Why do some middle-aged men lie about their age on Tinder?
September 29, 2019 5:39 PM   Subscribe

I've been using Tinder for the first time, and have met some mostly great people. However, I seem to keep running into middle-aged men who are shaving a few years off their age. I don't care about age but I do care about honesty!

The guys are overall nice people, if perhaps a little narcissistic or insecure. I have not experienced this with women -- I'm bi -- or men in their 20s or 30s. I make it clear that I am open to dating a huge range of ages.

A male friend said that lying about age is very common for women, which I can understand due to the mix of ageism and sexism. I could probably lie about my age because I do look a bit younger but don't as a matter of principle. Fortunately, I still have plenty of options; I know that Tinder is often very hard for men of all ages who aren't super conventionally attractive.

Two examples of men include one who is 52 but said he was 49; another said he was 41 but is actually 43. They kept up with the lie when I asked them for their age or birth year near the end of the first date: we had already discussed a second date in the near future. It would have been an easy chance for them to say "actually I'm XYZ but list a lower age to meet more people" etc. but they didn't. Also, why just 2-3 years when they could say 5-10 years? They were attractive but I immediately figured they were probably a bit older based on appearance.

When I find out the truth from a simple Google search or review of their past Instagram photos between dates, they weren't upset but acted like I shouldn't care. The first guy initially got very defensive but then offered a detailed explanation; I felt very satisfied with this and our following discussion, although he ended up being rather flakey in other ways. The second guy totally dodged giving any explanation and made it seem like I was being weird. I would be accepting of most any reason but their reticence to discuss it is off-putting.

If you do this or know people who do, could you please explain why? No judgement on my part, just curiosity as I'd like to understand this better. Thank you!

FWIW, I'm a woman in my mid-30s from the US living in Argentina. I never encountered this with online dating in the US but I was also a bit younger at the time.
posted by smorgasbord to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They do it so they wont get approached by women their own age. The main reason anyway. And also they do it to see if younger women find them attractive. "Late forties" sounds more marketable than "early fifties".
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 5:45 PM on September 29, 2019 [33 favorites]

People lie for many reasons. Online dating is about a first impression and getting your foot in the door.

They just took any chance of getting a follow up date and threw it in the trash, but there you go.

It sucks, but there isn’t much more to say on the subject of why people lie in their OLD profiles.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:50 PM on September 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

I feel like this should not be a puzzler. Why do some middle-aged men lie about their age on Tinder? Because they think that doing so is going to land them the people they want to meet up with.

The same reason that women lie about their age on online dating, or men add a few inches to their height, or people of both sexes use older pictures that show them with fewer grey hairs, fewer wrinkles, etc. The same reason people use photos that are strategically taken to make them look thinner, or more attractive in some way.

But, specifically, probably because those middle-aged men want to date younger women. Women who've specifically set their age target younger than the men who are trying to get their attention. Because they're hoping that they can get a date or two and either just get laid or convince this new person that dating an older person is not so bad.

Happily online dating is a thing of the past for me, but it was very very very common to find that people were dishonest in one way or another in their profiles.
posted by jzb at 6:04 PM on September 29, 2019 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Are these men who might want to have kids and thus want to date women who are young enough to get pregnant?

Also, as a data point: even in the pre-internet-dating days, in my community where matchmakers were A Thing and the goal was definitely to get married, people lied or encouraged others to lie about their age.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:07 PM on September 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think it's odd that you say you can spot a discrepancy of no more than 2-3 years by eye. (To that part of your question, the reason they say 2-3 years younger instead of 5-10 is because A. pretty much nobody else in the world can tell it's not true just by looking at them, and B. a 52-year-old doesn't need to pretend something ludicrous when all he or she wants is to slip under the age bracket cut-off that kicks in at the end of every decade.)

I also think that since this is an ongoing concern you have, you should ask to see their IDs at the beginning of the date or the moment you feel suspicious, instead of springing the trap at the end ("when I asked them for their age or birth year near the end of the first date"). Playing detective is demeaning to you as well as to the liar.

The reason this keeps happening is because you're dating men as much as 20 years older than you. The kind of guy who is trying to date much younger women is the kind of guy who does this, because he is the kind of guy who thinks about age a lot (in general, allowing for exceptions etc. etc. etc., adults may date up because they don't care about age, but they date down because they do care, so much.) These guys probably refuse to discuss it or explain it because they think the reasons are so obvious that you must be fucking with them on purpose, or trying to prolong the humiliation. Which you are free to do.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:14 PM on September 29, 2019 [46 favorites]

They kept up with the lie when I asked them for their age or birth year near the end of the first date: we had already discussed a second date in the near future

They're lying both times and trying to keep you on the hook.
posted by waving at 6:25 PM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: They want partners who will tolerate lying. They start with something ‘small’ like their age and move on to bigger lies. First dates who won’t go along with the age lie don’t move on to second dates, or get the gaslighting treatment as a secondary test.
posted by bilabial at 6:38 PM on September 29, 2019 [29 favorites]

Best answer: They are cheating. It's not a Great Big Lie, it's a Socially Acceptable Lie. It's vanity. They think it won't matter/they can get away with it. They are probably likely to lie/cheat in other socially acceptable ways.
posted by theora55 at 6:43 PM on September 29, 2019 [10 favorites]

I'm less familiar with Tindr. But on some sites users set age range preferences that limit which users the site will show you. My guess is men who lie about their age do so hoping that potential partners will meet them and then decide that they're datable before they learn their true age.

