Jackie Bird’s Column
“Now our most enduring relationship could be the one that starts when we’re menopausal”
“I wonder what Tinder is like?” I mused as I pondered this column. My husband was slightly concerned, “Is it because I left my beard shavings in the sink again?” Although I’m not in the market for a relationship, I can’t help but be curious about what online dating has brought to the search for Mr, Mrs, or indeed gender neutral Right. In my day, dating agencies as they were called, were rare and expensive. It was either that or advertisements in the newspapers, but even the column title – ‘Lonely Hearts’ – reeked of desperation. So usually the search for a partner involved haunting various bars and nightclubs in the hope that you’d strike it lucky. Oh the hours I spent pretending I was having fun with my girl pals when all we really wanted was to catch the eye of some attractive man. That was in the days before Girl Power and all that, but if you’re trying to tell me that the majority of empowered women these days aren’t also looking for a bit of romance, then I’m Sporty Spice. That’s why I’m a bit envious of the Tinder generation. Forget boring nights in bars, what a joy it must be to lounge in your pyjamas, type in a wish-list and wait for all those potential partners to come to mamma. OK, I know it’s not quite as easy as that. My daughter informs me that all of life is out there in the worldwide web, including a lot of worldwide weirdos. According to her, there’s a notable number of guys who begin by sending completely rational texts and then, inexplicably, proceed to delight you with unsolicited photographs of intimate parts of their anatomy. Despite the drawbacks, my daughter swipes away merrily and has been on some great dates. Those millennials might not be able to buy a house, get a full-time job, or even retire before they’re doubly incontinent, but by gum, dating in the 21st century sounds like fun. But online dating isn’t just for the young and uninhibited. A 50-something friend of mine who was dumped by her husband went through the sobbing, snottery stage for a while and eventually caved into pals’ pressure to sign up to a dating site. She’s now seeing a wonderful man far more suited to her than her ex-husband ever was. Dating sites are one of the biggest online money makers with an estimated 1,400 firms in the UK monetising those looking for lurve. But it’s never been completely altruistic; the earliest matchmakers were recorded in the 18th century when church ministers regularly hooked up single parishioners, thereby ensuring plenty of weddings and christenings in the diary too. Nowadays dating sites cater for every predilection. I searched for one for cat lovers and up popped something called ‘Purrsonals’. I really will have some explaining to do if Him Indoors stumbles on my search history. Even Debrett’s, the posh person’s handbook of etiquette, is reinventing itself as the Downton Abbey of dating for the over 50s. “No longer the exclusive realm of oddballs and the downright disturbed,” it explains, in an introduction somewhat lacking in diplomacy, “internet dating gives the user the ability to pick and choose without meeting a multitude of no-hopers.” Insults aside, Debrett’s does contain plenty of advice for those of us ancient enough to remember when phones were for talking to people. The website will advise you how to ensure your photograph is stylish rather than scary and warns you not to give all the details of your messy divorce or manic depression in your first flirty emails. Personally I think dating and the internet are a perfect match and not just because they enable women, traditionally less likely to make the first move, to have greater freedom and a much bigger field to play. It’s also because we’re living a lot longer. A few decades ago, a man or woman widowed or divorced in their 60s wouldn’t really have contemplated a new partner. Now the most enduring relationship of our life could be the one that starts when we’re menopausal rather than in our 20s. Knowing that there’s an easily accessible industry intent on matching us all up at the click of a mouse is strangely reassuring... even if it’s only an idle threat to make sure he cleans the sink after shaving.
Those millennials might not be able to buy a house, get a full-time job or retire before they’re doubly incontinent, but by gum, dating in the 21st century sounds like fun.”