Monday, March 23, 2009

Men and dating and age

Last night I wound up watching this horrendous Millionaire Matchmaker show.

I got sucked into it for one specific reason: one of the two guys featured as these fabulous millionaire catches was 39. And refused to date anyone older than 28 or 29 - I don't remember the exact age, but just under 30.

Because, of course, he's so "young and heart" and active and fit and blah blah blah. His last girlfriend was 21 - and it hadn't worked out because he just "wasn't ready." But women 30 or over just wouldn't be able to keep up.

The millionaire matchmaker woman, who I quite liked, surprisingly enough - this pissed her off. She was determined to set him up with hot women over 30 and teach him a lesson - he could fall for someone over 30! Which ultimately didn't work.

But what this made me think of was Match, which I got on - the first of many on and off three-month stints - when I was 35. What I learned was this. Because you have to put in your birth date, and the age you're searching for, there is a huge focus on age.

Or maybe there was always this huge focus on age in the real world, and somehow, I'd almost always just been in serious relationships with younger men and I'd always been oblivious.

And then reality hit me on the Internet, and hard.

Turns out 30 is a cutoff age for lots of men. Then 35 is the next jump, I think.

I'd get emails from guys older than me whose cutoff age was younger - sometimes much younger. And they'd express such surprise. You're so hot! And you're this age!

Um, thanks?

I didn't actually feel flattered when I was 37 and some guy my age, whose profile said he was looking for someone 21-29, contacted me.

Rather, I felt like - and sometimes said, "Listen, if you're looking for a 21 year old, you're definitely not looking for me."

A couple times, I actually asked guys if they really, genuinely, were open to dating an 18-year old, being in their mid-30s and all.

But for the most part, I just didn't write back. Really, if you think you want someone that young, you don't want me, no matter how I look. Because I'm so much more settled in who I am and so much less tolerant of ridiculousness than someone really, really young.

What it did, though, as I turned 36 and 37 - particularly 37, which was a craptacular year - was serve to make me feel bad about myself.

The Dementor started it, saying that since I was 36, he'd have to worry about me wanting to settle down and have kids. You know, because I was getting old. And then of course, from that minute on, I was just getting older. As you do.

And then so many men made comments - by email or on actual first dates - about how surprising it was that I was this old, this attractive, and still single.

This old. This old this old.

Honestly, it's what I eventually found so demoralizing about the Internet dating. Who needs a constant reminder of how shocking it is that you're single, never married, and this old?

Coming from men your age or older than you?

Obviously, it's not every single person. I met guys my age and younger who made no issue of it. I met Nick, and he thought I was fabulous. He never once mentioned my age.

But once it was there, it was there.

Honestly, age is the only thing you really can't change about yourself, no matter how hard you try. But making you all about your age is something I just don't understand.

While I think it's stupid, we all have our own thoughts on ideal. The only terrible thing, really, is to make someone else feel bad about where they are, just because of your own parameters.

You want what you think you want. Whether it's working for you or not.


  1. Yes - age is such a stinker. It's strange to think some of the guys you mention, looking for someone age 28 and corresponding with someone in their 30's, are essentially asking you to erase years of your life. For the sake of compatibility? Or need? It's not logical.

  2. It's the oldest adage in the book, but it's so true... "age is just a number." I have friends who are 22 that I look to for sage advice and am endlessly impressed by their maturity, and I have friends who are in their mid-30s and I shake my head at their inability to recognize the dating signals of someone who is clearly toying with them. (For lack of a better excuse.)

    Le sigh.

    P.S. I know it makes me a total asshole to be 25 and saying this. I'm not trying to say I fit on one end of the spectrum or the other... just that I recognize the difference, and it ain't got nothing to do with age.

  3. Excuse = example, btw. Whoops.

  4. i picked an age and stuck with it. it's worked so far. so much so that i actually forget how old i am according to my drivers license.
    when i did this i figured i would have to pick a new age every couple of years to stick with but seeing as i still get carded for lotto i think i can milk this one a bit longer. then i believe i'll jump to 28... why not? i should be able to get another 3 years out of that one alone

  5. I have to confess, I've been sucked in to more than one episode of the show. And I think part of it is that the matchmaker doesn't portray these guys as great catches. She's very realistic about the whole thing.

    "You want what you think you want. Whether it's working for you or not."

    This applies just as much to the hypothetical woman who thought she wanted to marry an investment banker so she'd have a good provider husband, as the 48 year old client (yes, 48) who only wanted to date 28-29 year olds.

  6. Oh, wow, those last two lines are exactly right. This post brings up a ton of different things I'd like to talk with you about, but the comment section is not my therapy session. :)

  7. Oh man. Those last lines! You have no idea how much this strikes a chord with me. You have no idea how many men I have dated--usually a few years older than my 28--who will say "I want to get married", "I want to have kids", "I am ready", etc...but then do nothing, absolutely not a damn thing, the change their lots in life. Really? You want a wife? Bud, it seems you just want to slot some Barbie in your life who goes along with everything you want. And guess what? It isn't working for you.

