As Amy noted earlier, Christian at OK Cupid’s blog recently found, using all sorts of lovely charts and graphs, that “the male fixation on youth distorts the dating pool.” Maybe so, but I have an observation — or maybe a confession — to make: The fixation on youth isn’t just male. While it may be represented as such online, there’s still a whole lot going on offline. Since moving to New York almost 5 years ago, I have, ahem…well, I have developed a habit of dating younger men. Before living here, I mostly dated older men. Why the shift? Is it something in the water?
At the ripe age of 31, while staring into space writing at a coffee shop, I noticed a guy looking at me rather intently. He caught my eye, smiled furtively and then took a swig of his grande. I smiled back and continued about my business. The next time I looked up, his eyes met mine and he executed a rather sheepish wave of his hand. Within seconds he was sitting in front of me and by the time I left, a date was planned. About four dates in, we met up with one of my friends for drinks. Somehow the subject of age came up.
I figured he was younger from conversation and just how he carried himself. I’d also dated a 22-year old the summer I was 29, so when coffee shop guy told me he was 26, it didn’t faze me. What I wasn’t expecting was his reaction to my age. At first it was incredulous disbelief. Had I no proof of identification and a friend to verify, he wouldn’t have believed it. He had guessed I was 24 or 25, but suddenly it clicked. I was confident and self-assured, had lived on my own in quite a few places, and pursued various interests. I wasn’t 25 or even close.
Suddenly he made assumptions about what I wanted: something serious, marriage, babies. Like, with him.By next week. It didn’t matter that we were on date number four or that I was just out of a tumultuous relationship. In his head my age screamed entrapment. Like I was ready to drag the first guy who smiled at me that morning to the altar. Needless to say, our date was cut short and the warm goodbye that ended our previous date was replaced with a very reticent hug.
While looks have something to do with attraction to the young and virile/fertile, maybe the reason per Christian’s data that “the median 30 year-old man spends as much time messaging 18 and 19 year-olds as he does women his own age” is not only about physical attraction. What might also be at play is what those men want at the moment and what they perceive rather than just cut and dry looks. People seem to think that once women hit a certain age, we’re on this warpath to the altar or the birthing center. Yes, we have a time limit with reproduction, but we already know that and a lot of us make peace with it one way or another. However, we don’t have an expiration date when it comes to love, lust, spontaneity or enjoying life. We also don’t want to marry and make babies with everyone we go out on a few dates with. While we are more likely to be looking for a real relationship, we also like to meet new people and explore our options. What we don’t want is a constant reminder of how old we are and questions like “shouldn’t we be finding that special someone soon?”
For me dating younger men has been an eye-opening experience. At first I found myself drawn to them because they are cute and fun, but that’s not all they are and that may be a common mistake when going younger – the seriousness factor. The men who are choosing younger women are potentially not doing so at a disservice to older women, but possibly as a disservice to younger women.
When I dated a 22-year-old at 29, I embraced the experience. Surprisingly, fitting into each other’s worlds wasn’t actually that much of a stretch. What I was surprised about was the reaction from my friends, particularly my female friends. A lot of them voiced some concern because 22-year-olds wouldn’t want to get married anytime soon. That was just it. At the time, I wasn’t ready to get married. I was running far away from commitment and wedding freak-outs. Dating a 22-year-old was safe.
In terms of OK Cupid’s data, I would like to see a chart comparing what exactly each person is looking for – like are the 30 year old men who are messaging 18-19 year olds looking for a relationship or a “playmate”? Odds are, they are not looking for a life partner. As such, young women as a whole may be getting the short end of the deal in terms of their interactions with much older men. They may not be taken seriously or seen as viable long-term partners. Maybe the disparity between men and women’s dating habits with regard to age in the OK Cupid data is just as much about emotional age as it is about physical attraction. Hell, if those men need convincing that older women can be as full of fun and energy as a younger woman, then maybe older women don’t want them anyway.
