What if online dating sites omitted age & age range?

A recent wedding announcement in the New York Times recorded the happy pairing of a couple that met through “America’s Test Kitchen.” He founded the TV show and hired her ten years ago. He’s 62; she’s 37. The announcement ended with this paragraph:  “Both say they have never really given much thought to the difference in their ages. ‘Others may have concerns, but we don’t,’ he said. ‘I’m in love with someone who seems the same potential in the universe as I do.” May they live long and happily.

The pairing of male boss and younger female employee is a familiar pattern. I can see the announcement being greeted with resigned sighs by women like the one who wrote in this week to Yo, Is This Ageist?

I am a 37 year old woman and I am suffering through online dating. Not only do I have to face the insecurity of not being attractive or witty enough to engage a man’s interest (supported by my 0/22 success rate for replies from men I have emailed), not I have to face that I am considered to OLD for many men my age. The number of men in his late 20s, early 40s who list their age range for women as 24-33 is staggering. I never thought that at age 37 I would be viewed as an “older.”

This unhappy dater is the same age as the new bride, and if she read the wedding announcement, I bet she was concerned – not for the couple’s marital prospects but because it’s just another nail in the digital coffin of women like her who are seeking partners their own age. Perfectly reasonably.

It’s not the age difference that’s the problem. Yo, that would be ageist, and plenty of issues loom larger in compatibility. It’s the convergence with sexism: the well-worn fact that men, unlike women, conventionally fish in a much larger pond than their female peers. It’s the rare boy bird who’s willing to date someone even a few years older than he. My sister fared no better on Match.com with the condition that any takers had to be willing to date someone their own age.  (To be fair, her other conditions were that he live relatively near her in Cleveland and not have a boat in the picture. Maybe the boat jinxed her.) 

In his book The Magic of Middle-Aged Women, Daniel Evan Weiss sums up the sheer unfairness of the situation this story from a friend. When she was in her late teens, her uncle tried to set her up with a guy in his late twenties. He wasn’t interested; she was too young. Encountering the same man online 32 years later, she dropped him a note. He still wasn’t interested. Now she was too old.

The ostensible justification is fertility, the proverbial ticking clock that benches women’s ovaries while the rest of them is still out on the playing field. Men are supposed to seek young babes with young eggs, and women to bag high-status provider types, which is why bankers marry bimbos. Leaving aside the fact that that decline in fertility has been way oversold, how about including fertility information in dating profiles? (Have you had children, do you want ‘em / do you want more of ‘em? Would they have to be biologically yours?) Would-be breeders could request a fertility write-up along with recent STI test results.  Men too. When’s the last time you heard a woman worrying that her date might be infertile? Or, for that matter, about the fact that birth defects and mental illnesses rise with the father’s age? Which is another reason the fertility issue is largely a red herring. 

Weiss makes that point at the evolutionary level, writing that, “The survival of our species no longer depends on our ability to find a fit, fertile partner.  Mankind is well established . . . . The future of humanity will be much brighter if men of power learn to choose for a mate Abigail Adams rather than the much cuter Eva Braun.” His book is a paean to the social, psychological, and sexual charms of older women, and an argument that more men of all ages should reap the benefits. “I have learned that I am much better off with veteran women, and so it is natural that they look good to me,” he writes. “I don’t think I am violating my genetic mandate; rather, I am accelerating its adaptation.”

The key word here is “learned,” because it’s going to be a long wait for natural selection to catch up to social imperatives. Weiss learned to think differently. What would it take for other men to follow suit, in significant numbers?

I have a suggestion: dating sites should omit age and age range

My friend – smart writer and online dating expert Virginia Vitzhum – respectfully disagreed with this brilliant idea when I posted it on Facebook. “I think hiding your age feeds ageism (like “passing” feeds racism),” she commented. “People want to know, and at some point, it’s weird not to tell the person you’re dating how old you are.”  Virginia’s with my sister on “guys whose own age isn’t in their target range. F*** ’em. (Or don’t, actually.)”

