“I’ve tried online sites and am tired of looking at profiles with guys wearing hats and sunglasses. Are they in the witness protection program?”
That’s Ellen. She’s, by her own definition, a DWJF — divorced, white, Jewish female — and she’s looking for romance.
The 61-year-old Manhattanite recently posted a personal ad to Craigslist in an attempt to get one step closer to a “warm male mensch.”
You may be wondering, why Craigslist? So was I. After a cursory Google search, it’s clear there are plenty of dating sites tailor-made for the over-50 crowd, not to mention the dozens created for the twenty-and-thirty-somethings.
So why, Ellen, would you take your quest to the land of apartment scams and $US10 IKEA dressers? Surprisingly, she says, people are more honest there.
But let’s start at the beginning. Ellen has dabbled in online dating for almost two decades.
“I started online dating shortly after I got divorced in 1998,” Ellen, a psychiatrist, told me when I contacted her — through Craigslist, of course — to inquire about her ad. “I tried it all — JDate, Match, eHarmony…” Her voice trails off, as if she’s thinking hard. She comes back. “eHarmony was the complicated one. So many questions. And for a few years, I had profiles on Match and J-Date up at the same time.”
Ellen’s voice is warm and inviting. A stand-up comedian by night, she has a great sense of humour. And, like the rest of the millions of people registered on dating sites and apps across the internet, she finds dating exciting, if not simultaneously exhausting.
So after a gruelling 17 years in the online dating world, Ellen decided to get back to basics. No, not by speed dating or being set up by friends or meeting a real-life matchmaker, but through Craigslist — the online classified section whose layout and functionality have been largely the same since its debut in 1995.
Here’s her ad:
The full text reads:
The dating world has changed a lot since I got divorced. Hook-ups? Friend With Benefits? Is that health and dental benefits? I’m kind of old fashioned so if you are genuinely single and want to meet someone educated and reasonable, please get in touch. I’m not a Victoria’s Secret model but I am told I’m cute/pretty and have a sense of humour and am slim. I’d like to meet someone wonderful. I’ve tried online sites and am tired of looking at profiles with guys wearing hats and sunglasses. Are they in the witness protection program?
Seeking single/divorced/widowed professional funny, friendly male mensch for friendship/companionship and eventual romance in Manhattan. I love stand-up comedy, film, TV, theatre, music, cruises, coffee, museums. I met a guy who didn’t own a TV. I love TV! I enjoy reading and writing and am working on a book. I work part-time in Brooklyn, 3 days a week. Are you single and a fan of the arts? Do you have some free time on weekends for conversation and companionship? Seeking someone drug-free and truthful and reliable.
Please don’t respond if you are alcoholic or smoke pot/use any drugs, or are married/involved with someone else, or are under 45. Pets and kids are fine. Non smoking and health-conscious. 5’5″ 128 lbs., brunette.
Nothing on Ellen’s list strikes me as far-fetched. If anything, it’s a little cliche. Who’s looking for a mean-spirited liar? But as anyone who has spent more than five minutes in the dating scene knows, finding a true partner can be like searching for Waldo (as in “Where’s?”).
And Waldo, Ellen says, was not on any of the dating sites she signed up for.
“I learned to ask a lot of questions,” she told me when I asked what she had learned from her experiences. “When I go on dates now I say, you know, ‘are you completely, verifiably divorced,’ you know, ‘are you completely single?’ Because I learned separated really means married.”
According to a Pew Research study from April, 6% of singles ages 55-64 are online dating, a far cry from the overwhelming 22% of 25-to-34-year-old singles signed up to find love. And Ellen’s age group is what Pew calls a thinning market; they have “a relatively limited number of available partners within their immediate social circles.”
Ellen, who has been riding the dating train since she was 44, has also seen the stigma of online dating disappear. “It used to be a thing no one understood or wanted to talk about,” she recalls. “Like something was wrong with you if you had to take that path to get a date.”
But along with the advent of online dating, and the dozens and dozens of sites created to make finding companionship easy, she figured out the cold, hard, truth: any site can promise to make you a match, but paying $US19.99 a month to find love doesn’t necessarily mean love will find you.
She told me a handful of tales as old as time about her dating horror stories. Exhaustive stories with similar endings: dishonest people always get caught being dishonest. If you’re invested, the result of that betrayal can be heartbreaking. It’s a risk you take when you decide to get romantically involved with someone, she understands, but if that’s what you’re going to end up with, why would you willingly pay a monthly fee to get it?
And that’s, Ellen says, what led her back to the personal ads on Craigslist.
She has actually been a fan of Craigslist for years. The comic spends plenty of time on the pages for TV and film gigs — back in 2005, she and her kids starred in an award-winning documentary called “Vegucated,” where they went vegan for six weeks. The movie is currently on Netflix.
Ellen might not have found her Craigslist Prince Charming yet, but she does have three dates lined up at the moment — dates she’s already spoken to on the phone and will meet for the first in a public place during the day to ensure safety.
And she also shared some surprising news: dating through the personal section isn’t all that bad.
“I found Craigslist no worse than J-Date or Match.com and I’ve been on those for years. You find weird and creepy people wherever you go! Anyone can lie on any of these sites,” she’s laughing now. “You save money if you go on Craigslist. People are more transparent there.”
One site she hasn’t tried is Tinder.
“My daughter is 20 and she met someone on Tinder,” she tells me. “We’re bonding over the same stuff and we’re a generation apart.”
You have to have a good attitude, and you have to learn to laugh at everything, Ellen informs me, recalling a lewd email she received in response to her G-rated ad.
“Are you good at BJ’s!” she squeals into the phone, reading the email. “That’s his opening gamut! I’m a doctor! I just delete it. It’s clear what this guy’s about and I delete it.”
She calls the entire experience of Craigslist dating “low stakes,” informing me that the “best of Craigslist” section is prime material for acting teachers who need to gather unique monologues for their classes.
Her dating advice for others is simple: “If you listen, he’ll tell you who he really is. You dont want to make the mistake where you get involved with someone. Take your time and it will pay off.”