Here six brave older men reveal the horrors they experienced when dipping a toe in the murky waters of online dating:
Her photo was 25 years old – and she was the size of a shed
Brian Fletcher, 70, is a retired restaurant owner. Divorced with a grown-up son and daughter, he’s been single for 15 years.
I would prefer to be in a wonderful relationship, I truly would. But my first date, after the end of 31 years of marriage, rather set the tone. The lady invited me to her home and, pulling into the driveway, I was pleasantly surprised – it was a mansion. But while she was the lady of the manor, she wasn’t the lady of my dreams.
She greeted me with a cigarette in one hand, mop in the other, no make-up, birds’ nest hair and wearing an old brown T-shirt and trousers. After a few minutes of small talk, I made an excuse and left. You get the impression that some women think men like me are so desperate that they don’t have to take any care over their appearance when you meet.
The difference between women’s pictures or what they say they look like and the reality has often been truly astonishing.
One woman who’d refused to send me a photo was so big she had double bingo wings. She wore Crocs shoes and tatty old leggings that showed every bulge and bump.
Another who said she was “an attractive blonde” was a grey-haired little old lady whose dentures fell out when she laughed at one of my jokes.
I once flew out to Spain to meet a woman living there who’d sent me photos of herself by the pool in a swimsuit.
When I arrived, she was munching a chocolate bar and had clearly gained 20kg since posing for the picture.
But the worst was a woman who invited me to her home three hours’ drive away. When she opened the door I saw her photo was 25 years out of date. She was as big as a shed.
What’s more, the house stank. She had 11 cats – well, I stopped counting at 11 – and a house so full of litter trays and saucers of milk that I accidentally stepped in two of them.
Online, of course, she hadn’t mentioned any of it. I can’t explain the anger I felt – it was like I’d been robbed. I ended up fleeing as she cooked a meal, and tore off in my car. I was nearly home when I realised I’d left my coat at her house, but no way was I going back for it.
“Move in” she begged – yet we’d never met
John Merritt, 62, works for a supermarket. He has a 32-year-old son and has been on his own for two years.
At first, I tried meeting women by getting out and about – going dancing and joining a bowls club, but without much success; there just didn’t seem to be many women out there.
I decided to try online dating when a female friend suggested it.
“You’re good looking, slim, charming and fun to be with,” she told me. “They’ll jump at you.”
So I joined up and it’s been a monstrous disaster.
The first time, a couple of years ago, I only lasted a fortnight because I had so many bad experiences. Some months later, I was so lonely I tried again for a few weeks, but it was no better.
Many dates were just desperate or didn’t seem normal. One woman I swopped numbers with told me after a few minutes on the phone: “You sound absolutely gorgeous, would you like to move in with me?”
Another I met wanted to go to bed on the first date. But that’s for when you’re a teenager or in your twenties.
At my age, you want romance first. And in your sixties, it’s more about companionship, someone to do things with and snuggling up on the couch.
Then there were the women who sounded nice, but weren’t ever available. One lady I got on well with on the phone wouldn’t meet up because she had to babysit her grandchildren every night.
I think part of the problem is that, as they get older, women are scared to go to places in the dark or on their own so it’s difficult to meet them. They feel desperately lonely, but sit at home crying into a cup of tea instead of getting out there.
They lose their confidence. I do understand, but it makes it difficult to find someone. In fact, it makes it soul-destroying.
“She” was actually a scam
John Vayne, 61, is a transport manager. He’s been single since losing a long-term partner 18 years ago.
Surfing online dating sites, I saw the face of an attractive middle-aged women I knew I recognised. It took a while, but then it hit me – she was a little-known actress.
By then I’d been going on these websites for several months, having been egged on by a friend after years of not wanting to meet anyone, and I smelled a giant rat.
I e-mailed her for a giggle and got a reply straight away – she was 61 like me and lived abroad.
We exchanged messages and she said she was desperate to meet. But first, would I send her money to pay for her visa? Just as I thought, it was a scam. They’d found the actress’s photo somewhere, and she almost certainly knew nothing about it.
In my experience, even the ones who aren’t con artists only seem to want to talk about their ex-boyfriends, dogs and holidays.
So I’ve used my experiences of eight or nine dates over the past six months to compile a list of translations for other men before they venture on to any dating website:
* If a woman said she “enjoys foreign food”, it means she likes a curry.
* “Enjoys classical music” means she’s seen The Sound Of Music.
* “Animal lover” means you’ll know every detail of her Golden Retriever by the end of the date – whether you want to or not.
* “Drinks socially” means she’s drunk as a skunk most nights.
* “Sensitive” means she’ll be in tears about her ex after a glass of wine.
