I’ve always had a thing for older men.
Posters of a shirtless, tanned Mel Gibson and a smirking Kevin Costner in a V-neck T-shirt – both well into their late 30s — adorned my walls as a ten-year-old.
The first man I pictured as I dry humped my pillow at thirteen was 35-year-old David Duchovny.
And don’t even get me started on what I’ve done to Robert Redford in my mind.
I don’t know why I was attracted to men who were old enough to be my father. It was so innate and so natural that I’m sure there’s some kind of Electra-complex thing going on that I’d rather not think about (sorry, Dad). Maybe it had something to do with my being an only child and being exposed to adults 24/7. Maybe this old soul of mine was the culprit. Whatever it was, unruly chest hair and crow lines did crazy things to me.
My obsession with May-December romances wasn’t helped by my mom, who would regularly say to me during dating fiascos in my teens and twenties, “You should date an older man.” Her reason being that an older man would be more mature. More stable. More equipped to deal with my “strong” personality.” I had a tendency to date men around the same age as me, take a few years below or above. Whippersnappers who slept on messy futons with emotional availability issues up the yin yang. I soon considered these men useful “practice” before the inevitable older man entered my life. The man who would just “get” me.
I imagined this older gent had been around the block, both professionally and personally. He owned a car or a home, or at least a piece of furniture that wasn’t Ikea. He could advise me and guide me about whatever I was navigating in life with support and a “been-there-done-that” confidence. He could pay for dinner without coupons or a pile of loonies, and he liked vinyl records unironically. Most importantly, he had sowed his wild oats in his youth, so he wasn’t into playing games and knew what he wanted in relationship and wasn’t afraid to ask for it.
I eventually dated this older man. He was twelve years my senior with chest hair, a stable job and his very own Manhattan apartment. He was also a friend of mine for over a decade, which, I believed, boded well for our connection because we got along swimmingly, and he did “get” me. An added bonus was my being privy to his dating past. He was one of those perpetual New York bachelors: never married, never engaged, with a short list of long-term committed relationships. Maybe his relationship history would have been a red flag for most, but, instead, I only saw green. I thought based on his age, experience, and our friendship, that I would be the exception, not the rule. And I liked him. A lot.
At first, our relationship was what I had pictured life with an older man would look like. We spent quiet nights in his apartment with a great vintage bottle of wine or dined at only the most exquisite and refined restaurants. He’d tell me fascinating stories about his life, and he was always quick to offer sound advice for whatever was ailing me. He was also romantic in a way I had never experienced before, whisking me away on a once-in-a-lifetime rendez-vous to London and Paris. I felt like Amal Alamuddin — without the sky high legs.
But for all of the pros, there were cons with dating my older man. We couldn’t have sex in certain positions because of his back pain. Those quiet nights at home meant he was set in his ways. Whenever I stayed over at his apartment, I conformed to his way of living. My place as a “guest” was made very clear, and I soon understood that his habits of living alone weren’t going change just because I suddenly arrived on the scene.
The wisdom he liked to dispense could also be condescending. He was undoubtedly a wise man, but he frequently took on a fatherly patronization that was not only unattractive, but also made me feel like I couldn’t contribute to a conversation equally. I remember repeatedly telling him, “I can be right sometimes, too.”
And as for the emotional maturity I so longed for? Well, I should have heeded the red flag flailing in my face at the beginning of our affair. There’s a reason he’s alone and still single: because he’s more comfortable that way.
After nearly four months together, we broke up. But our age difference wasn’t to blame. The truth is we were fundamentally different people. It didn’t matter how old he was, or how young I was, we just couldn’t fulfill each other’s emotional needs. We broke up for the same reasons any couple of any age break up: we weren’t compatible.
I realize now that my idea of an instant “perfect” relationship with an older man was a naïve one. Age doesn’t always equate maturity or emotional availability, nor does it guarantee compatibility. An older man won’t automatically “get” me more than a man who’s my age, or younger. I crave now the quality of a partner – not his quantity of years.
Although unruly chest hair and crow lines still do crazy things to me.