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Surfing For Love (on the Net)

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By Sarah Herndon, September 2018

(When) Love Is Just a Click Away

After her 21-year marriage ended in a divorce, Sue decided to try her luck with dating online. She was curious about this novel, new-fashioned idea, and it seemed much more appealing than the alternative– speed dating. “I wasn’t going to throw myself out there to be accepted or rejected,” says Sue, 63, who lives in Metairie. She began online dating when she was in her 40’s and first tried the eHarmony site. Sue found that she liked the discreetness of it, viewing profiles in the comfort of her own home rather than going out and feeling like she was on display. “I wanted to meet someone that I enjoyed being with and that I enjoyed doing things with, and wasn’t necessarily looking for marriage. Been there, done that,” Sue says.

Online dating has always been a popular trend for the more tech-savvy Millennials, but recent studies have shown that the Baby Boomer generation is now catching up–one in ten online daters is a Boomer. A national survey published by the Pew Research Center stated that online dating by 55 to 64 year olds has doubled since 2013.

After several one-time dates and a few year-long relationships, Sue found her current partner of 11 years through eHarmony. Their first date began with an LSU football game and was still going strong into the early hours of the next morning. Thinking back, Sue feels she would have never crossed paths with her partner without the resource of online dating. She has even called eHarmony to thank them and has no regrets telling friends where she and her partner met.

Yet, Sue does feel there is still a stigma attached to dating via the internet, and there have been times when someone’s reaction has been one of disdain. Sue affirms she is not bothered by it though, and feels that ‘desperate’ is going to a bar on lady’s night and sitting there wondering, ‘Is anyone interested?’

Love ain’t easy

Lisa is no stranger to online dating, as it’s been 25 years since her second divorce. The 58-year-old owner of a nanny agency in New Orleans began her online adventure when AOL first came out with a dating site. Since then, she has been a faithful user of eHarmony, and Zoosk. Lisa has even tried a free site called PlentyOfFish, but she does caution others that many married men use this to seek out one-night stands. All of these websites can be accessed through an app on her phone which makes dating a little more convenient.

Lisa still admits that dating online is like a part-time job. She has to sort through emails, make phone calls, and determine who is worth a first date. She finds that dating in her late 50’s is much different from when she was in her 20’s. Thirty years ago, she might have determined a first date based on their physical appearance. Now, Lisa looks for similar values, interests, and even political views.

“My expectations are different in that I want to take things slowly­– just because I am mature, and I have a big life with lots of things to do. I really want to get to know someone before I introduce them into all of that,” she says.

During one particular first dinner date, Lisa met up with an older man whose spouse had passed away. She had not even finished eating her fajita when he asked for her hand in marriage. Lisa sensed his loneliness but has learned over the years that “nothing fast will last.”

Playing it safe

Online dating is no different than going on a blind date or meeting someone for the first time in a bar. It’s always a good idea to have some discretion before getting back out there. Lisa always meets her date in a very public place and makes sure to tell her daughter the time and place of this initial meeting. She also heeds the warning of Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker to never drink more than two alcoholic beverages during that first date. Sure, have fun, but it is important to maintain a clear head in order to make smart decisions.

When Sue was still dating online, she took careful consideration writing her profile and making sure to only give out information that was honest yet tactful. She noticed that some of the profiles seemed deceiving. “If something doesn’t seem right, it’s probably not,” Sue says.

Although not deliberately trying to mislead, Lisa once created her profile using the name “Treehugger” in hopes to attract more liberal-minded men. Most dating apps recommend using a different name from your own. She quickly realized her mistake when she began receiving an overwhelming amount of requests from hunting fanatics. A friend pointed out that they most likely thought that she enjoyed sitting in a deer stand!

While Sue and Lisa have had different outcomes with internet dating, they both agree one should keep an open mind and make the time to try it. Boomers are more likely to be divorced, widowed, or single, which makes them a prime population for dating online. Plus, the apps are easy to navigate, even for those who are technically impaired.

Lisa is just coming off of a year-long break from online dating and is eager to get back out there. She is still hopeful. “I don’t know if marriage is in my future, but a partner definitely is,” she says.

Sarah Herndon is a local New Orleanian and freelance writer. She writes regularly for Nola Family magazine.

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