Dear Men, This Is Why You're Failing On Dating Apps
Updated: May 11
I Tried Dating Apps So You Don't Have To
In the few months I spent on dating apps in my (very) late 40s, I got to know quite a few men through a lot of messages, emails and phone calls. And getting to know them is why I declined to date most of them.
Here's a rundown of some of the characters that awaited me, and will probably await you too, if you venture onto dating apps in this Brave New Internet World. Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Let's assume that on your profile you've offered a recent picture of yourself, it's not 30 years old or heavily doctored, you've told the truth about your single status and you've filled in a few bits of pertinent information without too much obfuscation. Here goes nothing, you're about to meet:
Grumpy Old Men
These chaps really just want someone who's kind, nurturing and also good at checking itchy moles and picking up adult nappies from Chemist Warehouse. Age and infirmity come to all of us, but if you're looking for a nurse, apply for the NDIS.
Who's Your Daddy? Well, it's not you, pal. And by the way, men my dad's age should be looking for women my mum's age. "Love has no age limits" is bollocks, no matter who politely (or self servingly) pretends to believe otherwise. Yes it bloody does, and it's between 5-10 years of one another's age in either direction when you're middle-aged. Those heads are not turning because they're jealous of you, grandad, they're just wondering if that poor mail order bride needs help escaping, and idly speculating about how much Viagra you go through. With any luck, all you really do make her do is check your skin tags and help you to the lavatory. moles and help you to the lavatory.
There's generally a lot of overlap between the ones looking for their mum/nurse/caregiver and the ones who think they should be able to attract someone decades younger than them. But of course she must honestly and truly love them for their sparkling personality and not because she's trying to escape squalor. If you're in this category I suggest 1800 Thai Brides.
On countless occasions, across the three apps I tried, I came across a version of "Gold digging bitches need not apply". How I wish I was joking. They didn't all use the word bitches or gold-digger outright. But you could tell they really wanted to. Some went on at length about being ripped off by women on the site. One, I recall, posted something like "Men pay good money to meet women like you, so don't waste our time".
Let's break that delightful sentence down. Did he imagine women weren't charged the same as men if they took up a membership? When he said "Women like you", I'm sure he respectfully meant women who had the same goals and interests as the men who were also on the app. As for time-wasting - if you consider talking politely and respectfully to another human being who might not turn out to be your romantic ideal to be a waste of time, thank you, sincerely, for the heads up.
Hilariously, complaints about materialistic women were often to be found on profiles where men stipulated interest in women much younger than them. No comment.
It's important to be honest about what you're looking for and yet remain positive in that honesty. For example, I firmly stated "I'm interested in a long-term, serious and monogamous relationship". I didn't say "Men who are unstable, cheating sluts need not apply." Spot the difference.
Your profile is your advertisement. Imagine an advert for a beer that, instead of listing the tasty, sparkling qualities of the beverage for sale, ranted venomously and in detail about how another beer had made them vomit and given them shit-the-bed diarrhoea. You'd skedaddle faster than your shifty cousin when it's his turn to buy the next round. Complaining about past relationships, women or traits you hate in your bio just makes you sound ill-tempered, entitled and high maintenance.
And if you truly believe that women, as a sex, are an amorphous blob of vanity ridden, gold-digging bitches, whores and liars, why on earth would you even consider dating one of us?
Consider celibacy. It would truly be a win/win.
The Profile Dodger
The profile dodger is just too busy to bother with the nitty gritty of actually offering useful information. We'll get to know one another when I meet you anyway, he exclaims. He's super complicated, don't you know? You can't nail this guy down in a bio and besides he's exempt from the rules for us ordinary folk and doesn't fill out questionnaires like a mere mortal.
Here's why that didn't work:
These men appeared lazy or over-entitled.
I extrapolated that since they didn't write a profile, they probably didn't read mine.
