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I just had a birthday. Yeah! I mean…urgh. Next year I can no longer say I’m “in my early 30s”; I’ll legit be mid-30s/pushing that over-the-hill 40 mark. The funny thing is that I neither feel nor look much older than I did 10 years ago.

The fact that I “look” younger is a misperception. My social group is a bit younger – they average late 20s – partly because my 30-something friends are largely married and moved to the suburbs, but also because I have a pretty young heart and attitude, and I still enjoy going out to parties and bars, something not everyone my age still does. So when I hang out with people who are younger, the natural assumption is that I, too, am younger. Now this gets me in trouble. I find myself mostly being hit on by guys 5 to 10 years younger than myself, not because I’m trying to be a cougar, but because that’s who I’m around and who I meet. No one ever guesses that I’m over 30, and it’s often uncomfortable when they find out. I get a lot of “Wow, really?” Yep. I’m old.

Now that paragraph makes it sound like I’m tooting my horn with my youthful appearance. Let me say that I actually don’t think I look younger than my age. I think I look exactly my age. When I look around at my girlfriends from college and high school, I’m remarkably pleased to find how little they’ve changed in the last 10 years. I can’t say the same for the men, who have largely gotten fatter, balder, and more weathered. The women have taken care of themselves. We wear sunscreen daily, go to the gym, eat well, take vitamins, dye our hair. We look good.

So, like Jill from Chicago, I’ve recently started to online date, mostly so I can meet men who are age appropriate for me. Here’s where it gets funny. The age-appropriate (30-something) men don’t want to date women their own age. They WANT to date someone 10 years younger. This is almost exclusively true. I see it over and over and over again. They’ll be 33 and list dating ages of 20-30 for themselves. What? Explain to me how a woman that was born the same year as you were is too old? I think this goes back to the perception thing. Men are shocked when they find out my age because they perceive that 30-something women look old. We don’t. I don’t think they really know what we look like. They are so accustomed to seeing us with a baby on our shoulder that they don’t take the time to look at how young our faces still look. That association of 30 = mommy = old is really hard to break.

So here’s where I’m stuck. The men my age online don’t want to date me ’cause they assume I’m too old, and the young men I meet in person want to date me because they assume I’m way younger than I am. Ugh. White girl problems. Life is so hard. Sob. Sob. But really, it’s all just very silly and has left me feeling like I have a perpetual question mark of confusion looming over my head. Guess it’s better than a sign that says “over 30.”