Thursday, February 02, 2006

Older Men, Revisited

A recent post by Chayyei Sarah, titled "No More Creepy Old Guys," has inspired me to reopen the earlier discussion on older men/younger women. She notes that on one of the internet dating services she frequents (although I'm not sure she'd love my using that term), DosiDate, they've just instituted age limits to their member searches. "Given how many men in their 50's have "initiated contact" with me through the various dating websites on which I'm a member," she says, "you can bet I went into my Dosidate account right away to set up an acceptable age range." She says she was "extremely liberal," in both directions, when setting the boundaries, but that her "policy has long been that if a man is closer to my father's age than he is to mine, he's just out of luck. My father was 24 when I was born. You do the math." She also makes some important distinctions, that there's a difference between slightly older and creepy older men looking for trophy wives, that men and women should both be a little more open-minded in the dating process, but that both sides have to be realistic. Feel free to go over there and comment, or carry on the conversation here, as you've been doing, even while I was away. I know that people feel very passionately about this issue, and that's leading to some people being accusatory and judgmental, and others becoming defensive...let's keep the discussion civil, and agree to disagree where we have to. I maintain, as I said on CS's site, that online dating, although good at expanding the circles, which is unquestionably the name of the game in Jewish dating, also offers us a chance to reject someone based on a different set of criteria than we might observe if our original encounter is face-to-face. Picture it...thirtysomething you goes to a party. Friends introduce you to a man who has a friendly, open smile, a warm sense of humor and an engaging demeanor. As you talk, you determine an intellectual--and, what's that?--a religious/spiritual compatibility. Then later, you find out that the person is in his late forties or early fifties. You may feel a momentary disappointment that the person doesn't share your immediate frame of reference, but if there's enough "else" there, you probably won't care. Because it's about connecting with a person. One friend of mine married a man in his fifties who already had five kids, one of them with a child...The couple had a baby about a year later, a few months after one of the other kids had a baby, rendering my friend a grandmother before she was even a mother. There are, of course, exceptions. A friend of mine recently told me about a man who was in his late fifties who wanted to date her; she liked him, but she was concerned. If things worked out, he'd be in his sixties when their kids were born, seventies when they were in high school and college, and it was likely that my friend would at some point, end up bearing the lion's share of the parenting, either through infirmity, or decreased energy due to aging, or G-d forbid, even because of an early widowhood. True, no one can know what life has in store. Philanthropists become victims in fatal traffic accidents, and terrorism cuts off lives in their prime. Illness knows no good timing or age or circumstance. Those are things we cannot control. But is it any wonder that for women in their thirties, what they're ideally looking for is to maximize their chances with a partner they can build a life with, and with whom they can grow old, together? A radical idea? Eliminate the age range entirely, and have people respond solely to picture and profile content. Rumor has it people mostly respond to pictures anyway...

9 comments:

Bilwick said...

I think having the same "frame of reference" is important, but in my experience the gap between frames of reference tends to narrow with higher intelligence and education. The air-headed suburban Gen Y shopping-mall girl who thinks anything older than STAR WARS is ancient history and never opens any book without being forced to by a teacher, and who has difficulty guessing when the War of 1812 began, is likely to find anyone old enough to have gone to college before colleges became corporate trade-schools and actually educuated a quaint old freak. I know because I am one of those quaint old freaks. (If 55 is "old" these days.) The younger women who have been attracted to me have usually been bright with some rudimentary education (and in my experience these days even the B. A. is rudimentary) and a desire to expand their cultural horizons. I've seen that generally apply to older-man/younger-women relationships. It also helps, of course, if the older man keeps himself in shape, as it is increasingly easy to do given advances in knowledge about diet and exercise. And of course money always bridges a lot of gaps. I have a feeling those young "Hefmates" who hang around the Playboy Mansion aren't interested in him for his collection of Miles Davis records and his Leroy Neiman paintings.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see that the first comment was from a guy, rather than a woman egging on the complaint that too many old geezers keep hitting on her. "bilwick" shows some insight, but is HE only looking to date women 10 or more years younger than him? Because I think that once a man found he could attract and connect with one, he'd think there were more out there willing to date him.

