Miss Manners: Personal contacts beat Internet for dating prospects

April 8, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a divorced woman, 64 years old, extremely fit and healthy for a woman of my age. I have worked since I was old enough to apply for a job.

I have been single for more than 20 years and lately have felt the desire for another relationship, but dating at my age is very difficult. I know it sounds insensitive, but I don’t want to spend (waste) time dating a man, only to find out several months later facts about him that, had I known upfront, I would never have gone out with him.

I am professionally employed. I am by no means wealthy, but I manage my money. I do not have negative baggage and do not want to deal with another person’s problems, personal or financial. Some may say I am not giving a fair chance to a man who might turn out to be a good companion, but I disagree. I have heard every line, every scam and every trick imaginable.

Somewhere in my area, there must be one nice, normal man, who like myself is looking for an honest woman and a quality relationship. How does one kindly and swiftly get the message across right upfront that I don’t want to mend, fix, nurture, counsel, finance anyone? Is it appropriate to ask a man if he is unencumbered, debt-free, no criminal history, etc.? If so, how does one go about this?

GENTLE READER: Surely you realize that you live in the Internet era, when people advertise for romance by stating their demands upfront, and tools are readily available for conducting background checks.

Suppose you had to depend on relatives, friends, and civic, religious and educational organizations to provide prospects?

Oh, that’s right; you remember that from before your marriage. You want to tell Miss Manners how annoying you found all those unappealing prospects they provided. You may have even met your former husband through that system, and you remember how annoying he was.

But you probably didn’t meet jail-breakers, bigamists and indigents that way. For all its creakiness and exasperating inability to gauge attractiveness, the old system was pretty good on character and reputation. No doubt there were ghastly mistakes. In general, however, personal recommendations are probably more reliable than what people say themselves when there are no available witnesses to their misdeeds.

So even if interrogating any prospects were not rude, Miss Manners doubts it would yield the information you want. The number of prospects will diminish if you get to know people in their social or professional circles, but so will the number of scams.

Still, you may have trouble finding what you want. A nice, normal man may have a different idea from you about what constitutes a quality relationship. Although he may not need any kind of emotional support from you now, he may be put off by the idea that it would not be forthcoming if, in the future, he did need it.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Should I share manipulation tactics by my ex-husband with his new fiancee?

GENTLE READER: Only if she comes to you in tears.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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