I actually absolutely needed to know some basic information, as I was looking for a companion, not a knee-trembler at the local bus stop. I didn't bother responding to men at all if they had nothing on their profiles. Your photos are one small part of why a woman might want to meet you. I was nearly 50 when I joined those apps, so I knew pretty clearly what traits might offer compatibility, and I'd hope a man of similar age would too. Pictures don't always tell much about a person's attractiveness in real life anyway. they just give you a ballpark idea. If you believe otherwise, I'll introduce you to filters, photoshop, camera angles and lighting. Which brings me to:
The Image Dodger
Please, choose a picture where you don't look like an ant hidden by sunglasses and a hat. One that might actually be useful in recognising you. And under no circumstances avoid photos altogether. What I swiftly discovered was that if there was no photo, it was out of fear they might be recognised on an app they really shouldn't be on at all.
The Artful Dodger
Of course you don't need to say what height you are, and I never once asked, but no, 5'2" is not an "average" height for a man, Simon. The entire world is taller than me, and I still had to take off my little wedged sandals and slip on the flats I used to carry in my backpack. Simon strutted like he was cock of the walk and told me tales of his not quite aristocratic family designed to impress, which didn't. He seemed quite put out that I thought we weren't compatible, not because he disagreed but because he didn't get to say it first.
If it's a bit of a touchy subject, there are ways to code your language that get the point across without outright stating what you mean. I mentioned that I was tactile and loving. Which is true. Now, if I had put "Hoping to have sex again before I die" I'm reasonably certain my inbox would have been flooded with hopeful applicants sending samples. By mentioning tactile and loving I let prospective men know that I wasn't looking to only hold hands, or drive him to his doctor's appointments, without appearing eager to simply sleep my way through the prospective dating pool.
Some men tried to code their comments along the lines of "I like it when a woman offers to pay her own way". Better than "gold-digging bitches" but you still sound a bit fixated on cold hard cash. One guy flatly said he wasn't forking out for another dinner. Ok then. What does that leave you? Do you just charge them upfront? Do you take credit cards?
It might be that some women like men who count every dollar, of course. I'm sure such women exist. But again, if you think women are only out to get what they can from you - don't date them.
And if you think there might be some good ones out there, why risk coming off like Ebenezer Scrooge? For me the possibility of love was worth the cost of a night out. I always offered to pay my own way, although only Simon, the posh homunculus with the giant ego, accepted my offer to buy lunch. But since the rest insisted on paying for the meal, I was sure to at least buy him a drink, or popcorn, or whatever was appropriate. Fair's fair.
I've seen some dating articles pointing out that if the man is choosing the venue, and the woman has already spent a great deal of money on hair, nails and makeup, it's fair to assume he'll pay. That might be a reasonable point, but it's a bit too transactional for me.
The issue is that if someone is worth meeting at all, they're worth buying a coffee, or lunch, or even dinner. If you're really so miserly you begrudge buying anyone dinner, male or female, that's a trait you probably want to hide when you're putting your best foot forward.
I always thought of it like this, if we go out and have a nice couple of hours together and that's all we have, we will have been two human beings who were decent to one another for a few hours. Most humans have value and worth. If we're not attracted to one another, we can still have a nice time. Why consider that a failure?
If you're poor and really struggling to afford a date, well that's another matter altogether. Some might disagree, but provided he wasn't asking me to pay his utilities or rent, I was uninterested in the man's job or liquidity. I can state, hand on heart, that if the perfect match had come along and he hadn't two brass farthings to rub together, I'd have gone on a picnic with him, and brought the sandwiches.
Bottom line, there's really no good way to approach money, gold-digging or materialism in your profile, even in a coded fashion, so maybe just avoid it altogether. If you get through a few messages, you should have a better idea of where you both stand on that subject.
And isn't making a good first impression fundamental? Perhaps avoid topics that make you sound bitter, bitchy or miserly.
This guy just likes ladies to be ladies (whatever the fuck that means) and thinks they deserve to have doors opened, seats held and to be taken care of. I think we should open doors for everyone, within reason, I'm fine with you holding my seat for me if it tickles your fancy, and I'd like to think loving partners should take care of one another.
Dig a little deeper and you'll find he wants a Stepford Wife to admire his manly manliness and ignore his toupee while he instructs the little lady on what to cook for dinner, feet up reading his newspaper. He'd like his life to be modelled on the black and white movies he firmly believes were based in reality and he thinks of those times as a more pleasing, civilised era. Pleasing for a certain class of men, at least.