While having some degree of intellectual compatibility, I have still heard women complain that they have little in common with older men when it comes to cultural references. My husband is 12 years older than me, prefers opera over rock, but thankfully we share "Saturday Night Live." That's a big help in the cultural realm, added to all that we share spiritually, intellectually and emotionally.

"bilwick" alluded to the gap-closing power of money. I know women in their thirties who feel that men only want them for their ovaries and uterus(es). One woman told me that if she's going to be objectified in that way, then she'll do the same thing, and judge him based on the size of his wallet. Don't men realize by now that most women are inclined to judge a man based on his personality and sense of humor than on his earning-ability? So if he looks at a woman mostly as a ticket to his own personal fountain of youth, then he's gonna have to be able to pay the airfare.

Dr. Janice

Bilwick said...

I don't know most women, so I would hesitate about generalizing about what most women say, think or do. I can say that the women I know, and have known, aren't/weren't gold-diggers; but being the kind of person generally referred to as "artistic" or "intellectual," I tend to draw into my life women who are, in various ways, unconventional. That's not to say that conventional women are gold-diggers, although I am inclined to believe most women's instinct toward nesting and breeding tends to draw them to men who are "good providers." And I don't blame them. Having and raising kids is an expensive proposition. If they're interested in raising a family they'd be nuts to go after me (even if I were the marrying kind), since I can barely afford my own expenses, let alone the expenses of being a father. When I raised the Gold-Digger Question I was commenting more on those older men/younger women couples where the exchange of values clearly seems to be: "MAN: I value hot young women with great bodies. WOMAN: I value men who can buy me nice things and take me to nice places, like."
To answer your question, "Anon" (although again I stress that I am a peculiar character--or to put it positively, I march to the beat of my own drummer--so extrapolations based on my own example probably have little to do with society at large): No, I'm not seeking to date only women 10 years younger than me. First of all, I'm not seeking to date, period. I hate dating. This is one of the reasons I do better with the Frienship With Benefits discussed elsewhere. Once the FWB is established, I'm okay with "dating" in the sense of going places together, although the older I get the more inclined I am to "cocoon," with or without a bed-partner. But dating for the purposes of just getting to know someone, with the remote possibility of a romantic relationship down the line, is about as appealling to me as a Drano enema. That said, I have, for most of my life, been attracted to older woman, and not only been attracted to them, but have been more compatable with them. Generally I do better with women who are well-read, and the percentage of younger women who are well-read gets smaller and smaller as we slide deeper and deeper into the Post-Literate Dark Age. On the other hand, now that I'm 55, younger women do appeal to me more than they used to. For one thing, a woman who is significantly older than me now that I am 55 would have to be a genuine Old Lady. That in itself isn't a bad thing: even at age 70, Sophia Loren--to take a rare example--is still "do-able;" and the FWB currently in my life is a 67 year old woman, a yoga devotee who looks better in a two-piece bathing suit than probably most women half her age. But it's true that younger women (as long as they're bright and, for their age, well-read) are increasingly more appealling the older I get. The appeal of the "hard body" is undeniable, plus so many of them seem unspoiled, without the baggage of cynicism, bitterness and anti-man feelings so many of their older sisters are weighted down with.

Anonymous said...

First of all, Thank You Esther for some thoughtful, balanced, and wise words that also manage to surface the possible downside to dating older men without the anger and harsh tone that I noted in the earlier thread. I am still reeling from the remarks posted in the other thread ... not because I don't have a thick skin ... but because sadly, I find this "attitude" very prevalent within the 30-40-something singles in the NYC area ... and in this age group ... the internet offers the best way to meet people. It is very sad and very discouraging. If any solace is to be found, at least there were a few posts from others who were as saddened as I was.

