In the real world, a man’s “pick up line” is often a finely honed work of art. It’s tougher to achieve communication excellence in the online world. There are no virtual pheromones, no scent of cologne or twinkling eyes to help a guy overcome a mediocre pick up line and connect with a woman.
Without the visual, sensual, and physical benefits of an in person encounter, that first introductory email or message takes on extra importance. Dating coaches advise men — and women — to ask about or comment on something in a match’s profile. Instead, I often see clueless men stumbling around when it comes to establishing an online or mobile-based dialogue. Then there are the swoon-worthy guys who can translate their “in the wild” skills to the electronic world.
Let’s have an early Thanksgiving vegetarian lunch of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cauliflower cake while we examine the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly. Note: these are real life introductions from my dating files. Names and identifying details have been changed to protect both the masters and the disasters.
From a romantic:
You have not filled in your profile, maybe I can help: beautiful cosmopolitan lady seeks dashing handsome and witty man for a life of adventure and joy.
From a charming man who is as tall as me:
You know, if it weren’t that we’d be i 2 i instead of your having to look up a couple of inches (sorry my cowboy heels are still in Montana), I think I’d actually meet many of your criteria!
If you like to wear heels, I don’t really mind looking up at an impressive woman 🙂
From a man with a lot of letters after his name:
You are educated. My sense is that you have substance — rare here!
From a helpful guy:
It appears you love to travel. Need someone to carry your bags? I am fun, smart, driven and people oriented. Smiles.
From a fast mover (this one made me laugh):
The BAD and/or UGLY:
From a man who struggles with the English language:
I’m just here trying to figure out my other half body to enjoy the rest of my time in life with… i think i like what i read in your profile, most especially your beautiful smile, i’m willing to give it a chance if you give it a go.
From a man who loves to shop:
Hi joe here are you a retail sales person?
From a scary man:
Hi, have you ever had an interest in hypnosis?
From a man who’s up front about what he’s looking for:
Hi there I’m Sam I’m 61 young and am interested in a friend with benefits, l enjoy some your your before mentioned activities. If interested wink me back !
From a man with zero photos posted:
Your profile looks great but I’d like to see more photos before we start chatting.
From a man who believes you can never stop growing:
You look like a brite and eclectic individual. I was wanting to know, how tall were you before you decided to move to the city?
From a very, very, very shy man:
Would saying hello be ok.
From a man a decade younger than my son:
From a dirty, middle-aged man:
Into mild kink?
From a desperate bad boy:
hey dear I like sexy tall red heads are u up for fun games if your for real I want to meet you soon to get the ball moving
From a man who doesn’t read profiles:
hi, How are you doing,… Please tell me about yourself
I hope these gave you a chuckle. We need all the humor we can find in this crazy dating world.
Until next week, happy dating or not dating and Happy Thanksgiving!
Although I frequently encounter online dating scammers via email, I finally had the “pleasure” of speaking to one on the phone.
Mr. O was my first “match” or connection on Coffee Meets Bagel, a dating app I recently downloaded to my phone (for a review of other apps, see Dating Sites and Apps: A Rodeo Roundup). For those unfamiliar with this free app, it provides daters with a section for a brief profile and photo and sends you a daily match or “bagel” at noon, provided the bakers or rather matchmakers in charge find someone for you. If there are no quality bagel matches, CMB may send you some “also rans.” You can take these imperfect matches or give them away to your friends. Unfortunately, there are no options to search on your own.
From our first exchange, I was a bit suspicious of Mr. O but I found his profile and photos appealing. I decided to play along safely for a while to confirm my suspicions – or not – and flex my investigative muscles. I hoped I would be proven wrong and that Mr. O was the real deal.
The Mr. O interlude was a slow unveiling of some odd, unusual or inconsistent “facts” that one/I could easily overlook in a search for romance.
For example his profile claimed two bachelors degrees – one from the University of Stavenger in Norway and one from the University of Sydney. In an early email, I asked Mr. O if he was Australian given the Sydney degree. He wrote that he had taken a short course there. Despite this inconsistency, I forged ahead.
Mr. O wrote he was Hungarian and noted that people had a hard time understanding him in conversation because of his accent. When I was confused about something he wrote, he asked me to remember that English is not his first language. Of course, that’s a ready-made excuse to explain inconsistencies.
Here’s a quick round up of other troubling details, provided for your learning pleasure.
Despite two bachelor’s degrees (or not depending on whether the Australian stint was a class or a degree), Mr. O wrote that he had been in the gem stone business before becoming a contractor in the construction field. During one of our two phone calls he revealed he was a civil engineer. There’s nothing wrong with being an engineer but this occupation seems to be the fake job of choice of scammers. And the gem stone business is a rather exotic and unusual job that got me wondering.
On two occasions, Mr. O referred to his efforts to secure funding for his construction projects. A need for funds is associated with scamming. I also don’t think of civil engineers as people who do project fund raising.
Mr. O’s profile said he lived in Delaware and yet his cell phone number was from North Carolina. When I texted him about this, he didn’t respond but transitioned to another topic.
He didn’t pick up on any of my witty banter (one could argue that might only mean he is humorless) or my banter is lacking.
He was widowed 10 years ago and had not been intimate with anyone since his marriage. Widowed engineers are “classic” scammer types. An update on his sex life was TMI for an early get-acquainted correspondence.
Mr. O wrote that he was a cancer survivor. Along with being a widower, surviving great personal tragedy is another favorite story of scammers.
During our second phone conversation, Mr. O said he travels all over the world for his work and was planning a trip to Singapore. International travel alone is not a reason to indict someone but it falls into the common profile of a scammer, along with widowed engineers.
There were lots of clichés in his emails. How many times have you seen this line or a version of it?
“There is nothing finer than a woman who looks good in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and can still dress up for a formal party when the occasion calls for it.”