Hiding or lying about your age is one thing, and misguided in too many ways to count. But if all profiles on the site deliberately omit age and age range, that question becomes moot. After they connect, people can ask via chat or in person. Age is not secret. It simply ceases to be a data point for first-order screening. Unless you’re into numerology, why make a person’s birth date the prime indicator of compatibility? It’s illegal to ask for age on a job application because it fosters discrimination. It has the same effect in the world of online matchmaking. Why should it be any more acceptable? 



8 thoughts on “What if online dating sites omitted age & age range?

  1. there is another justification for wanting to know somebody’s age that you left out–years of potential life together. While age is not the only predictor of years left on the earth, it is a big one. People refusing to date somebody their own age is ageist. But, depending on priorities, the reverse is not true: it is understandable for somebody to want to date somebody around their age. If I were on a dating website, this is something I would want to know.

  2. I think because Men are ageist on dating sites  you should be able to just put what age range you are like  50 plus instead of having to put your actual age , the dating site will know your actual age , It’s more important to have a recent photograph because if you decide to meet you wont be shocked , Most men have photos on,that are years old that’s more dishonest than lying about your age ,  I know a lot of people who have a wide gap in their ages and they have been happy for years, and my Grandmother was 11 years older than my Grandfather and he died first , no one gives you the day you are going to die so why should age matter as long as you love each other. I have been told by lots of men that all the ladies they meet have lied about their age , they wouldn’t need to if it just said over 50, you wouldn’t tell someone you met outside your age so why should you do it on a dating site???

  3. I think after a certain point the “fertile”excuse wears thin.I have a male friend in his early 50’s,isn’t out being adventerous climbing mountains,isn’t ultra fit and looks every bit his age if not older,use the excuse of wanting kids.He didn’t have them in his earlier life.He began chasing a woman, who is now in her early 30’s ,two years ago aggressively.He also tried flirting with any highly attractive,fit,sucessful woman(everything he isn’t) he could on the side ,turning down any attainable option he had if they didn’t meet this ideal of his.The woman in her early 30’s ,due to medical issues,will never have children.He still has interest in this woman almost exclusively although she isn’t able to concieve or have children and he now knows it.It’s about her looks not just her interests or peronality.He’s had a chance with someone only a handful of years younger than he, who has similar interests and personality that he is so taken with in regards to the woman in her 30’s(who has no interest in him) just not a bombshell but still attractive,moreso than he is.There comes a time when it’s clear it’s appearance not fertility that’s sought after.I don’t completely buy the “she’s jaded or not active” bc she’s older excuse either because there are many who aren’t.I also believe ,at times,”she’s jaded” really means,”she’s onto you and may tell you a truth about yourself”.As in;perhaps you should seek out your peers bcecause the younger women a genration or two below you doesn’t want you.They too seek a peer.It’s because their peers lack the youth once had, and that ideal apperance that’s desired, even when the men chasing after that doesn’t posess those qualities themselves.Some men ARE more realistic and are willing to have a peer and partner.Look for those who are in real life.My male friend is still alone and seeking what isn’t attainable,online.