Just a guess.
posted by bunderful at 6:44 PM on September 29, 2019 [10 favorites]

Side note, consider yourself lucky these guys you see are only lying by 2-3 years. I've had guys lie by 10+ years, and even met someone who exaggerated his height by 9 inches (he was 5'3"). I have to wonder whether the egregiousness of these lies reflects how seriously they take online dating. It's a game to some people, I think.
posted by shaademaan at 6:50 PM on September 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

I have not experienced this with women

Just to be clear: This is incredibly common with women, too.

I think the broader trend is: People lie about little things on online dating to increase their chances of getting a match.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:53 PM on September 29, 2019 [13 favorites]

My understanding is that the age and height exaggerations work -- putting down the false information gets you more dates than does being honest. This is especially true around arbitrary cut-offs that people use to filter (39 years vs 40 years, or 5' 11" vs 6', say), obviously. That doesn't make it right, of course, but it certainly is prevalent.

I've also known people to exaggerate or falsely imply that they are richer/more successful than they are, that they live in a nicer area, etc. These are all things that would quickly become apparent when actually dating, but I guess the hope is that by the time you notice you will be infatuated and won't care.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:59 PM on September 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Little bit TMI, little bit daft. My foray into OLD I shaved a year off because how old I am is between me and my match-ups, not between me and my dating website. I'll lie to websites and I'll lie to google, but I don't lie to people.

People often tell me I look much younger plus I honestly thought it was hilarious to knock off a single year, like that made all the difference. One person I met up with went super stony-faced when I told her (straight up on the pre-date, fair enough if lying was a dealbreaker) and another found it amusing (or at least said she did; we kept in contact). I was trying to date +/- 7 years off my real age at the time, for reference.

I just hate having an unwanted internet intermediary in my personal life and I like to kick against the pricks. Sure I could have gone one year older, but I suppose I'm vain too.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 7:27 PM on September 29, 2019 [8 favorites]

Best answer: tinder had a "show me these ages" slider that not long ago went, as you increased it, 47...48...49...55+, throwing 50 year olds in with 70 and 80 year olds. So the design itself tremendously penalized anyone hitting 50.
posted by zippy at 8:40 PM on September 29, 2019 [17 favorites]

Best answer: The only times I’ve become aware of men lying about their ages on Tinder are men in their 20s who want to date older women. They set their age for older so they pop up in the decks of older women who aren’t looking for younger men. However, these guys say in their profiles that they are actually younger. I presume older might might have the same motivation: increased visibility to younger women.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:33 PM on September 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was thinking that if someone was lying about their age just a year or two (or three)—especially if it was to tick just under the “50 years old” marker—that they are probably doing it to increase their chances of turning up in people’s searches.

I imagine that when a lot of people do a search they say something like
“someone with the following interests, who is not younger than X, but no one in their 50’s or older”

But anyone who continues to lie about their age after you meet them would appear to be okay with lying and that’s a red flag.
posted by blueberry at 6:20 AM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have a friend in his mid-forties who does this (he looks much, much younger than he is) and it's because of the age cutoffs in the dating app search filters. He comes clean on every single first date he goes on, but has said that he straight-up wasn't having much success even getting to first dates any other way.

(A side conundrum is that he would very much like kids if he met the right person, but he is far less likely to meet women interested in the same in the 40-50 age bracket.)
posted by anderjen at 7:08 AM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Both men and women mislead on dating sites and hookup sites (which, let us not forget, tend to be the same sites depending on the user) as to their ages, levels of success and affluence, weight, attractiveness, recency of photographs, etc. They do this because they think it will provide more positive results and they hope it can all be smoothed over once the person actually meets them.

I'm also going to dissent from the idea that these men are compulsive liars or are looking for women who will swallow their lies. If someone who has knocked 2-3 years off their age on Tinder is interrogated about it on a date, the natural reaction for most people is to stick to their guns. Besides, what's the big difference between 49 and 52 years of age? Frankly, most anyone using an online matchmaking site should expect that every profile is tweaked in one way or another. This has always been the case. I have friends who were out on match.com years ago, and they all said that you just had to assume people would be less attractive, several years older and a few dozen pounds heavier than their profiles indicated.