Before our phone conversation, I dutifully searched Mr. O’s email address and cell phone number as well as unique sections of his profile on Google and romancescam. I searched his phone number on a security ID site. I wanted to search his photos on Google image search and TinEye. However, since there is no online version of Coffee Meets Bagel, I couldn’t save his photos from a web site. So I used my iPad to take a photo of Mr. O’s profile photo on my phone and then cropped it in iPhoto – creating a searchable jpeg file. Still nothing.
During our second phone call, however, I noticed Mr. O’s Hungarian accent periodically drifting into an African one. (Quick aside: if you ever want to identify an accent, check out this website with recordings — http://www.dialectsarchive.com.)
The accent shifting fueled my determination. I had to out him. I went back to romance scam and searched several unique sentences in the emails he sent me. One of the excerpts was a match. Mr. O was a known scammer.
A eureka moment like this is more sad and frustrating than joyful. Even when you’re suspicious of someone, your heart can start to engage.
It took awhile but I’m finally an experienced dater. So here are the dichotomies. I am not only more aware of and able to detect falseness but I’m also more vulnerable. I may have a discerning eye but I’m also tired of the game and willing to overlook some details.
Scamming aside, I am more likely to consider someone who at first glance might not seem like a match. I wonder if there’s a potentially good book underneath that used, slightly tattered cover. But I’ll also make damned sure that the book isn’t plagiarized.
Postscript of safety measures taken:
I always kept my guard up with Mr. O. I did not reveal my last name and used my dating email address. After finding sections of his email on romance scams, I blocked his number on my cell phone and set up a filter so I didn’t have to see any future correspondence.
If you enjoyed this post or past ones, please subscribe to this blog. For those who like to read everything on a kindle, Dating, Sex, and Life in your 60s is now available as a kindle blog.
It’s early Sunday morning (really early – before sunrise) and I’m sipping coffee, reading my latest OkCupid email. What a lovely note from a cultured man but he lives 2,384 miles away in Vegas, is 4 inches shorter than me….and he’s 86 years old.
You have to give him credit for desiring intimacy and going for it. And perhaps I’ll take him up on his offer of a road trip to see the Southwest…but it would be a friends-only no benefits excursion.
Before I pack my bags for Vegas, it’s time for a rodeo roundup of recently tried dating sites and apps. There’s a chill in the air so let’s have some cioppino to warm our bellies.
I tried to come up with a theory about why I like or dislike various sites and apps. Thoughts swirled around and I had a vague notion of why some of them worked better than others. My theories jelled after reading Maureen O’Connor’s recent article on dating apps in New York Magazine’sThe Cut column. As she wrote, “We choose our dating apps the same way we choose bars, parties, coffee shops, concerts, and everywhere else we go with the vague hope of finding a mate – based on the people.” According to O’Connor, “the make-or-break factor in whether you stick around to flirt, or clam up and leave, is the crowd.”
My successes and failures with various sites and apps are certainly crowd-based. I hated eHarmony because the eHarmony folks picked the wrong crowd for me: they were boring and unattractive, and they all lived hundreds or thousands of miles away. To top it off, the site gave no option to scroll through and select guys I wanted to communicate with. I could only view men preselected for me.
Ms. O’Connor’s article presents a quick summary of the populations she encountered on 15 dating apps. Different users will, of course, see different crowds based on their profiles and search preferences. I tried some of the same sites/apps but my “crowd” is composed of older guys in a different location. Interestingly, in some cases, I must be getting older DC-area versions of the younger guys Ms. O’Connor found in NY.
Here’s my rodeo round up of sites and apps I tried, including a “senior” dating site geared to baby boomers and a couple of niche dating sites.
My assessment of online dating venues is based on whether there are a good number of dateable guys who are attractive, educated, and interesting; whether the men reach out and contact matches rather than just viewing them; and whether the site has a lot of scammers and fake users.
Dating Sites and Apps Round-up:
Match: I continue to find “dateable guys” seeking relationships on Match and they have the largest subscriber base of all of the sites so this one’s a keeper even though I receive a greater volume of inquiries on some of the other sites.
OkCupid: This used to be my favorite site and I have had a couple of 90-day relationships from matches on this site. However, lately, the site seems to be overrun with scammers, fake users, and strange guys. I’m not giving up on Ok but it’s gone down a notch on my list.
Plenty of Fish: I like this site and have had a number of dates from fish in this sea. No winners yet but at least the guys are dateable and reach out.
eHarmony: see above. Grade: F
JDate: My matches did not appeal and the guys did not seem to reach out as much as men on other sites.
OurTime: At first I loved OurTime, a site for those 50 and over. The users are active. They reach out frequently. However, too many of the guys are not appealing or educated and none of my conversations resulted in actual dates. I deleted it after a few months.
Ebony and Ivory: My foray into this niche dating site was a bust and I have stopped using this site. I was seeking ethnic variety but I was presented with mostly older, white dudes out of my geographic area. The “personal” emails I received were generic bits of profiles. The one time I wrote to Customer Service, I received a canned response to my complaint about geographic incompatibility.
How About We: Hardly anyone is on this site and no one appealed. The concept is clever: you suggest a date idea and an interested party can respond to that idea or suggest an alternate one. There’s also a nice feature that says you’re available to go out that night. I never received a “match” for the “go out that night” feature. The only date I had was with a widower who acknowledged he was not ready to date. I’m no longer a member.
Bumble: As a child of the ‘60s and ‘70s, I was immediately intrigued by a “feminist” dating app. Created by one of the co-founders of Tinder, Bumble’s “shtick” is that only women are allowed to initiate contact with a guy. I like the idea of women being in control. I am proactive on traditional sites/apps, but prefer to have men make the first move on these platforms. On Bumble, I feel freer to be the pursuer.
I was worried at first that there wouldn’t be enough men my age on Bumble. And that appears to be the case. I haven’t received many matches and the only date I scheduled was with a younger man who cancelled at almost the last minute due to a work crisis. I’ll keep using this site but due to the small number of matches I’m getting, I feel like the likelihood of my finding someone is the equivalent of a needle hole in a haystack…or perhaps a tiny bee in a big hive. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
Tinder: I have to give credit to Karen Yankosky of the Women of Uncertain Age podcast for inspiring me to try Tinder. Apparently Tinder is not just a hook-up App. Women and men can – and do — indicate they are seeking a relationship, not a one-night stand. So I bit the bullet a few days ago and quickly and easily created a profile.
