Dating, for me at least, only really began about a decade ago. Unlike a lot of girls, my dating career didn't start in High School (a fact that can be chalked up to having just about the same personality then as I do now, and not having the social status or looks to confidently revel in it, resulting in an awkwardness which didn't endear me to any of the boys my age).
The one date I can really remember from being fifteen was with a red-headed soccer player named David who came over to my house to watch a movie, with my dad as the chaperone. I got to pick the movie. I thought "Silence of the Lambs" looked interesting and for some ungodly reason, my father didn't argue. Just *imagine* the strained silence that ensued, with all persons in the room pointedly not making eye contact with anyone else. The next day a girl dumped a whole cup of warm sweet tea over my head in front of the lunch room because I was "sitting in her spot" - which was next to David. Mortified, my dating days ended swiftly.
Dating resumed again when I turned 18. Well, I attempted to try again. Having been crushed the first time I tried it, I was a little wary. My next foray into this particular social realm was online. Man, I wish I could describe to you how many weirdos were online dating even in 1999. I met a couple of guys who turned out to be awesome and who remain my friends to this day, but I also met a vast array of tools, douchebags, assholes and morons. The most memorable of this group was the guy who said he was 5'10, turned out to actually be 5'6, then left me to play pool by myself (under the pretense of going to the bathroom) - AND stuck me with the bill. What a dick. Also, seriously, why lie about something so easily verifiable?
Things are significantly different ten years later, though.
First of all, initiating contact with a human being of the opposite sex is totally different. At 20, you tend to let guys come to you. You're usually in the midst of a difficult-to-navigate pack of like-minded, cookie-cutter girlfriends, not realizing the average twenty-year-old male is more cocky than confident. You put less effort into what you read than you do into what you wear. My grandfather always said "Women would rather be pretty than smart, because most men can see better than they can think." This is very, very true at an age where I haven't yet discovered guys who will talk to me about politics over wine and duck. The guys I met at twenty could tell me a lot about spoilers and the difference between Miller Lite and Bud Lite.
At thirty, I'm far more confident about what I bring to the table than I ever was at any younger age. Therefore I have no problem starting conversations with random, handsome strangers. Doesn't matter where or when. If I don't get the idea that they're interested, I move on. No hard feelings. More fish in the sea, etc., ad nauseum.
Twenty year old girls have a fairly specific type. They're looking for a guy who is just slightly older than them, has a nice body, drives a fast car, buys them drinks and takes them out on Friday nights. They love it when their friends think he's cute, but they usually hate it when he ends up fucking one of their besties.
At thirty, my idea of what makes a Suitable Man has evolved. In recent months I've had dates with a 58 year old, a 42 year old, a 34 year old and a 21 year old. All of them were interesting and charming, but would I have looked twice at them a decade ago? No. Because *I* wasn't particularly interesting or charming then. Now, I worry less about whether they have a perfect body because I know that what's more important is sexual chemistry, wit and intelligence. The guy with a full head of hair can't even hold a candle to the guy who talks nerdy to me about economics. And I literally swoon for sarcastic humour.
At twenty I was very concerned about how attractive other members of society found my date. At thirty, I'm more concerned about how mentally stimulating I find my date, because that's far more attractive.
Online dating at twenty was a gong show of who had the best picture (because it certainly wasn't about who had the most eloquent profile). There was almost no real consideration of who they were as a person. I wouldn't have looked twice at a guy who was divorced because that was just weird. If he had children from that previous marriage (or, since I was raised in the not-so-genteel part of the south, out-of-wedlock) was an automatic deal-breaker.
Online dating *these* days is fraught with the potential danger of unanticipated and unsolicited dick pics (and I'm not even dating any Congressmen!) - as soon as men realize *most* women don't need to be visually stimulated in that manner, the online world will be a safer place. But mostly, it's okay. Post-marriage dating is actually really interesting. Quite a lot of people my age have had their Starter Marriage and are now garnering a true understanding of what it is they're looking for in a mate. I know I'm a lot more direct with the men I'm trying to communicate with. One thing I've learned is that men have a way easier time dealing with me (and frankly, any woman) when I don't make them guess. And I usually get what I want if I just tell them instead of beating around the bush. Win-win.