    Wow, that feels better.

  8. HKW - What I assumed was that these guys had a negative picture in their mind of what mid-30s looked like. And then I didn't match with what they expected. So they could make some shocked exception for me. Um, no thanks.

    LiLu - No, you don't sound like an asshole at all. You, my dear, are very astute. You can revel in the kind of ridiculousness that only people your age and younger can get away with. But you can also think like someone with a lot more life experience than the average 25-year-old.

    notsojenny - Hahaha! I never did that, but I think it's a fine approach.

    Dagny - Yes! You're absolutely right! And I love how blunt she is with them. And I was like, really, guy, you're not amazing - the main thing you have going for you is money.

    And also right - it applies to women and men. We have ideas on what we want, and sometimes we try them over and over and over...and then maybe something shifts for you and you start realizing what makes you happy and start veering towards that rather than following this idea of what you want.

    mysterygirl! - I'd be absolutely interested and delighted to talk about them. Those last two lines were me for a long, long time.

    Lemmonex - Yes! And for a lot of people, I don't think they're lines, just designed to suck other people in. You believe your own story (to whatever extent) - but you don't behave in a way that makes your words possible.

  9. I was on Match a few years ago when I was in my early 30's and had the same reaction to the men who said they'd date as young as 18. Really?? You're 40 and you want an 18 year old? I called one guy out on it, and he said he was trying to show he had an open mind. Then I asked why his open mind didn't extend up the age scale past his own age. He had no answer for that.

  10. Luna - I am sure he didn't. Open minded is so easy when it means you'd date someone just out of high school.

    That said, I wonder if money is a very similar, if not the same, issue for a lot of women, with a cutoff of sorts.

  11. This sort of superficiality is one of the reasons that I never used an online dating service. Any of the people I dated after meeting online were from forums from which we shared a mutual interest.

    Age is just one of the many hangups, though. There are others, like men who will only date anorexic-thin girls, or are uninterested in brunettes.

    That's why they should just let folks put N/A in the age seeking section. That would show that you're open-minded.

  12. I went through a phase in my late teens/early 20s where the only men who asked me out were 20 years my senior. I think about those men now and want to kick them for being so completely disgusting.

  13. Also, I married Chris when I was 37. He didn't seem to mind.

  14. This whole post makes me think of a line in a Randy Newman song, "...half pound of cocaine and a sixteen year old's not love, but it's alright."

  15. I love The Millionaire Matchmaker. Patti Stanger is hilarious. If I could act like that and tell people exactly what I thought while still keeping my job, I would totally do it.

  16. Friends and I were having this same conversation this weekend. They were a little shocked when I commented (somewhat jokingly) "Sure, I'd date a 22-year-old."

    But, truthfully, I'm looking for someone a little closer to my age-group, say 33-40, because really, what exactly do I have in common with a 22-year-old? Nothing that would last past breakfast, that's for sure.

  17. The ex is 10 years older than I am. I am going out tonight to have a beverage with a "friend" who is 7 years younger. Lilu (who I refuse to call a bitch, even though I joked that I would, love you, babe) is 10 years younger than I am. I give up on this age thing, because it's just a distraction from the important things in life.

  18. As someone who just broke up with a man five years her junior and who, before that, had a long-term relationship with someone four years younger, I'm amused by the age ranges chosen by most of the men on my current dating site -- and even more tickled by all of the 22 year-olds who are sending me winks and messages.

    If I don't fit into their chosen demographic, I don't reply to them at all. I'd rather go into a date feeling as if I'm what they *think* they want, as opposed to proving to them I'm what they didn't know they wanted.

  19. One guy on match that winked at me had his age range 18-50 - WTF?

    I emailed him back and asked him why such a large age range, he told me "he likes all women" - yeah he got the ole delete.

  20. You are an ageless wonder:) Oh, I skimmed over your post and dont know how old you are but you are a beautiful woman. Thats all I know about you so far, hehe

  21. I SAW THAT SHOW! what a creep. they had the perfect date, but he doesn't call her again because he *suspects* she is over 30 - yikes, ancient! hey! along with being an accomplished surfer, she can do a freakin' hand-stand in the water! AND, she's more attractive and interesting than he will ever be! his loss, her gain that she doesn't have to waste any more time on the likes of him.

  22. Jo - You make a really good point - age is just one of many. We all have our preferences, but if we're only looking at the superficial, we don't get very far.

    Susan - No kidding! Ick! But it's totally socially acceptable for men to express interest in women so much younger.

    And I'm glad Chris "didn't seem to mind" - haha!