Both Tinder and Bumble pull your public info from Facebook. Only your first name shows up on the App. If you feel nervous about exposing your Facebook info, you can follow my example. I pruned the public info on my profile. There is nothing in my Facebook profile that a stranger could use to identify or find me.
In addition to pulling information and photos from your Facebook profile, Tinder displays your location information and age. If you like someone, you can swipe right or select a heart. If you don’t like the guy, you swipe left or select the big X. If two people swipe right, they are both alerted by the app that they like each other and can start messaging. There seems to be an endless supply of men on the app (many of whom I recognize from other dating sites). I have my first Tinder coffee date set up for next week.
I love Tinder. It’s addictive. I especially like the fact that you only communicate with someone when you both like each other. Of course, this is my latest App download…and so I’m still in the crush phase.
To wrap up my rodeo, I leave you with two summary points. I think it IS a good idea to be on as many sites as you can handle. Some dating advisors suggest limiting your sites and apps to 2 or 3. I disagree. For one thing, if you have started dating someone from one of the sites, but you are not exclusive yet, you might want to browse on another site without your possible keeper guy knowing about it. Plus, with more sites, you’ll have more options. Maximize your possibilities!
If a site is not working out, stop using it but consider another trial period in 6 months. There may be some new users or app upgrades that change the experience.
In a recent Washington Postsolo-ish article, Lisa Bonos describes her decision to decline new friendship offers. Bonos prefers to spend her limited free time and emotional energy on the great friends she already has. Investing in new friendships, she writes, would prevent her from nurturing existing ones.
I get that. And yet I’ve been on the other side of that situation.
There have been a few times since my divorce when I tried to establish new friendships with other single women but my efforts were fruitless. In these cases, the women already had a busy friend life and were friend-booked.
As a former student and once young mother, I remember the pleasure of sharing hopes, fears, frustrations, and tactics with others going through similar struggles.
Now I’m a member of an equally distinctive life state – divorced after a long marriage. And although I still love my married friends, I seek single comrades in arms to help me navigate and laugh at the murky waters of new singledom with all of its joys, frustrations, and issues.
New singledom issues often include dating. I’d like a cadre of wing women who can join me in proactive flirting opportunities.
How have I increased my single friendships? I started looking for new opportunities to meet potential friends – including Meetup groups, colleagues, neighbors, etc.
Then when I read the Post article about being at friend capacity, I posted on my social media accounts that a new friend app is needed for those who are seeking new connections.”
It turns out that there aren’t any apps yet (heads up, app developers), but there are three “make a friend” websites!
I immediately signed up for sociajane and girlfriendsocial. I had technical problems registering for girlfriendcircles and I’m waiting to hear back from the web master.
All three friend sites are free though socialjane offers a paid subscription version. Similar to dating sites, the friend sites ask you to provide a screen name, a profile with your interests, and a photo.
I can’t wait to complete my profile on the two sites and see what happens. Friend acquiring, just like dating, is best accomplished with a combination of online and “in the wild” tactics.
About the same time my book kick began, I started going out with someone who would prove to be a conundrum. Mr. B’s behavior became particularly puzzling a couple of weeks ago. When I described the situation to a friend, she said, “Perhaps it’s a case of ‘He’s Just Not That Into You.’”
I saw the movie version of He’s Just Not That Into You awhile ago and though I can’t remember the details, I remember the premise – men treating women badly. I had never read the book, which was written by two Sex and the City writers. Since it was time to select another advice tome, I downloaded the kindle edition of He’s Just Not That Into You and started reading.
For the Cliff Notes version of the book, just read the table of contents. For example:
He’s Just Not That Into if He’s Not Asking You Out
He’s Just Not That Into if He’s Not Calling You
He’s Just Not That Into if He’s Disappeared on You
You get the idea. Author Greg Behrendt has a no-nonsense approach that advises women to immediately dump anyone who shows any of the “He’s Just Not That Into You” signs. His co-author Liz Tuccilo sometimes tempers or softens Greg’s hardline approach with the reality of a woman’s experience.
Women are often willing to put up with less than perfect in order to have some kind of…read “any” relationship in this world of more women than men. But more often than not, Liz agrees with Greg that it’s better to be alone than with someone who treats you poorly.
The book is really about self worth, empowerment, and getting what you as a totally awesome woman deserve.
So let’s go back to my conundrum. Here are the signs from Mr. B that gave me pause:
After initial frequent contact (mostly texting), there are now longer gaps in communication
Most common mode of communication: texting about inane daily activities or “his stress” from work etc.
Only a few phone calls
After 2nd date two weeks ago, still no plans for a 3rd date
Out of town every other weekend to care for elderly mother but no effort to see me during the week
The reason it was a conundrum and not a clear-cut get out of it ASAP situation:
We had two good dates and discovered some common interests
He is staying in touch however irregularly and always asks how I am
Obvious chemistry and attraction between the two of us
I wanted to see him again; there seemed to be potential worth exploring
There are other factors but I’m approaching this issue from a strictly behavioral analysis.
The more I read the book, the more I recognized Mr. B’s actions in the behaving badly category. And like many of the examples in the book, just when I thought he was really demonstrating non-interest, he would phone me. I started to think he was treating me like a yo yo – letting the line out and staying out of touch. Then, right before it hit the ground, he’d jerk (me) back with a phone call.
After pondering all of the examples of badly behaving men in the book and rolling my eyes at the women who kept trying to forgive their guys, I concluded that I was, in fact, in denial and living a case of He’s Just Not That Into You. I also concluded that women outnumber men in the decent and nice category.
What was the last straw with Mr. B? After not hearing from him all week, he phoned me Thursday evening. I was annoyed and didn’t answer. Later that night I sent him a text saying I’d be available Friday.
