Article in Lifestyle / Recreation
Author Madelon Sheff compares dating as a teenager in the 1950s with dating in her 70s today.

“Mirrors don’t lie,” my mother told me. Or do they? “A picture is worth a thousand words.” “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Another gem was “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Keep these sayings in mind if you want to successfully survive the ordeal known as internet dating for seniors.

I remember dating as a teenager in the 50s in the Bronx, New York. The guy always called the girl. If the date was for a Saturday night, then the call must come no later than the previous Monday night. If the call came on a Tuesday, the response was “Sorry, I’m busy.” If she consented, it indicated that the girl was a loser. Typically the prospective datee would wait by the phone Monday evening, let it ring exactly two and one half times, and answer with a dreamy “Hello-o-o.” After a little bit of small talk, the guy would pop the question, “Are you free on Saturday night?” After a pause long enough to allow water to boil, the girl would indicate that she was available for a date on Saturday night. Arrangements and plans were made as to time of pick up and whether it was a party or a movie. And the guy always, always came to the girl’s house to call for his date. This gave the parents a chance to grill the boy, which in turn was good preparation for him for future job interviews. No driving to a predetermined destination to meet up, even if the guy lived in Brooklyn and the girl lived in the Bronx. Very few teenagers had cars so we traveled by subway, bus or, on very special occasions, by taxi.

The day of the date arrives and the girl starts preparing at 4 PM for an 8 PM pick up. She carefully selects her outfit and lays it on her bed alongside her freshly laundered linen handkerchief sprayed with perfume, probably Chanel Number 5. She takes a long, soaking bubble bath and has her hair in curlers. She carefully applies and reapplies her make-up, but not too much of it. It has to look natural. She checks to see that her hosiery seams are straight on her legs which were shaved and lotioned that afternoon. Not a hair is out of place and the entire family is giddy with excitement. Mom made sure that the house was sparkling clean with an aroma of freshly baked cookies coming from the kitchen.

The doorbell rings exactly at 8 PM. Even though the preparation for the date took four hours, the girl is not quite ready. The father, hopefully, in his jacket and holding his pipe, greets the lucky guy, and after much awkwardness, the inquisition begins. Where are you going? When will you bring my daughter home? What do you do? on and on. If the guy survives the ordeal, this man-in-training has promise. Then the vision appears. A perfectly groomed, ladylike young woman enters the living room with a smile that will melt your heart. She kisses her parents goodbye and the date begins. Of course, if the girl lives in an apartment house, even better, for now the neighbors have a chance to cluck and make judgments and maybe provide feedback the following week.

The date proceeds well enough and then it’s time to bring the princess home. It is dark, the apartment house lobby and the hallways are filled with silent night sounds. At the door to her apartment, the well-brought up young lady, who incidentally never opens her purse except to powder her nose, thanks the boy for a lovely evening, has her key handy and opens the door and sweetly whispers, “Good night.” Good night kiss? Are you kidding! No decent girl would offer more than a dry peck on the cheek, if that much. If the guy was dumb enough to ask, “May I kiss you good night?” the answer was an icy, “I don’t kiss on the first date.” A lot of you reading this would nod in agreement. If a second date occurred, then maybe a little holding hands and maybe, maybe one and only one dry kiss. Only sluts would “French Kiss,” and even then not until you were “going steady.” When you went “steady” the rules of sex play and dating changed somewhat after the obligatory ID bracelet. But remember, there were still a lot of virgins in the 1950s.

Fifty years later, I gingerly, but eagerly reentered the dating environment. I recently lost my husband of fifty years. I knew that my life had to go on and I felt a need to find a kind and loving man to complete my life. I took the advice of my friends and children and signed on with the more popular cybernet dating services. I opted to do this because waiting for an introduction from my married friends would probably take forever and, let’s face it, neither I nor my prospective squires were getting any younger. Plus, I had already made the rounds of singles, senior discussion and bereavement groups where the same faces, none of which were particularly appealing, seemed to magically appear over and over. Clearly, more aggressive measures were warranted.

Let me tell you that I am an educated, attractive, athletic, talented, fun lady and I consider myself a “prize catch.” So, with confidence and few trepidations, I prepared my “profile.” I clearly stated that honesty was my strong suit so don’t test my patience with fiction and lies about your age, weight, height, health, education, etc. Don’t imply, for example, that you are a widower when in fact your wife died thirty years ago and you have subsequently been remarried and divorced twice. In my mind, you are a divorcee. The biggest offense, I’ve found, is lying about one’s age. Universally, the men tended to admit to their real age right up front after you met them in person.