  4.        When I was much younger, I sometimes dated women who were as much as 14 years my senior.    You see, I loved ALL women, without any age discrimination, as long as we connected on some level.   I actually felt privileged to even be with them, and I really wanted them to feel as attractive and as desirable as I felt, while in their presence.    My primary motivation was to hopefully enhance the entire experience of being together, which often entailed seeking to explore our relationship on a deeper level(even if sex may have been the only initial motivation), and thereby giving it some meaning & higher purpose, rather than just going through the motions, as if we were merely 2 ships passing in the night, exchanging our cold, obligatory, & mundane signals through the thick, surrounding sea mist.   I always really loved that one line from the theme music of the Mary Tyler Moore Show: “Who can turn the world on with a smile?   Who can take a nothing date, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?”
           These days, it seems like one of my priorities for seeking a potential relationship is the health of the women, despite her age.   And yes, I know that that is a form of discrimination, in and of itself(guilty as charged).   I also jokingly have my 7 forbidden no-nos when it comes to a woman’s cosmetic appearance, involving everything from “”no tatoos” to “no face jewelry” to “no black nail polish”, etc, etc.   However, once I meet a woman with whom my connection with her is deep & strong, then the joke may ultimately be on me, especially if she turns out to be a violator of all 7 of my forbidden no-nos, and maybe even has a questionable health status to boot, because at that point, all of my superficial so-called standards will amazingly fade away, to make way for true love.
           But, getting back to the subject at hand, the problem with being required to state your age on an online dating site is, that no matter how good you may appear in your current posted photo, and no matter how appealing your profile, that blasted lone number we refer to as our chronological age will immediately detract more than 50% off of any & all attractiveness you may have otherwise presented online, simply by automatic default.   There is a built-in prejudice embedded within every age, no matter how old or young or middle-aged you may be, and that built-in prejudice is a form of “profiling”, which immediately transmits to other people all the information they ever heard about a person having achieved “that age”.    Consequently, people hear your age, and right away their brain computes & compiles, in a matter of a split second, a list of all the things you must be into, all the ways you must think, all the supposed milestones in your life thus far, and especially, all the activities you can probably no longer engage in.
           I have often been told I look much younger than my chronological age, and I am in good health besides, so why must my chronological age be much more of a determining factor than my biological age?    If I were to meet a woman who is 15 or 20 years younger, and a relationship develops to where she actually loves me, and I love her, then who is to say it was not meant to be? 
           It is my profound wish that everyone knows, lives, & breathes true love, with great depth & longevity; and hopefully one day, as you are bathing in the shower, or preparing a meal, or going about your daily mundane chores, you will catch yourself singing, or humming, or whistling, and suddenly without warning, you will realize with stunned astonishment, that you are ABSOLUTELY & INDEED in love.

  5. I am 50 and in excellent shape (in fact the best shape of my entire life, even better than my mid-20s when I was skinny – now I have muscle tone and an athlete’s butt!). But men will only look at profiles for women in their age range (the one much younger guy wanted a “goddess” and sex only – ummm no). It is indeed a complete waste of time and kind of depressing to go online. I am fit, athletic, intelligent, attractive, tall and very healthy. The men that seek me out are older than me and have pot bellies and massive gray hair (I found ONE last summer and that is it and yes it got plucked!), I don’t care about looks either but I do care about being with someone who gets the concept of a temple and respecting it and longevity and what it takes to achieve it.

    Maybe sites should do facial scans and put an age for you (I’d come up around 40 or so) so you know where you stand by general standards of age!

  6. I’ve been told by a professional, looks-wise, I’m in the 90 percentile for my age. That’s close to it ten! I’ve experienced and now experience, age discrimination, big time. Since I posted 66 years old, the limit of guys went down at 65. I also see the age range a lot of guys post and they cut off at 65.There was a time when I got more response by saying I’m the new 55 and then stated later in the bio, I was older. I felt like a trickster and I’m not that type of person. Yes, I do think age needs to be omitted I think it’s a mistake. I think an age range is good, that’s more realistic to me than actually stating your age. If you don’t tell the truth about your age that’s considered dishonesty which I think is ridiculous because of discrimination, like a catch-22. I really want to be with somebody that has no problem with age, so then I state my age and I’m wondering if I should. I have never believed in age discrimination. I do know that there can be a difference in maturity with people and age most o
    f the time, exceptions of course. That’s one thing I don’t like is a youth orientated society and I think we need to change it. There is room for all of us to be respected and loved from babies to the mature.

  7. I’d agree with Virginia Vitzhum, hiding your age is not an option because eventually, the other person is gonna know about this. Age is something that bothers most of the people in dating, this is why omitting it might not be well-received by the people.

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