On Friday, he sent an afternoon text detailing his stressful week as an excuse for not being in touch. He ended the text by saying he plans to drive a friend to the airport in NY and will then spend the weekend in the city. There was no mention of getting together again — only that he’d be back Sunday.
I don’t know if his friend (man or woman) lives in NYC or in the DC area…but regardless, does this make any sense at all? Top that off with a lot of mundane detail. What I wanted him to write was “Really miss you and want to see you as soon as possible.”
I haven’t responded. I wrote a sayonara “breaking up” with you text but I may not send it. Sometimes ghosting seems like the right response.
To any reader who is in a murky mixed-message dating situation, read or re-read He’s Just Not That Into You. It will be a splash of cold water on your hot little love-starved head…. and sometimes you need that.
I don’t know about you but I feel so much better getting this off of my chest.
If you liked this post or any past one, please subscribe to this blog. I love subscribers!
One of my favorite things is comparing two seemingly different things – an object, for example, with a human experience such as love, a relationship, marriage and divorce. When I think about these comparisons, I often gain insights into the human condition – or at least have a good laugh. With this in mind, let’s consider whether buying a house is a good comparison for a relationship (unmarried or married). And while we’re taxing our brains in this way, let’s have some eggplant frittata.
(1) Love at First Sight
Have you ever been house shopping and experienced a love at first sight phenomenon? You walk in the front door and are immediately captivated with the space in front of you. It doesn’t matter if what you see first is an entryway or the rear deck; you just know this is THE ONE.
Similarly, seeing that new guy the first time (frontal or rear view) can invoke warm feelings of attraction (and lust) and the thought that this may be THE ONE.
Will love at first sight of house or hunk hold up? See points 2, 3, and 4.
(2) Getting to Know the Person or Home of Interest
So you think this may be the one (house or person). Don’t go too far, however, without seeing him or it in different situations and at different times of day.
You need to know if there are motorcycle gangs or drug runners going up and down the street OR if the person of interest (POI) turns into Mr. Jekyll at night (over-imbibing at the bar) or sleeps until the afternoon (a sign of circadian incompatibility).
(3) The Offer
After determining that the person or house of interest is a reasonable fit for a future residence or relationship, one can suggest an offer of purchase (house) or exclusivity (relationship).
The seller or POI does not always meet the offer with unbridled enthusiasm. There may be a period of negotiation. The seller may ask for more money. The POI may ask for more time to decide about the offer or for certain concessions in the relationship such as a delay in starting a family, a vacation to the Super Bowl instead of the French Riviera, or a cancellation of the series of couples dancing lessons you recently purchased.
(5) The Inspection
No house should be purchased without a professional inspection. Similarly, friends and family members of the couple must inspect the relationship. In the case of a house, repairs are often suggested and bargaining may ensue. A basement may need to be waterproofed or a roof repaired.
Regarding the relationship, a family member may suggest that the POI should get a better job. A friend may suggest the POI’s clothes need to be laundered, given to the Salvation Army, or burned along with his decades old sneakers. The possibilities are endless.
If you have survived all of the various stages – love at first sight, the offer, negotiation and inspection, you may proceed to closing. This means either signing away your life for a monthly mortgage payment OR securing a piece of paper that says you are married, or simply moving in with your guy.
(7) Extended Warranty
During closing, you may purchase an extended warranty for your home to help defray the costs of future repairs. The arguable equivalent for a relationship or marriage is the couple’s efforts to make their union work. This “extended warranty” is often referred to as “working on your relationship or marriage” to help ensure its longevity.
After a period of time, interest rates may drop and you may decide to refinance your mortgage. Refinancing is seen as evidence of a commitment to live in your home for the foreseeable future (or at least a few more years).
For the relationship, a couple may recommit to their relationship during a special vacation and/or time alone. A married couple may renew their vows. “Relationship refinancing” can also occur after a falling out and trial separation.
So are there lessons learned from this exercise in comparisons? Can we now understand relationships better? Or have we just pontificated in an effort to create a metaphor for love?
There are clearly equivalent steps to purchasing a home and finding, developing, and committing to a person of interest. And it’s fun to think that you can refinance a relationship.
The bottom line is that a good relationship IS a home for your heart. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be making those mortgage payments forever.
If you liked this post – or any past ones – sign up to get this blog emailed to you. I love subscribers.😊
Abraham Lincoln had a point when he said, “There are no bad pictures, that’s just how your face looks sometimes.” But do we really want to show a prospective match that face? That potential mate won’t be as forgiving as a friend or relative who knows you look better in person and — even if you don’t — loves you anyway.
From the day I created my first online dating profile, I realized the importance of posting a good photo. When I signed up on a couple of dating sites, I carefully selected what I thought were flattering photos taken by relatives.
I even used a photo taken by a guy I dated. He ghosted me inexplicably after 3 months. Only after I emailed him to ask why I hadn’t heard from him in a week, did he tell me he wanted to break up. As revenge, the very next day after he dumped me, I loaded a photo he had taken of me onto a new dating site. I was angry more than upset and my approach was: new dating site, new profile, and new photo.
Over time, I changed my main photo and after a few months both added and deleted pictures. The idea was to keep things fresh and as current as possible.
The photographer I chose, Joe LeBlanc with Ars Nova Images, also suggested shooting outdoors and we went to a nearby park. I have to admit that when you are over 29 as I am :), natural lighting can take 10 years off of your appearance. When I compared the test shots taken in Joe’s studio with the outdoor test shot, it was easy to go with the outdoor location.
Joe took about 300 photos (so quickly I couldn’t even tell it was that many) and he posed me in several settings in the park. I ended up with some dynamite natural-looking portraits. Sorry I can’t share them with you as Nadia continues to travel incognito on this blog, but I can share the results.
After loading the best photo onto my sites (Match, Plenty of Fish, OkCupid, How About We*, and Bumble*), I sat back and waited for what I hoped would be an uptick in views and messages.
It took a few hours and then shazam, incoming! It wasn’t a torrential downpour, but a reasonable summer rain of men. It’s been two weeks since the new photo was posted and I’ve had two dates and more e-mails, views, “likes,” “favorites,” etc. than before.