Body Image and Confidence
Insecurity was the biggest issue I had with dating at twenty. Consumed by the idea that I was fat and unattractive, I went out of my way to crash diet, binge drink and eat as little as possible. I wouldn't get naked with a guy with the lights on, and I spent vast amounts of time obsessing that he wouldn't like the sight of my nude body.
At thirty I know that I'm healthy and fit, nowhere near as thin as I was at twenty and FAR more attractive to men based on confidence alone than when I was desperate for attention. I've figured out that I don't need attention to survive. Eating healthy makes me feel good and working out makes me feel sexy, even on the days when I'm not convinced I look my best.
Oh, sex. Sex at twenty was pretty good, I thought. The lack of body confidence directly affected the quality of sex I had, but I didn't know that then. I also didn't have the experience that age and experimentation brings - but who does? The guys weren't good at anything beyond the typical jackhammer style ten-minutes-and-I'm-done-did-you-come?-great-I'll-call-you-tomorrow. Oral sex was out of the question. I didn't enjoy doing it, so I didn't expect it in return and guys were pretty much fine with that. I didn't know what I really liked, and I didn't know how to ask for what I wanted.
Someone once told me that sex gets better after thirty. My reply was that "I'm twenty nine and the sex is already pretty phenomenal, so if it gets better, the whole world is in trouble!" I've spent plenty of time figuring out what I like on my own time, now I have no problem directing a guy to what feels good. Oral sex is awesome - men of a certain age really *like* to eat pussy these days. Knowing your body, being confident in its imperfections and finding a genuine enjoyment in sex with a person you're comfortable around and attracted to - wow. There's nothing more stimulating. How does this possibly get better?! I have no idea, but now I'm dying to find out.
Since I first started dating, I've had some truly amazing (and truly awful) dates. I've been married and divorced. I've run the gamut - from dates with barely employed musicians to dates with celebrities and a million varieties in between. I have gone on literally a thousand dates (give or a take a few), and if I've learned anything at all it's that you should go into each one assuming that you know absolutely nothing. Don't pre-judge a person, because you'll end up accidentally limiting the possible outcomes. Follow your gut feelings about what you want and what you can offer and be HONEST about both - with yourself and with your date.
I'm looking forward to what happens in the future. If I'm still on the dating scene at 40, it should be pretty interesting. I was trying to make post-date plans with a friend of mine recently and he let me know that wouldn't be possible. "You're planning to have sex on the third date?" "I'm 39," he replies, "that's kind of how it works."
Good to know. I hope that doesn't change in ten years.
Maigen is simple. is smart. is wholesome. is skeevy. is spicy. is delicate. is better. is purer. is 100% more awesome than yesterday. She';s traveling the world and writing about her experiences with life, love, yoga, food, travel and people. Mostly people. Because they';re funny. hear more of her random thoughts @maigen on twitter.
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katherine (aka clevertitania)
6.22.11 @ 11:16a
I can't speak to how sex from 20 to 30 changes since, for various reasons, I was celibate through my 20's . But I can say; that whole post-30's hormone shift is NOT a myth (I was 31 when it hit). I think that's why it "gets better". It seems to me that the more women want sex, the better they feel about sex in general. But that's admittedly anecdotal.
I now wish I had gone for guys like that in my youth, I might have had more fun. :) I always had an eye for the funny geeks.
6.22.11 @ 3:12p
What is this hormone shift, exactly? I'm intensely curious, wondering if I've had mine or if there's some specific 'feeling' I'll notice when it happens.
So awesome to know that it does happen, though!
katherine (aka clevertitania)
6.24.11 @ 6:22p
It's basically a major increase in your libido; and I do mean MAJOR. I'm sure not every woman experiences, or to the same degree (and I know it hits at different ages for different women). But I am guessing it's closely tied into that whole 'biological clock' process.
It definitely didn't hit in a way that was sudden and obvious. It was probably a year before I even fully picked up on it. I just realized, at some point, that I'd been wanting sex WAY more than I used to. I know guys, TMI. :)