Give me a man who’s been through a couple of good crises and has put some thought into who he is.
Most of my friends, single women in their 30s and 40s, seem to be faced with two polarized choices when confronting the dating pool of heterosexual men: either
1) men who are considerably younger, or
2) men who are considerably older. (I calculate ‘considerably’ as more than 10 years age difference.)
All my theories about this conclude that men my age are unavailable due to a current long-term relationship — or technically available but emotionally unavailable due to the recent break up of a long-term relationship. (I calculate ‘recent’ as anything between this morning and six years ago.)
When age-appropriate mates are in short supply, the alternatives must be considered. One busy friend said to me recently, “If any single woman in her 40s is not involved with a younger man it means she’s looking for a relationship.” I hadn’t realized there were so many younger men seeking more senior partners, and have to say the familial connotations, and foreseeable emotional/physical clumsiness holds no appeal. Those guys haven’t figured themselves out yet, but they’re cocky enough to think they have.
A young male colleague once asserted that younger people are having better sex. Which made me laugh. Music videos and commercials might give the impression young people are having … sex (I was going to say great sex, but I honestly don’t get that impression), but how can you be better at something you’ve been doing for less time than someone who’s been doing it for decades longer? He’s a lovely guy, but still an example of the arrogant naivety of youth.
Now in my later 30s, I’m settling into a mind-set where I’m no longer looking for either a husband or a father for my children. I’ve lived independently for too long to become someone’s wife, and have no illusions about the amount of energy required to raise a child. I’d like to spend time with someone who enhances my life, who I thoroughly enjoy exploring the world with, but who lives his own life too. Maybe even a life with his own separate space.
This brings older men into focus.
If they’re using their time correctly, men leaving their 40s have done some deep thinking about who they are, what they want, and how to be in relationship with other adults. Presumably they’re career-focused, which most single Gen-X women can relate to, and have had at least a few long-term romantic involvements to strengthen their skills. Or they’re changing gears from career focus and want to enjoy life, which usually includes cherishing friendships and indulging in hobbies that make them happy.
It might also be found that older men have mellowed out somewhat in their relationship demands. They’ve lived alone and know how to take care of themselves. They’ve taken responsibility for their own emotional well-being. They may even have raised kids, which can bring a deeper appreciation for life and an expanded sense of what’s valuable. They understand that a partner is someone to appreciate, to enjoy time with – not someone who will ‘complete them’.
Mature men are also more likely to exercise chivalry and to flirt with sophistication. They’ve learned the pointlessness of manipulative emotional games and are courageous enough to be clear about their attractions. They understand that genuinely getting to know someone far outweighs the disappointment of an exploded fantasy.
I’ve done that work too. I know who I am, what I’m worth, what my interests are, and how to look after myself. I’m through pretending I don’t want what I want, and compromising how I show up to protect someone who can’t handle me. I’d like to meet a man with whom I’m on equal footing, so we can have genuine fun. Not someone who needs me, or ‘can’t live without me’.
I’ll take a grown up, scars and all, over a boy – any day.