Dating in Your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50's and 60s in Kansas City
Think your mother would ever get on Tinder? We take an in-depth plunge in the dating scene in Kansas City.
illustrations by mallory heyer
There has never been a better time to be single, and if you are single, you’re not alone. Half of Americans older than age 18 are without a mate AND most of the single folks report that they are happy with their unmarried status, thank you very much. A study by the American Psychological Association backs that up, citing that single people may have more fulfilling social lives and experience greater psychological growth than a lot of married people.
To find out what’s it like being single in Kansas City, we did our own deep dive — from on-line dating to the current love “language.” We also consulted romance writers and explored the history of the hookup. Our conclusion is that the KC single scene is what you make it. It’s totally attitude-driven and, spoiler alert, the 52-year-old Leawood mom on Tinder thinks it’s pretty sweet.
DATING IN YOUR 20S
I’ve long believed that I was born in the wrong era. I’ve known since I was 18 that I wanted to cut the crap and settle down. Unfortunately, guys haven’t been on the same page. My mother always reminded me that boys mature much slower than girls, but jeez, how much slower? Try a snail’s pace. She also told me that I’d most likely find someone in my 20s. That while I was out doing my own thing I’d meet someone when I least expected it. Bad move. I set my hopes high and I followed every bit of advice given to me: I checked in my church, on campus while getting my undergrad, in the nearest coffee shop or bookstore. I’ve even revisited old flames, like Anna Farris did in What’s Your Number — which reminded me why the ability to block is SO important. O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou my nerdy Romeo?
Millennials and their courtship-killing ways have killed romance. My generation has embraced hookup culture like it’s a new summer of love, coining terms like “situationships” and glorifying side chicks/dudes, deeming them healthy for relationships. I’m old fashioned, but my trials and tribulations have left me no choice but to wade through the courtship-killing masses in hopes of finding an old-school soul like me.
Doesn’t anyone woo with a playlist anymore?
The Kansas City Star reported a while back that dating while black in KC is a hard feat, and I agree, but not for the reasons you think. As a blerd (a portmanteau of black and nerd), clubs and kickbacks are not my scene and they attract a certain type. Men laughing in your face when you muster up enough courage to say hi is not on my list of fun things to do on a Saturday night.
I’m an acquired taste, like an expensive cognac. I’m into things like comic books, video games, old-school funk and curated book lists make me giddy. While online dating is more and more becoming the source for happily ever after, it doesn’t work for me. After countless creeps in my inbox I’ve discovered I’m a hopeless romantic (thanks, RomComs with quirky girls) who would rather meet someone organically than find love at first swipe. I want someone who’s sure about me and never leaves me questioning such.
These are things you learn about yourself when dating in your 20s. While wading through the muck and misfires, you wind up fine-tuning your preferences. And, sure it has made me a little jaded, but at least I got some good stories out of it to tell over drinks.
– Sloane, 29, Kansas City
DATING IN YOUR 30S
"So, you should know that this is my first official first date with an adult.” The words just came out as I nervously clutched my bottle of Angry Orchard like it could transport me anywhere else if I needed it to. I was sitting at a small high-top table in a bar across from an intelligent, attractive lawyer in his mid-30s. My first post-divorce date. And since I got married at 19, it really was the first time I had been out with a full-fledged, career-settled, life-experienced adult in this capacity.
I probably didn’t need to share that information with the poor guy, who was now questioning his unexpected role in this momentous step. He immediately apologized for the low-key environment and said he wished he’d done it up big. It didn’t matter to me; surviving this experience was all that mattered. And I did survive. Conversation and laughter flowed easily. We talked about our previous relationships and our children. He even asked for a second date.
Suddenly, all of my tentativeness disappeared … I was back out there. I was on my phone at all hours of the day and night, checking Bumble like an obsessed teenager. I had dates lined up, stacked one on top of the other during the weekends my son was with his dad. I once went on seven dates in four days — three of them on Easter Sunday! I didn’t discriminate either; I wanted to meet people from all walks of life, with every kind of story. I had been living in a bubble my whole life, and this was my chance to see what the world was like, to meet the people that make it interesting.
I went out for Saturday night drinks with a pastor and for Sunday brunch with a rapper. I had dates with both a 22-year-old and a 41-year-old. And if you think Johnson County is too big for small-world coincidences … I went out with a felon several times before randomly meeting (and going out with) his former supervising deputy!
