When I was 27 I met up for coffee with a 34-year-old man I had met online. We’d been messaging back and forth and his pictures looked great, so I was excited to meet him. I showed up at the coffee shop where he was waiting for me, and I noticed that he looked a little more, well, craggy, than I had expected.
“I really feel like my mental age is 34,” he told me about half way into our date. “But my physical age is 42.”
Eye-roll. I wanted to say to him, “I’m so glad that you feel 34, but I’m actually 27.” Of course, I was far too tactful to blurt out anything quite that blunt. Instead I made a mental note that I was absolutely not going on a second date with that lying liar. Even if he felt like he was in his mid-30s, I deserved to know the full truth so that I could decide if I wanted to go on a date with him.
I wish that was the only time someone lied about his age on his online dating profile. There was also a guy that lied so drastically he actually needed a cane to walk when he showed up. He needed a cane to walk, guys. Because of age. I stayed on the date because I was meeting a friend nearby afterwards, but I glared at him over the sangria and can’t remember one thing about him besides the cane.
Encountering a date who is older than he or she says seems to be a pretty common experience. I spoke with Christina, 28, about her experience dating as a young woman. When she was 20 she met a man who initially told her he was 32. After their second date she went home and did a little online research, and discovered he was actually 42 – and married with kids. There was a lot of dishonesty on those two dates.
I’ve always been surprised that people find it difficult to tell the truth about something as basic as how old they are. We have no control over our age, and the truth will eventually come out, so why not be honest from the beginning?
Some people lie because they have no intention of ever being upfront. Cathy, 41, admits that she has lied about her age in the past. “I had no qualms about lying about my age because I was not in the market for meeting anyone with long term potential, as I had just ended a long term relationship,” she ays. She told me the number of matches went up when she lowered her age.
It’s easy to see why lying about your age online can get your more dates. First of all, age does matter. Our culture is obsessed with youth, and if people can’t be young, they often want to be with someone who is.
Tony, 31, says that he has seen women online lie about their age to fit into more desirable search brackets. Apparently, people worry that potential dates will only search within five-year chunks. For example, a 35 year old might search 25-35, and you would miss out if you’re 36. I can say from experience that the traffic to my online dating profile dropped significantly when I turned 30, so there must be some truth behind this theory. However, I’d also like to note that the quality of my messages went up, leading me to believe that this was actually a good thing. If someone would want to date me at 29, but not 30, they weren’t a match for me anyway.
“I’ve had a lot of clients admit to me over the years that they have fudged their age, especially on online dating profiles, says Tracey Steinberg, dating coach and author of Flirt For Fun & Meet THE ONE. “The reason they portrayed themselves as younger was because they worried that if they didn’t, they [wouldn’t] attract the people they want to attract. But, it is a mistake. If the objective is to meet and connect with someone who likes you for you then how can you achieve that if you haven’t been honest with them?”
As she starts her search for a more serious relationship, Cathy says, “now [I] am totally honest about my age, as I am looking for something more substantial. I may not get quite as many hits but what I do has more potential.”
Steinberg adds, “Honesty and trust are essential in a relationship. I strongly encourage everyone to accept where you are in life, appreciate the wisdom you’ve accumulated and proudly express the truth of who you are – including your age.”
I would have respected the 42-year-old guy a lot more if he had been upfront with me from the start. He was a handsome, well-traveled man and we had an interesting conversation. But I thought, who is he to lie his way onto a date with me and expect that I’ll find him so amazing I’ll overlook it? Lying on a first date is about the biggest red flag I can imagine. It’s definitely way worse than being old, which we will all be eventually.