Meet Damien, the first man I really spoke to at any length on a dating app. He seemed pleasant, educated, and claimed to be a lawyer. His lawyer status put me off, to be honest, but I decided not to be hastily judgemental. It turned out that getting him to talk about himself was like pulling teeth, even though he had contacted me and even though he kept limping back for more. It was only because I was new to the dating app experience that I responded to him for as long as I did.
By the second week I was pretty much over him asking a few questions then going quiet for two days. And he was always having one mini-crisis or another. Something to do with his dog, his flat, his fridge. But I was new to the online dating game and wondered if he might just be shy. Eventually, in the third week of him messaging me, by which time I was considering just ghosting him altogether, he asked me what my perfect date would be. Great, I thought, he's finally plucked up the courage. I told him actually I'd like something low key, maybe a coffee shop with a bit of a view, somewhere we could talk. That was on the Thursday. Mid afternoon Sunday - in an undoubtedly orchestrated effort to avoid talking to me on the weekend at all - he finally piped up again.
To be clear, I never messaged men first, and once I had returned their message I went radio silent till I heard from them again. I'm not claiming this is the correct or incorrect way to behave, I am stating that's who I am, and that's what I did. So, if a man hoped I'd pursue him, it was a forlorn hope. However, if I was engaging in conversation with someone, I always responded promptly to his messages to me, and it was never a cursory response but a proper, well considered one. And I expected the same of them.
It's possible Damien was actually in a relationship, hence his reticence. But whatever was going on, despite his begrudging and intermittent attentions, he certainly seemed offended when he finally messaged again and I said something along the lines of "You seem like a perfectly nice man, but if this level of attention is what you consider acceptable at the start of a relationship, there's not the slightest chance we'll work out. You think a three-day silence is fine, and I don't. This doesn't make either of us wrong, but it does make us incompatible. We're both entitled to find what we want. Good luck out there. Bye".
After a petulant little rant where he accused me of being emotionally abusive, Damien then blocked me. I confess I may have chuckled, a little.
The Breadcrumber, Part 2
Meet L. He was ex army, and mentioned PTSD which worried me a little. But he did seem intelligent and pleasant enough. He said he owned some mobile cafes and was often really busy. Uh huh. Nothing like setting yourself up some plausible deniability right at the start. But he got down to it and asked me on a date quite quickly. I agreed to this. He'd get back to me ASAP with the details. Four silent days later I blocked him.
The Breadcrumber, Part 3
This dude, whose name now eludes me, lived quite nearby, but worked away at the mines and so could often be gone for weeks. So many warning bells. Still, I agreed to go for one date. And four silent days later, I blocked him too.
Perhaps some women respond to being ignored. I do too. I respond by making the silence permanent.
The Hi Guy
If you messaged me with just the word "Hi" you were ignored, on spec. Casting a net out for the desperate is not going to hold water with women who value themselves. It's clearly generic, which is insulting, and clearly expecting me to do the work for you. Nope.
The Booty Call
One Hi Guy, whom I'd ignored but not blocked, tried again a few weeks later with "What are you doing tonight? Want to come to my boat?" And that was when I blocked him. Sure, Mr Wannabe Lothario, I'd love to spontaneously go and meet a man I've never spoken to for a seedy shag in the bottom of your tinnie.
I can't think why these men weren't snapped up straight away.
The Very Cross Dresser
This guy surfaced quite early in my adventures, around the same time as Damien, bobbing up like a bloated fish carcass. And he's the reason why I just started blocking men instantly if I had any doubts at all.
After receiving his message, I read his profile. At least you couldn't accuse him of not being forthright. He explicitly said he had a fetish for cross-dressing, wanted to explore his "Femme Dom" side and that he used to pretend to be his ex-wife's girlfriend. It was not, I might add, a fetishist site of any kind and he stood out as the only man who was offering that sort of service. I suppose he figured that faint heart never won desperate maiden, and you really can't blame a bloke for trying.
