I’ve been happily dating older ever since.
Dating older also occurs more among heterosexual women than men. It’s a known fact that most women date older starting in high school while men of the same age don’t. It’s more of an emotional maturity issue than anything else but, this dating older pattern continues for many women well into college and as the enter the workforce.
When it comes to dating, there is a social stigma attached to age, especially online. We have all these unspoken rules about acceptable age brackets, and reasons why we won’t date someone because of their age. And yet, one of the many commonalities every human being shares on this planet is mortality and aging!
Ageism in dating offensive. It is forcing too many of us into shame, causing us to lie about our age and spend tons of money on invasive and non-invasive cosmetic procedures so we don’t get judged, trashed or rejected because we are too old or too young. (Yes, ageism happens to the young as well).
An ageist attitude in dating is it is preventing people from falling in love with someone who could be perfect for them. The search for love should motivate us to let others in, not wall them out with silly barriers like a number. A number we'd be much more flexible with if we met our potential date in real life rather than on a dating app.
Ageism effects all genders, ages, and sexual orientations. And although engaging in a little white lie about our age may seem like it’s the only way to break that age-shaming barrier, there is another option. We can choose not to not play the age game at all. We can choose to set a new standard in the dating world by embracing our own age and that of others. Set a new trend!
The only person who should be concerned about age in dating is a woman who desires to biologically have her own children and be in a relationship. Age and fertile eggs do go hand in hand and that is legitimate. But, even that timeline has significantly increased due to longevity and technology.
The reality is, we can’t control aging. We can lessen the effects of it through medical procedures, diet, reduction of stress and sleep. We can control our judgments and points of view. We can work on changing our behaviors and prejudices one number at a time. We can use compassion, love and acceptance as a guide in the dating world by saying yes to number that may seem outside our acceptable age bracket, and test the waters by meeting up with that person.
And when you come across someone who just wants to stay shut down, judgmental and closed-minded, walk away. We help change others by changing our own behaviors first. No need to stay engaged in a conversation with someone who is ageist when walking away is a much stronger statement.
Stop playing the ageism game in dating and play the love game with an open non-judgmental heart instead. Love is more about celebrating what you have in common and learning how to import what we each have to offer that’s different from one another. Even if that difference is based on age.
Author: Heather Dawn
A version of this blog originally appeared in Heather Dawn's column on Elephantjournal.com