You Need Help: How Do I Get Back Into Dating at Age 54?

Q:

I’m 54 and had gastric sleeve surgery 11 months ago. I’m now getting some of my self confidence back and entertaining thoughts of dating again. I’m incredibly shy, and embrace my dorkiness. It’s been seven years since I’ve last dated or been intimate with a woman. To say that I’m nervous about it is an understatement. I’ve had conversations with some women on Instagram, but they are just scammers wanting money or a relationship because they fell in love after only 4 sentences. I want to make some new friends and date, but I’m not immediately looking for a girlfriend. I like to take my time and get to know someone first. Guess I’m old fashioned. I’m also a teacher and work a lot. How do I meet new people?

A:

Hi, friend. Congratulations on being ready to venture back into dating! Because of how your letter begins, I want to note that weight loss is never a prerequisite for either dating or regaining one’s self confidence. That said, I’m excited you’re feeling ready to dive back into the dating world. As a culture, we spend a lot of time talking about all of the ways that dating can suck; it becomes easy to forget how fun it can actually be! Especially when you’re feeling relaxed and ready to take your time.

After a long break from dating, it’s not surprising that you’re apprehensive and not sure where to start. When that many years have passed, going back to just about any of the things we used to do can feel intimidating! I’m thinking right now of the first time I went to a rock climbing gym, after a lot of years away from the wall. My body had changed; I needed new gear, and I knew it would all feel different than back in college, when I went four times a week. I was scared of looking silly, of feeling like a beginner again. So I put it off, and put it off, and pretty soon a decade had passed since I’d last climbed. When I finally squared off against my fears and went climbing again, it felt amazing.

All of which is to say: I know that fear, of jumping back into something that no longer feels familiar. It’s real, and valid, and it’s hard to push through. As you’ve put out feelers on Instagram and started to want more connection in your future, you’ve already started pushing through that fear, and I want to recognize that! You may feel shy and nervous, but you’re doing the work, and that’s not easy. It also means you’re capable of doing even more.

So! It’s 2023. How are we meeting people these days?

Some apps are better than others if you like to move slowly.

While you’ve learned that Instagram DMs aren’t necessarily the way to go, meeting people online is definitely still a possibility! Since you’d like to get to know people a bit before you decide whether you want to actually enter into something romantic with them, there are a few options here. Apps like Tinder, Match, and Hinge are worth checking out, but you may want to put a note in your bio that you like a slow burn, and want to get to know a person before starting anything serious. Apps that are less centered on romance might also be of use here — for instance, Bumble BFF gives you the chance to meet people online in the context of friendship; then, if there’s a point where you sense your feelings are changing, you can check in (IRL) to see if your match is feeling the same way. There’s also Meetup.com, which centers around events (such as a hike or dinner group), rather than pairings. And speaking of events:

Volunteering is a great way to meet people when you’re feeling shy.

When I first came out and didn’t know people in my community, I started volunteering at social events and fundraisers for my local LGBTQ+ center. At the time, with one foot still in the closet, I was so scared of other queer people that I could hardly speak out loud, but volunteering gave me tasks to do, tasks I shared with other people. Conversations were able to start really organically, and over time, I started to get to know some of the other regular volunteers. I met some amazing friends, and a couple of those friendships blossomed later into relationships! As a teacher, I know you probably don’t have the time and energy to volunteer on a regular basis. But queer centers tend to put on a lot of events they need occasional help with, and that can be a great space to meet other local queer people. Once you’ve started to meet new people, that social momentum will snowball, too — the more people you meet, the more of their friends you’ll meet, and more opportunities will open up in your social galaxy!

Summer classes and rec leagues are great too!

I get it: you’re a teacher, and your job isn’t exactly nine to five. But it is September to June, and depending on where you live, there may be some interesting adult ed classes offered throughout the summer in your community! Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to watercolor, or take up yoga. Maybe you live in one of those cities with a queer dodgeball league! The more engaging, social activities you can schedule for your time off, the more likely you’ll be to meet good friends — and maybe more, in time. And in the meantime, you might find your next talent or hobby!

I know I’ve just thrown a lot of ideas at you. If you’re a homebody like me, it might all be feeling like a lot. Remember, you can always try one or two of the strategies I’ve listed at a time, and learn as you go what seems to be working best for your life. If you live in a smaller city like mine, you’ll also learn pretty quickly which apps (and classes, and sports) tend to have participation from queer people in the age range you’re looking for. And once you get through your initial fear of the unknown, and go on a few good dates with real people, people who are interested in getting to know you as a person, I promise that all this work will start to feel like fun. There’s no other feeling like it, that electricity when you realize that you’re sitting across a table from someone who’s funny, and hot, and wants to get to know you better. Someone who might take your arm on the way out of the restaurant, someone who you just might want to kiss on this date, or the next one.

It’s work to get there, but it’s worth it, and it’s everything you deserve. I wish you all the best. 💙


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.


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Darcy

Darcy, a.k.a. Queer Girl, is your number one fan. She's a fat feminist from California who doodles hearts in the corners of her Gay Agenda. They're living through a pandemic, they're on Twitter, and they think you should drink more water! She also wants to make you laugh.

Darcy has written 349 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. LW i am cheering for youuuuuu!!! re dating i think you doing you with your own approach will help you find the right ppl!

    note – the cover image is SO CUTE but also the models look MUCH younger than 50s to me personally.

  2. Dating when you are older is a completely different ball game. Women my age aren’t going out and doing things, they aren’t joining clubs and doing courses, so putting myself out there doesn’t mean I will met anyone that I want to date (or wants to date me.) They also aren’t using dating apps because that’s not how we learned how to date (I find the whole Tinder/Hinge/HER scene terrifying.) So this article isn’t particularly helpful in regards to the main issue, which is OPs age. And yeah I agree with the above answer that the image associated with the post also erases the main issue being discussed, thus reinforcing how invisible older women feel in general.

    • It’s funny, I think it depends on your location a bit — I’m 39, and when I do activities and classes and such in my area, the majority of the people doing them with me (especially in the volunteering opportunities) are in their fifties and sixties. But I’d love to hear other ideas in the comments, too!

      • Darcy, we’re about the same age, and that has been my experience as well- folks are either in their 20s or in their 50s/60s.

        LW, if you’re spiritually/philosophically inclined (even if you’re an atheist!), your local Unitarian Universalist congregation may be a good place to meet people. There are often book clubs or other recurring events, including volunteering, that would offer that kind of regularly scheduled opportunity to just share space with people and get to know them without the pressure of it being a ‘we are on a date so this is definitely a romantic connection’ thing. (If you’re in a bigger city you might have more gay options for other religions etc. but I mention UU because it’s what I know and because it is notoriously friendly to and populated by our people.)

  3. just wanted to chime in as the editor of this piece that i loved this feature image because it literally looks like two of my friends who are a sweet couple in their early 50s. i am hearing folks who say this doesn’t match up with how they perceives “looking 54” or how they feel they look at that age, and will definitely take that into account when choosing feature images for posts about people in the 50+ age bracket moving forward! but i also just wanted to acknowledge that age looks different on everyone.

    thank you darcy, for this advice — i’m rooting for the LW too, and am also looking forward to reading more suggestions from readers in the comments.

    and, as a general note, we are always looking to publish more writing from anyone 50 or older… you can email me directly if you have a pitch! i’m vanessa [at] autostraddle [dot] com. excited to hear from some of you!

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