Only the Lonely Can Play
July 28, 2016 9:21 PM   Subscribe

I’m suffering from excruciating loneliness, and it’s grinding me down. I haven’t had a real relationship in more than six years, and I simply don’t need any more “me” time. Please, could you help me think up some ideas for where I could meet real, live, reasonably youthful, reasonably mentally healthy, reasonably intellectual guys … in person?

I’m in my late 40s, and people generally seem to think I'm about a decade younger. I’m cute, personable, inclined toward the intellectual, but not unfun. People seem to like me. But I’m totally in the wrong age group to meet and mate in NYC, and I’m slowly losing my mind. I need help. I want someone old enough to have mostly sorted their careers, and already had or decided not to have had children. (I have none.) So I’d really rather date men who are at least 40.

I’ve been on and off OkayCupid for three years now, so I think I’ve given it a good shot. And, oh, how disheartening it’s been. In my age group, it’s mostly a vast wasteland, as the founders of the site have helpfully documented. Of those men that do peruse the site, they are often … not well-adjusted. Drinkers, near shut-ins, nervous wrecks, the embittered, those with prior commitments, those with lickety-split agendas, etc. To make matters worse, I am somewhat introverted, and an uneven flirt, at best. It’s really not the right kind of forum for me.

I did the bar thing for a while, but all I met were drunks, or men so much younger it was unthinkable, so no to that, too, and it's really not my scene anyway. I’ve gone to lectures, readings, classes, arty and political events, but if there are men, they always seem to be already hitched. (I don’t play sports or hike, so I suppose that doesn’t help.)

I am reasonably confident about my life at this point. I have spent the last few years sorting out my own career, and things are going well in that department. I have a few friend-friends in town, but not nearly enough, especially since more than one recently coupled, and so are less present than before ... so I keep making regular efforts.

I think I’m a pretty good catch, surely there’s someone out there who would want to go out with me, right? Some nice college professor? Someone two years past their divorce? A shy late-bloomer? An artist? Statistically, it seems like that has to be true, as a lot of NY is coupled, right? And if so, where are they? What can you think up for me?

p.s. I know variants of this question have been asked before, but not in my particular demographic and not recently.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
You mention that some of your friends are recently coupled. Where did they find their partners? Also, OKC might not be as useful as Match. I've heard that tinder is for one night stands, OKC is for friends with "benefits," and Match is for relationships. Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 10:25 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're doing everything right in terms of doing your own thing while staying open to potential dates. I think it's good that you're staying true to yourself and not dating bad matches simply because you're lonely. That said, it's hard to tell if your feelings -- the "excruciating loneliness" -- is something that's private or something that affects the vibes you're giving off. Have you ever talked to any of your friends about this? Acquaintances may not know us very well but I think good friends can give us the best feedback on the image we're presenting to the world.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari is a great read and one I totally recommend if you haven't seen it already; it may be written for a slightly younger audience but has lots of good insight for all. The biggest takeaway for me was how people in modern times are looking for very specific matches when dating. Partnership is no longer about necessity or getting by but finding a soul mate and what have you, that there's greater potential for a wonderful match but that finding that person can take longer and be arduous. That's helped reassure me, both in terms of my own time frame and strength to do my own thing when people try to set me up with people who are nice but just (definitely!) not for me.

I'd continue investing time and energy into your friends, maintaining old ones and reaching out to new people. Based on what you have written, I believe you will have the most success in finding dates through the friends of friends. I'd let those friends know you are looking and open to being set up with men who [describe your type.] Are you open to dating outside of NYC as well, such as the suburbs and other cities around you? How about striking up more conversations with strangers without wedding rings in your daily life? Many of them may be in relationships and/or not interested in even small talk. However, you never know if it could lead to a new friend or more; even if they're not single, perhaps as they get to know you, they might introduce you to a good match.

