Friday, 13 June 2014

The Age Thing

I discovered yesterday that the wife of Scotland's Nationalist First Minister Alec Salmond is 17 years older than he is, i.e. 76. They married when he was 26, and she was 43. Such is the Scots Nats' faith in the Scottish people's tolerance of other people's relationships that we never, ever see her at his side.

Although this may seem startling, it's not the first marriage I've heard about like that. Okay, seventeen years is a big difference, but presumably Alec was just THAT into Moira. I assume it was Alec courting Moira, as I cannot quite imagine a woman in her early forties initiating a serious relationship with a boy in his mid-20s. "Don't you want children?" would be my first question, once the shock of the marriage proposal wore off. However, strange as this may sound to many women, many men seem to want the women they fall in love with even more than they want children.

Which goes to show that the story of the aging New York bachelor who suddenly decides he wants kids and starts madly dating women in their late 20s in the hope of begetting kids is not the only one.

I had an email the other day from a 29 year old who looks 24 and worries that this will hurt her chances of attracting men her own age. In a nutshell, my answer was that there is no need to worry. If she were 29 but, because of illness, looked 50, I would say yes, she might want to do something about that, if she could. Tired and ill is not a good look. But again, I know women who look older than they are and STILL attract men, including younger men.

How? Well, as much as I bang on about the importance of being (and appearing) happy and confident, it really has more to do with men themselves. When they want something, they go after what they want. Even a completely laid-back, peace-loving, change-resisting man like B.A. will make a tremendous effort to get something he really wants. When I appeared on the scene, there was this frenzied period of activity, and then he settled back down to his job, his research, his friends and the growing pile of back issues of the London Review of Books. Sort of like a desert spider who sleeps all day and then rushes out to eat some poor unsuspecting creature before returning underground to snooze.

The central problem is what (or whom) men want. If a man is incapable of having a good relationship with a woman--if the only woman he is at all comfortable talking to is his mother, for example--then he is not going to want any woman. Not a real woman, anyway. He might project a fantasy onto some girl his age, whose personality he doesn't know and is not much interested in, and begin annoying her. Or he might figure out a way to watch porn without getting caught. Or he might, like the last two Psycho Singles, wallow in his addictive hate-lust for women. Or he might just shelve the whole interest-in-women part of his personality. Many do.

If you're surrounded by men like that, you're out of luck. But I don't think this is a fair description of the majority of men. I think the majority of men like women who are happy and confident, who listen to their (the men's) stories and appreciate their (the men's) jokes and are genuinely interested in their (the men's) conversation. I have very attractive young male friends, presumably for these reasons, plus Mr and Mrs McAmbrose's love of hospitality.

But the great dividing line, of course, is what their psyches consider pretty. B.A. thinks red-heads (including strawberry blondes) are pretty, and the Great Lady of his imagination is/was (of course) strawberry blonde Dame Emma Kirby. This was a stroke of psychical good luck for me because, in my experience, the sorts of men to whom I am attracted aren't usually drawn to small women with masses of fuzzy red hair. I don't take it personally; it's just the way it is. So you can be happy, confident, a good listener and a sincere fan of men's jokes, but only the men who have your rough outline (buxom blonde, slim brunette, Asian beauty or whatever) tattooed on their unconscious are likely to fall for you. Age matters less.

I'm older than B.A. Hee hee!


Another Young-Looking lady said...

Letter writer, I am in your boat. 29, but look much younger. It is supremely annoying. I get carded for drinks when my friends or male meal companions do not. I get mistaken for a teenager: several times at 21 and even once after I'd gotten my Master's.
Despite all that, I am in the chorus of "you don't need to worry" when it comes to men. I read some survey or statistic somewhere that said men (and women) prefer to marry within their own age bracket (+/- three years or some such) and usually do. From my anecdotal experience, in your twenties, and even in your thirties, men will not care about your age--mildly surprised and at worst perhaps thinking if you marry, he'll have the still-pretty wife in your forties. Of course, this reaction depends on the people you socialize with. If perhaps your worry comes from the fact you've seen this happen within your group--that it is public knowledge the guys in your group are disappointed you are actually older and are worried about your fertility--then do try to branch out and meet new people. You are more than some man's baby-carrier, and they are quite foolish.

