Pepper Schwartz: People seem surprised or make fun of Martha Stewart for online dating
But like everyone else, famous people over 50 stop meeting eligible partners, she says
Schwartz says middle-aged men and women need physical affection, love. It's healthy
Schwartz hopes Stewart's example encourages others who have been afraid of ridicule
Editor’s Note: Pepper Schwartz is professor of sociology at the University of Washington and the author or co-author of 17 books, the latest of which is “The Normal Bar.” She is the AARP Love and Relationship Ambassador and writes the Naked Truth column for AARP.org. She is a senior fellow at the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit organization that gathers research on American families, and chief expert for perfectmatch.com.
So people are either surprised or snarky about Martha Stewart going onto Match.com to find a guy.
What did they think she was going to do: Make a man out of paper maché or cookie dough?
Stars and celebrities are no different from anyone else. When they get over a certain age, they stop meeting eligible partners. If a woman does meet someone compelling at a party, she doesn’t know if he’s available or just wants to play. If she meets him at the office, it might be too complicated.
But in general, when men and women get over 50, the odds of just bumping into Ms. or Mr. Right aren’t in their favor. So the really committed ones go hunting where the odds are better, and that’s online.
Willie Sutton famously responded to the question of why he robbed banks by stating, “because that’s where the money is.” Well, that’s why boomers are flocking to the web: Other 50 plusers who are looking for love are there. By the way, I don’t use the verb flocking loosely; just about every site, Perfectmatch.com, Chemistry,com, OK Cupid and more, report the biggest jump in new people joining their sites are in the 50 and over crowd.
But let’s not stop at the rise in numbers on the Internet. Let’s go to the more interesting fact: they are going online to find love, passion and sex. There, I’ve said it: Middle-aged men and women and people old enough to be thanked by Willard on the “Today” show still want it all.
They want to cuddle, kiss, hold hands, get touched in erotic zones and have intercourse. And they don’t want you to think that’s cute or optional. Their sexual and emotional needs don’t die before they do. In fact, a lot of medical evidence indicates that if they do have physical affection, love and sex they will live longer.
But if most of these men and women waited for their friends to fix them up or for someone to approach them on the street, they’d most likely be alone forever. And they don’t want to be.
At 50 they could have another 50 years together. Or they could have 10 rewarding years. I have friends that have been together for four years, since she was 83 and he was 86. They go back and forth and stay with each other in their assisted living apartments. They are in love and no less in love, and in no less fabulous a manner, than when they were with their late spouses.
So don’t sneer at Martha, at least not for online dating. Applaud her for her bravery and knowing what she wants, without letting pride get in the way. I hope she serves as a role model for all those older men and women whose amorous and romantic ambitions have been stifled for fear of ridicule.
“‘What will my friends say,” they ask me, “if they see me on Senior Friend finder or J Date?” My answer is: They will say “Good for you.”
At least that’s what my friends said when I went online. And then they said, “Congratulations,” when I fell in love and got engaged.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Pepper Schwartz.