Finally, I know it's not something anyone wants to hear but I feel I should mention it, if only as a reminder to myself who is recently single. It's nice to live in a time when being single is considered totally normal, regardless of sage. Still it can be hard when society sends out a lot of pro-partnership messages. It can be hard not to feel a bit entitled, "I'm great so why don't others realize it, damnit!" although the universe really guarantees us nothing. I am sure there are plenty of men interested in you; it's just, as you said, whether or not you're interested in them. And it's good to keep your standards high even if it means fewer options. I hope Mefites in New York can share more specific recommendations, and I wish you luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 11:11 PM on July 28, 2016 [11 favorites]

Have you explored right outside New York, as in New Jersey? A lot of men in the age range you're looking for have married, started a family, moved to NJ for a house with a yard, then divorced and stayed in NJ to be near the kids. As a born and bred New Yorker who now lives in New Jersey, I know there's a lot of psychic distance between the two states, but it's pretty easy to physically travel between them.
posted by ejs at 11:45 PM on July 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Are there any other dating sites you could try? I don't know about the US, but in Germany, we have things like Parship or other sites where you pay a fee and allegedly meet people who are more serious about dating, professional etc.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 12:09 AM on July 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm in a very similar boat, though I'm 34, not in NY, and have been single for 9 years. Maybe I shouldn't be doling out suggestions then, but here are a couple. Are you open to any kind of church? If you're not religious but are into nice people, there's UU. I go to a UU church for the good vibes and sense of community. I haven't met any dates there, but I think that would be a good place to meet someone based on genuine conversation and shared interests.

Second idea: volunteering. Pick a cause that's important or fun or both to you. Then, anyone you meet will already share interests, and you can get to know him in the "coworker" capacity before you decide how you feel.

Third idea: sounds implausible, but book clubs. A good friend of mine met her husband in one. Libraries often offer them, or you can check

Finally, I would advise just doing more things in public. I've found a lot of dates just because I was with my laptop in a coffee shop instead of at home.
posted by mermaidcafe at 1:31 AM on July 29, 2016 [9 favorites]

I met my husband 18 years ago online an atheist message board. At the time, the board was full of nice, smart, reasonably good-looking men who utterly bemoaned the lack of atheist women to date. Granted that was a long time ago, and maybe things are different now. However, it may still be true in your demographic. If you happen to be atheist, agnostic or non-religious you might find some success at an atheist group of some sort.

Also, have you looked into childfree groups?
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:40 AM on July 29, 2016

Honestly, unless you're into performative endurance-dating, I don't think OkCupid (or any of the others) are the way to go. I'd say pursue friendships and proactively build the social support networks you'll need as you get older, whether or not you find a mate. You'll also meet people through them in lower-stakes situations where, even if there's not an immediate spark--of friendship or something more--you can still hang out and have fun without the pressure to evaluate and move on. Aside of stock "it was love at first sight" narratives, it's rare to meet someone and know immediately, especially as many of us get busier and age out of common friendship-cementing contexts like university classes and shared housing with neat roommates.
posted by tapir-whorf at 4:31 AM on July 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

A lot of my friends who have coupled up post-40 have either done through Match or via friends of friends.

One friend went through a lot of crappy online dating experiences, but eventually met G. via Match. They now go to a lot of shared interest events and cannot believe they hadn't run into each other before. But, she had to go on a lot of awful dates before she met G. (who wasn't even a perfect match on paper) - maybe take a look at your profile and see if there is anything you can tweak to get a better pool of dates. You could always post it here for gentle critique?

Another friend went through a divorce and is now loved up with a guy who she met via a friend of a friend of a friend. She had throw herself into a lot activities post-divorce (foodie events, volunteering, charity craft, animal shelter, and so forth) and thanks to her new circle of acquaintances, she met B.

Stuff like MeFi met-ups (or Meet Up dot com). You know, meet people. Those people might know people etc.
posted by kariebookish at 5:21 AM on July 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I’ve gone to lectures, readings, classes, arty and political events,

Most classes, lectures, and readings involve passive participation. There's more of an opportunity for mingling at arty and political events, but if you're attending these by yourself - without a strong flirting game - and hoping to bump into the right people without some kind of introduction, your odds are not going to be that great. Especially if you're going to random, unrelated events, one-offs.