I messaged him back very courteously and thanked him for his interest, but said I didn't think we had much in common, and good luck out there. His raving, shrieking response was very reassuring and certainly convinced me to reconsider. There was something about me being a two-faced cunt. "You don't work in mental health! There's nothing understanding or caring about you!" he spat in testerical fury. He seemed to think his fetish should be my problem. I messaged him again, this time to say "Actually, I was being polite before. You sound awful. I'm reporting you to the site, and I hope you get the life you deserve. Byeeeee". And yes, you guessed it, I blocked him.
The Friendly Gaslighter
People you meet on dating apps are not your friends. They are people you considered having sex with, or had sex with, and for whatever reason it didn't work out. So no, Nick The Greek and Bob the Arrogant, you're not, actually, friends with any of those women. They're just women you either slept with, or tried to sleep with, whom you now keep dangling around to make you feel like a manly man.
Nick was hilariously self-absorbed, cartoonishly full of his own machismo. I found him amusingly horrifying, there was something actually endearing about his upfront sexist buffoonery. I could imagine him swathed in a cloud of Paco Rabanne, gold medallion glinting on his hairy chest. I politely declined his offer of an interstate visit.
And Bob - well, let me tell you about Bob. He would write long-winded essays both on the site's journal page, and to me, pontificating on how he thought women, life and relationships should go, praising those he felt met his womanly requirements and gently trying to steer the rest of us in the right direction. What a prince.
He talked. A lot. Mainly about himself, and he was certainly good at messaging regularly. It turned out he'd gotten in trouble with HR for inappropriate behaviour with women at work - but he, of course was blameless. He was just being friendly. Trying to mentor the poor dears. And he'd always informed (yes, he used the word informed) his (ex) wife if he was taking a woman out for dinner for work purposes. And only flirted a little. So he had no idea why she was always so difficult about it.
He lived interstate and was flying to Queensland for some conference or other, and thank goodness for that, because he presented well initially and if he'd been immediately available I might have actually dated him. And what a waste of time that would have been for both of us. However, after he spent three weeks writing dissertations on his opinions on pretty much everything, and based upon his obvious desire to be the next Casanova - minus the honesty - I had realised he was not the man for me.
Just a Gigolo
While honesty is appreciated, it might be best, if you've slept with more than 40 women, not to mention this in your OK Cupid question selection. Maybe some women go for slutty men. Probably some women are fine with it. I don't know any, or even know of any, but I'm sure there are some. At 40 shags and counting, you'd only be guessing at remembering your conquest's names anyway, so why bother mentioning them at all? Just make sure you bring your Clap Clearance Certificate with you on your first date.
Fortune Favours The Bold
Then there's the chancer who thinks that though for one or more reasons he's clearly not a suitable match, he'll give it a go anyway. Hence, Bob and Nick who, though hailing from interstate, thought it worth taking a punt at dating (shagging) the woman in Brisbane who'd made it clear she was keen to only talk to men within 50ks of Brisbane. And also explains my having to decline the chain smoker who ignored my "Very definitely non-smokers only thanks" requirement.
Of course, there's always the possibility they just didn't read a single word in my bio.
The Real Estate Mogul
One fairly unusual chap I did go on a couple of dates with was heavily into Native American spiritualism and gave me a long lecture on snake energies, animal reverence and how he handcrafted drums. It was quite interesting, actually, as was he. Not so interesting was when he drove me around a town not far from Brisbane all night pointing out all the houses he'd built and/or owned. I think he thought that would seal the deal, instead it led to me explaining to him why I believe Capitalism is a failed experiment. He was a bit nonplussed by that, and then tried to dazzle me by taking me to the same live music venue as a previous date whom he knew would be there, and introducing us to one another. She looked startled and a bit hostile. I was confused but enjoyed the music anyway.
I honestly have no idea what he was looking for, but I decided there and then it probably wasn't me. In the event, we had a couple of nice nights out, he showed me a bit of Brisbane, and though we weren't a good match, he was certainly unique. However, when he finished the second date by explaining that if he had to choose between a sex life and his CPAP machine he'd choose the machine, I decided to decline the offer of a third date.
I'm a default to honesty sort of a person. It's a bit of a curse. And when it came to dating I was painfully honest, insofar as it was safe and pertinent because I didn't want to be that person. You know, the one who is unrecognisable from her photos, the one who is not as advertised. I knew I needed to lose some weight, and the photos I posted, though attractive enough, did not make any pretence that I was skinny. No "from above" highly filtered pictures. If it looked like a date was in the air, I even provided a brief video to give a genuine snapshot of what they could expect.
