“Make my day go from good to great and tell me you don’t mind that I’m 25, not 45.”
Oh, this old trick. Present yourself as a Gen-Xer when you’re really a millennial. I understand of course; my age, in the universe of dating apps, is a moving target. I have the slightest amount of empathy. Slight enough to answer him back at 1:30am instead of falling asleep. Like middle-aged humans do.
“You’re closer in age to my daughter than you are to me.”
Dating-wise, the formula I’m fond of applying is half my age plus seven. I’m 53. Even with my Bumble age — 46 — this 25-year-old doesn’t make the cut. Unless I make an exception. We’re playing the same game, after all. The liberal age gap. He generously adds 20 years to his age, I’m mindfully lowering mine and we’re both hoping that somewhere along this sliding scale we’ll each get what we want.
“I find you very sexy. I don’t care about your age or mine. I want to get to know you. Let me hear your voice.”
I like how assertive he is. How insistent he is. How affectionate he is, even in this app-texting mode. I’m nursing an explosively broken heart; that guy was rarely complimentary, never held my hand and only just barely displayed affection outside of sex (I didn’t even realize any of this until mid-way through the relationship, I was so smitten with him). And 25. With his green eyes and olive complexion, he’s the opposite of my ex who had milky blue eyes and pale Irish skin. He’s stirring that thing in me, the thing that allowed me to match with him, the thing that says “fuck it,” the thing that lets me type in the ten-digit direct line to me.
A few nights later, I’m sitting in the din of the Amsterdam Ale House — my go-to spot for dates — with this boy. It’s dark, it’s loud and he wants to get out of here. He is not boyfriend material; he’s take-me-in-the-stairwell material. This works for me. Here’s why: It has been my experience that there are men in their 20s who want a sexual experience with women over 40. Men in their 20s are delightful to fuck — they wrap up quickly, can re-charge within a sneeze and a half, are able to go a few rounds — they’re not who I want to date. I want to be with someone who’s a falling apart version of his 20-something-year old self, someone whose body is disintegrating at the same rate as mine, someone obsessed with his 401k balance. And because I want all that, I allow myself to be flexible with my lucky number 53. Still, the times I have listed my actual age, I receive guilt-inducing emails like, “Well, I know I’m not in your age range, but I’m a spry 77-year-old.” And that right there? That’s someone living off social security, and I’m not ready for that just yet. I want to be someone’s Foxy Brown, not Florence Nightingale.
“There’s no way I’m not spending the night with you,” he says, moving closer to me. Not one indication of a crow’s foot anywhere. Just…lust.“He is not boyfriend material; he’s take-me-in-the-stairwell material. This works for me.”
I’m still broken-hearted from Old Blue Eyes. I don’t have the capacity right now to care about a man, to listen to his take on why the Cubs will win, to want to know what’s on his playlist. I’m going through that little thing where I am using men for sex, that thing that lets me swipe right instead of left. That thing that makes my logic turn off, that allows me to say, “Well actually, you can’t sleep over, but I have another idea.”
“Let’s get out of here,” he coos. As close to poetry, I suppose, as he will get.
And so it begins. I have sex in a stairwell with him. I have sex in his car with him. I have sex…wherever I tell him to have sex with me. He complies. He is willing. All the time. Capable. All the time. He has stamina. All the time. He wants, so badly, to be in my bed. I can’t allow that, of course; I live with my child. He starts to become obsessed with the possibility of spending a night in my bed with me. He starts, on a nightly basis, asking “Tonight?” It is clear any bed would do. I’m surprised by his romanticism; he feels dirty that I steal away with him in any old place.
On Rosh Hashanah, while dipping boiled eggs into salt water, a text message comes through. My daughter, unable to resist the sound of people reaching out to others, grabs my phone. She reads the text and then looks at me. I can see that she throws up in her mouth a little.
“Mom. It’s from someone called 25. And it says dot, dot, dot, hotel, question mark.”
I calmly take the phone from her. He knows I’m doing holiday things. This guy is so annoying.
Oh, right. Is this what it’s like when your partner sees a text from a lover, current, past or future? Where they’re in disbelief? Where you shrug your shoulders and go, “Hey now!” and maybe high-five yourself? There’s really no way to pretend she didn’t read what she read; she’s a teenager. She knows what Hotel
Question Mark means. So I may as well own up to it.
“Oh, him. He wants to see me, I guess.”
The teenager rolls her eyes at me. I mean, whatever right?
I know I want to be with someone of substance. I know playing in the sandbox with tots is not furthering that agenda. I’m lucky in that I haven’t grown bitter; I’ve met men who have, soured on love and life. That’s not me. I believe that Mr. Darcy is somewhere. Someone that I connect with. The paradigm for dating has evolved to include efficiency, to allow for a blink moment based on a photo. It’s made it very easy for me to feel a flutter, but it has not eased the burden of finding someone I actually like, which has always been my Achilles Heel. I need to LIKE the person. Plus, there’s the added incentive of dating while having a teenager in tow. It requires discretion and accuracy. I can’t simply bring someone home to Netflix and Chill. I have a roommate who Snapchats. Someone who wants to do it in a hotel room is not someone who has his own place.
A week later, I receive a text from Lil Hot-And-Bothered. “Marcelle, my dear.” (Never a good sign when someone you’re shtupping calls you “my dear,” unless, of course, he’s a 77-year-old). “Can I borrow 150 dollars? I’ll pay you…” I don’t bother to read the rest of the text. I practice what the millennials these days call “Ghosting.” It is what us Gen-Xers would call, “A Life Lesson.”