So Dr. Janice, a psychologist I believe ... is married to someone 12 years older. I wonder what some of these same "sex in the city" mentality women think about that. That is encouraging. But I think she makes the point that it is most important to think about commonality first before you worry about height and age. Age difference or not, a couple will have some things in common and other things not in common ... yet plenty of couples manage to find enough common ground to make it work. She offers a perfect example, what's the big deal about one person liking opera over rock ... if you both like Saturday Night Live. Or better yet ... maybe this is an opportunity for one person to "experiment" with opera or rock ... sometimes part of being a couple is growth ... and sometimes it takes being part of a couple to find something new that you like. Of course, if you eliminate someone before you even talk to them based on height, age, the whiteness of their teeth, etc ... and jump to conclusions about someone who might be single in their 40s, or who might have 3 kids in their 20s ... you will never find any of this out.

Any by the way, with all due respect ... I don't understand where, Dr. Janice, you come up with "Don't men realize by now that most women are inclined to judge a man based on his personality and sense of humor than on his earning-ability?". You may be referring to situations where the couple has already met. But ala internet dating ... if most women were inclined to judge men based on personality and sense of humor ... well ... I wouldn't be renewing my subscription to jdate. That just isn't reality in the NYC dating world. Money and career ... especially money to the point of true wealth ... is very important (recall the TV series from last summer "Hooking Up" where they taped actual internet dates). Instant chemistry is another one (recall from the same series "Amy" who wouldn't let someone past the first date unless he passed "The Kiss Test"). Height is very important. Teeth are very important. Nails and the shape of the hands are very important. And as we have discovered here, age is very important. Are personality and sense of humor important? Well ... yes sense of humor is kind of important ... but only after the other things I have already mentioned. Think about it. If you don't pass the physical appearance tests and money tests etc. ... you will never get to the point where they will be able to know whether you have a sense of humor or not. At least that is the way it is with internet dating. Sorry to question you ... but that is reality ... I'm living it every day and so are thousands of other men and women.

Blogger S.

Shaun Eli said...

It's not that complicated-- you have a right to your own parameters. If a fifty year old man and a thirty year old woman like each other, it's not our business to complain (even if we're a thirty year old man or a fifty year old woman who is left with fewer of our choices as a result). BUT-- it does make sense to have some respect for the age preferences of a person you're writing to on the internet. Though I will say that plenty of women who say they want a man 34-38 have no problem writing to me (I'm 44). They probably say 34-38 to keep the 55 year old men from writing to them (and I doubt it works but that's what the Delete key is for).

VJ said...

I just wanted to say that I appreciate the comments of other older curmudgeons like Bilwick. I'm constantly amzazed that any of get together at all actually. I imagine that instincts are just stronger than we suspect! Cheers, 'VJ'

Anonymous said...

"Blogger S" made some insightful comments about my earlier comment, and I do appreciate them. I didn't meet my husband via the internet, and I don't know if I would have made a certain age ceiling a criteria or not. I agree that everyone's age range should be respected, even if you don't agree with it. And it's a smart move for DasiDate to put up blocks so that women like Chayyei Sarah won't continue to feel pursued by men she won't find desirable -- even though it may mean she's missing out on a great guy.

I'm not sure I agree completely with Blogger S's contention that a man has to have money for a woman to be attracted to him. I have found women to be more concerned with a man's financial stability. There are men who are in professions where they can make a lot of money one year (like by selling a screenplay or making a real estate deal), and experience a dry spell causing them to terminate their health insurance. This would drive many women crazy and be of a higher priority than the whiteness of his teeth. Inconsistent earnings can be obviated if a man is ambitious and motivated to succeed, rather than just bemoaning how he's at the effect of the economy/industry/whatever.

Tales from my experience as a psychologist, life coach, and woman (and I've got plenty more too).

Dr. Janice

VJ said...

Dr. Janice brings up a good point, but one that I think is rarely acknowledged as a top tier reason for marriage given by most marrying couples today. In the past economic concerns were much more paramount. Many a bride got married in the Depression simply because 'Johnny had a steady job' or Bill over Tom had a chance at advancement at the plant/firm. Perhaps they just don't know enough to be concerned nowadays. Typically though, this concern does not break the top 3-4 on self reported surveys of what new brides & grooms found most attractive about one another.

But on the topic of 'income stability' or just plain financial insecurity, this has been increasing markedly for the middle class for much of the last generation or more. There's lots of complex political economic reasons for this trend, but you can see it all around you in the declining pension fund coverage as well as in health care coverage for most workers. [The LA Times had a fantastic series on this issue last year, see also EPINet.org for some details].

