Six months ago, I was waiting for a date in London when I got a text from a prospective man, apologizing in advance for wearing a tracksuit. He said he “cycled straight from school”.
“Oh God,” I thought, jumping up and closing the door, wondering if I was going to get arrested. We met on the dating app Feeld and I couldn’t remember how old she was. He had to be 18 to be on this site legally, I told myself, maybe even 21 given the dirty side of Feeld. When you’re casually dating, age feels less important than when you’re looking for something ‘serious’ so I didn’t really check. He couldn’t be of school age, of course, although I suddenly felt like Humbert Humbert.
Turns out he was 24 and in “acting school”, but he was still the youngest person I’d ever met for a drink in a dating capacity and while it was my love life. I was the beginning of something new, I wasn’t. A great start – she was wearing sliders.
For a long time I thought older men were the answer to everything (the biggest age difference was 15 years). I thought they would live their lives together perfectly and I felt disappointed when they didn’t. I expected them to know where they were going in their careers, and expected them to be easier to live with as a result.
I quickly noticed, however, that they were just as clueless as I was. Most had not been able to break free of toxic friendships and sat in the same job for years and years, often wanting a change but lacking the confidence to make it happen. They had mortgages and needed to prioritize safety over boredom and regret. On the one hand they were more likely to own their space, but on the other hand they were more jealous than the younger boys (most thought I was more likely to interact with them). On top of the more obvious flaws, he brought a lot of baggage from past relationships to the table. There were more exes, and sometimes kids too.
Besides, most people wanted me to fall at their feet. They wanted to take control of my life, dictate my friendships and make me bend to their career advice. Presumably these were the kind of old men I was going for. All three I dated were so arrogant that the relationship ultimately felt very damaging. One of them was a horrible misogynist who cried when I told him that I slept with a male friend of mine (10 years ago). He wanted to know, then claimed it was heartbreaking because he went to a school that taught ‘no premarital sex’. “What about all the women you’ve slept with outside of marriage?” I thought, startled. In the long run, it all got a bit frustrating.
I had a text from the expectant man, apologizing in advance for wearing a tracksuit. He said he would ‘cycle straight from school’.
It wasn’t until late last year that I dated someone younger than me, but now I’ve changed. Partly it was out of necessity. At 32, many of my friends are recently married and having children. At the start of the pandemic I let go of the person I thought I would do it all with, so now I’m a few steps behind. I’m trying not to see it that way though. Instead I’m enjoying being single for the first time. But the thing about being in your early thirties and still far from “settling down” is that you have to find younger friends, people who are less “M&S dine in for two”. ” and more “Let’s see where the night takes us.”
Before I knew it, most of my new, post-breakup friends were younger than me. They started saying things like: “You’re 32? I thought you were my age. Of course, I wondered if that was a good thing. I was living with my parents during the pandemic. went home to make me feel like I’d failed at all sorts of things: the most serious relationship I’d ever been in, the freelance life, standing on my own two feet. What 32 years? Does turning 25 make me tragically immature?
But then I started dating and thought ‘who cares?’ Culturally, we’re in a golden age for age gaps — Kim Kardashian (41) and Pete Davidson (28), Priyanka Chopra (40) and Nick Jonas (29), Sienna Miller (40) and Ollie Green (25). , Sam Taylor Johnson (55) and Aaron Taylor Johnson (32) – a group of empowered women who find themselves energized by the strengths of younger men.
Admittedly, the sliders were a write-off (didn’t grow up to know that when you top up your own wine, you should top up someone else’s — especially if you’re on a date, esp. if the date bought the wine). Next, I went on a date with a 26-year-old pea farmer who knew his way around a pheasant, plucking two for my dinner. In every way he was completely lost. He asked me to be his life coach in bed, which was quite encouraging. Also, he wanted to know what I thought about everything, rather than telling me what he thought. Sadly, his immaturity with a hangover killed the passion. I had been working fine on them for years and he still hadn’t learned the skill. The final straw was her mother taking her car keys after a night she was “basically standing at home”. All right, I thought, snapping my mouth shut before he realized I’d gotten better with his mom.
Then came the pianist who reminded me of another benefit of youth: they dream big. The baggage of life, insecurity and ruin has not yet caught up with them and so the idealism flows. After a decade of being young and finding my dreams “monitored” by older, “wiser” men, I let all the business ideas of the young men I meet run by me and then Let me tell you that they can do it all. The pianist (who, by the way, came to my parents’ house and played a concert on their piano) had started a company in Bristol to build one of the world’s first flying cars. He’s 28 and it’s a big dream, even for an aerospace engineer – but I was sure he’d make it because he was so impressive.
Since he was a young millennial, he didn’t want to sit around and be angry all the time like the old ones. He wanted to do things. Yes, it included taking me to an orchestral show of Return of the Jedi and a sellout at his student union bar, but it was fun. After being plateaued in bars on dates for so long, it was all refreshing. The only problem with the pianist was that he wouldn’t hold my hand in public (apparently not cool).
You have to put up with the constant sound of Snapchat, they watch Tik Tik on Low and you have to explain most of the pre-S Club 7 cultural references.
Most recently there was K, who suggested we go skydiving for our first date. He’s 25, dreams big, isn’t afraid of love and doesn’t want to sit in the pub all the time. For his birthday – when we were just friends – he wanted to go bowling. I hadn’t been bowling since I was about 13. Now at 32, I got less strikes, but I thought I could get a net win. We went to play darts at a lively local social club in matching tracksuits, just for fun. He asked me to be his girlfriend, in cute playground fashion, and I turned him down because initially I couldn’t get over the fact that he was seven years younger.
I realized that I brought it up all the time the way those older guys always mentioned it to me: “Oh my god I just realized you were five when I was 20. ” To me, it started to feel increasingly creepy, like they were enjoying the fact that I was “so young.” K soon asked me why I kept talking about it and I tried to brush it off. Maybe it was just the shock of the teams going from being small to being big. It doesn’t matter to me anymore.
I wonder if I’m shooting myself in the foot too much, will I fall in love with someone younger than me who doesn’t want to settle down when I need them. At 32, fertility is something I still only vaguely think about, and ideally I don’t want children before I’m 35, but at least with a year until That I don’t have to start worrying about it, the little guy has that kind of thing. Blown me away is about feeling like Oz Clark in a supermarket liquor aisle just because you know what Vinho Verde really works for me.
It’s not all height, of course. You have to put up with the constant Snapchat buzz (they still use it); They watch TikTok on Lowe and you have to explain most of the pre-S Club 7 cultural references. Also, you get older sisters to check your Instagram, and ask if you’re only dating them for your dating column (what? ?). There’s also Netflix viewing history, which includes the kind of “adult” cartoons people only watch when they’re stoned. You have to choose most movies, and they always refuse subtitles. Did I mention they still get stoned? The definitions are also a bit unusual. One told me I looked like a painting of what women used to look like. I actively avoided what that actually meant but I think it had something to do with being ‘real’, not hyper ‘done’.
On the other hand, there are very few games – and they haven’t yet put all their energy into trying to impress other dates. One of my little men sent tiramisu to my workplace because he knew I loved it. Their communication styles may be complicated but in return you get abs and a full head of hair, and really what more could you want? It’s all a little easier, with little people.