So, what are my takeaways from all this dating craziness? First, there are a plethora of good, kind, successful and attractive men out there in the dating pool. I doubted their existence when I first got divorced. And I had a hard time making myself believe anyone would be interested in a 32-year-old divorcée with a child and a part-time photography business. Well, they do exist. Most of them have children themselves. And … they are definitely interested.
Second, I gained a huge amount of respect for single dads. I met many dedicated, loving fathers who parent their children with full-time devotion, and others who share custody and always want more time with their children while doing their best to make the time they do have meaningful.
Last, I gained wisdom, friendships, and experience. I learned how to relate to many different kinds of people, how to put them at ease, making almost every first date a good one. I also met people who became true friends, and who will continue to be in my life in that role moving forward. And I’ve tried new things, found new hobbies. But most importantly, I’ve added many traits to my lists of what I do and don’t want in a future spouse. And that is the biggest gift post-divorce dating has given me: It slowly whittled away at my cynicism and mistrust, leaving in their place hope, desire, and excitement for the future, for a future with someone.
– Amber, 32 Overland Park
DATING IN YOUR 40S
I feel like dating in your 40s is great if you’re a guy. My main issue with dating is that most of the women I encounter all want to get married, and this is a deal breaker for me. I’m divorced with two kids, and I do not want to ever get married again.
My focus are my sons. My ex-wife got remarried and then had a child with her new husband, so my kids now have a half-sibling and three stepsiblings. I don’t want to go down that road. I want my kids to have a place where they don’t have to share a parent with anyone.
I’m very up-front with anyone I date that I have no plans to marry – ever. Women seem fine with that at first, but they slowly start asking about “taking the relationship to the next level” or “what does the future look like?”
I feel like every woman I tell I don’t want to ever get married sees it as a challenge or thinks that they’ll be the one that will change my mind. This creates a lot of drama that I don’t have time for, so I just move on.
That’s the plus side to being a guy: there’s a surplus of beautiful women in Kansas City. I’ve dated women as young as 23 and as old as 50. I’ve had several long-term relationships that have lasted at least one year. I’ve never used a dating app because, to be honest, I don’t have to. I’m in sales and meet a lot of people every day. I’ve never had any trouble finding a date. I’ve just had trouble finding a woman who doesn’t want to get married.
– Josh, 42, Kansas City
DATING IN YOUR 50S
I’m on Tinder and I love it. I’ve been divorced for two years, and after a 20-plus-year marriage, I was ready for freedom. I didn’t want to date. To use the term my daughter and her friends use, I wanted to “hook up.” I felt like the best way for me to shake off my bad marriage and controlling husband was to just put myself out there. Tinder was a perfect fit because I wasn’t looking for a relationship or to fall in love. The only thing I wanted was fun with zero expectations of anything going anywhere.
My first “date” was with a Southwest Airline pilot. He lived in Phoenix and we met at the airport Marriott. It was perfect. He was handsome, my age and newly divorced. My second and third Tinder dates were also with airline pilots. It was easy with no strings attached.
Once I got my confidence up, I began branching out on other dating sites, but that didn’t go as well. I kept on meeting men or rather “man-children” that kept on wanting to get serious. And when they said “serious,” what they really meant is they wanted to get remarried so they would have someone to take care of their life. I had been there and done that, and I have no desire to do that again.
I also let friends set me up, but it’s like junior high all over again. I’d get texts or phone calls from my friends asking how it went, if I liked the guy they set me up with, what did I wear, etc. At this stage of my life, I don’t want to move backward where it feels like I’m sitting in the school cafeteria again and passing notes to boys.
Tinder is perfect because it doesn’t pretend to be Match.com. There’s no expectation of “meeting cute.”
– Sharon, 52, Leawood
DATING IN YOUR 60S
I’ve been divorced for four years now and dating online for three. Yikes! In my initial naiveté after I decided I was ready to try Match.com, I thought I’d have a great, wonderful, exciting new significant other within three months. Oh, was I in for a surprise. I know that can happen quickly for some online daters, but for me, the process has been much slower. Maybe I’ve just grown pickier as I age and, apparently, so have the men I’ve met online.
Most of the more than 100 dates (yikes, again!) that I’ve been on have been meet-and-greets, one-and-dones, either on my part or his. I’ve discovered that a lot of the men I meet are really not in it for the long haul. They’re not necessarily wanting a one-night stand, but they really aren’t interested in pursuing a relationship either. They’ve either got a dead wife they’re not quite over or are just too newly divorced to be emotionally ready for another relationship so soon. Or, they just want a night out with some friendly conversation. Some have had the nerve to lie about their age, weight or educational status, or post photos that were at least a decade old. One even told me he was a widower, but in reality, his ex-wife had died long after they got divorced.