I haven’t met “the one” yet, but I’m certain I have improved my chances.
Until next week, happy dating or not dating.
*More on my experiences with these two dating venues in a future post.
“I write about sex because often it feels like the most important thing in the world.” Jeanette Winterston
When I think about the sex ed classes I had in junior high and high school, the focus was on DANGER: from sexually transmitted diseases to unwanted pregnancy to the dreaded menstrual cycle a young girl feared in advance of puberty. As I grew up and entered adulthood, there was no Part 2 class other than experience. What was missing was a scientifically-based exploration of the pleasures of sex and sexual physiology that wasn’t just focused on reproduction, and a look at the range of sexual experiences.
Now I’m not advocating a no-holds barred discussion of all things sexual in junior high sex education classes, but at some point and in some venue (maybe one’s home), there should be the beginnings of a better discussion about sex. And it shouldn’t begin and end when one is a teen or young adult. It should continue throughout life.
For don’t we all have questions about sex, sexuality, and our sexual relationships at different stages of life?
But people don’t talk about sex for the most part – unless it’s a joke or a complaint: “I’m not getting any,” for example. They learn from sexy books and magazines and watch sexy movies. And some may have an intimate discussion with a friend or relative. Women likely do a better job than men of talking to their good friends and close relatives about sexual response and enjoyment but an explicit discussion is likely not that common.
And talking to your partner about sex is not always easy or productive. So people may not fully realize the intricacies of sexual enjoyment and passion and how they can live a sexual life to the fullest – and help their partner do the same.
All this goes to say that Ian Kerner’s work as a sexologist, sex therapist, writer, and media personality is never done.
His books combine scientific research, clinical experience, and interviews with non-patients. His writing style is witty and humorous. He’s also very open about his own past challenges with premature ejaculation and he explains how this issue prompted him to first learn the value of pleasuring a woman orally.
I said in a previous post about my Ten Favorite Things that every man you’re in a relationship with should read She Comes First – after you peruse it of course.
So read on to learn what Kerner says about cliteracy, raunchy lovemaking, spontaneous and responsive desire, and how to talk to your partner about sex. Kerner’s comments have been minimally edited for clarity and brevity.
N: What do you think the take home message is from both She Comes First and Passionista?
I: One of the main reasons I wrote She Comes First is because as a sex therapist one of the most common complaints I heard was, ‘I’m not experiencing an orgasm during intercourse, what is wrong with me?’
And I really wanted to share the message to women and men that nothing is wrong with you — intercourse is not the most consistent way of helping a woman to achieve orgasm.
I wanted to subvert what I call the intercourse discourse and to get men especially to have a realistic understanding of female sexuality and to create mutually pleasurable experiences.
So the take home message for She Comes First was that really the clitoris is the powerhouse of the female orgasm in response to persistent stimulation and that intercourse is not really the best way to provide that. It was a book that was promoting the concept of sexual cliteracy as opposed to ill cliteracy.
With Passionista, just as I tried to give men a realistic understanding of female sexuality, I wanted to give women a better understanding of male sexuality based on research and science. Men experience low libido for example; men don’t just switch on and off in terms of their sexuality. I wanted to provide women with a more nuanced view on male sexuality.
With both books, it was important that I’m not just philosophizing but offering tips and techniques and sex scripts that are implementable. I think one of the big problems with literature and sexuality and self-help literature at large is that there is often a big message but there isn’t always a clear way to translate that message into action.
N: Did you find that your target audience read the books when prompted by their partner rather than seeking it out on their own? In other words, did men go out and read She Comes First or did women give it to them?
I: Well SheComes First was an interesting book in that it was a crossover book. It’s been out for more than 10 years and remains the best selling sex book of the last decade. And part of the reason it has been so popular is that not just men buy it but women buy it as well– both for themselves to understand their own sexuality as well as to give to their friends and to give to their partners and in some cases to even give to their children. I’ve heard from at this point scores of men and fathers and mothers who have given the book to their sons when their sons entered early adulthood.
So I think She Comes First’s success is because it was a crossover book — to be able to fluidly move between different types of consumers. Certainly I’ve also heard from women who say, ‘I’ve read your book or I have your book or I heard about your book, how do I get my guy to read it? He thinks he knows everything, he already thinks he’s an expert.’ Those situations present more of a problem.
N: How would you advise that woman to encourage her partner to read it?
I: In some cases, I say get both She Comes First and Passionista and make it sort of a neutral present in pleasuring each other. Sometimes I say you can package it with another book or a sex toy or make it part of a desire to just have a fun, sexy experience with your partner.
Sexual Concerns in the Boomer Years
N: What do you find is the biggest sexual concern for women in the boomer years –from the age of early 50s on up?
I: I hear about a number of concerns from women age 50 and up when it comes to sex. First of all, I want to say in some cases I talk to women and men in their 50s and 60s and they’re having the best sex they’ve ever had.
Finally the kids are out of the house, they have more time, they have more disposable income and they have more chance to connect. Many boomers are enjoying the best sex of their lives.
That said, I also hear a number of complaints. From women, sometimes it can be about a loss of libido or a loss of interest in sex. It can be about self-esteem during sex.
In some cases, women in their 50s aren’t always partnered. Either they’re divorced or they’ve lost their partners and they’re concerned about how to reinvent their sex life and to start over again with their sex life. And of course there are postmenopausal issues related to hormonal changes — vaginal atrophy and drying of tissue and difficulties lubricating. So that would be a handful of the issues that I hear from boomer women. But again, many who I hear from are really enjoying the best sex of their lives — whether they are single or in a relationship.
N: What are the concerns that men have in that age group?
I: Certainly in the 50 plus age group you have a lot of men who are starting to experience erectile impairment for the first time in their lives and that can be extremely unsettling for a lot of men. Their libido isn’t what it used to be so they’re experiencing low desire.
