In graduate school, I met a guy in the library while waiting for the elevator. He was a full-time student, holding down a part-time job in the library. Based off of this single interaction, which was basically waiting for the elevator together – that’s it – he proceeded to develop a crush on me. I know this because not much time had passed by (a few weeks) before he knocked on the door of the study carrel I was in and asked me out on a date. I turned him down, nicely of course. I suspected he was an undergraduate student, and I was right. He proceeded to tell me he preferred “older women” and that his last girlfriend was in her thirties, and that HE broke it off, because he wanted it to be more serious, and she didn’t.
Ok. I was only in my mid to late twenties.
I, eventually, did go on a date with him a year later. He was persistent. But during the course of the dinner, he proceeded to ask me about my last relationship, and I said it has lasted on and off for about four years. (It was a strange, casual relationship and, truthfully, I wasn’t really present.) He proceeded to ask me whether I was upset that the guy never asked me to marry him (!) You know, I was really surprised by the question. It took me aback. I said no, I wasn’t. As a matter of fact, it was the idea of marriage to the former dude, that made me want to run for the hills as far away as possible. AHHHHHHHHH!
What irritated me about the question was the assumption that it woud be natural for me to be upset if I was dating someone for more than a year, or two, that of course, I would be hanging on for a wedding proposal. Please lord, where is that RING! It’s been 1148 days, 12 hours, 34 minutes, and 10 seconds since we went “exclusive.” WHEN. IS. HE. GOING. TO. ASK. ME.
Apparently, men are the only ones who can be with someone, but have NO DESIRE to end up with that person long term, and KNOW IT. I guess that just makes me a cold hearted bitch. Cuz all those OTHER relationships men have before they get married were mutually FUN and DISINTERESTED for BOTH parties. YEAH!
But that wasn’t my favorite. My favorite comment/question was when another fellow grad student I was interning with during one summer asked-stated to me all freaked out – ‘you don’t want to have a baby right now.’ The fear and concern was palpable in his voice. He had been flirting with me ALL summer, and I had lapped it up, developing a crush. The question came COMPLETELY out of left field. There was no context surrounding it, other than the fact that he had discovered a few weeks earlier that I was about 5 years older than him. Five! (He and another collegaue didn’t believe me and they requested I show him proof). I didn’t care. My age was just a number.
Except, it’s not – to other people.
Apparently, all men have figured out what women’s desires and concerns are by the age they are it. Clearly, if you are in your early twenties, you are not interesting in anything but hooking up. If you are in your late twenties, you are facing a marriage clock countdown. Batten down al the hatches if you are in your thirties; you are hunting for a man, babies and marriage! Near your forties? Forget it. At this point, you are looking for that out of wedlock baby with the man you are going to rope in some how, short term. But it won’t matter. All you need is his sperm.
Can this be why I am not interested in dating. I’ve got bigger concerns, than the non-existence of my dating life. I am so put off that I don’t care WHO YOU ARE. I am not interested. Period.
I was only in my mid to late twenties when my age became an issue with men in their early twenties. I can imagine the fun with men in my thirties!
Don’t even get me started with the older men (40’s, 50’s), who are politely friendly when they presume I am in my mid twenties because they think I am out of their league, but then flip the switch when they find out I am in my thirties. All of a sudden, they are letharios with a CHANCE!
Apparently, being in my early thirties, without babies and marriage, is a hot button issue for a lot of OTHER people. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think about where I am going long-term. But when all of society is telling me I have to RUN RUN RUN to the nearest man, it makes me a little anxious. Fortunately, I have always been predisposed to want more alone time than social time. That still doesn’t mean that I don’t question where I am it and if it is the “right” place to be. I do all the time.
So, I have learned that being in my thirties means different things to different people. If you are a “younger” man, you REALLY want that COUGAR experience* under your belt, but you are cagey about being roped in for anything more – you’ve got wild oats to sow! If you are an “older” man, and you are NOT blessed with a seven-figure net worth, well, the thirties are as young as you can get, and you are looking for that perfect young lady to settle down and breed with.
Now, I don’t bother to correct strangers/acquaintances/coworkers erroneous assumptions about my age, unless it is strategically advantageous to me. Since, visually and personality-wise, I skew closer to the “idea” of mid-twenties, both men and women get it wrong. I have learned that it’s really no one’s business what my age is, and that they are not entitled to that information. I don’t lie about my age, but I am not going to correct a vague assumption. Not my business, not my concern because it is NOT YOUR BUSINESS and NOT YOUR CONCERN.
Also, in no way, shape, or form am I saying I am a HOT COMMODITY. But there is this erroneous belief all women are desperate and men are these creatures of independence. There is no such thing as a DESPERATE man in this pop culture world we live in. (If he is desperate, it’s only because you’re a bitch – nuff said).
*Don’t even get me started on how sexually explicit some of these conversations have become out of nowhere with younger men! Excuse me?! I just met you and we are hanging out at the park, why the hell are you talking about sexual physiological pathways! How did that enter the conversation? Apparently, women in their thirties are in HEAT and will jump on anything according to younger men. RAWR!
Listen, Jay-Z had it right.
I’ve got 99 problems, but a [man] ain’t one.
Updated: This isn’t about saying what’s right or wrong about whatever someone is feeling at their current age/stage. But it is about allowing yourself to see someone within the totality of who they are not some narrow idea of what you think they are because you are going on a pop culture caricature. I know it doesn’t help that I relied on those same pop culture caricatures to make my point, but I think it is much more socially acceptable to caricature women based on their age, then it is to do so for men. When it comes down to it, there is no faster way for me to lose interest in someone then that person focusing on my age, and making it the context of our interaction.