For now I’ve given up and will happily spend my evenings not with these women but with a bottle of red and a steak in front of a good film.
One took a look at me – and SHE walked out
Gary Ball, 57, runs a transport business. He has a 12-year-old daughter, and has been on his own for a year.
The problem is, people expect miracles. They think there’s a perfect match for them and they’ll know it the minute they meet, but there’s no such thing.
I’ve been online dating for about a year now and I’ve been shocked by how dismissive many women have been. All the caring has gone.
I’ll be messaging or texting a woman and thinking I’m doing quite well, then suddenly they’ll stop.
When I ask what I’ve done wrong, they’ll block me so I can’t get in contact again. I just want to know what I’ve done wrong. Maybe I’m not very good at texting, but what do they expect?
I’ve been on six dates so far. It would have been seven, but a woman called 20 minutes before we were due to meet to say she’d looked at my picture again and didn’t think I was right for her.
Another walked into the bar and straight out again when she saw me. I felt like I’d been dismissed like a useless toy.
Yet I’ve agreed to second dates when I’m not sure about someone because everyone’s so nervous on a first date, you don’t see the real person. And she wouldn’t even give me 10 minutes.
I know that women have a lot of pressure on them to look a certain way but they expect us to as well. Looks-wise, I’m no David Beckham but, to me, a sense of humour and having fun is more important that the aesthetics – but that doesn’t seem to be so for the opposite sex.
The emphasis some women place on money also makes me uncomfortable. Inevitably, the conversations start leaning that way – it’s more like “what have you got?” rather than “what are you like?”
So nowadays I make sure I take an old car out instead of my new one. It means that at least if a lady laughs at my jokes, it’s because she thinks I’m funny.
A single mom brought her kids on the date
Stephen Knight, 51, is a company director. He’s been single for more than a year since the end of a long-term relationship.
I’ve had about 20 dates with women over the past year and only three or four went well. I’ve learned that a woman is either 10 years older than she tells you or 10kg heavier than her photograph. Your heart sinks when you see them. I just don’t know why they do it – I suppose they see online dating as a conveyor belt and there will be another one along in a minute.
I’ve met everyone from a doctor who was far too busy for a relationship to a single mother who brought her 7- and 9-year-old children on our date and expected me to buy them all lunch.
She stormed off when I politely refused.
I spent ages choosing a beautiful place for another lady who pulled up in a Range Rover, took one look at the venue and said: “This is horrible, follow me.”
Off she roared to somewhere posher where she talked about herself all night and how her last partner had died of cancer. It had been very inconvenient for her to have to keep visiting him, she said.
To add insult to injury, when I texted to wish her well the next day, she replied: “I think you should find someone of your own social class.”
Perhaps the worst was when I started seeing a woman who lived in the South of France. I visited her a few times and then she came over with her 11-year-old daughter.
The girl was so jealous of our relationship that not only did she tread mud into the house constantly, she pulled a curtain rail down then she had a shower and deliberately left the shower head running on the floor and went out. It brought the lounge ceiling down. Her mother didn’t even apologise. That was the end of that.
I’m a tall, fit man – I run and kayak – and never had much difficulty meeting women, but none seem normal. I just want someone warm and fun.
Why is it so hard?
I knew someone on the site – she was dead
Martyn Curtis, 67, is a retired management consultant. He’s been single since divorcing 25 years ago.
Let me tell you about a few of the dates I’ve had since going online – the first needed three seats to sit on (she’d only sent me a head-and-shoulders photo), the second time I swear the woman’s mother turned up instead of her (it might not even have been her mom – she was unrecognisable from the picture).
The third rolled up with her 5-year-old daughter and the fourth revealed her ex-boyfriend still slept on her couch.
I always have lunch with them and go through the motions, but it doesn’t tend to lead to a second date. I had high hopes when I started internet dating a couple of years ago, but it’s been a disappointment.
I joined a site (for people in my area), but can’t seem to get a local date.
All the people who message me to show their interest are living hundreds of kilometres away.
And the messages aren’t personal – I’ve only had one or two specifically tailored to me.
The others were vague cut-and-paste jobs that they clearly sent to everyone, things like: “Lovely lady looking for her knight in shining armour.” Honestly!
So I try to find women I like the look of and get in contact with them, but first you have to wade through the banalities they write about themselves.
They all love going out for a meal (of course they do, the man’s paying) and to the theatre.
However, if they reply you soon find out they can’t remember the name of the last play they saw.
My biggest bugbear is that the profiles of people who tried online dating for a month or so, became disillusioned and cancelled their memberships are never removed.
So you’re e-mailing a ghost. Literally in one case – I once saw the profile of a woman I knew who’d died six months before.