A lot of men in their 50s are going through bigger life transitions and may be depressed or anxious so that’s also affecting how they relate to their partners and how they feel about themselves and ultimately their sexuality. Sometimes the issues are related to back pain and having sex.
But again, on an up note, I often hear from men in their 50s who are single or partnered and are really enjoying their sex lives and they’re taking care of themselves and leading the sorts of healthy lifestyles that lend themselves to healthy sex.
The Value of a Healthy Lifestyle
N: Do you think that’s one of the most important things that people can do – leading a healthy lifestyle – for sexuality?
I: Absolutely. And a healthy lifestyle includes obviously what you eat and managing your weight. It’s also about exercise and staying fit and staying elastic and stretching. It also has to do with how you manage stress and anxiety and depression.
It also has to do with how you relate to your partner in being able to keep things interesting, fresh, positive, and optimistic. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that promotes healthy sex really covers a spectrum of different dimensions.
Sex, Myths, and Types of Desire
N: What do you think is the most common misconception about sex from both a male and female perspective?
I: I think first of all that male and female sexuality shares certain similarities but also certain differences. Male desire tends to be considered spontaneous and men can generate desire almost out of nowhere. So when we talk about male desire, we often talk about spontaneous desire. When we talk about female desire, we often talk about responsive desire.
Women don’t respond as clearly to a single sexual cue. They respond to multiple sexual cues. Many women are less apt to have an interest in sex spontaneously but more apt to be interested in sex once it’s initiated and they’re responding. So that creates confusion because a lot of men wonder, ‘Well why am I always initiating? Why am I always the only one who always has to step up to bat and potentially strike out? Why doesn’t she initiate? Why isn’t she more like me? Or does it mean she’s not interested in sex?’
And then a lot of women wonder as well, ‘What’s wrong with me? Am I broken? Why am I not experiencing spontaneous desire like I see in the movies or maybe like I experienced in the first days of infatuation?’
And so a lot of women under the spontaneous desire paradigm feel like they’re either defective or broken. And that’s why we have drugs right now that are getting approved to potentially treat female desire.
I’m not really personally a fan of medicalizing sexuality and medicalizing desire but you know the dominant model for how we think about sexuality and desire is really around spontaneous desire. Again it’s like the movies – both men and women should want to tear off each other’s clothes. But when you look at the reality and, again, female desire tends to be more responsive then spontaneous, I think we need to develop a better understanding of the differences in how men and women experience sexuality.
The other misconception I think is that sex is something that should just happen and that sex tends to be largely a physical act. But when you really think about sexual arousal, it’s as much if not more mental than it is physical. Sure you can touch your genitals or touch someone’s genitals and after a long enough period of time something’s going to happen and hopefully it’s going to feel good. But we are also able to get sexually excited through thinking and reading and seeing and smelling and tasting and all of the senses. And so I think too often couples just rely on sort of a physical script to get them through a sexual experience. And I think they don’t really integrate enough of a mental experience into the act.
Spontaneous versus Responsive Desire
N: I’d like to go back to spontaneous desire because I was reading Emily Nagoski’s book and she seemed to be saying that in fact some women do feel spontaneous desire. Do you think it’s just a smaller percentage?
I: Yes, it’s a smaller percentage. There are plenty of men who also experience responsive desire as opposed to spontaneous desire. I think it’s a big generalization but it’s just that. It’s a generalization. But at a high level; it’s one that holds up. I think generally men tend to experience spontaneous desire and women tend to experience responsive desire. Do you agree or disagree with that?
N: Yes I think it works both ways. I do. I found that very interesting because I had never heard of that concept.
I: Also, I work a lot with gay couples – both men and women.
In gay male couples there’s quite a bit of promiscuity; there’s quite a bit of high libido; there’s a lot of shared sexuality; there’s a lot of non-monogamy. And I think that’s often what you get as a result of two men experiencing spontaneous desire. There’s going to be a lot of sex and a lot of interest in sex. With gay female couples it’s often the opposite – not always but a lot of the time. And I think that’s the result of two people experiencing responsive desire.
Taking the Lead
N: You mentioned something about the man saying, ‘Well why isn’t she initiating?’ Do you feel that men would prefer equal initiation or do some men feel threatened and they find that inhibits them? From your practice, what do you see?
I: From my practice, I find that many men are frustrated because they would like their partners to initiate more. They feel like the burden of initiating sex often is upon them. Now that is not to say I don’t encounter a lot of men who are experiencing low male desire, but for those men who have a healthy level of desire, a lot of them feel like it would be nice to be the one who’s being courted or pursued or it would be nice to have her initiate or for her to take the dominant role.
I rarely encounter men who would be threatened by that…I mean it may be a generational thing as well – that more traditionally gendered role of guys pursue and women get courted. But today you have so many egalitarian couples who are sharing responsibilities and sharing their lives in interesting ways that I think a lot of men would like a more egalitarian approach to sex and initiation.
N: I’m not sure if in your practice, you see many single people but let’s say someone is in a new relationship, do you find that if a woman is more assertive sexually, it would be less desirable to her partner than if she was in a long term relationship? Or don’t you see it as being a factor?
I: It doesn’t really come up and I work with a lot of single people. In general most of them are interested in getting partnered and in developing a secure, safe attachment with a person that includes a strong intimate, erotic component but I don’t really hear too often that one way or the other who’s initiating – it doesn’t really come up.
What do People Know about Sex?
N: How would you describe the degree of education that men have about women’s sexual anatomy and physiology? Do you think they’re in general not well informed?
I: Certainly a lot of men get a lot of their ideas from both their friends and what they hear or learn from porn. I think in both those cases – with friends and porn — there can be some good information and some good truths. You can learn something by talking to a friend and you can learn something by watching porn. But there are also a lot of untruths as well and sometimes a lot of pressure or a lot of expectations.
The other way a man can learn about sex is from a partner but a lot of people get very tongue tied when it comes to talking about sex. Or they feel shy or that it’s inappropriate or that you shouldn’t have to talk about sex. You know there are still a lot of women who would opt to fake orgasm rather than communicate to their partner about what they want.
