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by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

This Week:
Seniors and Online Dating
All About Emoticons

Should Seniors Use Online Dating?


Absolutely, yes. Love isn’t just for the young – and neither is online dating. One senior spoke to say that, “most of us are a little wiser, a little bit more discerning. And I think in my age group there's probably less game playing going on.” I certainly agree, although I’m not totally convinced about the game playing!

The truth is – online dating is rapidly growing within the senior crowd. It might even surprise you to know that the Internet research firm Nielsen/NetRatings recently reported that seniors are the fastest-growing group of online users. Some figures from last year along suggest that some 4.8 million people over the age of 55 used online dating. So, where are all of these seniors? Well, you can find sizable population of singles on the major dating sites like and Yahoo! Personals, but there are also niche dating sites that cater to this crowd, including,, and

Online dating offers the same advantages to seniors, as it does to all singles – it can be an efficient, safe, and highly effective way to meet eligible prospects. And meeting people is definitely on the minds of active seniors. According to Steve Slon, editor of AARP The Magazine, almost one in seven singles that aren’t dating say they’d start right now – if they could meet the right person. One of the major obstacles to online dating success for people 60 and older is overcoming “technophobia.”

Of course, there are other speed bumps that must be negotiated. For example, a study on seniors and dating that was conducted recently by AARP The Magazine found that motivations for dating frequently differ among seniors. The major reason for dating is to have someone to talk to or do things with (49%). The second major reason is “to simply have fun” (18%). Although a small minority, five times as many men (11%) as women (2%) say that their major reason for dating is to fulfill their sexual needs. Another potential pitfall documented by the AARP was that most midlife and older men said that they wanted to date younger women. Similarly, many midlife and older women wanted to date younger men. This ironic state of affairs makes senior men and senior women’s age preference in dates generally incompatible.

But these challenges and obstacles are found in other age groups and merely highlight the game playing and wide personal preferences that exist for singles when looking for partners. Obstacles like these shouldn’t deter anyone – young or old – from playing the dating game or using online dating. Finding a match is a wonderful goal to achieve, but don’t forget that a large part of the fun of online dating, and dating in general, can be the process of searching for that partner to begin with.

Can you please teach me about ‘emoticons’?

First thing you need to know is that emoticons are little collections of characters that when joined together resemble faces expressing different emotions. It’s also common today for certain email and IM providers to offer “ready made” faces displaying all sorts moods, such as laughing, crying or smirking. Emoticons are cute and effective ways that netizens and online daters convey feeling while communicating online. You may also see emoticons in people’s online dating profiles. However, the meaning of some emoticons is not always obvious if you’re new to the online scene. Therefore, I’ve compiled some of the most popular and relevant emoticons below to give you a little cheat sheet. Think of it as Emoticons 101:

Smiley face: :-)

Wink: ;-)

‘Devilish’ wink: ;->

Laughing: :-D

Sticking out tongue: :-P

Wow: :-o

High five: ^5

Angelic, being an angel (at heart, at least) O :-)


Kiss: :-x

Kisses: :*

Blowing a kiss: :-{}

Hugs: []

Hug {name here}

Lots of hugs: {{{name here}}}

Hugs and Kisses: (( )):**

Devil: >:-)~

Goo-goo eyes, drooling over you: 8-P”

Now, the second thing you need to know is that emoticons get you only so far in this day and age. Experienced Internet uses and online daters also frequently rely on specific acronyms to express certain thoughts, feelings and overt flirtations. Similar to emoticons, some acronyms are quite specific and obscure. So, to complement your cheat sheet on emoticons, I’ve also put together a mini-dictionary of the most commonly used acronyms on online dating sites.

Mini-Dictionary for Flirty Acronyms:

AML: all my love

ASLP: age, sex, location, picture

A/S/L: age/sex/location

BEG: big evil grin

BG: big grin

BL: belly laughing

EG: evil grin

FOFL: falling on the floor laughing

FOTCL: falling of the chair laughing

GBH: great big hug

GBH&K: great big hug and kisses

GMAO: giggling my ass off

H&K: hug and kiss

HH: holding hands

ILU: I love you

ILYFAE: I love you forever and ever

JK: just kidding

JP: just playing

KOTC: kiss on the cheek

KOTL: kiss on the lips

LNK: love and kisses

LMHO: laughing my head off

LOL: laughing out loud

PM: private message

QT: cutie

ROFLMAO: rolling on floor laughing my ass off

ROFLOLTSDMC: rolling on floor laughing out loud tears streaming down my cheeks

ROFLOLWTIME: rolling on floor laughing out loud with tears in my eyes

ROTFL: rolling on the floor laughing

SWAK: sealed with a kiss

SWALK: sweet, with all love, kisses

URAQT: you are a cutie

VBG: very big grin

VBS: very big smile

*G*: giggle or grin

*H*: hug

*K*: kiss

*S*: smile

*T*: tickle

*W* wink

Well, there you go. You can print these pages off and keep them handy as you scour those personal profiles or “talk it up” with that romantic prospect over IM. The more you’re exposed to and use emoticons and acronyms, the faster you’ll memorize them and master their use in online flirting. Happy flirting… IHTH! (“I hope this helps”) ;)

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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