VintageDatePhotoI saw this saying on Facebook the other day: The older you get, the sexier it is when someone can carry on an intelligent conversation.

I agree. In my twenties and thirties, the barrier to entry, so to speak, was relatively low. Physical attraction (aka lust), too often fueled by alcohol, invariably trumped intelligent conversation as a criterion for hooking up.

Unless you’ve got a serious case of arrested development, however, priorities evolve as we get older. Sure, physical attraction is still part of the equation. But sexy has more to do with what’s between someone’s ears than what’s between their legs, IMHO.


So I decided to check out the veracity of the Facebook statement with some friends who are dating (or have dated) at midlife and beyond. Based on the stories they shared, intelligent conversation—and hence the desire to take things any further— is/was in short supply.

For example, my friend P was a divorced single mom for most of her forties into her fifties. A smart, attractive journalist, she’s someone who understands the art of conversation—and is rarely at a loss for words.

Like many singles in the digital age, P decided to try online dating a few years ago. Most of her meet-ups were one-and-done types of encounters, for reasons like this:

After sharing a pleasant-enough lunch at a Chinese restaurant, P and her date walked out to his car so he could drive her back to hers. Before they even left the parking lot, the guy blurts out, “I’m really into oral sex.”

Now, don’t get me wrong—this revelation could be wonderful if proffered at the appropriate time and place. But at the end of a casual first date? Not so much. Talk about a non sequitur. And what’s an appropriate comeback (you should pardon the expression) to a conversational gambit like that? “Well, then, would you like a blow job?” or “Is that an eggroll in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

“I don’t remember what I said to him,” P relates today, admitting that she was completely flustered by his pronouncement, “but I know I had him take me back to my car right away.” And given what had come out of his mouth, there was no second date.

Another friend M (also a writer and in her fifties) has been testing the online dating waters more recently. She had one date who, on their first (and only) meeting, announced that he was recovering from a contagious disease (which he declined to specify) and so wouldn’t be kissing her. As if a lip-lock were on the agenda to begin with.

Another online dater who contacted M via email—and whose attentions she diplomatically declined—subsequently sent her multiple notes berating her for that decision. As if that would change her mind?

Not a smart way to converse.

When I lived in the Palm Springs area (a big retirement community), an acquaintance in her early fifties said that most of the men she was meeting were well into their sixties and seventies. Invariably, she related, the guys’ conversations would turn into a recitation of their health issues. And the only thing about her that seemed to pique their interest was the fact that she was still working.

“They just wanted a nurse or a purse,” she concluded. A real turn-off.

V ventured into the dating scene in his mid-sixties after being a widower for a while. He found that first-date conversations invariably headed in one of two directions:

“There were divorced people who carried so much baggage that it was impossible for them to have a conversation without unpacking the bags right in front of you,” he relates. “Then there were the widows who wanted you to hear about how great their former spouse was.”

So not sexy.

Since I remained single until I was nearly 44, I have my own midlife dating debacles. In the days before there were newspaper personal ads so, weary of the bar scene and friends’ fix-ups, I gave them a try.

Two encounters stand out. One was with a guy who, soon after we met for a drink, opined that my outfit was rather masculine (I’d worn a pantsuit with a loose necktie—very Annie Hall-ish). As if I would take fashion advice from someone wearing a toupee that looked like vintage Barbie’s bubble-cut hairdo. Or see him again.

Another memorable one-and-done date was with a divorced guy who, when I shared that my parents had never married, began to regale me with tales of his “illegitimate” son and his “real” kids. Um, all your kids are real, asshole.

And you are so not sexy.

The good news is that most of the people whose stories I’ve shared (myself included) went on to meet someone with whom they did make a love connection. For each of us, what made it happen was a certain je ne sais quoi—that intangible something that just clicks between two people, a blend of chemistry and a sense of being known. And that can only happen when you’re able to create and sustain a sense of intimacy and trust by truly communicating—in and out of bed.

So consensus is, the Facebook saying was right on the money. And wordplay is the new foreplay.

What do you think? Any later-in-life dating experiences you’re willing to share? And what about your date’s ability to converse/communicate turned you on or off?


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