07/07/2011 05:43 pm ET | Updated Sep 06, 2011

Confessions of a Mid-Life Online Dater

I'm stunned to be 58, separated and divorced and dating again. And again. And
again. 189 dates and counting...

In college, graduate school and through most of my 20s I had always been a
serial dater. There was something about opening the door Saturday to a new,
hot guy that was my personal high. For me, long term dating meant going out
with the same guy twice. I just liked rotating faces and places. Back then it was
Paco-Rabanned guys, old Volvos and the Eagles. I played the dating game
throughout college in Rochester, grad school in Boston and first job in Miami
(where I also thawed out). But, I never figured I would re-live my dating MO
decades later.

At around 29 I decided to marry the guy I was dating. He was a good guy with
nice, blue eyes. We both played tennis, were well educated, Jewish, liked each
other's friends and "it was time." I didn't care then that he didn't make much
money or that he was ahead of the trend on the stripes and plaid look (way
ahead). I thought I was in love. Looking back...not so sure. Hell, I hardly knew
if I wanted pepperoni or anchovies on my pizza in those days. But, I figured,
what could go wrong? hah.

I was ambitious -- he wasn't. I wanted two kids -- he didn't want any. I wanted
a second home at the beach - he wouldn't consider it. I was ambitious and
prospered while he got stuck mid-way up the corporate ladder. Our one child,
now 25, is the love of our lives.

I think it was when our daughter left for college that emptiness really dug in its
spurs. The only thing we still enjoyed was a Saturday night flick and even then
he refused to go to a new release because of the lines and crowds. As for hand
holding or pet names...forget it. It wasn't his thing and I had spent too many
years working with my head in the sand to even notice.

So, it wasn't a surprise when we discussed separating and divorce. It was more
like a natural transition. Both of us thought there was still enough runway left to
find real happiness. Our daughter was 20 at the time and we were both nervous
about telling her. But, we did it. To her credit she immediately asked, "Well,
is it ok with you guys?" We looked at each other and slowly nodded. She
added, "Then it's ok with me. I'm 20, not 10." And she's been reasonably ok
with it ever since.

My husband's mom was 97 at the time (she's now 102 and I pray our daughter
gets her genes) and he decided to "protect her" and not tell her about our

separation or divorce. So, every few months I go along with the charade and out
to lunch or dinner with my ex and his mom (even to a family bar mitzvah) so she
doesn't keel over from the shock.

All that aside, it didn't take me long to pick up where I left off in my 20s and start
dating again. I signed up on JDate and Match and felt like a kid in a candy store.
The fact I'm in marketing, a decent writer and witty : ) gave me an edge with my
profile. I was flooded with messages from Davids and Jeffs and Michaels. I was
in dating heaven -- stuck in amber -- somewhere between 50-something and 18
again, unable to remember if my next date was Andy or Sandy, if they had dogs
or cats, three kids or one, were a doc or lawyer.

My first date was for drinks at a 5-star hotel. The photo on Ted's profile showed
a handsome guy with a head full of Grecian curls. I was envisioning a toga...or
better yet The David. I was way wrong. I walked into the lobby bar and "Mr.
Clean meets The Michelin Man" stands up and yells out, "Risë?" I froze. Wrong
move. Not only was he 20 years older and 20 pounds heavier than his photo
with absolutely not one hair on his head, but he felt compelled to tell me about
his son with irritable bowel syndrome and lesbian daughter over drinks and small
plates. I'm cool with that stuff, but think it's probably better second date chatter.
And there's something about spearing meatballs and talking barium enemas
that's just not right.

Since then there's been the doc (MD) who trailed me into the women's bathroom
in a fancy Italian restaurant for a grope (nothing like kissing near a toilet as a
turn on), the big-time lawyer who wound up in rehab (I didn't have a clue), the
architect whose parents lived next to his house in an RV, the bi-polar guy who
only wore green (including watch, belt and shoes), the guy with the worst breath
on the planet (could be our next alternative fuel source) and the vegan who only
ate tofu (I mean, how much tofu can one person eat before turning into a plant?).

