Candace Karu

Notes from the Front Line: Dating Past Your Sell-By Date

Candace Karu18 Comments

PART ONE: Profile Pics in Courage


I’ve Tindered. I’ve OKCupided. I’ve Matched. I’ve blind dated. I’ve friend dated. And yes, I’ve dumb dated. Because even at my advanced age and against all experience to the contrary, somehow dating hope springs eternal.

I am acutely aware that given my age, geographic undesirability, and the fact that men my age are perusing a younger demographic, the pickings – and my chances of bumping into Mr. Right online – are slim. It’s no wonder that participation in the world of electronic connections is fraught with anxiety and self-doubt. And yet, reader, I persist.

The Triumph of Hope over Experience

Let’s immediately dispense with the obvious, shall we? Online dating can be excruciating, though more so for some personality types than others. Personally, I would rather stab myself repeatedly in the cheek with a shrimp fork than search for my happily-ever-after on my smart (ish) phone. And yet I find myself drawn, like an addict to a crack pipe, to the little Tinder flame on my phone when it alerts. I’m fooled every time I get a Match email saying: “ just made you his favorite.” “Could this be the one?” I wonder, full of optimism that has no foundation in fact or reality.

I’ve been at this for longer than I care to admit and though my perfect or even not-so-perfect match has eluded me. I have, nonetheless, become adept at navigating this world filled with psychic speed bumps and emotional stumbling blocks.

Dating after 40 is easy. It’s like riding a bike. But the bike is on fire. And the ground is on fire. Everything is on fire. Because you are in hell.” ~Anonymous Online Dater

May you, dear ones, benefit from what wisdom I have achieved, but apparently not applied, in my online dating life. As Sacajawea guided Lewis and Clark, let me lead you through these treacherous waters. For those about to date, I salute you. For those of you reading this while cuddled up to a partner who cherishes your every word and breath…bite me.

Online Dating Tips for the Beginner – The Profile Picture

To explain to the uninitiated, and by uninitiated I mean the happily coupled or those living in celibate religious communities, online dating involves so many odious elements I feel it necessary to break my tutorial into discreet sections. Part One of the series will begin, as they say, at the beginning – The Profile Picture.

Your online dating picture or pictures, if you’re going for multiples, is the chum you throw into the shark-infested Internet dating waters to prime your dating pump. Yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors, anything to drive home a point. This picture is important; it will be scrutinized, judged, inspected, analyzed, and categorized by the ridiculous and the sublime…and every potential asshat in between.

Successful profile pic

Successful profile pic

Less successful profile picture.

Less successful profile picture.

Choosing the perfect profile picture is a torturous exercise that will plague you until you get it right. And you will never get it right. You must select a compelling image, ideally one that is actually of yourself. (I tried using a picture of Christie Brinkley. I got busted.)  It should be at once coquettish and inviting, and yet is somehow still an accurate representation of the person who walks through the door on your first date. Trust me, getting the right profile picture is harder than you might think. Much, much harder.

Interpreting What You See

Most online daters know – or soon learn – the general rules of profile photo interpretation. If a woman’s profile photo features her face in softly lit three-quarter profile with a hint of décolletage, she may have weight issues. If a man’s profile photo is cropped slightly above his eyebrows or if he’s wearing a baseball cap, he is definitely bald.

Your potential date's profile pic and any images he chooses to post - most online dating sites let you post as many as you want - are worthy of more than a passing glance. They may not be worth a thousand words, but they're definitely giving you valuable clues. If your idea of a perfect date is dinner and the symphony, the guy posting pics of his beloved Harley and images from the most recent Aerosmith reunion concert may not be your cup of tea.

Reality Checks and Balances

Let me state categorically that I embrace my full-figured sisters in all their bounteous beauty. Where would the world be without gorgeous women like Melissa McCarthy, Adele, Oprah, and Rebel Wilson? Moreover, I find bald men seriously attractive – shout out to Ed Harris, Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Kelly Slater, and Jason Statham. But online daters are brutal and specific in their requirements and assessments of potential partners. Unfair as it may seem, slender, youthful looking women and men with thick manes of silvery hair seem to be the ne plus ultra of the online world.

You’re not a blond yoga instructor or a sky diving silver fox you say? Worry not, dear one. The best thing you can do to increase your success in this arena is to be yourself. Authenticity is your friend. Don’t be a poor imitation of a thoroughbred racehorse when what you really are is an adorable, vibrant pony. The truth will out as soon as you meet IRL, so present the best version of exactly who you are. Your profile pic should be as close to that image as you can get.

Out of Date, a Dating Don’t

Another profile pitfall is the out-of-date pic. That’s an online dating bait and switch that will become obvious at the moment of connection at the coffee shop/bar/restaurant/dog park. If your date is shaking your hand with a look of confused horror on his/her face, consider updating your photo. A good rule of thumb: use a picture taken within the last 18 months.

In spite of my winning smile, this picture is a little too dated to use in my profile.

In spite of my winning smile, this picture is a little too dated to use in my profile.

Ex the Exes

Many online daters of a certain age have negligible computer skills, up to and including Photoshop. For this reason you will find endless examples of profile photos that include a disembodied hand or arm draped on your potential beloved’s shoulder. Obviously cutting your ex (wife, husband, date, escort, whoever) out of a profile pic is just tacky. If you find yourself wanting to use the perfect shot, if only your ex weren’t by you side, have a techno whiz – like your grandchild – remove the offending body part from the picture. Cropping and Photoshopping is a delicate job best left to a professional. Underage professionals work cheap.

Profile Pic Tips

A few final tips. Ladies, refrain from posting pictures of you with your cat (serious red flag), pictures of you with your grandchildren (save those for the third date), and poorly lit selfies taken from odd angles (they are not your friend). Men, hold off on that shot of you with the entire Dallas Cowboy Cheerleading squad (really?), the one of you standing next to your red sports car (painful cliché) or any shot with you in a backward baseball cap (unless you’re under the age of 18).

Enlist the aid of a trusted friend, find a pretty background, preferably outside on an overcast day. Have your friend get a shot that’s close up – not count-your-nostril-hair close, just a clear shot of your fabulous face with something green and fresh behind you. And smile. The most common compliment I get on my profile pic is that I have a nice, friendly smile. That counts for a lot. And it makes you approachable, which is almost as alluring as a huge rack. In the world of online dating, the huge rack is probably going to edge out the nice smile, but hey, that's life.

So if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Otherwise…smile.

Check back here next week for Part Two of the series. It’s All About Me: Profiles that Will Grab Their Attention…In a Not-Creepy Way.