En español │After 20 years, you're single again and, heaven help you, on the brink of dating. Uh-oh! How should you begin? Maybe call that old high school flame? Approach that work colleague you always thought was kinda cute? Sign up for an online dating site? And once you do score a date, what should you expect in terms of s-e-x?
These eight insights will make it all easier.
1. Some things don't change. It's always been challenging to meet women. Even with dozens of dating sites, it still is. Use the classic dating strategies: introductions through friends, blind dates, meeting through activities (work, recreation, religious, etc.), and plain old serendipity. Tell everyone you know that you're interested in dating. Ask to be fixed up. Get involved in activities you enjoy. Through them, you'll probably meet women who also enjoy them, women who might become friends — and eventually, maybe more.
2. The numbers are on your side. It's not "two girls for every boy," like the Beach Boys sang, but demographics trend that way. First, the bad news: Men die younger than women. The good news: As the decades pass, women increasingly outnumber men, which subtly works in your favor. For every 1,000 births, by age 50, women outnumber men 954 to 920, according to a 2009 U.S. statistical report. At 65, it's 871 to 791. So the odds are in men's favor — and women know it. That's one reason why Betty and Veronica no longer sit by the phone waiting for Archie to call. If a woman is interested in you, she'll probably initiate contact.
3. Google yourself. Women will, so you better know what they'll find. Try to correct misinformation, or at least be prepared to prove that you're not the escaped serial killer who shares your name. And while you're at it, make sure your Facebook page won't raise eyebrows.
4. Dating sites have advantages. One is that you cast a wide net. Tip: Upload smiling photos. Photos increase men's response rate 40 percent — for women, photos triple it! Another is that profiles provide good icebreakers. Beyond saying, "You're really cute and you live near me," you can add that like the woman you're contacting, you also play tennis and enjoy jazz.
5. Dating sites have disadvantages. Some of the members are flakier than piecrust. They seem interested, but after a few e-mails, they disappear. Or their phones are disconnected. Or they stand you up. Why? Who knows? One theory is that many are not single. They're coupled but bored, and hope to reassure themselves that they're still attractive by hooking men like you.
What's more, profiles often lie. One study found that on average, people claimed to be an inch taller than the national average. Women said they weighed 20 pounds less than average. Most claimed to be "more attractive than average" — 72 percent of women, 68 percent of men. And 4 percent said they earned more than $200,000 a year, while less than 1 percent of Internet users actually do. Tip: Tell the truth. As soon as you meet, she'll see your height and weight and how attractive you are.
6. Dress for success. You may be wonderful, but if you look like a total schlump, women will flee. Trouble is, many men hate shopping for clothes. If that's you, get help. Ask a friend, preferably a woman, to accompany you. Consider getting a manicure and pedicure. Plan to spend a day — yes, guys, one entire day — and one to two weeks' income on your makeover.
7. Keep condoms handy. One pleasant surprise about dating after 50 is less groveling for sex. After a few dates, most older women feel fine about going horizontal, and don't care if your erections are iffy or gone. However, they don't want sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So use condoms until you're monogamous.
8. Dating isn't mating. Just as gold miners move tons of rock to find a few nuggets, you'll probably have to date dozens of women before you find Ms. Right. If you know that a budding relationship has no future, don't waste your time or hers. Say, "I'm sorry, but there's no chemistry for me." And be prepared to hear those words yourself — frequently. When you do, ask, "Do you have any single friends?"
Longtime sex educator and counselor Michael Castleman, M.A., publishes GreatSexAfter40.com.