I'm just getting started here. There was a high-level economist who came into a
restaurant wearing a suit and sneakers and immediately confessed to abusing
his wife (I told him to get back on his bike and pedal real fast), an optometrist
with both an eye twitch and a stye and a steady stream of overworked,
underpaid, sleep-deprived PhDs.

Short, tall, hairy, waxed, funny, corporate, artsy, crafty - but no one who clicked
all my tumblers into place.

Paying for the date is a whole other story and an important indicator for me.
Though I can afford to pay and am very independent, I like it when the guy pays
for the first latte or drink or burger and then we both work through who pays for
what moving forward. Every time I hear, "So, do you want to split it?" as I'm
sipping my decaf, I feel like screaming, "NOT REALLY, LOSER" and splashing
the coffee - spoon and all -- in his face. The second I toss over my AmEx card

to the waiter I cross the guy off my list for good (at least I get guest rewards).

The more you spill, the more pics you post, the more clever you are...the more
messages you'll get. There are more "handles" than names on these sites
like "just4u," 2good" or "luvmyharley." And not everyone posts pictures. I
assume the guys without photos are sex offenders, shrinks or have photos
plastered on the wall of the post office.

The profiles I immediately nix are the guys who feel compelled to talk about
sex (how much they love it, want it, need it, like threesomes), show photos of
themselves with their motorcycles or are partially undressed (why?). I've also
learned that guys who say they're "athletic and toned" usually have a gut and "a
few extra pounds" means get the bariatric surgeon STAT. There was once a
picture of a guy in a green sweater next to a hedge and I'm not quite sure where
the sweater ended and the hedge began.

Me? I'm honest, but think I'm one of the few. I'm a thin (swear), athletic, funny
(borderline wiseass), 58 year-old PR pro with a good smile. That's who I am and
that's exactly how I describe myself with recent pics and a profile that includes
my weakness for movies, art, tennis and anything Italian. I'm not Sharon Stone
or Carla Bruni, but I'm not half bad.

Sometimes the dating site e-mails you a "date of the day." I'm convinced it's
computerized with no one with a pulse overseeing any of it. Here's
day I opened my e-mail to see my ex as my "date of the day." And even he
shaved eight years off his real age. I immediately forwarded the e-mail and
picture to a good friend who e-mailed back, "He looks cute. Go for it."

There's no doubt about it...guys lie. There are more guys who say they're 49 or
59 on these sites than is mathematically possible. And no amount of hair dye,
plastic surgery, scotch tape or photos from the 70s can make up for a loose-
necked, cap-toothed, pot-bellied guy who looks like he's 68 pretending to be 52.
To add kosher salt to the wounds (when JDating), there are the 50-somethings
aiming for a trophy date who's 36 but looks 16. And it gets better. Because I'm
honest and say I'm 58 (though I might look younger) I get stuck with guys who
probably get volume discounts on Metamucil and Depends. Ever try a Meta-tini?

Time is playing tricks with my head. Two minutes ago I was in my 20s dating
lean, hunky guys with shoulder-length hair, fu manchus, Frye boots and elephant
bells. Now it's guys whose belts keep moving up while hairlines move back and
toes turn green inside orthopedic shoes. It's like I'm on Mars. I'm sure that when
you grow old as a married couple you're more forgiving of body parts that start
to go, but it's hard to have a first date with a guy whose breasts are bigger than

Friends say that with 189 dates under my belt, I should have already found Mr.

Right and that I probably really don't feel like settling down. Not true. At age 58
I'm looking for true "open the door and rip off his shirt" kind of love. Not
easy to find. And I don't want to be hurt...or hurt anyone else along the way.
Plus, at my age, with all that I'm now able bring to the table, I don't feel like giving
my heart to just anyone. So, dude, whatever you do, please don't kiss me in the
Ladies room.

Risë Birnbaum lives in Washington, DC and is Founder & CEO of zcomm, a national
marketing/PR agency, and a former ABC Network Correspondent