So a lot of men are growing up in an age of porn and with partners who aren’t always communicative and they don’t know how to communicate. So I would say a lot of men are misinformed about female sexuality.
N: And what about women? Do you think they are more informed?
I: No, I would say that women are sort of equally ill informed. Women also get a lot of their ideas about sex from friends. One friend may really value penis size. Another friend may not. Women also get a lot of their ideas about sex from porn or from Hollywood movies. And I think what you want to be doing is getting your sexual information and feedback hopefully from a loving, trusting connected partner. That’s the best way to get your information – is through having sex and being able to talk about it in a loving, constructive, erotic, interesting, and sexy way.
It would also be great if we had better sex education in this country and if talk shows talked about sex in a deeper, more interesting way. You said that you read Emily Nagoski’s book. She’s a good friend and a colleague of mine. You’re not likely to get too much about the differences between spontaneous and responsive desire in a two- minute talk show segment. So there isn’t always access to the cutting edge, accurate information.
How to Talk to your Partner about Sex
N: I’d like to go back to what you mentioned before about being able to talk to your partner. How would you help a couple who had a hard time talking to each other about sex or how would you help an individual who wanted some way to be comfortable in a conversation about sex? What can people do?
I: Talking about sex doesn’t have to be heavy handed. It doesn’t have to be clinical. It doesn’t have to be a bummer. It doesn’t have to be aggressive, offensive, non-constructive, which is often what it turns out to be. I think talking about sex, first of all, can be sexy.
I have an exercise that I use with my patients. A woman comes in and looks sad because her partner doesn’t spend enough time on foreplay or her partner’s oral sex technique is lacking or he doesn’t give the way he likes to receive per se. And there’s a lot of anger and resentment. And so one way of dealing with it is to go and bring it up and argue back or have an angry conversation.
But I often say, ‘Well, what is the solution first of all? What do you want?’ ‘Well I want more connection. I want more kissing. I want more foreplay. I want more oral sex. I want more frequency’ – whatever it is. And I say, ‘Well, how could you express that to your partner in the form of a fantasy? Or as a sexy desire?’
And now you’ve moved from a place of negativity where you’re focused on what you’re not getting to a place of positivity where you’re reframing what you’d like to be getting in a really positive sexy way. So now you can go to your partner and say, ‘hey, you know I’m having these sexy thoughts and these sexy fantasies about you and let me tell you what’s going on in my head.’ And that’s a much more friendly and inviting and sexy way that’s more likely to lead to the sex that you’d actually like to be having.
N: And then maybe the partner would also do the same thing in conversation?
Are People Happy with their Sex Life?
N: Do you think most people are happy with their sex life? I guess you’re seeing a different population and it’s hard to tell.
I: Well, I generally see people who are unhappy but I certainly hear from plenty of people who have read my books and have said they’ve been helped them to improve their sex or continue to expand their sexual horizons.
You know it’s interesting — I’m part of a website called goodinbed.com and we did a survey not too long back on the topic of boredom. I think close to 70% of people – couples – were bored in their relationships. And more than just sexual boredom — but sexual boredom was definitely high among the types of boredom that people were experiencing.
So that was a little disheartening – about 70 percent were bored in their relationship — but well over that percentage of people said they were very open to a sexy suggestion from their partner to try something new and different. So while I found the overall levels of boredom disheartening I found the interest and the potential for changing that boredom into something sexy and adventurous was optimistic. So going from boredom to interested could be as simple as making a sexy suggestion to your partner.
When a Couple is not Getting Any
N: What are some of the reasons leading to a lack of sex in a relationship? When you hear from people who say, ‘We’re not having sex any more,’ what are some of the common triggers of that?
I: I think certainly it can be a number of life factors from having kids to working to being busy to feeling overwhelmed to being stressed out to being depressed to feeling not so great in your body. I think all of those are factors especially in this digital age where you’re always connected and there’s always some kind of stimulation that’s a click away…whether it’s a text, an email, a blog entry, something to read.
You know there are more demands on our time but I find what a lot of people are actually saying is, ‘I want to want sex, I just sort of don’t really want it. In theory, I like sex. In theory, I like my partner. In theory, I’m interested in all these things. I don’t know…It’s just not happening.’
We were talking about spontaneous desire and responsive desire before and especially for women, there’s a stage before desire. That stage some people call willingness. Some people talk about an arousal that can lead to desire but desire doesn’t come out of nowhere. So if you’re not doing anything to create a context for desire, you’re not going to experience it.
I think the main thing is that couples are not really putting themselves through the motions. Sometimes you have to put your body through the motion and trust that your mind will follow. And I think a lot of couples just aren’t putting themselves through the motions and so desire isn’t really manifesting. And that’s when a month goes by and you haven’t had sex and now, statistically, you’re in a sex rut.
N: What is your philosophy of sex?
I: My philosophy of sex I would say is raunchy lovemaking. And by that I mean it’s very important I think to have a partner you care about and to whom you’re attached.
I’m not saying that casual sex isn’t a whole lot of fun. And for some couples non-monogamy can be great. But I think in general we are sort of wired to pursue a secure attachment with a partner who we love and who we’re attracted to. And I think it’s important to find that secure, safe attachment.
But that attachment on its own is not enough to generate a high quality sex life. You need more than attachment. You need the ability to fantasize, the ability to be raunchy, to be naughty, to be filthy, whatever it is you want to be. You need to have that base of attachment but then really be able to layer a level of risk on top of it with your partner.
Like every small town, the microcosm of one’s online dating universe, is composed of familiar characters — from the “angry town drunk” to the “shy old fashioned guy.”
You might nod at these townies as you pass by on the way to “the new hot one” or the “back again after a breakup guy.” And some of them might reach out to you on a regular basis. Let’s discuss the small town world of Matchville while munching on some classic macaroni and cheese revamped by skinnytaste for a modern healthy lifestyle.
Strolling down the too familiar streets of Matchville’s Recently Viewed Lane and Connections Boulevard, I encounter a familiar face – Mr. G.