Remember, a woman in our society, is permitted to lie about her age while a man is not But both are unacceptable in my view. However, the difference is that with plastic surgery, good make-up, and a push-up bra, a woman can hide it better. Also, thanks to on-line information, which I will never reveal how easy it is to get, the lies will appear ridiculous and stupid and only project false vanity. Instead, you should walk tall and be proud of the years you have lived. All the more if you have lived them with integrity and kindness.

So now, after some talk on the telephone or E-mail beforehand, a date is made to see if the two candidates for a relationship will click. By the way, the guys were advised to state in their profiles that they are looking for a long-term relationship because that is what women want to hear. Another fabrication! Most likely, the meeting takes place in a neutral, busy place like a coffee shop in a bookstore, or over lunch at a popular but modest restaurant. The man usually picks up the tab.

Once I met a prospective liar/date at the indoor mausoleum where our respective spouses are entombed. In order to accommodate his schedule, I had to rush home from my exercise class to shower and change and so I had no time to eat lunch. The “meeting” lasted less than an hour inside a mausoleum with not even a cup of coffee afterward. He said he would call me, but couldn’t say when he would do so. One man told me that after an expensive lunch in a trendy restaurant where his “date” showed up weighing 400 pounds and in a dirty muumuu, he vowed that the next time he met a woman from the internet for a drink, it will be at a public drinking fountain.

This honesty thing really gets to me because the question is what else is he lying about? The response I usually got was, “Would you have come to meet me if you knew my real age?” My snappy answer was, “Maybe. But now that I know you lied, I probably wouldn’t want to date you because you indeed did lie to me.”

One of my male friends warned me to be careful because there are a lot of “sleazy predators” out there. So far, I’ve only run into lying, delusional men with some very disgusting personal habits like picking one’s teeth and examining the contents in full view of everyone in the restaurant, chewing with their mouths open, dressing inappropriately for a first encounter, talking incessantly about their last relationship, not even politely asking one question about my life, drinking hard liquor at four in the afternoon, taking off one’s shoes and asking me to look at an area on his foot that was causing some pain, (as if I were a podiatrist, maybe), not calling on the phone when promised, self-absorption, and just plain rudeness.

Today, having a man over to your house to pick you up for a date, is questionable and chancy. In all likelihood, your protective, would be ninety-year-old Dad is not around to ask those good questions.

I’ve been told by a male dating maven that the dating rules have changed as in the movie Boynton Beach Club which dealt with the issue of love and dating among the seniors in South Florida. The film raised some excellent questions and explored the emotional issues and concerns of seniors. One of the male characters implied that he was in real estate when in fact he was an exterminator.

Ladies, be careful, and remember your critical reading skills. While it is natural to pad one’s resume and use buzz words, beware of terms like “walking on the beach at sunset,” “romantic candlelight dinners,” “travel” which probably means taking a cruise to the Caribbean with the Hadassah group, seeing if there is “chemistry,” and other shibboleths.

I’ve become a profile junkie and can categorize them into two major types: promising and dismal. First I look at the photos. The pictures at best are unclear and probably taken ten years ago lending credibility to my exaggeration theory. Then the age listed is inaccurate but inadvertently revealed in the narrative portion of the profile. Some men write on and on in detail about who they are, what they like, who they want to meet. As a woman reads this profile opus, she mentally forms an idea like, “Yeah, this is a guy I can go for.” After a while, you realize that these writings could appeal to any woman out there because they are so generic.

Then there are the profiles that either purposely or inadvertently leave out a lot of information. Watch the typing, grammar, and spelling which can be very revealing. People are complicated and if you have lived this long, you have been exposed to life’s ups and downs. You hope for the ideal, but ladies, go to a good movie instead if you want handsome, charming, toned, and flat abs. If you are lucky, you will meet a “MENSCH” with a pot belly and not a “PLAYA” with a pot belly, at a coffee shop date, who you will want to see again and who will make you laugh. After all, we are in this human race together and I can understand the loneliness, fear of rejection and lack of confidence on the part of some men, which may partially explain the attempted deceptions.

On a positive note, I have found that all the men I have either met or spoken to on the telephone are indeed a lot of fun and made me laugh. Is the laughter enough, you may ask, to go through all this in order to maybe, someday, perhaps, possibly meet the one who will be your lover, friend, partner for the rest of your life? Who knows? “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as Mom said.

I remember another of my mother’s sayings, “Treat your man like a king, and he will make you a queen.” I did and most of the time during my marriage, I felt like a queen. Is there a king out there seeking a lady-in-waiting? Let me give you my E-mail address and cell phone number. Maybe we can meet for a coffee. I don’t sit waiting by the phone on Monday nights any more. to Shut Down Permanently on December 31, 2017

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About the Author 

Madelon Sheff
Born and educated in New York City. Diverse interests include tennis, baseball, Mah Jongg, Bridge, Scrabble, Music, Art, Writing. Traveled

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