Leah said...

This post made me think of the movie "He's Just Not That in to You.' :) So true!

And letter-writer, I'm 29 too, and if I had a nickel for every time I get asked when I'm graduating from High School--! (Although the last year or two people have moved on to asking me how I'm doing in college, haha. :)

I think Seraphic is spot on here, but honestly, if it really bothers you (I wouldn't worry about men, but I know how annoying it can be to be treated as significantly younger than what you are.), you could try doing things to make you look more mature, like wear your hair up, make sure your clothes don't look like they came from the junior section, etc. I've noticed that since I've had to start wearing glasses, for example, I've been getting fewer startled people telling me I'm way too young to be married. :)

Just a thought!

TRS said...

I'm not so sure.
I've always looked young for my age, and strangely men my age were never interested in me. I've tended to date men a few years younger, but none who wanted to marry.
Men older than me tend to find me irresistable, but they also tend to be married. Darn my luck!

As it is, I'm nearly 44 and single, and still getting comments of "how can you be single, you're so pretty!"

Recently, I met a group of Catholic ladies from another parish, all mystified that I'm single, all a tad older than me. They declared, as they watched me work from across the room, that it's my slight, fit youthful frame. Men must think I'm too young for them when they size me up. The ladies declared.

Now I'm starting to wonder if it's that my body looks 29 but my face is starting to look 40! That may quite possibly be horrifying to men! Argh! Young body, old face! Run!
Still, you'd think they'd love a mature soul opinion a young body.
It's too hard to figure out.

Oil of Olay works! said...

I am over 40 and without context am generally assumed to be in my mid20s. When I was in my 20s and talking with a guy I liked I would make sure to mention something like how many years I had been at my job lest he think he was robbing the cradle. Now, it is more a problem that they think I have many years of fertility left...or at least my worry that when I tell them my age, that will be an issue. Then I think, well, are they saying it is fine because it is, and they want me more than babies, or are they just being polite and trying to not look like they want me for my baby producing potential. It may be nice to have good skin but it creates socially awkward situations.

Sheila said...

My mother is older than my father. Only by a very little bit, but it's a running joke with them.

I have heard women say that they want an older man so they can be sure of getting a *dominant* man. They are afraid they would push the man around if he were younger. Me, I never wanted a bossy guy, but I wouldn't worry all the same. It has a heck of a lot more to do with temperament than it does with age. If you are a mild-mannered, agreeable woman who likes a man who takes charge, you'll likely find one, and even if he is ten years younger, he will still naturally take the lead because it's the way he is. Meanwhile it's is very easy to find an older man who is laid back and would rather not make decisions. People don't change *that* much throughout their lives.

Modesty said...

My dad was a baby face, so his wedding photos are pretty funny. It looks like my mom was robbing the cradle even though my dad was the older one. He had to grow a mustache when he was in residency because patients kept on thinking he was just a nurse and not a doctor.

I inherited the youthful look myself, but I milk the advantage. ;) I have dated guys a little younger than me but maybe I just have poor fortune as they were too immature for me. Since I have 2 degrees and have been working for the past 5 years, dating a college or grad student is weird to me because I've been out of school so long.

Anonymous said...

I'm the original letter-writer and, after reading the post and comments, feel kind of silly. Of course guys go after younger women. However, I am having a hard time attracting, well, anyone. Except the guys I'm not really interested in. I thought it was age, but now I'm thinking it's something else. I'm definitely shy and have a hard time meeting new people. I think I give the impression I want to be left alone. This isn't true. I'm not sure what to do about it. Hmm...