My point is we often date people we think we might not get serious about when we are not ready to be serious –- which is fine, but we should also be open to the possibility that someone will surprise us. What I’ve learned as I’ve returned to a place where I am ready for a relationship is that men of all ages can be both fun and serious, thoughtful or thoughtless. Internet dating eliminates nuances as it makes us all check a box, but it’s only reflective of what we as a society already perceive. It’s time older women and younger women alike get as much credit for their whole person and not categorized by stereotypes of age and gender.
Amy Spencer’s Meeting Your Half-Orange: An Utterly Upbeat Guide to Using Dating Optimism to Find Your Perfect Match is one of the most inspiring, least depressing dating guides you’ll ever read. Named for the notion that every one of us has a perfect mate out there somewhere—one’s media naranja (“half-orange”), to use a Spanish idiom—Spencer’s formula for finding a life partner involves identifying what you really want, admitting that you really want it, and then letting go to a degree that allows you to enjoy the ride rather than stress out about it. The delightful author and blogger, who embodies the positivity that she espouses, spoke recently with BreakupGirl.net about her deceptively simple advice.
The basic gist of Meeting Your Half Orange is to maintain optimism and inner certainty during the search for Mr./Ms. Right, and to “act as if.” Does this differ in any significant way from the Law of Attraction that we’ve been hearing about for the past few years?
There is certainly a similarity to The Secret, but dating optimism is more grounded. It’s based on neuroscientific and psychological evidence that by thinking more positively, you can actually change the neural activity and even the structure of your emotional brain, which is where we house our emotional memories and which affects our perceptions of everything in life, including love. By seeing and reacting to the world through a more positive emotional brain, you change everything from your body language to those knee-jerk reactions you have in dating, to how you see people and how people see you, which changes what you experience in life and love. The Secret can be powerful, but a little woo-woo to some. This isn’t. So I wanted to share with people how to use this to their dating advantage.
You seem mindful of grounding your ideas in science and research. Did you feel pressure to make your theories more believable to the average reader?
You’re right, I am mindful of that. But it’s not so much about making readers believe me, but allowing them to believe in how much power they have—that changing their point of view isn’t just a surface silly thing, it can actually change you physiologically. I think when we know why something is actually working—like why a certain exercise will firm up your abs—it just makes you more likely to do it.
How would you respond to someone who is uncomfortable with what on the surface appears to be a “passive” approach to dating?
Well, that sometimes action has to start on the inside. I used to think that if I wanted to find love, I needed to treat it like a job and physically go on as many dates as were humanly possible. But being that active was exhausting me! So I made a switch from being physically active in dating to being emotionally active. When you’re determined to feel awesome about yourself and your life and how great your relationship is going to feel, you’re actually not being passive at all!
When do you know it’s time to move on from an attraction that isn’t resulting in a relationship?
If you’re feeling it for someone else but they don’t want a relationship with you, then I say get on the train and get outta there before you get sucked into something fruitless. It takes practice trusting yourself and your radar for the wrong guy (what I call your “wrong-dar”) but if you want to feel happy and loved in a relationship and you’re not getting those feelings with someone you’re attracted to? Then you’re not being open and available for the right guy when he shows up. Maybe it’ll be this guy later, after he wises up, but for now, I say move on.
Who did you envision as your typical reader while you were writing this?
You know, I had two specific people in mind. One is my friend Lily who I write about in the book, who was often asking what to do in her dating life. And the other was my former single self. That may sound weird, but when I would tell my single story to people, it didn’t matter how old they were—23 or 53—or what town they were from, they’d really relate. Our single experiences are so much more alike than we realize. So I wrote the book I wished I’d been able to read when I was having little lonely breakdowns in my living room and hoped it would speak to all the women who have felt like that, too.
Some of your counsel is a little counter-intuitive–e.g., you advise readers not to make dating a priority and to trash pre-existing “lists” of qualities they are looking for in a mate. Have you gotten some push-back from reviewers or readers who found your ideas kooky?
