Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going to resign myself to a life of celibacy or deny the possibility of a future life partner. But I am going to set reasonable expectations regarding my relationships with men, especially when it comes to online dating.
Based on profile ratings alone, men of any age in the 20-50 year old set, only rate women highly up to the age of 23. Women, on the other hand, seem to prefer men in a similar age range to themselves. Women in their twenties like men a little older, while women in their forties like them a little younger, but only ever by a few years. The difference between the genders is striking in this behavior.
Men do tend to search in an age range closer to their own, but these women are not the ones getting their high ratings and clicks. This chart shows the delta between searching and “liking” for men at a given age, and the one below shows how women rate men.
While I’ve met plenty of men who don’t seem particularly interested in dating women in their early twenties, I’ve also known enough men in their thirties or forties who have had cataclysmic (or simply stunted) relationships with very young women, that this data seems likely to hold some truth.
So, as a heterosexual woman of 42, I’m screwed (sadly not literally). I’ve met plenty of decent guys through online dating, and a few indecent ones. I’ve had some second or third dates, some booty calls, and made a couple of friends. But no real sparks. Over the course of a decade. Not that I date all the time — I have had a few months of online dating spurts over those years — I tend to get dating fatigue quickly.
Looking at this data makes me wonder if online dating works at all for a woman of my age. I am more likely to be attractive to a 20 year old boy looking for a cougar hookup than I am to a fifty year old man looking for a partner. Who wants a grumpy old cat when there are all of those frisky kittens available? The illusion of infinite choice may be undermining all of our chances to get serious with one person as we get older.
I’m not giving up, really. I know that I can still make real connections, and I know there are some men over thirty-five out there who are smart enough not to get their faces scratched off by kittens.