The dos and don'ts of modern dating

Carol Dix

The dating game may appear to have changed beyond all recognition, but don't panic, advises Carol Dix

You're already over 50 and it's possibly decades since you ever gave dating a thought. Now all you see when you go on the internet or as advertised on buses, tubes and trains are posters begging you to get out there and date. One online site for a major intercity railway even has links to allegedly cheating housewives! It can be enough to send you scuttling back home to the TV and hot cocoa!

However, don't panic, just remember everyone is playing the same version of the game. There are no hard and fast rules to learn, but you can stick by your own sense of what's right and wrong, and what you might expect from others.

Tips for getting yourself out there and noticed

If you're worried about not coming over as attractive, then give yourself a makeover. Attractiveness really does come from inside, but if it's been a while since you were out on the scene, then spend some time warming up.

As a woman you may well have been grooming yourself carefully for years. But why not make an investment in a new hairstyle or colour now? Take the advice of a daughter or younger friend about your fashion sense. Get out there exercising and tone up your body. You'll soon feel a new inner glow.

A mature man might cling to the fantasy that when he was younger looks didn't matter so much. Women liked you for your twinkly eyes or nice fat wallet. If you've moved on from that plush job and the twinkle is getting lost in the wrinkles, then you should also find someone younger to advise on hair and clothing style. Women like a man to look clean, nicely ironed, and full of life and vigour.

What kind of dating site profile photo to use?

Concentrate on the photo you will put up on a dating website or for an agency, even before you begin writing the profile. Some dating sites steer members away from relying on the photo as first stage in choosing dates. But mostly people scan the profiles, rejecting women or men based solely on looks. How you come across in the picture, rather than your actual looks is most important. My suggestion for women is don't be too overtly sexy, nor look too serious. For men, make sure you find a really strong photo, not one where you have obviously cut off the previous partner. That really does matter!

Make sure the photo does you proud. Don't post one up that is 10 years, 10 inches or 10 pounds different from the real you. It will only lead to disappointment and probable rejection when you meet. Hire a professional photographer or find a photography student. They'll provide you with a digital shot of the right size for easy uploading to an online dating site and will want to make you look your best. Read more tips for getting your profile picture right.

How to read others' dating site profiles

Try not to reject someone for bad spelling or a poor writing style - even if you've made yours perfect. But do read carefully what they say they're looking for. If someone says they're interested in 'a fling', expect them to mean it. They're looking for sex without commitment. If you want a relationship, don't waste your time.

Writing a catchy dating site profile

Try and imagine you're in a conversation with a close friend. Write in an easygoing friendly style. Think of an anecdote to tell, something small and simple, maybe from a recent holiday or hobby. Please, nothing about your loneliness, the ex, or depression since giving up work. The power of the written word is amazingly strong. The impression you leave in that profile will be stronger than when you meet face to face. Read more tips for writing your dating profile.

What to say in those first emails

When someone starts writing emails to you it can be exciting. You might feel that as you've hit it off easily, surely things will be plain sailing from here? As I mention in The Ultimate Guide to 21st Century Dating, people can get addicted to 'cyberdating', finding it easier to fall in love with fantasy rather than in the flesh. Write back but don't get too involved in the minutiae of your life at present. Then make sure you follow up emails quickly with a couple of phone calls. Does he sound as funny and witty on the phone? Does she exude sensuality and warmth in her voice?

Make a date to meet as soon as possible. A simple cup of coffee or glass of wine is the easiest next step - but make sure you keep your wits about you and play it safe by meeting in a public place and letting people know where you are going and who with. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust website has tips on safer dating.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.