The last guy I dated was 12 years younger than me. He pursued me, insisting my age (35) didn’t matter. I ran, insisting his age did matter. In the end, though, I stopped running. Then, I went out of town, and in my absence he met a 20-year-old French girl. I reeled at the cliché of it all — even though, to be fair, she was much closer to his own age.
In the days that followed, I found myself washing the gym shorts he’d left behind at my place. As I folded them, I got a look at the tag. They were size 13-14. As in, for a 13- or 14-year-old boy. I stared at them in disbelief. Here I was, moping over a 23-year-old kid with a waist the size of a phone book. Not that he’d know what a phone book looked like; he was too young to remember.
I wish I could say this was an isolated event, but the truth is, I have a tendency to date guys who are a good decade younger than me. Recent college grads who can still shop in the juniors department. A 21-year-old bartender with the tattooed lyrics of a Muse song visible below his too-low V-neck. A 22-year-old who had to sneak me into his parents’ house. I may have earned dreaded “cougar” status, but it’s not something I sought out. Hand to heart: I really do want to date someone who’s heard of John Hughes.
That’s not to say that young men don’t have their merits. They’re cute. They tend to have abs you could use to grate cheese. They make me feel more desirable. They don’t tell me what to do. As luck would have it, some of my best male friends happen to be nearly a decade younger than me. I think nothing of spending most of my time with these guys, but they're the first ones to call me out if they think I’m robbing the cradle.
At parties, I throw out my age like a grenade. Sometimes this works; sometimes it doesn’t. One date added a few years to his age and was only exposed when, gazing at his baby face, I asked what year he’d been born in. (Guys, do your research, or at least get better at math.) When my friends met him for dinner, they sniggered about getting him a children’s menu or some crayons.
Another suitor nearly swept me off my feet with his J.D. Salinger shirt and easy wit. It was only when he asked what school I went to that it occurred to me he might be younger than I first suspected. Then, he bragged that he’d turned 19 the day before. Despite that revelation, I gave him my number, telling myself I shouldn’t discount a promising guy because of his age. When he called, I chickened out. “I’m old enough to be your teen mom,” I explained.
If I met the right guy, I’d like to think that age wouldn’t be a huge issue. Plenty of couples have a significant age difference, and it works fine for them. Maybe my Prince Charming (or whatever you want to call the love child of Bill Murray and David Beckham that I'm looking for) won’t be in my ideal age bracket. Maybe he’ll be a young gun who likes Hitchcock films and geeking out over recipes. Maybe he’ll surprise me.
For now, I keep getting older. The men keep getting younger. Perhaps I should stop using eye cream and start asking for ID?