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as long as it isn't babysitting
deciphering a surprise attraction for the younger guy
by alex b (@Lexistential)

This past month, I turned 36.

Though my age change isn't earth-shattering news, it feels significant to me because when the date fell, I swore to appreciate myself and not feel too self-critical. I didn't go around putting myself down with dynamite-fishing-for-compliment wails of, "I'm old!" Instead of throwing a John McEnroe-like meltdown at my local CVS, I simply decided to embrace my progression into the latter half of my thirties with, "I'm getting older."

Surely, by owning my age with that statement, I wouldn't have any reason to feel awkward. I decided to use that as my daily mantra a couple weeks ago; at the time, it made perfect sense.

In line with my general strategy of greeting life more proactively, I've decided to make some new friends. While meeting and greeting, I came across someone whose sharp, scrappy personality mirrored mine and completely threw off my generally-accurate age radar. As I laughed at his jokes and exchanged quips, I predicted his age to be on the younger side of 30, and no younger than 27.

Then, he told me he hadn't turned 23 yet.

And now, I feel old.

It's a vast understatement to say that I'm surprised to be attracted to a younger guy. My general dates fall within a three-year age bracket of being older, and at most two years younger. I have yet to go to dinner with a guy a decade younger, and apart from one May-December experiment with a man eighteen years ahead of me at 27, I don't usually go for any huge age difference past a decade.

Plus, I feel slightly skeevy at being attracted to him. Perhaps it's karma from all the times I've ever cracked jokes about sugar daddies, but I feel like I'm not supposed to be attracted to someone so young. After all, don't people in their twenties belong together? At 36, aren't I supposed to mix-and-match with someone else who's in his thirties too? When it comes to finding a mating partner for life (or even a night or two), all my programming tells me to find someone in a sensible age range.

Because that's where compatibility is, right?

Additionally, as a woman, it feels a little disturbing to think that I'm interested in dating someone who was born while I was in the 8th grade. I wince when I think he may not understand the relevance of my obsession with George Michael's "Freedom" video, and the name "Mary Kay Letourneau" is a shadow in my mind. I'm surprised to feel as defensive as I do, but after a lifetime of believing I'm supposed to date someone with a small difference in age to mine, I feel as though I'm in a position where I'm taking advantage of someone younger.

And, as the older person in this prospective relationship, primary common sense presumably rests on my shoulders. With my age, I am determined to act with it. Part of me thinks that surely, I can give a relationship with a younger man a fair shot. But, a little part of me wonders if I'll be prone to saying, "When I was your age," with a determination for him to shut up, or ordering him to stand in the corner.

In any case, I already know that testing the waters of a deeper relationship and going past social quips with this person is not a real prospect now. Dating-wise, I'm not open for business, and haven't yet decided when to climb back on the proverbial social carousel.

However, I feel okay with becoming a friend to this younger fellow. And, if any other cute twenty-two year old guys decide to ask me out to dinner, I may just go. At the end of the day, being liked simply makes me feel young, and my mind has yet to close.


An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.

more about alex b


dear santa, let's talk. again.
another visit to the north pole fatty with a whole new list
by alex b
topic: humor
published: 12.15.08

i'm not too old for santa claus
ticking off the things i really want for christmas
by alex b
topic: humor
published: 12.14.07


katherine (aka clevertitania)
8.16.11 @ 1:45p

I turned 36 in June. I didn't date in my 20s. I started dating again in my 30's. I'm still shocked to admit that I've dated (though VERY briefly) two men in their early 20's since then.

When they keep asking, and they are smart, funny, compatible... it gets really hard to argue. You go from "am I taking advantage" to "am I ignoring a great guy for a silly social convention?"

Plus, mentally, I still feel 24. I still blast my music and sing in the car. :)

roger striffler
8.16.11 @ 2:40p

Having married someone nine years younger than me, I should probably have something relevant and worthwhile to say, but really, it does come down to compatibility. Use the term, "old soul", or whatever, but some younger people really do seem to have an appreciation, if not memories, of things a bit older than them.

roger striffler
8.16.11 @ 2:50p

I think the most important thing is whether you are both in the same "place" in life - that is, do you want the same things going forward. If he still has things to do that you've been there and done, and don't feel the need to revisit, then move on.

More importantly - why keep track of birthdays?!? I love the idea of celebrating the fact that someone was born, but keeping track of the number of years has no positive effect, and slowly convinces us of useless limitations.

alex b
8.16.11 @ 2:54p

Hi! Thanks for stopping by to comment. I see I'm not the only one, and it's nice to know it :-)

Though nothing further is going to happen with this guy, the attraction has been thought-provoking enough to teach me to be open to any further ones of the kind. I do wonder if I've been ignoring a whole sect of great guys for the sake of social convention and the petty bitchings of my head. So now, I say why not.

And, Lord knows, I may be 36, but that doesn't mean I stop loving cartoons and comic books, or busting back if someone tries to verbally turn my tables.

alex b
8.16.11 @ 2:59p

Roger- you're probably right. Being in the same "place" is probably the one of the best signs of compatibility, and age shouldn't be a detriment to that. I'm generally at a point where I've been there and done it, and if someone younger is at the same place, then why not? And if someone younger can appreciate the things about me better than someone older, then why not?

Heh. I keep track of birthdays because I just do. (And cake. I'll never outgrow it.)

maigen thomas
8.21.11 @ 9:45p

Don't be ageist! This year I've gone on dates with a guy who JUST turned 21, a guy who turns 58 in October and a variety of ages in between. One of the BEST times was with a 42 year old who had just finished chemotherapy for liver cancer two weeks prior - and he was a rocket in the sack. Give the younger man a chance. He might surprise you!

alex b
8.23.11 @ 12:31p

Ha! As far as this younger man goes, he's got a girlfriend. All headiness aside, I'm not one to ruin serious puppy love, or compete against a 20-year old girl in a sandbox.

But, as far as the next appealing younger man goes, I'm open :-)

And, after years of holding expectations for (and being squired by) guys my age and older, it might just be a nicer change to go to dinner with no predictions with someone younger.

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