Love in the time of COVID

A Septuagenarian’s guide to on-line dating

April 1, 2021

(apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

A year ago, as he finally came to accept that no matter how hard he fought, he was not going to beat this one, Carl looked at me and asked if I would ever marry again. “I don’t think I’m allowed to,” I said. “Too many men have come to an early end on my watch.” Even as I said that I had a feeling it was not entirely true. Marriage was of no interest, but the possibly of being in love again sounded hopeful. My denial fell into the category of the gentle white lies we tell the dying. After a year of grieving, I realized that I had too much energy to spend the rest of my days with only a pair of little brown dogs to keep me warm.

Now, as spring arrives and hope sprouts up from the thawing ground, I picture standing close to friends in conversations, even hugging them, ignoring the dreaded ten-foot, outside, unmasked distance that a virus can fly on a drop of spit. I began to wonder about how I might go about meeting single septuagenarians.

Turning to my teenage grandkids, I told them I was thinking of online dating. I knew they would find advising their grandma in the ways of modern love beautiful and hysterical. Bella described how she had met her partner on a site and encouraged me to try the same. I then asked my daughter who has a close friend, a highly athletic mountain biker and back country skier who uses an online site to find guys to ski and bike with, sometimes with benefits.  Her problems came from the guys falling in love with her, which she would have none of.

It seemed everyone I knew who had found a partner over the last decade had done so online. The old-school meeting grounds of weddings, concerts, and parties, or in the case of Carl and me, contra-dancing, did not show up in the courtship data. When a virus forces us to avoid each other for a year, technology becomes the matchmaker.

The first site I tried was rather expensive, so I thought it might be better. The personality test asked questions about politics, education, smoking, drinking, religion, desire for children, and hobbies. Then there were situational questions to determine one’s temperament—femininity, masculinity, intellect, intuition, and emotion. Potential matches received scores based on compatibility. I must have messed up my personality test, not wanting to appear shallow, downplaying the importance of physical health, education, and attractiveness, because the same guys kept popping up, with long ZZ Top beards or, those double braided affairs, guys holding a beer in one hand, a remote control in the other, and sporting a tiny dog under the armpit, guys who had had eight kids and now wanted to live in a tent on an island somewhere smoking pot.

I tried asking my social media circle for advice and received a flood of thank you posts for bringing up an embarrassing topic. Seems most of my friends had tried online sites, some with success, finding lovers or life-long friends. It was suggested I try a “green” site. I eat foods that are grown nearby, use solar, recycle, and serve on two conservation boards; however, I fell well outside the standard deviation of this definition of green. Not vegan, I do not wear a toga, nor am I searching for my tantra yoga partner, nor do I live in Hawaii.

I tried a third site, an international site out of Berlin, geared towards seniors and had far better luck. I have had numerous interesting exchanges mostly with retired professionals. I have even found a special friend who is my Covid pen pal until we are both beyond double vaccinated. What I thought was important changed over time. I started out looking for someone who met my check list of similar interests. Love of being outside in nature, healthy lifestyle, liberal politics, and playing music, all seemed paramount. Perhaps, I thought, I might find a fellow naturalist. Over time I realized that a mirror image of myself might be a bit boring in a relationship. What became more important was finding someone happy in his own skin, someone who had done the work, was not seeking a partner to make it all better or to replace their wife, but to simply enrich an already happy life. I am feeling hopeful.

Here is a simple guide for my older friends:

If you are not tech savvy, have a teenager take a nice photo of you and upload it. Profiles with no photo or with a horizontal photo in need of rotating, or a screen shot up your nose will not get you any smiley faces.

If a woman who claims to be Norwegian living in Canada says she loves you and needs $1400 to get her equipment across the border to come see you, do not agree. The clue is that she does not know about krumkake.

If someone with no profile photo writes to you saying how much they like your profile and asks for your phone number so they can take you out for a dinner and glass of wine, yet you listed you do not drink and your idea of a first date is a hike outside, they are probably just someone in a distant land wanting your credit card info.

Have fun. There are lots of very cool 70-, 80-, and 90-year-olds out there with wonderful stories to share.

The LBDs and I headed off to meet a potential friend.

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