“And I thought I’d live forever / But now I’m not so sure
You try to tell me that I’m clever / But that won’t take me anyhow
Or anywhere, with you.”
– Lisa Loeb, “Stay,” 1994
In June of this year I turned 37. I was born in the summer of 1982 when Ronald Reagan was president and all phones had cords. I was a teenager in the 1990s, and therefore first on the scene in the a/s/l chatrooms of yore. I paved the way for more modern evolvements of internet interaction, such as this very comments section below. You’re welcome. But now I’m in a world of swipe-for-polyamory sex, skincare that’s trying to pickle me into preservation, and men in the wild who seem to look through me like I’m Devon Sawa’s animated character in Casper. All of it seems to scream: Am I am too old to be single?
I should be partnered by now. For heaven’s sake, I don’t need external validation of that truth. I’m well aware of how much less tolerance I have for the niceties of the dating world than I used to. I don’t attribute that to saltiness from overexposure, I just think wisdom comes with age and this song and dance was always pretty disappointing. I should be writing humorous essays about how to retain one’s individuality while being married right now — you don’t think I know that? I’m not suited to the dating world anymore, because I finally smell the rat.
I remember the first time I felt like I’d passed into the realm where lying about one’s age was a thing. I didn’t want to do it. I felt like it was going to make me tired. How long am I going to have to do math in my head? Who am I going to have to remember thinks I’m 31? What year was I born in? The rooster? I can’t, sorry. And that coy shit where you just never tell anyone how old you are? I get that, it’s literally nobody’s business, but in my line of work I like to give other women a point of reference and connection. Oh, she’s 37 and happily single? Maybe I can look into that… I own my age, is what I’m saying.
What I want to make sure of is that my age never owns me. I want to make sure that I never see myself decreasing in “value” or “marketability” because I’m getting older. I always want to love the age I’m in, and see all the positives that come along with every phase of my life. I’m a woman with a soul and a personality and life experience, not a late-model Toyota rolling off the lot. I know the mindset I want, but retaining it is a trick or two.
There have been some pretty painful moments, especially in my mid-30s, where age has been a factor in ways it never was before, ways that make me feel terrible, and above all, helpless. Seriously, what do you do when a guy finds out how old you are and you can see him physically recoil, suddenly directing his conversation into his beer in one-word response format? What do you do when you turn 30 and notice an instantaneous drop in matches through online dating? (True story: I turned 30 and suddenly my matches dried up like an open can of Play-Doh. As a test, I dropped my age back down to 29, and the matches came back. There’s a word for that: Bullshit.)
I could spend far more internet real estate than my editor is willing to give me on the absolute farce that is men getting more desirable with age, while women are lifted up and turned around to locate their expiration dates. As though men are an entire gender of Paul Rudds who can just kick back and get sexier, while women have a window of about seven months where they’re fresh enough to partner with, and if you miss it, yikes, sorry honey — you’re just kind of done now. I mean sure, give us your money for expensive anti-aging treatments and creams and little rollers with spikes on them, but we’re still going to turn our noses up at you because you’re too old to be wanted. (Except for J.Lo. J.Lo doesn’t count.)
It’s all unsettling, not just because I’d like to partner eventually and that’ll be hard if all men look at me like I’m about to curdle, but also because getting older never had negative connotations for me. It meant I got to drive, vote, and live alone. All sorts of wonderful things always came with age. So why at a certain age do I have to see getting older as bad? I still love getting older. Are you kidding me? I was a moron in my 20s! To think about how much smarter I am at 37 than 27, I’ll be working for NASA in a decade, you mark my words.
But I still don’t like feeling as though this part of myself I can’t control is a pretty big factor against me in the dating world. I know that I can love my age, and be proud of where I am in life and what I’ve accomplished, but that never seems to take away the sting that comes along with realizing I’m being treated differently, or overlooked entirely, because I’m older than I used to be. What about getting older is so unlovable, I wonder?
I’m smarter, I’m more successful, I have an investment account, my culinary skills have really started taking off, what gives? Of course I know what gives. I’m a 37 year old woman living in a culture than champions female youth and shames female age. I know. I have the internet. And if I seem to like myself more and more, year over year, while the single male population has the opposite response, I’ll make up in rebellion what I apparently lack in desirability. The dating world makes me feel like I’ve somehow committed a crime for having birthdays. And why would I hang out in a place that makes me feel bad? So moving forward, I’m just gonna not.
There are so many ways I’ve become a happier person since I decided to no longer participate in dating apps, to just chuck responsibility for meeting my partner over to the universe, and to occupy myself with activities I actually enjoy instead. But I think my favorite way that life’s gotten better has to do with aging. I don’t feel late anymore, as if everyone else started their lives on time and I’m somehow dragging ass. Now I feel as though I’m right on time for my life, that I get to choose a timeline for myself, even if that timeline looks like a crazy straw. I’m doing what’s right for me, and ignoring all societal sneers at numbers on my hideous driver’s license. There’s a really easy way to know for sure that the way I live now, free from dating pressures and urgency, is the right way to live for me: I’m happy.
When I’m not barely matching with men, trying to entertain the handful a year that actually want to talk to me like I’m a vaudevillian player, when I’m just living my life the way I want to without allowing my singleness to drive it, I am the happiest I’ve ever been. The less I’m involved in modern dating culture, the more “dateable” I feel. And I care more about how I feel than how I present to an ageist environment that ignores me more and more the older I get.
Getting older is literally how life works. But my age has never and will never have any bearing on how worthy I am of love. It does however have bearing on how aware I am of that fact. I’m getting older by the day — but I’m getting smarter, too. And what I know now is that if I’m too old for the dating world, then the dating world simply needs to grow up.
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