I used to watch those ads for online dating, you know — E-Harmony, Match.com and the rest — and see those perfectly matched couples who’d become joined at the hip from the first “poke” on their profile pages. But, just emerging from a contentious divorce after a 23-year marriage didn’t leave me wanting to “poke” anybody — online or in person. But, still, the idea of having a pool of eligible men online to choose from did intrigue me.


This new way of dating was very different than what I had known dating to be some two decades earlier. Then, men and women went on blind dates arranged by friends or met at work, clubs, parties, school or church. But I was clueless on how to jump into the dating pool at age 51. So I decided to try online dating.


My first experience was slightly disastrous. After communicating back and forth on the dating site, my date and I decided to meet at Starbucks and see if we liked each other. Well, was I ever in for a surprise! I had joined an adult dating site, assuming that “adult” meant “for grown-ups.”


As we sat sipping our coffees, he kept referring to “the lifestyle.” “The lifestyle?” I thought. “What lifestyle?” Then he told me about “the swinging lifestyle.” I must have looked completely bowled over because he laughed at my reaction. So much for that dating site.


Then I tried another dating site and began meeting (normal) eligible men. While some of them were just in it for sex, most of the men were very respectful and interesting. A few of them were lonely and ready to jump into a relationship with anyone who came equipped with two x chromosomes, and a few of the men who contacted me were two-timing on their wives.


One man told me that he was a “horse whisperer.” BIG red flag! Another man explained to me that he was a long-haul truck driver and that, while he was in town, wanted to “swing by” and get another wife! I wasn’t sure if he wanted to become a bigamist or was looking to lasso a wife at the Okay Corral. Needless to say, they were barking up the wrong tree. I put the cowboy and his lasso on the same shelf as the horse whisperer and moved on.


Here are some tips for anyone new to the online dating scene:


1. Don’t put your real name on your profile, especially if you are a woman. You don’t want some lunatic performing one of those online identity searches and show up at your front door unannounced. Using a rue will also protect you from identity theft.


2. Be honest on your profile about your occupation, age, values and interests. Otherwise you will have a lot of explaining to do later.


3. If you eventually decide to give out your phone number, make it your cell number and not your landline. This is for your protection.


4. Take time getting to know a potential date online first.


5. Meet at a restaurant or some other public place for the first few dates. If you get a “funny feeling” that something about your date isn’t quite right, trust your instincts, make an excuse and leave.


6. Men and women who are emerging from divorce come with a lot of baggage. In fairness, though, EVERYONE has baggage. It’s up to you just what kind of baggage you are willing to accept.


7. If you are dating more than one person, it is considerate to let your dates know that you are “playing the field.”


8. Leave your sad tales at home. All people have had bad relationships and heartbreaks. Leave those discussions for later.


9. Don’t be concerned with finding that one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. When you do, you’ll know it.


The first date with my (now) husband, Steve, wasn’t all that great. A few months later, I won a short-story contest and sent everyone in my address book my good news with an attachment of my winning story. Only, on Steve’s e-mail, I forgot to attach the story. He replied to my e-mail saying, “Where’s the beef?” And the rest is history. We dated for two years and will be celebrating our nine-year wedding anniversary this October.


Even though I had to sift through a cowboy, a horse whisper and a swinger, I ended up marrying my soul mate and love of my life.


If you are tired of going down the traditional dating route, try online dating. You will meet some very interesting people, and it will boost your ego. You may even find love.