The Debrief: Maybe Not a Match

Susie, who is 45 and lives in Allston, reflects on her challenges dating men she meets online, mainly using


I sit across from Eric at Trident Booksellers & Cafe. I’m not sure if it’s a date or a friendly lunch. I’ve done my hair and makeup just in case. He starts telling me about his new girlfriend (guess it’s not a date!). He also rants that there’s something wrong with all women over 40 who haven’t been married yet. I bristle and he says, “Well, I don’t mean you.” Of course he sees no irony in the fact that he is 48 and never married.

Aaron tried to give me some formula about how much older than me I should date. I don’t even want to repeat it. I actually said to him: “That kind of thinking is sexist. Plus I’m not into formulas. I’m into people.” So I might meet someone younger whom I have a fit with, and that’s great.

About eight years ago, I was on a date at Not Your Average Joe’s with Ben, whom I’d met in a Meetup group. He kept pressing and pressing to find out my age. He asked me if I was into REM in college; I said yes and he asked which albums. He was actually trying to figure out my age by the band’s timeline!


Seth, the last guy I dated, would only eat certain things. It’s an issue for me—I’m an adventurous gourmet cook and had to accommodate him. Does your food choice say something about your personality? Seth said, “It’s not about the food, it’s about the company.” But why can’t it be about both? I want to have fun with food. I would even share Ethiopian food on a second date as long as his nails are clean. I want someone who is adventurous about food because I think it reflects general openness to adventures in life. Let’s go to fun places. Let’s be creative with what we order when we go out. Let’s try something different.


I screen all my dates over the phone before I meet them. I think you can learn a lot over the phone.

So I’m talking to Allan on the phone about our families and lifestyles. He mentions he works out a lot and even has a home gym. “That sounds nice,” I say. “It’s really helpful when you’re so busy to have it right there.” I tell him I work out a lot. He asks which things I do, and he talks about the amount of time he spends exercising. I flash a yellow caution light.

He asks me out for dinner and chooses a place midway between our homes. He walks in; I’m not that attracted to him but he seems nice and is polite, so I give him a chance. Attraction can grow, in my experience. We have a nice conversation for about two hours. I suggest we split dessert. He talks more about what he eats and says he doesn’t usually eat dinner at night because he used to be 20 pounds overweight and doesn’t want to go there again. (My caution light is turning to red—skips dinner most nights? I felt like if we dated, I would end up watching everything I ate because he was so concerned.) When dessert comes he takes one spoonful and then puts it down. The date ends and he says he’ll be in touch; I don’t hear from him again.


I had been seeing Greg last summer. We had done some physical stuff with each other, we were talking a lot, we had one particularly intense date…and then he never responded to me again. It’s a phenomenon called “ghosting.”

I had plans to meet Dan for a second date at Crema Cafe. I called to finalize the date. He didn’t answer his phone or text. I even said to him, “It’s fine if you don’t want to, but please let me know by 5 p.m. because I will make other plans.” I got no response. I wish he’d said, “I just decided this is not a fit and I wish you the best.”

I make a point of using good communication models when I turn someone down. A sandwich of a positive statement, negative, then positive. Like this: “It’s been great learning about you. I’m not feeling like it’s a fit. I wish you the best.” Clear, kind, done.

I think ghosting is more common in online dating because you don’t have the accountability of a community. There are few social consequences for behaving badly—you don’t know people in common, and you’re unlikely to run into each other again. I think people hide behind the anonymity. They lack authenticity because there’s no accountability.

I’ve read about and experienced ghosting as a major trend—men who disappear because they can’t or won’t communicate. Have you heard of ghosting or experienced it while dating someone you met online? What do you make of it?

Do you have stories of great, awkward, frustrating or funny dates to share? Send them my way!

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