The other day a friend confessed that the big 7-0 was looming.
"But I thought you just got your bus pass!" I cried.
"Hmph!" chuckled the 69 year old. "That was some years ago. But now I understand what my father used to say: 'I may be old, but I'm still a young man'--he thumped his chest--'in here!'"
"I am actually very young for my age," I was telling Temporary Pretend Polish Daughter in the kitchen. TPPD has one of those delightfully open, honest, readable faces, and--alas!--what flashed across it was doubt and confusion.
"I mean, I still go to clubs," I said defensively.
Yeah, like once a year.
One thing the young must understand about the middle-aged is that we don't think we are old. The 25 year old and the 29 year old probably "feel older" than your average middle-aged person, especially one without children to remind them constantly that the years have flown by. When I was at theology school as a thirty-something, hanging out with my 20-something girlfriends, I "felt old" only during that deplorable adventure of the Polish-Canadian 22 year old who asked for my phone number at that club and then spent our one and only date trying to trap me into saying how old I was. Theology school was full of thirty-something male religious and retired people, so I felt pretty ageless most of the time.
If I had been a guy, I would have been asking out my female friends, for sure. (I once hurt E's feelings by saying I'd probably have gone for Lily. "Why not me?" wailed E. You had to be there.) It would not have occurred to me that 24 year old Lily might not have been at all interested in thirty-four year old me. After all, back then we all thought I would become a Top Theology Professor, and therefore a catch. And also, lots of girls date people ten years their senior. I have.
But who knows what kind of thirty-four year old guy I would have made, eh? Hopefully I would have been a laid-back, super-fun, thirty-four year old with excellent listening skills. But maybe I would have been an overbearing, listen-to-me-little-lady Mr Bargle.
I have noticed that the American young, in particular, seem to draw very firm lines between themselves and anyone they perceive as "old" as if the "old", instead of being the people with influence, jobs, contacts, money, spare rooms, and a wealth of life knowledge, were slightly dirty. Old people are supposed to be over THERE, behind the wall of deference. There's a reason why, in the Anglosphere, being called "Ma'am" or "Sir" for the first time feels bad instead of good: you've been expelled from the Land of the Young.
This firm division is, thank heavens, not so obvious in Europe, especially on the Continent. Young, middle-aged and old can be real friends, and nobody thinks it is weird, or that middle-aged people who enjoy the company of the young are next-door to paedophiles.
I will admit, however, that we middle-aged types do have our faults:
First and foremost, we are usually not as sexually attractive as twenty-somethings. Some of us are but most of us are not, and the men among us very often don't know that. It's just too painful for them to consider, and besides, women their own age usually don't mind. We certainly don't tell them.
Second, we have a lot more confidence than the average twenty-somethings, and therefore we can come across as overbearing. Sometimes, in fact, we ARE overhearing. I am sure I would be overbearing myself, if I didn't make an effort not to be.
Third, we do not have children, it may be a long time before we get that we are called to be Mothers and Fathers. But never then, it is hard to think of oneself as the mother or father of someone who is fewer than 15 years younger than ourselves.
In conclusion--for I must run away to Pilates class now--when older men want to talk to you at Singles gatherings, they may be ugly, and they may be boring, and they may be overbearing, but they are not breaking some cosmic law that says no man over thirty should ever talk to a woman under thirty. There is no such law. But this is another situation that divides the women from the girls, and the ladies from the wimmin. Instead of wishing desperately that this perverted oldster would go away, you must stand up to him and engage him in conversion, even if that conversation is, "You realize you're repeating yourself?" or "I think we're supposed to circulate. Bye!" For he is not a perverted oldster, he is your social equal. If you are over 18, you are no longer a child, and welcome to adult life, Ma'am.
Update: I'm back from Pilates and now I weigh one-hundred-and-thirty-three pounds, thanks to the Fast Diet. As I am only 5'2", I will attempt to get down to one-hundred-and-twenty-three pounds before going to Stage 2. I really love Pilates, and it occurs to me that maybe if I can stretch out my spine enough, I can grow a bit taller. Can this happen? Who can tell me?
Anyway, I thought I should add that despite my yells of "Woman up!" I realize that it is easier for a 28 year old young lady to woman up than an 18 year old young lady, which is why the 28 year olds (and up) should keep a eye on the 18 year olds and make sure they are not being backed into corners by Mr Bargle. The poor 18 year old is used to calling men Mr Bargle's age "Sir" or "Dad", and may be having problems transitioning to "I think we're supposed to circulate" or "I have no idea what you are talking about" or "I completely disagree" or "I have no interest in [X] whatsoever." It would be a great kindness if you rescued her. If you have any influence over the young men around, you might be able to send them on this mission of mercy. However, if this is a man who thinks that Mr Bargle is a fantastic chap any girl should be happy to talk to, you will have to do it yourself. Think of some excuse. One I like best is, "Forgive me if I whisk this young lady away to help me in the kitchen."
Update 2: Another thing you can do to discourage Mr Bargle, should you choose, is to ask him flat out how old he is. For example, if Mr Bargle actually asks you out, you can ask then. And if Mr Bargle asks if that is important, you should say yes, since you want to date only men your age. And if Mr Bargle, being 40 or whatever, asks you how old you are, throw in the word only, e.g. "I'm only 25." Mr Bargle may then say something mean because he feels mortally offended that unlike George Clooney he can't get 25 year old chicks. Smile, say you're sorry he thinks that, and walk away.