Sunday, February 10, 2008

Age Before Beauty

Age before beauty. My grandma used to say that to me all the time, right before she'd pick the best piece of whatever it was we were having. When you're old, she'd say, you can go first, too. This always seemed immensely unfair to me as a child because hey. Whatever it was, I wanted it.

However, now that I'm in my mid-thirties, I'm beginning to understand that Grandma was right: some good things come with age, and I have the right to want them. I've paid my dues.

So this weekend, I'm out at the bar with friends. They're all teachers who work with me, and one of them is rather young. She brings along a little friend, and he and I end up talking.

At some point in the evening, I begin to realize that this little boy is talking to me like I'm a romantic possibility for him, and what's more, he has no idea how old I am. Just how old does he think I am?

"About my age," he replies.

And how old is that?


At this I have to laugh. Yeah, no. Guess again.

"Well, you're not thirty-five," he says, with a lot more superiority than he should, considering that he was totally wrong. I'm thirty-four.

The evening wears on, and he makes a few more comments that prove just how young he is, and I feel the need to taunt him. He's talking about tutoring former students, and I'm thinking he's young enough to be one of my former students. So I say, yes. I bet you like to tutor.

He takes a long look at me and says, "I can see now that you're older."

I'm surprised. Why is that?

"Because you're mean."

And of course I was. If there's one thing I've earned, it's being mean to men. They like it. And even if they don't like it, it amuses me. This one liked it.

So I'm at the gym last night relaying this story to my trainer, explaining how I've decided to tell everyone that I'm twenty-five from now on, and he says, "But he's not that far off. I mean, you're only a couple of years older than me."

I look at him. How old does he think I am?

"Thirty, tops," he says.

I laugh. Okay, I say. If that's what you want to believe, then I'm thirty.

"And anyway, what's wrong with a twenty-five year old?" he asks. I can tell he's a little miffed.


"Age shouldn't matter," he insists. "You could meet someone younger and he could have a lot to say for himself. He could have experience. He could be well-traveled."

Yes, I supposed so, but I have experience, too. And I've been around a block or two thousand. I'm too jaded. No, I say. I'm not interested in educating any more boys.

"My ex was 39," he says.

And look how well that turned out.

"That wasn't because of her age. That's because she was crazy."

I didn't say that she'd have to be crazy to try that much of an age difference. I just shot him a sideways look.

Then he accused me of having hangups about age. (If that's my biggest hangup, I'll live with it.)

He then puts forth this theory that the older you are, the less age differences matter. Twenty-five and fifteen don't go together, but thirty-five and twenty-five do.

And hey. I'll give him that it's more acceptable, but I'm here to tell you something: he'd have to be one hell of a twenty-five-year-old for me to respect him. I want a man who's secure enough in himself to be able to tell me no, and I think that a younger man is less likely to do it. Because in all honesty, I can be a bit of a steamroller. If I want something, I usually find ways of getting it. And I hate being the one who decides everything. It's annoying. Call me with a plan. Don't call me and ask what I want to do. Yes, there's the sick, sad little secret: the master wants to be mastered.

And then, there's the games. The young ones are still all about the games. Me? Not so much. If you like me, call me. If you don't like me, don't call me. If you only sort of like me, don't call me. I don't want you to waste my time. But let's not jump through hoops. And let's not do evil things just to prove you can.

Are men my age immune to that? I don't know, probably not. Maybe I'm full of shit, and I should let the next kid who asks take me out. I just ... I want a grown-up. Is that so wrong? Maybe it's a sense of fairness, of meeting on an equal playing-field.

Don't get me wrong. I can see that there are good things about a long-term relationship with a younger man. Men tend to die first. If you find someone younger, perhaps you will. Then there's the sex. I don't want to stop after just once, and neither does he. Oh, and less boredom. He's less likely to spend the night in front of the tv.

So what do you think? Women, would you date someone young? Significantly younger -- say, more than five years? What do you prefer? Men, have you dated an older woman? Younger? Was there a difference? Same-sex couples, are the rules different if you're gay?

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