I think it will help to either (both/and) get more comfortable with flirting (probably, try to do this anyway :/), or invest yourself more deeply into a particular scene - maybe by doing some organizing yourself. Get stuck in and get to know people (who might then make those introductions). Maybe volunteer on a board? Get a membership with an arts organization and go to (maybe help out with) lots of events by them and related organizations? (so you can make more acquaintances and friends).

(I'm assuming you're mostly doing things on your own - bravely! and kudos for that! - because your friends are mostly homebound. I am also assuming those networks have been pretty much tapped out.)

I know you're introverted, and that some of that may be challenging, but because as people are saying, the structural opportunities for more regular exposure to single people aren't just there for you, I think you're going to have to make them happen. I think you can't fall back on the hope-to-be-noticed strategies that might have worked in the past. (In part because people may also be assuming you're partnered.) Keep putting yourself out there and do it more.

I would also say, it may be that someone younger than 40 is wonderful and knows that he doesn't want kids. (I would maybe bring that cutoff down to ~35.)

Investigating the more marriage/LTR-oriented dating sites seems like a good idea.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:27 AM on July 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm in a similar situation... the dating pool is such that I feel like my only chance of getting someone compatible is to snatch someone up ten minutes after his divorce, which obviously comes with its own issues! I think the best option, if you haven't already exhausted it, is through friends. Since I met most of my friends while married with kids, they're mostly married with kids and their friends are married with kids, so it hasn't been super helpful to me... but when I do meet someone through them, it gives me a chance to get to know someone platonically first (through parties, etc.) which lets each of us figure out if we like each other without the sort of image projecting/ instant decision-making that often happens with online dating. Even if your friends don't socialize in that way, making sure you've put it out there that you're looking may help you find great people you wouldn't meet otherwise.

Good luck... I completely understand the loneliness and the seeming lack of options.
posted by metasarah at 6:47 AM on July 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm a guy headed rapidly to my mid-40s, so probably the demographic you're simultaneously looking for, and annoyed with. The only concrete additional suggestion I can think of is to mount your courage up and try a dance group/class that is singles friendly. Maybe Latin, maybe swing, or even contra (which is big here in VT, no idea about NYC). I've met a number of great folks here through that. Although I made a conscious decision when I start to not try to turn it into a dating pool I know others do find dates there. At least in this community it is pretty broad age ranges and extends from active members in college through retirement.

It also forces you to get right up close to other people, touch and interact. Personally, I find that sometimes that human touch is a huge part of the joy of it. A good swing with a big smile and hands on each other's backs can set the whole day right again and leave me re-centered for waiting to find the partner I'm really looking for.

Just my $0.02 and maybe not for everyone. The first few classes feel horribly awkward and uncomfortable, but when you get into the groove and the other regulars realize you are making the commitment to be there it can open up a fun new social avenue I'm betting is pretty orthogonal to your past experiences.
posted by meinvt at 7:13 AM on July 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

All the pretty boys left okcupid and are now on tinder. It's not just for hookups any more. I've recently expanded my facebook friends list because I've found a few friends who share my passion for making film. Tinder is searching through their friends and sending me men who I actually have things in common with. I'm also getting the icky ones but it is pretty easy to drop them.

Go to places that interest you to increase your chances of meeting people who you will have something in common with.

Pick up a new passion, something that you didn't think you would ever be able to do.
posted by myselfasme at 7:23 AM on July 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

ejs: "Have you explored right outside New York, as in New Jersey? A lot of men in the age range you're looking for have married, started a family, moved to NJ for a house with a yard, then divorced and stayed in NJ to be near the kids... "

I second this concept although I would suggest Westchester as well as NJ. I am in my *ahem* young 50s, divorced with college age children who chose to stay in my town in Westchester not just for the kids but also for my ties to the community. I have established friends here, I volunteer in the community and I work from home.

