Tinder mercies: Would you lie about your age to get a date?
Most midlife daters have taken years off their real age. Here, they reveal how it can all go wrong
It is a topic that has sparked heated debate among anyone who has tried online dating, particularly in midlife.
Sharron Davies, the 56-year-old former Olympic swimmer, might have denied wiping 11 years off her age in the search for online love, claiming that a profile purporting to be hers on Tinder was fake, with her identity having been stolen. Yet the incident has prompted a sliver of recognition for those men and women who have used dating apps and been on the receiving end of a gentle massaging of numbers.
And many out there are guilty of toying with the truth.
Here, two seasoned internet suitors reveal the truth about why age matters.
Cosmo Landesman, 64
Age may not be a big deal when it comes to meeting people at work or dinner parties, but on dating apps your vintage – as well as your profile picture – is the first in a series of deal breakers or deal makers.
They say that love is blind – but not when it comes to how weathered you look in your dating profile. No wonder people are tempted to nip a few years off here and there. All is fair in love and internet dating.
I spent many years using such apps and met numerous women who had lied about their age. There was the one who claimed to be 49, and her profile photograph bore this out. Then we met in the flesh and my first reaction was: OMG! She looked more 69 than 49. I was expecting her to make a self-deprecating joke about having told such an obvious lie. She didn’t and I wasn’t angry that she’d fed me such a whopper; actually, I felt kind of sad.
That said, she was very entertaining company and attractive. After a few dates, I decided that I would have to say something. So, emboldened by drink, I told her that I knew about her real age (I had found out from a mutual friend, I said) and gave her what I thought was an age/life-affirming speech about what a wonderful woman she was, and how she didn’t need to lie about her age ... when she suddenly got up and walked out of the restaurant, and out of my life.
Even very beautiful and bright women lie. Debbie claimed she was 47 when we started seeing one another. Three dates later, she confessed that she was 49. Why had she bothered to lie about just two years, I asked. “Those two years,” she explained, “keep you under the 50 bar. Once you pass that line, your romantic options become more limited. I didn’t want that to happen to me.”
People who lie about their age online often think that the end justifies the means. And besides, they believe, there’s no real harm done. A property developer I once dated who, though in her late 50s claimed to be in her late 40s, explained her actions thus: “Once the person sees the real me, sees what fun I am, then the whole age thing won’t matter to them. It’s like telling a fib on your CV to get your foot through the door and nab that job you really want.”
Of course, it’s not just women who lie online. So do we men. Just about every woman I know has a story about the man who in his profile is tall, early 50s, fit, with a mane of blond hair – and turns out to be a short, bald guy, with a large paunch. What such men and women don’t seem to fully grasp is that, sooner or later, you will get caught out in your lie. A slip of the tongue, or the sight of your passport, will give you away. So why bother? And besides, who wants a serious relationship with someone who cares about how old you are, or how old they are?
There’s something very attractive in a woman – especially a mature woman – who has the confidence just to tell the truth. They simply don’t care, and that kind of insouciance makes them very cool. A woman I shall call Beverly was a perfect example. She was a buxom, brassy northerner who looked like a barmaid, but taught business studies. We sat down and, after the first drink, she said: “I’ve got three ex-husbands who were all bastards and two nightmare kids. I’ve had breast cancer and I’m a nightmare to live with. And I lied to you about my age. I’m going to be 60 next week and if you don’t want to sleep with me then fine! You can sod off now!”
Decency prevents me from saying what took place next. But my advice? Any man or woman who is turned off by your age, well, they can sod off, too.
Kate Mulvey, 55
There is a truth universally acknowledged that midlife dating is not an equal playing field. The age-old double standard – that wrinkly old men can step out with a woman half their age, but a woman over 50 has used up her sexual warranty – is still well and truly alive. Why on Earth?
Isn’t age just a number nowadays? Aren’t we all equal? Well, no actually. Economically we may be getting there, but when it comes to attraction it doesn’t matter how we may look, or how many glass ceilings we shatter – a woman over 50 is immediately seen as non-sexual, over the hill and, quite frankly, undateable.
I know this because I am in my mid-50s, single, speak five languages, and yet when I first dipped a toe into online dating I lopped a good eight years off my real age. This is how it went.
When I first uploaded a smiling picture of myself, I eagerly anticipated stepping out with an eligible bachelor; similar age, looks and education. Yet, while I spent my days swiping left, the only men who seemed interested in me were the balding over-60s, with a pot belly and a hip replacement. It did not take long for the penny to drop. Which is why, instead of crying into my cocoa, on the next online dating site I joined, I was reborn as a fun 45-year-old. The difference in the male response was startling. Even though I used the same photograph, my popularity had gone from zero to mega. Messages were pinging in my inbox like confetti. Then I met John, a writer from Kent.
The chemistry was instant. When he invited me to Paris with him, I was over the moon. Packed and waiting eagerly at the airport, he took my passport to present to the check-in desk, and reeled back in horror. “What! You’re really 53?” he said. That was it. He told me he could never trust me again, blah, blah – and I was binned.
Which is why I have to say that, while it is perfectly understandable to want to increase one’s dating currency, lying about your age is a double-edged sword. It may be that my date was simply rigid and mean-spirited, but I have heard so many men say the same thing. Even though they admit that lying would have got the woman over the first hurdle, in the end it’s a con. And I have had the same done to me. Only last week a ruggedly handsome man from Putney who I thought was a decent 65-year-old, turned out to be 70. I have to say that, even though I really liked him, it made him seem like a chancer, and manipulative.
When a relationship is based on a lie, trust is hard to build. So, as far as I am concerned, honesty really is the way forward. After all, you may lose some battles, but you will win the war.