    J - That is kind of excellent. I now want to find that song so I can hear it.

    Kate - I didn't expect to like her, and I really did!

    FoggyDew - And sometimes not lasting past breakfast is just fine. ButI believe that for a real relationship, you're looking for someone who you can relate to and who can challenge you on a variety of levels. I imagine you'd be bored otherwise. Which doesn't rule out every 22 y.o. - but looking around one's age range makes it all the likelier, I think.

    Fearless - Yes- this is the thing! Age doesn't actually determine how you're going to click with someone - as friends or lovers. Why make parameters so narrow?

    FreckledK - What is that with the 22 year olds? There are a very few who might be exceptionally mature and looking for something serious, but odds are, you're going to be in wildly different places.

    And I agree with you entirely. You want to go out with someone who thinks you're what he's looking for.

    Zipcode - Yah, kind of bizarre. I assume he just didn't want to miss anyone in his searches. But really.

    GW Mush - Hey, thanks! I appreciate it. I'm 39.

    LJ - YES!!! She was so much more attractive and charming than him! I thought he was icky and I didn't like his face, although he did have a nice physique. And he was manipulative in how he brought up the age thing.

  23. It's the flip side of what men go through. In your example, it's age. Women do it too, but with other reasons. "I can't date you because you're not hot enough." "I'm more attracted to taller men." "I need to know I'm secure." I've heard these. Men with money will pick women who are younger. But I've seen instances in which late-30's women with money will say, "I can't date him... he's too short."

  24. I've been a reader via Hillary, but I think this is my first comment because I must! YOU'RE 37??? From your pictures I would have guessed you at 27.

    My husband and I love MM, mostly for how ridiculous the men always are. The balding, slightly overweight man in his 50's wants a 22 year old blonde bombshell and then is super surprised when he has nothing in common with her!

    Congrats on the upcoming baby :)

  25. Hey Lis- The Randy Newman song is "It's Money That I Love."

  26. welp, there goes my idea of joining match again. not that it did me any good before, but it was a start, kept me entertained if nothing else. i know that as i get older, my acceptable range for men goes higher, but not lower. does that mean i'm discrimintaing in reverse? eh...whatev. no way in hell i'd seriously consider dating anyone too much younger than me. mostly because my baby makin days are over, but the "things in common" is huge for me too. someone who's never had kids would have a hard time fitting in my life that is very kid-centric at the moment. 18-50 as a range? pigs. buncha pigs.

  27. Is this where I admit that I LOVE that Matchmaker show in all it's ridiculousness? Because I so do.

  28. So true. I can't even tell you. I just put my profile back up, and the responses have been much scarcer than they were even two years ago (before the dreaded 35th birthday). Look. I have explored the world and I have tasted what it has to offer. I love who I am and what I have done, and I wouldn't be where I am today if I were 25.

    If what you want is someone who hasn't done all of that exploring, then you want is someone who is less than I am, and I am so not interested. These past ten years have been fascinating and formative. Take 'em or leave 'em.

  29. I've been trying to get both my mother and grandmother to date and they are running into the same problem. People my mothers age (early 60's) want someone in their 40s. It's ridiculous!

    It seems even worse to me that a 30 + year old would even consider dating an 18 year old. There's just SO much difference in the way someone thinks. 30 and 42? same age different but not such a big deal.

  30. Oh boy. You hit the nail on the head with this one, Lisa. =-)

    I do agree that in some instances, age matters. Like, I would not want to date an 18 year old, for many obvious reasons. But in other instances, age is just a number. And to cut yourself off from knowing someone based strictly upon that number is short-sighted and sad.

  31. I experienced this recently as you know, although it wasn't age, but body type.

    super annoying.

  32. You know, I was on Match too, and I remember honing in on the age thing right off the bat. If a guy was older than 35, I wrote him off. Or if he was younger than 30, I did the same thing. I guess I didn't want them to "old" or too "young" although I've dated men 22 years older and 7 years younger. I felt I would have more in commen with men who were right around my age group, so I guess I kinda get it but not really. My finace' is a year younger than me and I'm ok with that. I guess I just don't get the fixation on age but it's just a number!

  33. I'm just over one month shy of my 37th birthday, pretty, into a wide varitey of things and never been married... whenever a man dares to comment on the fact that I'm still single I just tell him it's because I know what I want and what I deserve and I refuse to settle for anything less.

    That usually weeds out the weakest of the bunch.

  34. Hi all the way from down in New Zealand. I read your blog all the time lisa and laugh because you think and speak the way I do. Internet dating gawd. I am 43 and single and have signed up on a site but honestly wonder about some who message me. Its either 21 yr olds looking for a quick shag or a Mrs Robinson or married men looking for discreet fun. Whats a girl to do? In a place like NZ where there is 4 women to every man things are getting quite drastic down here.


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