We're actually moving backwards on income security and/or means of social insurance against disasters of one kind or another. It's also increasingly hard to predict who will wind up in this basket where your income could be a decent 75K one year, and the next you're free lancing for under 45K. Ask the many software engineers out there. They once rightly thought that the world would be their oyster, and that they had made it to easy street. In less than 15 years, many of these high paying jobs have now been successfully outsourced to low wage countries from across the globe. Contrast this with the lowly union or self employed plumber. That guy's always in demand, gets paid well typically, and makes his own hours and has plenty of leisure & family time.

This is one reason why I think older prospective spouses will look better with age, and certainly look better to some set of younger potential mates as well. But again, from the tone of the comments here and elsewhere, some women even in very modest financial circumstances would never bother to look at 'icky' older men who may indeed be otherwise great father or marriage material. This may be due to personal preference or sheer unfamiliarity with anyone older than distant and perhaps ailing family members. What they don't know about normal aging not only frightens them, it disgusts them a good deal as well. This is a definite barrier to such Spring-Fall romances.

Socially we moved into an era when we assumed we would all be wealthy 'enough' to survive so we did not have to be faced with the choices that our parents or grandparents were once faced with, many of which we in retrospect find distasteful or unfortunate. Economically we may be now slowly moving out of this period of naturally assumed affluence on the part of the younger college age set, but that will take some drastic readjustments in time for this to hit home. But make no mistake about it, at similar ages, the people of marriage age today are in many respects worse off than prior generations as far as their finances are concerned. And that has simply never happened in previous American economic history.

Again this comes back to the not uncommon mismatch between the desires of the typical 20-30 something and who they find attractive as a mate. It is indeed rare today for a man to be asked by a prospective father in law, 'Well son, what are your plans & prospects in your career'. This was once a much discussed topic of conversation. Today as often as not they've got as little idea as the not so young 'kid' as to what will provide any steady income for a growing family.

All these concerns may come to the fore only when the couple is married and trying to make ends meet with a few kids in the household. That's when the rubber meets the road, and one reason for the burgeoning divorce stats, AND the increasing numbers of 'never married moms'. These latter phenomena are of course strongly determined by economics.

Love, pure attraction/sex appeal, personality & proximity are still the prime determinants for most marrying couples it seems. Economic considerations come a bit later and are typically lower tier concerns for most when considering who to marry. This does not apply to the class of rich aristocrats we are quickly producing now once again. They've always taken economics into consideration when marrying, but even this has lessened in it's intensity over the years.

Again I'll tell you that I suspect that the attraction for this 'older' type of marriage pattern will remain for many recent immigrant groups, and they will be attractive mates for many older folks seeking to get married at later ages. Sorry for the length, but I still find the topic interesting. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Anonymous said...

To Dr. Janice. My apologies. I didn't mean to imply that a man must have money for a woman to be attracted to him. I just looked back at my comments and I don't believe I said this. I was simply saying that it is much more important to most women than one might think ... just like I think that physical attraction is more important to women than they ever admit to. Now ... this may not be the case for everyone. And money and/or looks may not be at the absolute top of the list. But they are at the top or close for many NY women. A man driving a Porsche or a Mercedes ... a man who is an officer in a successfuly company. A man who has a boat or a house in the Hamptons. This kind of thing ... when a woman hears them ... can create an instant increase in attraction for most women. I'm making generalizations here, of course. And maybe my experiences have caused me to become somewhat jaded and biased. I certainly realize that not every women is the same. You see ... I have a different perspective. While I am tending to make some generalizations here, I can step back and revert to my basic beliefs ... which is not to let these biases allow me to pre-judge. I go into each potential situation with a fresh open mind and I don't assume anything about the person I just met or who's ad I just saw and their priorities.

Not sure I agree that there should be ways for a dating website to "sift out" certain age groups. You can't do this in real life ... why do it on an internet dating site? It actually makes internet dating more pretentious and superficial than it already is.

And VJ makes some good observations about how things have changed in the world with regards to financial stability.

Blogger S.