I am not on any internet dating sites. It has been my experience that it is easier for a male in their late 40s early 50s to meet women than the other way around. I don't know why. My female friends agree that they have more women to setup than men available. I am frequently asked if I want to be setup. When I ask my friends why they think of me, I am usually told some variation of what you have found, that they know I will be respectful on a date, that I will be able to at least carry on my end of a conversation and that I am not a drunk, a player, and I appear to be over my divorce. They say that while it may not be a match, both of us will enjoy the evening. My point is that friends and acquaintances are a great way to be setup. To me, their advantage over an internet site is that both sides come with some (minimal) pre-screening.

Having said that, I am told that J-Date, regardless of your religion or devotion to your religion seems to get a good pool of candidates although limited in number. Also, I am told the male to female ration greatly favors the males (more women). I have no direct experience to verify this.

The other observation I can make is that at some point, over some age, everyone has some sort of baggage whether that is kids, a crazy ex, money woes from a divorce, etc. I advise considering that but on a case by case basis rather than ruling out all folks with some specific baggage.

Also, I know you said you were somewhat introverted and not a great flirt, but be willing to make the first ask. I know that there are many instances where I am not sure if this person is available and I assume that a person that nice, that cute, that together must be taken. I too can be shy. I think a lot of men are. Personally, knowing how hard it is to ask, I am willing to go out at least once with anyone who asks me. While getting setup is a great way to meet people, don't sit around waiting to be setup. If you interact with someone you think would be an interesting person to meet, ask them for coffee or a beer.

Finally, the willingness to be a third wheel is helpful to both staving off loneliness and to keeping your network of setup folks "hot". I am willing to go out with the same couples we went out with when married. A restaurant can easily set up a table for 3 or 5. I have even been introduced to potential dates while at a restaurant with married friends.
posted by AugustWest at 7:59 AM on July 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

What about pursuing your interests through groups that have more than one-off events? Like pursue politics, but not just an event where you're hearing a speaker, but a volunteer group to advance a cause or candidate you believe in? Or get involved with planning the series of lectures that you attended one of? It's hard to meet someone at a lecture, but if you're helping plan the lectures, you'll see the same people again and again and make some new connections. I met so many people when I joined an arts board, for example. I haven't been on it for 3 years and I still meet new people as a result of that connection.
posted by *s at 9:20 AM on July 29, 2016

I don’t play sports or hike, so I suppose that doesn’t help.

Would you consider trying either? After a lifetime of being completely unathletic, I took up fencing in my fifties, and it's been a great way to meet people. Most of the men my age are married, but there are lots of men younger than I am who aren't. I've found the fencing communities I've been involved in very accepting - it's not like high school sports (or at least my memory of them) where you're only accepted if you're good. Of course, I don't know what's behind your not participating, but gym classes made me think that I hated moving my body when what I really hated was just gym class. I'd encourage you to at least consider looking into athletic classes or hiking clubs in your area. Martial arts classes can be fun too (if you really don't like to move, maybe start with tai chi). It might be more fun than you expect.
posted by FencingGal at 9:31 AM on July 29, 2016

I second FencingGal. I've always been more artsy than athletic and am pretty bad at sports, but I decided to try joining a kickball league at a time when I didn't have any local friends. There are a lot of adult recreational leagues out there for various sports that are more about fun than athletic ability, and often include post-game happy hours. For me and others, this has fostered everything from casual acquaintances to lifelong friends to romantic relationships. It's the way I've managed to build a sense of community. My current boyfriend is someone I originally met through kickball years ago and had a platonic friendship with until we developed feelings for each other and started dating last year. Other people I know have been introduced to their SOs by friends they met through kickball.

Are there any open mic nights near you? I play at one at a local restaurant/bar and have noticed a lot of people there in your age range (performers as well as people who are there just to eat or have a drink and watch). I see some regulars and some new faces each time. The music provides an easy topic of conversation too.
posted by treachery, faith, and the great river at 9:51 AM on July 29, 2016

Seconding meinvt about social dancing , with the addendum that different styles in one region may be wildly different in age range, meets marketness, and gender balance. Start with the one you like the music to but if the people-mix is all wrong, try another.

