For all the dating I've done in my life, I have never been on a single date with a man even one year younger than me. Not one!
I always date at least my age, sometimes much older, sometimes inappropriately so.
But lately I've been seeing a man who is 32 to my 37.
I brought up age. "It's not that big of a difference," he said. "We both grew up watching Friends!"
Ha, ha. But seriously, folks.
Our age difference has made me feel a little vulnerable, even though it is just a few years. Age is like any other social marker: beauty, money, charm, professional success, being light on the emotional baggage and heavy on the friends and family resources.
These markers serve in a mathematical equation of the dating ritual. If you're lacking in one vertical, it can be made up for in another. The most obvious example being the rich, old/ugly guy with the beautiful/young, dim woman. Each of their socially identified strengths compensates for the others' shortcomings. The net sum is a lopsided couple that makes sense in the judging eyes of the public.
But in a less exaggerated scenario, we find someone whose math adds up to a similar sum of our own. He may be more charming, she is more professionally successful. Her social network is stronger, his family is nicer.
In relationships, I prefer to be younger and cuter than my mate. Even just a year or two his junior somehow feels more comfortable, as illogical and sexist as that is. But it is. Because youth and its wingman -- beauty -- have power of their own, no matter how fleeting.
Yet younger connotes less experience. Less money and less power. The younger, traditionally, is the beta. As I wrote here, I need an alpha.
I was (who am I kidding, I am) surprised at this man's forthright pursuit. He is younger. And he is an alpha. And in dating him I appreciate how far I have come to embrace who I am and what I need in a man. Even a few years ago, I would not have had the confidence to date him. Because he is younger (and maybe cuter). Knowing I have five years on him does a psychological number on me, casts him under concern that I will dominate -- because I am older. Or under suspicion he will wander -- because he is cuter. Or that the advantage of his youth overrides my seniority, and my status as a mother -- while an positive in the eyes of many -- is generally considered a hinderance on the dating scene.
And so in the dance of early courtship I watch myself from afar, noting the new ease in which I lean easily into his seduction -- something that I would not have had the confidence for in my younger, childless years.
For when he says, "I know we just met but would you have dinner with me?" (The old me would have raised an eyebrow and said, "Oh I don't know -- I've never gone out with a younger guy!" or "Call me later in the week.")
I say, "Yes."
And when he says, "I will make a reservation at Nobu?" (I would have said, "Wow, you sure? It's so expensive!")
I say, "Yes, that sounds great."
When he says, "I will pick you up at 7." (You would have said, "Really? All the way from the city and then back again? I can just meet you there!")
I say, "Here is my address."
And when he guides me in the door with his hand on the small of your back, I expect it. And when the host leads me to the table, I know I am to sit facing the room.
And when he says, "Let's order a bottle."
I say, "You decide."
And when he says, "Tell me about yourself," I do.
And when he reaches across the table and takes my hand, I let him. And when he says, "It is really good to see you again," I smile and say, "Yes."
And when we leave the restaurant I know he will take my hand in the street and walk to the park and sit me down on a bench. And when he kisses me I know he will take my face in his hand and pull me to him.
When he says, "You are so sexy," I say, "Yes."
When he says, "I want you," I say, "Yes."
And when he says, "Are your kids home?"
I say, "No."