In conversations with one gent, I mentioned that apart from needing to lose some weight, overall I was ok with myself. Just that one sentence. In return he sent me a helpful thesis on exercise, diet and his daily routine, with all sorts of hints and tips. It went on for quite some time. My God, can you imagine life with that guy? I declined future correspondence and explained that I hadn't actually been looking for a personal trainer when I made that off the cuff remark. He was more than a bit miffed that all his hard work had fallen on deaf ears.
The Good Catholic
One Irish lad, Tim, thought that having left his wife and seven children behind, he was ready to start afresh. Assuming he was paying child support, I do hope he had a lucrative job. It doesn't say much for any man that he's willing to impregnate some poor woman at least seven times then bugger off and leave her, although I suppose she might have been the one to instigate the divorce. Possibly she was just too knackered to face having a man anywhere near her ever again. He probably didn't suffer from ED, and seemed jovial enough, but I courteously cut our conversation short. For some reason, a man with seven children was a bit of a passion killer.
A Few Good Men
There were a few decent chaps in the melee who deserve an honourable mention. Jim was a hard-working and decent man, who seemed genuinely kind and keen to find a real companion. We dated briefly, but it didn't work out because had personal life challenges that he had to deal with. I truly hope he's well, and happy somewhere.
And then there was another man who was about 4 years younger than me. I declined in the end to date him because he wasn't absolutely positive that he didn't want children, he'd just decided to accept his childless state. At 45, children were still a possibility for him, and I didn't want to play any part in taking that choice away, as he seemed quite a young, fit and vibrant 45. I advised him to date someone a bit younger and see where it went. We wished one another well and went on our way.
I met the man with micro-penis on the apps too. Make of that what you will. But we did have some nice dinners and movie nights before the fateful bedroom evening.
And I was very nearly convinced to go and meet another personable ex-army chap, but he lived too far away, a three-hour drive (if we agreed to meet in the middle) was just too much for me to contemplate at that time.
Cats Make Good Companions
After approximately four months on the apps, I had decided to pack it in and accept my cat lady status. It was obvious by then that being alone was far better than the dance of the desperates. In the end, I bumped into the love of my life thanks to the fickle finger of fate anyway.
The best advice I can give men new to the dating app arena is to try to avoid any of the above behaviours.
And for the women, do not be afraid to use the block button lavishly. Do not listen to anyone who tells you to be kind. Only you can choose when it's safe to be kind. What they mean by kind is a doormat with no boundaries. If your spidey senses tingle, block at will. You may well save yourself a deeply distressing diatribe from a dreadful man. And if you've even considered blocking him, you certainly won't be missing out on anything. People show you who they are all the time. Believe them.
Do my experiences mean most middle-aged men are entitled, miserly, angry or simply strange? Are relationships doomed? I dunno. I'm not here to offer you a sociological treatise, I just thought you might find my misadventures somewhat entertaining.
Believe me when I tell you I cherish my fiance for the good man he is, and appreciate all his fine qualities. Whatever the future holds, I would never return to the fray, I'm done and dusted.
As my friend Curly Kate likes to say "Well Alison, if you can't be a shining example, at least you get to be a horrible warning".
And with that I offer you these final words of wisdom: if you do decide to dip a toe into the murky waters of dating, dust off your gimp suit, gird your loins, and lower your expectations.
Copyright Alison Tennent 2021, all rights reserved. Scottish by birth, upbringing and bloodline, Australian by citizenship. If you’re reading this anywhere but The Garrulous Glaswegian or Medium, this work may have been plagiarized.
A quick reminder: I'm a heterosexual woman, so I can't comment personally or with any wisdom on same-sex dating apps or what heterosexual men experience. If you've something pithy or witty to add about your own dating adventures, I'd love to hear it. These are simply my observations, based on my own encounters. In the end, I only went on dates with 4 men before meeting my fiance, but I talked to and messaged a whole lot more.
Find my other musings on dating here: From Breadcrumbing to a Micro Penis, Welcome to Dating in your 50s