That said, the cohort of 50something men interested in dating 30something women through a matchmaking site likely has some distinctive characteristics (as would the cohort of 30something women interested in dating 50something men through a matchmaking site). Certainly I can tell you that age and mortality tend to become much more significant subjects of thought when one approaches 50 years of age, and this might incline some to knock off a few years on their profiles. And, as zippy observes above, some youthful-feeling 50somethings may feel they are disadvantaged by being grouped together with much older people.
posted by slkinsey at 7:12 AM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: (A side conundrum is that he would very much like kids if he met the right person, but he is far less likely to meet women interested in the same in the 40-50 age bracket.)

this isn't a "conundrum," this is the logical consequence of being in your mid-40s. being a man who apparently believed and still believes that the slow march of time brings its terrible truths home to women only isn't a conundrum either.

People don't set age cut-offs because they don't want men who look old. They do it because they don't want men who are old. For those interested in procreation, this is true ten times over. This is a truth so hard for some men to look in the face it might as well be impossible. it applies to women too, but least some women know it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:32 PM on September 30, 2019 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Honestly? People are ageist, as evidenced, so people lie to avoid that and get better matches. It is not a 'male' thing necessarily, women lie just as much about it-- my mom online dated a few years ago and she just wasn't comfortable listing 69 as her age and put 62 or something (she looks younger). It's an ingrained thing, a social pressure and she succumbed to it. It's not right, but, as others said, people do it to get matched more.

And matches do change: When I was in my late 20s, I was getting tons of matches, as soon as I clicked over to 30, it was like crickets. Not that I cared, I don't lie about my age. But I noticed there is a marked difference in matches when hitting major age thresholds, apparently, again, people are agesit. This isn't just an opinion though-- there is data on it. Given that, I think people are being harsh here on people fudging their age-- men are not the only ones focused on youth when they date.

Oh and contrary to popular belief, she isn't a 'serial liar', she didn't want a partner who tolerated lying, and she definitely didn't 'gaslight the men' she dated, or lie in other socially acceptable ways. *eyeroll*

That's a frankly, pretty laughable assumption about people.
posted by Dimes at 1:07 AM on October 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful replies, all of which gave me insight! Upon further reflection as well as conversations with people here, these are my takeaways. While there are definitely universal truths, stoneweaver was right in that this particular question is best answered by those familiar with Argentine culture.

1. Argentine society is extremely focused on beauty and youth, in a way that is rare for most of the US save places like LA. (Seriously!) The good/bad thing about this is the criticism seems mostly directed inward rather than outward like in the US, at least according to my experiences.

2. Age 40 is considered "old" to many here. In the US, half of the adult population is single so it's considered normal in many places, at least in big cities; here it is seen as weird to many, even in the huge cosmopolitan capital. (It's actually almost laughable but the guy who is 43 considers my 36 to be SO much more youthful when really it's not.)

3. Traditionally, Argentine society is extremely macho: even if many men are trying to break this mold, there is still lot of pressure for men to appear strong and confident and hide vulnerabilities.

4. Due to the past economic crisis and current instability, people have little trust in the government and, therefore, also each other. Fibbing a little -- or a lot, especially while dating, is considering totally normal because the other parties know that it's wishful thinking/just talk. Also, there is the infamous chamuyero -- or smooth talker who lies to impress and bed women; even if most people aren't that, there is a little bit of chamuyer@ in all of us here!

Lying about your age here as everywhere seems to be either totally innocuous in some situations and huge a red flag in others. The biggest motivation for lying seems to be insecurity, which is not a fatal flaw but can lead to some shitty actions or other traits that are tricky/annoying. 

It's interesting to go from dating 20something men going through existential crises to 40-and-50something men having midlife crises. Obviously this doesn't apply to everyone but we all have our challenges, and I think sharing those challenges are what connect us on an emotional and spiritual level. I realized that so much of this is about the evolving concept of masculinity in society. Toxic masculinity gives people a script to follow but most men are obviously way kinder and better than that. Still, society pressures men to appear strong and hide vulnerabilities; they can't necessarily discuss the hard stuff with each other so, yet again, the burden of that weight often falls to individual men and the women they are intimate with.

Challenges aside, I'm so happy to be meeting different people and really appreciate the life experience and compassion that middle-aged men bring to relationships. Admittedly, I had to laugh a little when someone suggested I was a sketchy detective creeping on these guys; I know you meant well but that's so clearly not the case. Many of us google people we date; here people's birthdates and ID numbers are a matter of public record that pop up when you look up their social media. Women lie about their age while dating, too, but I've found more honesty since ageism is often less of an issue for queer women. I now know what to expect and how to have these discussions as well as what to watch out for. Here's to hoping for the best because we all know that dating is quite the challenge and adventure for us all!
posted by smorgasbord at 9:33 AM on October 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

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