Mr. G first wrote to me when we both resided on PlentyofFish Town. I kindly let him know that I didn’t think we matched (age, height, common interests, language difficulties on his part) but he has continued to check in periodically on Matchville to tell me to not give up and to let me know he wished we could see each other.
Sometimes his emails boost my ego: “Why haven’t you been snatched up? The guys here are fools,” etc. etc. When I’m in a dry spell, an email from Mr. G can keep me going. At other times, Mr. G’s persistence gets on my nerves.
Then there’s the recently moved to Matchville “thinks he’s hot” guy who is my new best friend. At first, his brief over-confident one liners amused me, even as I told him we were not a match. But now, this neighbor is becoming the one I want to avoid and I’m dreaming of toilet papering his tree. “I will rock your world,” he writes, “Let’s go get a drink tonight.” No surprise – he hasn’t commented on anything substantive in my profile and all of his emails focus on HIM and why he would be so great for me. This townie will be blocked.
The shy old-fashioned guy still exists. He started out writing to me several months ago during the broadcast of an award show. It took him awhile to suggest a date – going to a concert some time this summer. I kept looking at his profile searching for interests in common and hoping I would find him attractive but I couldn’t swing it. Plus he lived pretty far away so I stopped responding (yes – guilty of ghosting).
Shy guy still views me periodically and sends a short “how are you doing” email as if to stop me as I walk down Matchville’s main street. But I keep on walking.
Another townie is the “possibly creepy but maybe just lonely guy.” One such guy views me periodically. Two years ago we viewed each other on a regular basis and then finally exchanged emails. I can’t recall who reached out first. Things seemed promising even though Mr. L is a decade younger than me.
We ended up emailing about dating and relationships and started to make plans to meet. Then he revealed that he has ED and is trying to explore other ways of being intimate. I thanked him for his honesty about a subject that is not easy for most men to discuss. After letting him know what I was looking for — and given my relatively recent divorce – I wanted the whole kahuna :smile:, our emails stopped. To this day, Mr. L views me on occasion. I sense his loneliness and sometimes wonder if I should suggest we get coffee and just talk.
There are other types and regulars in Matchville. And just like a small town, I know something of everyone’s business. I know when a guy has started seeing someone regularly because his profile is “hidden” or he hasn’t been online in 3 weeks. Some of these guys might be exes and I feel a pang when I think they have found someone and I haven’t.
I have a history with a lot of Matchville’s residents and it’s starting to feel too much like a small town. I’m getting bored and tired of the search. It’s not that I’m in a dry spell. There are some irons in the fire but nothing definite yet. I’m just impatient and ready for big city life.
Until next week, happy dating or not dating. XXXOOO Nadia
Author and writing coach Natalie Goldberg said it well, “Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.”
With its similarities to journaling, I think Natalie would find value in blogging. I’d like to share with you what blogging has taught me in the hope that you might also blog with a benefit and purpose as you pursue a dating – or not dating – life.
This is something I’ve wanted to focus on for a couple of months but describing the pursuit of “One of the Ones” kept sidetracking me. Of course, since the dating life is a key focus of this blog, I’ll be incorporating dating stories into today’s post. I might even discuss sex (a tease so you will read to the end).
Let’s sit back and enjoy my own 4th of July light lunch creation: ricotta cheese and plain Greek yogurt mixed with fresh cherries and blueberries and chopped walnuts or almonds. If the ricotta and yogurt are low fat, you will have a heart-healthy patriotic lunch. Let me know if you want details on the quantities.
Blogging has shown me that the very act of putting fingers to keyboard or pen to paper – the writing process – can help me figure something out. At a deeper level, it helps determine and clarify my views on a particular person or situation.
Let me illustrate with an example from my recent dating history. After meeting Mr. D who was separated from his 3rd wife, I was on the fence about whether I should consider dating him since there was a possibility his marriage was not over. As I wrote about our meeting, I realized that I could not throw away the possibility of a relationship with someone who almost immediately inspired chemistry, connection, and intimacy. My gut said no, my heart said yes…but the writing process told me to let my heart win this one – even if I got hurt at some point. So write (pun intended) or wrong, that’s the direction I went in until Mr. D fired himself to preserve both of our hearts.
Blogging also motivates me to not give up the dating life. I may be frustrated or exhausted by the process but I know I have to carry on — not only for my ultimate benefit but also for yours. I started this blog to hopefully inspire and motivate others to jump into the dating pool after a hiatus.
Writing this blog reminds me of lessons learned so that I can truly incorporate those lessons into my life on an ongoing basis. When I described the steps I took to get ready to date, I reclaimed my commitment to continue working on myself. Self- improvement and strengthening one’s independence are essential parts of the post-divorce healing process.
Related to this, blogging provides a sense of accountability. I take action steps to move life forward since I have committed to them in the blog and have said to you, dear readers, that these steps are important and WE should do them. So I force myself to go to meet-ups when I might not be feeling terribly social. Or I go on a second date with a guy I’m on the fence about not only to see if he’s One of the Ones but also to have the experience, learn from it, and share it with you.
Part of the blogger’s modus operandi is to seek inspiration, knowledge, and familiarity with the landscape of the topic at hand. So I read other blogs and listen to podcasts on a similar theme of dating and relationships. The side effect is I benefit from the wisdom, perspective, and often the sense of humor provided by others on a similar journey. Case in point: The podcast, Women of Uncertain Age. I enjoyed being a guest on this week’s show to talk about dating in your 60s. Additional side effect/benefit of blogging: Meeting other bloggers and podcasters.
Blogging also encourages the creation of a personal philosophy. Writing this post, for example, has given me a philosophy and credo on blogging.
Finally, blogging provides a creative outlet – so important for everyone and at every stage of life. So even if you don’t create a blog, buy a journal or an inexpensive composition book and “write like a motherfucker” as Cheryl Strayed said in her classic book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.
O.K. so I didn’t talk about sex this time. But it’s coming, no pun intended. And I will have a surprise interview with a noted expert some time this month.