14: The Dating Dad: Age gap
Holy crap, I think I may have become a cranky old man! This afternoon, I was waiting to hear from a woman with whom I'd had a really good date last week. We talked about possibly getting together this evening, and she said she'd be in touch today. I don't play the whole waiting for the call game very well. If I want to talk to someone, I'll call or send a text message right away. But this was different, because she had homework to finish.
Yeah. She's in college.
In my defense, I didn't know she was so much younger when I asked her out. I didn't find out until we were on our way to dinner.
I think I said something like this: "Okay. So I'm 37, you're 22. I'm Jewish, you're Catholic. Hmmm... there's a lot of potential here." But the date was fun -- she's smart and articulate, and really cute. It was the best date in awhile.
For some reason, nothing on purpose, I've ended up on dates with much younger women lately. They've all been under 25. I haven't gone out of my way for this to happen, but between the job and my recent choice of drinking venues, it has just kind of happened.
Young women can be fun to date
These are all generalizations, of course, but here are the patterns I've noticed. They're spontaneous and don't mind staying out too late on a weeknight. They're receptive to new ideas and ways of thinking. They move through life with a lightness that comes from a relative lack of baggage, debt and a stultifying day job. They laugh easily.
But, so, I was sitting there waiting to hear from her. I finally dropped her a text, because it was 1 pm, and I wanted the freedom to make other plans. Her story was that she was just getting home from the night before. Which meant that she wouldn't be up for a rendezvous this evening, because, like I said, she had homework.
It's not that she was out all night. It's not that she has stuff to do today. It's that she didn't call and let me know. This scenario is not a new one for me, but I've finally recognized the pattern. I've never had a woman over 30 not call when she said she was going to call. And I've never had a woman close to my age disappear for a few days after we'd had an amazing string of dates. But this is common practice for the under-25 crowd. At least for the ones with whom I've come in contact the last couple of months.
Things had been going well with a pretty, together, intelligent 24-year-old. We'd met back in October, but didn't run into each other again until a big party at a club in late January. She remembered me; my full name. Even still had my number in her cell. After that night, we had a promising series of dates, culminating in a silly and romantic Valentine's Day. I didn't honestly believe in long-term potential with her -- too many red flags from the outset. But I did crave her company, and we had great chemistry.
And we had momentum, until Feb. 15, when she stopped calling. I wracked my brain, wondering how I'd screwed up. Did I say something that made me seem old? Did I not get her a fancy enough heart-shaped box of chocolate? And in the midst of that stomach-churning self-doubt, I couldn't let myself forget that she was much younger, and probably not right for me anyway.
But that didn't make it any easier. I'd send the occasional text or try to call, but not too often (didn't want to be creepy), but the responses were terse if they came at all. I'd been blown off, and I felt gut-shot. I deleted her number, chalked it up to stupidity, and tried to let it go. But it hurt.
She did have an explanation, when she finally called me five days later -- something about one of those what-am-I-doing-with-my-life crises, felt bad about not contacting me, had feelings for me that freaked her out, etc. etc. But all it would have taken was a single phone call, early on, saying "I'm going through some stuff. I like you, but I need to sort things out. I'll be in touch." Sure, I would have been disappointed, but it would have been exponentially better than the stomachaches I lived with, wondering what had happened.
We still see each other, but I've set lower expectations around when and how I'll hear from her. That helped the night we were supposed to meet up after separate parties, because she'd dropped her phone in the toilet (yeah, I know) and she didn't call for 24 hours. I was frustrated, but not surprised, and had an easier time letting it go.
I want to think that age is irrelevant, that the distinction is purely cosmetic. I'm not one of those guys hunting for a hot youngster because she looks good on my arm. I don't have time for dates with women who don't capture my imagination, who can't carry on an interesting conversation. Just beautiful doesn't cut it anymore.
I'm seriously considering putting a personal ban on dating women more than 10 years younger than I am. I miss the self-possession and perspective about the world older women have -- thoughts and ideas about current events and pop culture, questions of philosophy or at least strong opinions about literature.
I mean, I know women in their early 20s who are charming and responsible and demonstrate a worldliness I sometimes have trouble finding in women who have 10 or 15 years on them. But the whole not calling thing bugs the crap out of me. Epilogue
I'd had a couple of really nice dates with the 22-year-old, and even met her mom, who seemed to like me (which is definitely the kiss of death at that age -- if a 30something's parents like me, that's usually not a bad sign). Young miss made it clear that she was dating other guys, and I accepted that.
So it was another Sunday afternoon, and this time she called when she said she would, and told me she could meet me for a drink downtown after a business dinner. She told me she'd call at 8 for a plan. And she did call at 8, while I was on my way downtown, to tell me she hadn't even arrived at the restaurant for dinner yet -- that arrangements had changed, and she gave me a half-apology for not calling earlier. I took it in stride, told her to call me when she was done with dinner.
I met my buddy Nate at Red Square, where we knocked back some icy cold blackberry vodka, ogled the bartender, and were joined by Kenny and a 21-year-old troublemaker who'd tagged along with him. The Square was beat, so we moved on to Tryst. At 9, I got the official terse text blow-off from the 22-year-old ("Tonight's not going to work, sorry."), so on the impetus of ire and frustration, I invited two cute 20somethings who'd been smiling at me to join our party. After sitting on the patio in the warm spring air for what seemed like hours, we shuffled to Spill for more drinks.
And it was 2 am and one of the two youngsters had asked for my phone number and given me a kiss. She was holding my hand under the table by the time they kicked us out of the bar.
I held the door for everyone, and exited only to hear Nate say, "Eric, look who's here."
It was my sweet, cute, 22-year-old walking past the bar with some young, skuzzy-looking guy. Nate said later he looked like a glue-sniffer.
Her look of abject embarrassment was priceless. She gave me a hug and started to talk. I couldn't deal, so I held up my hands, said, "Whatever," and walked away. Our friend Maxwell had joined us by that time, and when I started to slow down and turn around, he took my elbow and said, "Just keep walking." She didn't see the other women, which was fine with me. She was caught in her deception, but that was small consolation.
Nate and the two girls eventually caught up to us, and we walked them to their car where, to our surprise, we got warm hugs and long kisses before we helped them with their seatbelts and sent them on their way.
But it didn't do anything for the stomachache I've nursed for the last 24 hours. My mind has written her off. I'm just waiting for my heart to catch up.
What a sucker.