Once upon a time, when an unmarried person hit middle-age, it was tantamount to a sentence—not of death but something worse: celibacy. When single people hit 50, suddenly it was all over. If you were a woman, you were “out to pasture”…and if you were a man, you were a “confirmed bachelor.” End of story.
For example, I can recall, in my youth during the Pleistocene Era (i.e., the 50s), a woman of my parents' acquaintance was widowed young — around 40 — and spent the rest of her life alone, knitting sweaters and directing the church choir.
It's a different world these days. Fifty is the new 20. Middle-agers are out and about, dating and mating and finding true love. There are many things to love about being middle-aged and unhitched—as many as the letters in the alphabet! Herewith, the ABCs of midlife dating!
Age Matters Not
When you hit 50, it's seemingly open season on dating outside your age group. When you're 25, the age range you're comfortable dating in is usually 24 to 26. When you get older, age differences – in both directions – matter much less. It certainly increases your chances for finding great dates!
Bodies Beautiful? Who cares?
Once you hit a certain age, you can stop obsessing so much about physical perfection. No one can lay claim to it at this point, so it's a more level playing field. Seen any bathing suit photos of Clint Eastwood or Jerry Hall lately? So relax already. Have some gelato.
College Dating Redux
Remember how the only reasons to date back then were A) fun and B) sex? Well, guess what? It's time to go back to the future! When you hit middle-age, your dating priorities change. In your teens and twenties, you're not thinking too seriously about finding a “soul mate” or “life partner.” You just want to rock and roll. That all changes in your 30s and even 40s: You start dating for verrrry specific reasons. You want KIDS, you want to get MARRIED, you're starved for SECURITY. By the time you hit 50, you're generally a parent or happy not to be, a divorced person or a happy single one, and you're secure in your own resources. In other words, you're okay with your choices. It's Miller time!
Nobody uses the word “spinster” anymore, or “gay bachelor.” Unless he is one. Let's celebrate that.
Everyone's Doing It
Dating, that is. According to the Census Bureau, fully 35 percent of people 42 to 74 are single, with divorce and death-of-spouse mostly to blame. That represents millions of singles looking for love—and explains why profiles of people at midlife are proliferating on dating sites. Oh, and let's not forget:
Of a sexual nature, that is. I went through a phase of dating only younger men, and I can tell you that the thing they admired most about me was not my ability to quote the poetry of t.s. eliot. Think of it this way: Two 50-year-olds together = 60 or so years of combined sexual experience. Pass the hot sauce!
In your teens, 20s and even 30s, dates are often constrained by economics. A lack of bucks translated to evenings watching The Simpsons and ordering Chinese take-out. In one's 40s, 50s and on, dates more often include dinner and ballet or a weekend in the wine country. Consider it just another reason love's more beautiful the second (or third or 15th) time around.
And I do need to mention one other fact for the letter F:
I find it much easier at this age to befriend former dates with whom it didn't work out. I even set up my ex-husband with his new girlfriend! No-fault dating is the standard during middle-age, which flies in the face of the Major Dramas of youth. I sleep better at night.
You get the picture about dating at this age, don't you? Good. Then let's just fast forward to V… which of course is for Viagra. Need I say more?
Jane Ganahl is author of Naked on the Page: The Misadventures of My Unmarried Midlife, editor of the anthology Single Woman of a Certain Age, journalist of two decades, and co-director of San Francisco's Litquake literary festival.