If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll learn quickly that I’m very into pop culture. I love hip-hop music, I say things like “OTP” (one true pairing) and I use the word “thirsty” to mean “desperate.” For better or for worse, I’ve always been like that, which is why when I was 32, I got carded at bars, was mistaken for someone in her 20s and wasn’t taken seriously in relationships. Guys my age were looking for a more dependable person who was future-minded with a ticking biological clock. That wasn’t me — and still isn’t.
I was working in radio — as I am now — at a job where the station had been consuming my entire life, and I loved every aspect of that. I was completely immersed, and when I was not on the air, I was doing something else at the station just to be around it. My social life at the time was comprised of personal appearances with my fellow DJs, or jocks as we called them.
An appearance is when you and another jock host a night at a bar or club, maybe a happy hour or with a live band. You’re working but also socializing. One night at an appearance by the beach, we were holding a trivia night, and I was doing terribly. I had blown it on a question about heavy metal music (no real woman should know everything about Megadeth, should she?) when a very handsome man named Jason approached me.
“You should have had me on your team,” he said. “Countdown to Extinction was one of my favorite albums, and I would have known that it went double platinum.”
“I’m sorta proud that I didn’t know it,” I told him.
Conversation was easy. Within an hour, we were talking like old friends. Although he was charming, intelligent and witty, the superficial side of me couldn’t help but notice that he was incredibly cute. He had giant brown eyes like the kids in those paintings, broad shoulders and a strong build. He had a swimmer’s body because he had been on his college diving team. More importantly, and less perfunctory, he was planning a charity event with his father’s law firm to raise money for a children’s hospital, one that he had been involved with since his fraternity days at Princeton.
Based on the conversation, I gleaned that he was probably about 25, possibly 28. Either way, I was not put off because the age difference seemed negligible, and he was much more mature than I was. His life revolved around serious stuff, such as getting into law school, not having more than one beer on a week night, and getting upset over things like global warming and recycling.
He became my boyfriend and my confidant quickly. Whatever was going on in my life, be it a work dilemma or the latest drama with my roommate, his advice, like his friendship, was solid and unwavering.
One night after dinner, he asked if I wanted to meet his family. He had three sisters and parents who had been happily married for 40 years. He knew that they would love me, but with his charity event looming, he was mindful that meeting everyone in his life in one evening might prove overwhelming. Because we had been getting closer and I was curious about them, I agreed.
We rolled into a private community, passed the gate and up to a house that looked like it was out of Architectural Digest.
“You live… here?” I asked.
“Well, for now. I’m leaving in August. It’s temporary,” he told me. He seemed almost embarrassed by the opulence.
Dinner went great, but over dessert, they began to talk about his future diving plans. I knew that he had been working with a diving coach and that he had Olympic dreams. We hadn’t discussed it at length, but we were about to.
“Do you think you’ll come visit Jason in the fall?” his father asked. “I’m sure he would love for you to be there for a swim meet. We could drive you up if you’d like.”
“Absolutely,” I replied, having no idea what he was talking about. It wasn’t until Jason and I were back in his car that I asked what his father meant. Where would he be in the fall? And that’s when he told me.
He had been taking a year off to work with a diving coach — that part was true — but his raison d’être was to improve his skills for the Princeton diving team, of which he was the captain. As in, currently. This is when I found out his age, something I hadn’t even considered until this moment. He was 22 years old.
“I thought you were 25,” I said.
“How old are you?” he asked.
“32,” I told him.
“I thought you were 25.”
At that point, we had been dating two months.
“This doesn’t change anything for me,” he said. “How about you?”
Neither of us had been hiding our age from the other one. It truly just never came up. He was the levelheaded one, ready to settle down, and I was the wild radio girl who loved to have dinner with my 30-something friends just to brag that I was dating the captain of the diving team.
We stayed together until he went back to Princeton in the fall for his senior year. He didn’t want to break up, but I thought it was the best thing to do. Not because of our age difference but because I knew I wasn’t mature enough to handle a long-distance relationship.