Early in my post-divorce dating career, back in the mid-1990s, when I was still very new and green at the game, I consulted with a male friend about fudging your age in personals ads. He had recently been dating a woman who claimed to be 49, but after about four weeks he found out that she was really 60. "She was in exceptionally good shape," he added.
"And how did you find out her real age?" I asked.
"There were certain chronological events that didn't add up when it came to talking about her kids," he explained. "That and the fact that she claimed she was in gym class when JFK was shot," he added. "If she were 49, she would have been in her crib in 1963."
After some discussion, we decided that it was probably okay to stretch the truth by up to five years, one way or another, but lopping off close to a decade was surely asking for trouble.
Which brings me to the topic of geezer dates. I've had about four in my career (and am now, 25 years later, fast approaching that status myself); these are the ones that surely enrage and befuddle me the most. I believe it is true, as everyone's mom or grandma reminds you at some point during your life, that there is indeed someone for everyone, but at 42 I wasn’t ready for a someone with serious liver spots and a walker.
The hands-down blue-ribbon-prize-winning geezer date, let's call him George, came into my life via the old-fashioned print personals, which used to be a mainstay at the back of publications like The New York Observer and New York. I answered an ad for a guy who claimed to be a writer in his early 50s. He responded with a rather fuzzy photo and a few details I’ve now forgotten. When we chatted on the phone, he sounded to me like a diehard West Village leftie, not my type at all. But George was persistent ("Oh, come on, what's the harm in meeting?") and so finally I agreed to join him for a production of an Off-Broadway play I'd been wanting to see and a drink afterward.
As soon as I spotted George in the theater lobby—or, rather, he spotted me because I would never have recognized him from his photograph—I knew we were going to have problems. In his photo, he had some hair; in real life, he had a mere fringe above the ears. And the vast domed expanse that covered the rest of his pate was riddled with a constellation of freckles that rivaled the density of Cassiopeia on a clear night in August. He had to be in his early seventies, at least. I was furious, but suffered through the play and even managed a drink afterward (another strike against him, aside from shaving nearly two decades off his time on this earth, was that he had trouble finding the "nifty little downstairs bar" he wanted to show me, and so we wound up trudging up and down several streets on a freezing January night before finally locating the place).
The next day I sent him a note, politely thanking him for the play but adding that I didn't think we were a match. He phoned a few days later and left a message on my voicemail, saying, "I think you would get a better response from men if you posted a more honest picture of yourself."
At which point I let loose with a stream of invective that would make Chrissy Teigen blush
It's not that I had or have anything against age, honestly—as mentioned, I am now getting up there myself--but there has to be a limit to how much you can mislead people, especially people with whom in time you might have it in mind to share a bed.
I have a friend who once had the courage to stand up during the performance of some Restoration drama (The Duchess of Malfi, I think), in which the actors were all clad in leather and mumbling their lines and rattling their chains. At the top of her voice, she declared, "This is my life. This is my one and only life. Why are you wasting my time like this?"
And that's somewhat how I feel about people who mislead you in the personals. So I will describe only one more. Similar scenario. Guy sends a 15-year-old photo (which, of course, I can't know is a 15-year-old photo). Sounds okay: lawyer, grown children, lots of charitable interests, likes the ballet now and then, reads New York Review of Books. He lives in Riverdale, but has to be in Manhattan for a charity auction at 6 p.m., and so we agree to meet at one of my favorite bars at five (there was a time, when I lived in Manhattan, when I had many favorite bars). I am there at five on the dot. I take a table. There is only one other person in the room. He is a man of about 75, nursing a martini and looking enormously pleased to be wearing a madras jacket with a striped tie.
A madras jacket? What is this? 1967?
I soon realize this is the man I met via the personals, who claimed to be 60. Is this my date? Yes, since no one else arrives by 5:15, I have to assume this is my date. I sidle over. I hold out my hand. I am well brought up, and I'm not going to go ballistic.
And what comes out of our brief conversation? He has been married for 45 years. He just left his wife two weeks earlier and is living with one of his sons. This is the first date he's had in more than four decades! He sucks in his cheeks and chortles with the glee of a guy who just found a twenty on the sidewalk.
But, as said, I am well brought up, and I hold out my hand again when he has to leave at quarter of six, smile stiffly, and think, "This is my life. My one and only life. Why are you wasting my time like this?"
At the top of this post: Detail, Artemisia Gentileschi, Susanna and the Elders, 1630