The Age of Attraction

Last week marked my forty-eighth birthday.  According to results of a study that I coincidentally read about on the day of my celebration (, I’m thirty years beyond my prime in the eyes of men.  At least by internet standards.  Sigh.  What a huge loss it is for our society that we can’t seem to do a better job of training men to scan the crowds (or the online dating sites) for a woman who has been given some time to develop.  If those men only could learn that truly, some extra years beyond eighteen make the woman truly much more attractive, much sexier than he could even hope for.  Sure, at eighteen, my skin was a little bit tighter, but aside from that, I can’t think about anything else that was better about me then than it is now.

I’m far better company now.  I’m no longer hung up on my insecurities, which every eighteen-year-old girl has, whether she will admit to it or not.  Now I’m funnier, freer, much more able to laugh and to make other people laugh.  At forty-eight, I’m far less judgmental, far less inhibited, far more able to speak directly and kindly at the same time.  Now I’m a better listener, a better dresser, and much more able to use all of my assets in a flattering way.  I have no idea what my eighteen year-old self might have been able to whisper into a man’s ear, but it makes me laugh to even try to imagine it.  Thirty years later, I know exactly what to say to turn a guy on.  I pity the man who prefers the barely legal me, because he’s missing out.

I got married in the early 1990s.  The Internet wasn’t even a thing yet, and neither were personal cell phones. By the time I separated from my husband and was ready to start dating again, it seemed that men couldn’t date without either thing.  Post-marriage dating made me feel like I had landed on another technological and emotional planet.  I remember getting my first unsolicited text messages from guys who had gotten my number from my business cards.  At first I thought it was kind of flattering, but after really similar messages from multiple guys (and of course, the first unsolicited requests for nudes), it dawned upon me that it was just a way for guys to test the waters without taking any real risk.  What a huge turn-off.  Please give me a guy ballsy enough to tell me in person what he’d like to do to me and not one who casts a wide net of selfies to see what he can drag in.  Call me old-fashioned.

And online dating?  I can’t stomach the thought of it.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I have thought about it, but haven’t ever done it.  It’s incredible how in so little time, we have become a society dependent on third-party sites and apps for most people over the age of twenty to hook up.  I’ve been tempted on a couple of occasions to get onto one of the sites for the harmless experience part of it, maybe go on a few dates just to see what happens.  I’m adventurous and open to the fun of it.  But then I hear stories from friends and family members about obnoxious comments that guys have felt empowered to send over dating sites, and that squelches any desire to get on.

This isn’t me saying that online dating is bad, or me disparaging women who use it.  I’d probably still do it on a dare.  But to me, the sites just seem to me to cater to men’s desire to ogle women without ever having to actually talk to them.  And they do nothing to encourage guys to do what would really be the turn on for me: having the confidence to talk to me in real life.  I know that sites like Bumble exist, where the woman gets to initiate, and I’m sure this does help in reducing a woman’s exposure to obnoxious man moments.  But I have enough mistrust of the whole process enabling people’s true selves to hide in the shadows for me to feel personally encouraged to get online.

As someone who has been painfully sensitized to a partner’s ability to be unfaithful,  I don’t think I could ever trust that the guy who is unable to start a conversation with an attractive woman in real life would be able to be truthful with me about the really important stuff.   The results of this study where men online judge me to be 30 years past my prime doesn’t help build my trust in their judgment, either.

True, times have changed a lot since I first started dating.  Truthfully, though, so have I.  The eighteen-year-old Jennie would have gone online and presented only her best self, hoping to win some guys’ approval enough to be asked out in real life.  My desire to be accepted would have encountered lots of deception, and that would have been a really bad combination.

Now?  I know myself too well to fall prey to that.  The perks of mature singlehood are far too great for me to be tempted into a potentially bad relationship with a guy who might be lacking in courage.  It’s not even sexy enough for a hook-up.  I’ll keep holding out for the old-fashioned guy mature enough to realize that the forty-eight year old me is worth the risk.

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