Most men though have been quite fun and charming. One took me to a Rush concert, another to the Kansas City Symphony. I’ve been to a KU men’s basketball game and a Chiefs football game. I’ve gone dancing, to several movies, and had countless cocktails and coffees. I’ve been to pricey restaurants and downhome dives. Although none of these dates has resulted in a long-term relationship for one reason or another, I feel I have learned something about myself from each and every one of them.
This “dating for growth” is what relationship expert Nicole Moore espouses because with each encounter you really do grow in terms of self-awareness. And I follow the advice of dating and relationship guru Rori Raye, who believes in circular dating: “Date at least three, keep the focus on me and treat them all equally” until one steps up to the plate. That way you’re not hung up on any one man, keeping your options open to finding that one special man. So far, that hasn’t happened for me, but a girl (and I still feel like a girl, even at 60) can only hope. And, with a positive, stick-to-it attitude and a little thick skin about it all, still have fun in the process.
– Veronica, 60, Kansas City
ARE YOU FLUENT IN DATE SPEAK?
words jan dumay
There is a little finesse required these days about dating and relationships, which can begin and end with a click of a button or swipe of a smartphone. Here are some current dating terms to get you up to speed.
Breadcrumbing— You meet someone, they seem to like you and you like them. But after one or even a few dates, they avoid making plans to meet again. Instead, they throw you “breadcrumbs” by liking your social media posts or sending you a friendly good morning text. Immediately drop these people, who are a complete waste of time and energy.
Love bombing— They fall in love with you immediately, bombarding you with constant praise and attention. Then, when the infatuation wanes, usually fairly quickly, they drop out of sight, only to find their next target. So totally into themselves, these people could be Webster’s definition of loser.
Stashing— Perhaps the latest dating term, stashing refers to what happens when you’re dating someone but they never introduce you to their family or friends, or post about you on social media. They “stash” you away to keep you near and their options open. Ugh.
Cushioning— Similar to stashing, these daters create a cushion where they’ll semi-commit to you but still flirt with others. A big clue that they’re not in it for the long haul is they won’t take down their online dating profile. We’ll call them cheaters-in-the-making.
Benching— Similar to cushioning, these people relegate you on the bench as a back-up option as they continue to look around. They may come back to you, but it doesn’t leave you feeling confident of a commitment. Ouch.
Situationship— Urban Dictionary describes this as a relationship that has no label on it, like a friendship but more than a friendship but not quite a relationship. Whatever.
Catch and release— People who love the thrill of the chase often employ the catch-and-release dating technique. They love sending flirtatious texts in the hopes of catching a date with you. Then when you finally agree, they lose interest and release you to find their next target. So annoying!
Ghosting— This one’s been around for a while and therefore is the most well-known dating term, and perhaps the most painful. It refers to when someone you’ve been dating suddenly vanishes without a trace, like a ghost. They don’t return texts or calls, and may even block you so they don’t have to have the break-up conversation. Cowards!
Zombie-ing— On the opposite side of the ghosting coin, zombies resurface again, often acting like nothing happened. The zombie will try to get back into your life by following you on Instagram and Twitter. Get lost already!
Slow fade— It’s a bit like ghosting and can be just as painful. This dater stops being as responsive to texts and calls, eventually ending communication until it dwindles to nothing. Good riddance.
Catfishing— This oldie-but-goodie refers to when someone lures a person online into a relationship by pretending to be someone else, using phony photos and life stories. Sometimes the person you’re actually dating uses this ploy to catch you cheating or communicating with others. Creepy.
Kittenfishing— A less severe form of catfishing, kittenfishing refers to online daters presenting themselves in an unrealistically positive way on a dating app. They lie about their age, job, height, weight and use outdated photos. The jig is up when they meet their romantic prospect. Talk about a losing strategy.
Cuffing season— You know your perpetually single friends, who flirt with different people every night and rack up as many free drinks as possible? The “cuffing season” of cold and dreary winter months has them wanting to be tied down in a serious relationship. But on the day of Valentine’s Day, their Facebook relationship status reverts back to single…
Thirsty— We all like to flirt, but thirsty people take it to the extreme. If someone likes and comments on your every social media move, texts you constantly and is always asking to “hang out,” they’re thirsty. Nobody has time for that.
Sliding into the DM’s— If you’ve been hinting at your crush on someone, it might be time to be more forward and “slide into their DM’s.” In other words, direct message them on your favorite social media. Hopefully you have a good pickup line.