And whoo boy friendly touch on a regular basis is nice.
posted by clew at 11:00 AM on July 29, 2016

I solved this problem with Meetup, and met amazing people who share my interests that I never would have met otherwise.
posted by onecircleaday at 11:27 AM on July 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you tried bumble (the app?) I've heard that its mildly less awful than tinder (yeah, sure am selling it, huh). and yes! totes Meetup! I know some really cool cats that do all kinds of stuff through it.

Best of luck!!
posted by speakeasy at 12:54 PM on July 29, 2016

How about a professional matchmaker? You seem like a good candidate, and I hear NYC has mahy of those.
posted by Everydayville at 3:07 PM on July 29, 2016

I am not in to dating so can't speak from personal experience but I've had a couple of friends have success from joining specific singles-activities groups like Events and Adventures or the Sierra Club singles or just getting on a softball team. The event groups are nice because there isn't the "this is a date" one-on-one pressure--but, there is something of an expectation set because the stated purpose is to get singles together.
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:17 PM on July 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and one friend met her husband through a good, old-fashioned match-maker. The cost to women is less than to men. The match-maker coached her to improve her flirting. Pre-screened the guys. Because there is a cost everyone involved seems to make more of an effort and don't flake out the way that can happen with more casual meetings.
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:24 PM on July 29, 2016

Ignoring the bar scene, I'd worry less about flirting and more about friendly conversation. Even at passive, audience-based events, if you spot a guy who you can tell is there alone (and isn't working the room), he'll probably be glad you talked to him.

Seconding Meetup.
posted by cnc at 4:35 PM on July 29, 2016

Invite your married friends to meddle - some of them may be hoping they could. When I was single, I always appreciated the efforts my more-connected friends made when they thought they knew someone I might enjoy meeting. None of them panned out in the long term (I met my wife during a car accident aftermath), but there were often pleasant times and I got some good stories out of them. I wish I could do the same for someone else now. I'm in my early 50s with reluctantly-single friends of both genders in various spheres of my life. Unfortunately, none of them are good matches for each other due to geographies, outlooks, preferences, etc. I'm still keeping an eye out, though.

Oh, and about that car accident - it never hurts to be open to a bit of non-flirting conversation with a stranger when there's a shared [THING] that you're both independently focused on to break the ice. Especially in a mildly stressful (and harmless) situation, you can find out about someone's sense of humor and way of handling stuff/treating people, and that might give you a reason to want to connect.

Good luck to you - you sound like the kind of person I'd like to meet if I were in a similar situation.
posted by NumberSix at 8:01 PM on July 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Be aware that many of the dynamics of male-female dating change as people move from youth to middle age. A young woman can expect to be approached by suitors, wined and dined by them, and eventually make her choice of the one who feels like the best fit. There is a flip at some point (30? 40? 50? or somewhere in between one of these generational markers), at which juncture you need to come to grips with the fact that things have changed, and that a much more proactive approach is now called for.

Several of my female friends have found their SOs—after years or even decades of NOTHING—by acknowledging the reality of this "flip," and basically proceeding to do most of the things young guys have to do to win their beloved's heart: express interest and attraction even when there is little or no evidence of actual or potential reciprocation; arrange (and pay for!) outings and activities which may include dining, dancing, outdoor activities, cultural events, etc., while still being mostly unsure if there is any interest at all from the other party. IOW, you need to be willing to shoulder all responsibility for the progress and eventual success of your dating endeavors.

You may certainly choose not to do this—that is, of course, your right—but your chances of success will be roughly equal to those of a young man who thinks he is such a "great catch" that surely any young woman with functional eyes will see this and will go out of her way to get to know him. (That may occasionally be true, but in most cases absolutely nothing will come of it.) Think of it as Nature's balancing act.

posted by tenderly at 1:12 AM on July 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

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