A woman wrote me on an online dating site. Her profile said she was 42. I’m 37, which isn’t a big age difference, so we went out. We had a blast and were planning to go out again when she e-mailed and confessed she’ll be 49 in August. She seemed really cool, had a great sense of humor, and looked older than 42, but was definitely still cute. Should I be worried she might have other surprises in store?  

—Numbers Racket

On the bright side, you don’t mention discovering that 125 really is her weight — from the knees down.

A seasoned shopper on an online dating site doesn’t just wonder if everybody’s lying, he expects it. People will tell you right in their profile that honesty is extremely important to them — then sandwich that claim between more fudge than you can buy in one of those candy stores you see in the mall. And because men and women have different hard-wired preferences for what they seek in a partner, they lie about different things. Men tend to lie about their height and income (and get photographed in front of a Jag — the one parked next to their beater Nissan). Women are likely to lie about their age and weight. ("More of me to love" equals "plan to pick me up for dates with a crane."

Deception has always played a big part in romantic marketing. Mascara is a lie. Wearing a slimming color is a lie. Frankly, deodorant is a lie, but let’s hope the masses continue to embrace olfactory dishonesty. Of course, in person, control-top pantyhose only control so much. Online, people can get away with much more. When they create their dating profiles, they aren’t lying to somebody’s face, they’re lying on a resume they’re sending off into the ether. And they aren’t doing it as themselves, but as GolfBeast or ChocolateLuvr89. So, you see "Husky dude with most of his hair and a quirky sense of adventure…" — instead of "Male-pattern-balding, out-of-shape weirdo, teetering between thoughts of suicide and mass murder, seeks model."

Many of these hyperbolists seem to forget that there’s going to be some point of reckoning. Or they keep telling themselves they’re planning on losing the weight or rolling off the couch and looking for a job. If they can just entice you into going out with them, they’ll have you so charmed, maybe you won’t notice or care that they have, oh, antlers and a tail.

As for Miss 42-and-counting, try to have a little compassion. Guys tend to go for younger or much-younger women, and guys on dating sites do searches with an age cutoff, which means she never gets the chance to be judged for her looks instead of her age. In the flesh-and-bones world, this would be like giving guys in a bar the ability to click a box in the air to make every woman over 45 disappear. Regarding your worry that she might have "other surprises" in store, consider it a good sign that she confessed her real age after the first date. If you don’t think she’s too old for you, keep dating her, and see whether she seems inclined toward convenient dishonesty. There’s a good chance you’ve heard the worst of it — assuming she’s free of confounding medical issues like an undescended testicle.

This is only a text  
I met this girl on an online dating site, and we exchanged roughly 10 e-mails there, maybe 10 more on our personal accounts, and about 15 texts. This was all before our first date. (Scheduling conflicts kept us from meeting for several weeks.) After our date, I knew I wasn’t interested, but I feel I owe her more than an e-mailed "thanks, but no thanks" since we had all this correspondence.

 — Oddly Connected

Imagine walking up to a stranger in a parking lot and telling them you’re worried about your mom’s gallbladder. That’s pretty much what you did with this girl. And then, because you spilled, and she spilled, and then you both spilled some more, you started to feel connected — before you actually knew what you were connecting to. I used to joke "Never have sex before the first date," but these days, with everybody’s capability for constant instant communication, there’s a real need for the advice "Never start a relationship before the first date." Since you only have the illusion of a relationship, all you owe this girl is an e-mail telling her you had a good time but felt you didn’t "click." In the future, try to meet the girl as soon as possible, or maintain near radio silence until you do, lest you start acting all "You complete me" when it’s possible the message you’ll eventually want to send is "You! Delete me!"

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)