Do You Need A Midlife Makeover?

If you’re a woman of a certain age, you may need a confidence booster before trying online dating. Here, experts explain how to make the most of your attractive qualities — both inside AND out.

By Jane Ganahl

o you’re a woman over the age of 55 and ready to get back in the dating game after a long absence.

Here’s the good news: according to the 2000 census, there’s a big pond to fish in. Singles between 55 and 64 have 7 million single contemporaries to choose from — many of whom are online just like you are. When British research agency YouGov surveyed
Confidence is absolutely critical for women.
more than 1,700 singletons over 55 for Stella magazine, they discovered that 62 percent were looking for love online, compared to just 21 percent of singles aged 18-24.

Knitting and fly-fishing? Not for these Internet-savvy seniors.

The bad news is that for first-timers going online, the prospect of putting yourself out there to be courted can be intimidating, indeed — especially for women. While older women with some laugh lines and graying hair are still considered très sexy in countries like France and Italy, women over 50 in the United States tend to feel bad if they no longer look 30. And it’s hard to step out in the online dating world if your self-confidence is low. Plus, many women who are dating for the first time in many years are coming out of divorces or the death of a spouse, which can be even more rattling to a woman’s self-esteem and sense of identity.

It begs the question: before going online, should a woman get a makeover?

Bobbi Palmer, a southern California dating and relationship coach (, advises women to consider an internal makeover before writing and posting a dating profile. “Confidence is absolutely critical for women,” says Palmer, who met her husband on and whose clients include many women over 50. “Men always put that at the top of the list in terms of what’s attractive.” And, she says, your confidence should be visible in your profile photos. “You have to look healthy, have nice hair, and look like you take care of yourself. Look better so you feel better and men will be attracted to you,” advises Palmer. “It’s something for YOU — not for men’s sake.”

If your confidence is lacking at the moment, Palmer suggests that you take stock of yourself and your accomplishments: “I tell people, look, your marriage is over. You need to work on what you want NOW for your life. And you need to get to know yourself again. I ask them to look at what have they achieved and ask what they want to do in the future. The accomplishment part is important because, well, let’s face it — everyone faces rejection in the dating world. And it will be tempting to pull back and say, oh, never mind. I tell them that being rejected by a man is not a big deal — that they’ve slain worse dragons.”

Once you’ve made a list of what you have to be proud of, Palmer says, you should make a second list that explains what you’re looking to get from online dating. “What are your must-haves, both in a guy
If you feel good, it will be reflected in looking good.
and in a relationship? Do you want to marry again or just have fun? Go to the movies or move in together?” asks Palmer. “Those things can change, but it’s important to focus on what matters before you get started. Women I work with very often don’t want to get married again, but they mostly want a quality relationship — not just sex.”

Then, she says, you’re ready for the “external makeover.” It doesn’t have to be drastic — there’s no need to dye your gray hair bright red or run off for some face-freezing injections. But it might be time for a quick peek in the mirror — and in your closet. Being married is a great excuse to not have to worry about fashion. But when you’re dating, you need to consider a wardrobe adjustment. You’re not going for the Las Vegas cougar look (unless you really want to), but you should do some shopping if you can afford it and try a few new looks. If you feel good, it will be reflected in looking good.

“It’s hard to go back out there and say ‘look at me,’ but that’s what I train my clients to do,” says Palmer. “I advise them to look at magazines to see current trends for women their age. For each woman, my advice is different. There is no one look that works for every woman. I also say before you get your picture taken, get a free makeup session in a department store.”

Dating coach Julie Spira, author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online (, suggests that if you can afford it, spring for a professional photographer. “I recommend trying to get a good head shot and also a full body shot. It’s also good to include a few casual shots of you doing something you love. If you love golf, hiking or travel — put a photo of yourself next to the Eiffel tower. People might write and say, ‘Oh! I just got back from Paris, too.’”

Spira also suggests that you “leave your baggage at home” both in your profile and in your first meetings with prospective dates “particularly in respect to relationships and money if there’s something negative there. A man is going to run if he reads that stuff. Ration your personal information out slowly.”

And once you’ve posted your profile, adds Spira, try to relax and have fun! Don’t take it so seriously — and don’t fret about rejection. “I counsel women to keep their confidence high. It’s a numbers game, and you have to look at it like a job interview. You do need the perfect ‘resume’ without typos. And you might have to do 50 ‘interviews’ before you find the perfect match. But it only takes one.”

Jane Ganahl is author of Naked on the Page: The Misadventures of My Unmarried Midlife, editor of the anthology Single Woman of a Certain Age, journalist of two decades, and codirector of San Francisco’s Litquake literary festival.
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