I haven’t actually gotten any push-back on those “backward” ideas. More so, people who find it refreshing to hear a new way of looking at things. Though the “don’t making dating a priority” gets a few more eyebrows. I just believe it’s more important that you feel great about yourself and your life than that you punch in for dates. If you’re weary and down about all the dating you’re doing, that will hurt more than help you. And as for those lists, yes, I do say trash the ones that list qualities you want in a mate! Because you don’t actually want a handsome guy with a great laugh. What you want is a relationship with someone you feel attracted to who you laugh together with. Looking for someone with a list of qualities is nearly impossible! But meeting your list of how you want to feel isn’t. And that’s when life surprises you, when a guy doesn’t look or dress or work like you “pictured,” yet you’re two happy peas in a pod when you’re together.
How did you gather your interviewees and “experts”? It’s quite an erudite and varied bunch–artists, writers, neuropsychologists, professors, etc.
You know, I’ve been so into the topic of optimism for so many years, I approached the book the way I’ve seen DJ friends choose music: You go to a music shop, find one artist you like, dig up an album of another band they played in, and then a special disc that band once made, and on and on. That’s pretty much how I found my experts. I’d read one psychologist’s book, see who they were inspired by or studied under and then I’d read that book and look into their studies. I also reached out to a lot of friends who had interesting friends to tell their stories. Overall, I wanted to get stories from women all over the country in all walks of life and all ages to show how optimism can affect anyone’s life, no matter what you start with, and what relationship you’re looking for.
Do you think there will be a sequel–maybe about “Growing an Orange Family” or some such?
I’ve had a few ideas about how to follow this book and I’m not sure yet which direction I’ll take yet, but the practice of optimism can be used in so many areas in life, from marriage to your half-orange, to family and beyond. So as soon as I know what book I get to “squeeze” out next, I’ll let you know!
What a rollercoaster of emotions we’re feeling at BG today. We found this blog entry via Wired from OK Cupid, noting a bias in their dating pool against women of a certain age (”a certain age” being a year or two older than you are, but whatever).
Plus, that’s only part of his picture. And with phrases like this:
There are two operative stereotypes of older single women: the sad-sack (à la Bridget Jones) and the “cougar” (à la Samantha from Sex In The City) and both, like all stereotypes, are reductionist and stupid and I’ve tried to avoid them. I hesitated beginning my case for older women with something about their sexuality, like I did in Exhibit A, because that territory borders right on cougar country. But the evidence there was too compelling to ignore.
Christian reveals himself to be a FOBG in a BW (big way). We luuurve him.
Plus, the comments section speaks well of OK Cupid users.
So why the roller coaster? The original premise. Like the one bad review in a sea of raves, we keep mulling it over and wondering if all the blog posts in the world will knock any sense into unwilling minds. What do you think?
Everyone except Tiger Woods knows marriage is a commitment. But moving in together? That’s just supposed to be funzy, right? Well sure, in the beginning — but if things go south, things can get nasty. Specifically, things. She didn’t realize she was supposed to pay half the rent; he thought sharing a space meant he now owns her antique rugs. So we like this Salon article about the mini-boom, at least in New York, where real estate is crazytown, of pre-prenups. Unromantic, maybe, but hey, so is sharing a bathroom. It’s not so crazy to demystify the process and go into a shacking-up sitch with a clear idea of what you both want out of it — both short- and long-term. Maybe you won’t opt for a legal agreement, but guides and workbooks abound. It’s nothing but smart to take advantage.
Update/addendum: Can you think of a time when you wished you had a pre-pre-nup? Like, even an imaginary one, so you could have worked out beforehand who gets the DVDs vs. who “gets” the bagel place?
Filed under: Psychology — posted by Breakup Girl @ 6:33 am
From the Charlotte Observer: “A forthcoming study by a Duke University researcher and several colleagues confirms what not-so-thin women and short, broke men have long suspected: They don’t get nearly as much romantic attention as skinny women and tall, financially secure guys.” You need a study for that? Here, I got a study. It’s called pay my rent, food, and Netflix. Fund that, science people.
The study, out of the University of Chicago, is still under peer review before publication. But here’s what we know: analyzing 22,000 online daters, researchers found that “women put a premium on income and height when deciding which men to contact.” They did the math: the study showed that a 5-foot-9-inch man needs to make $30,000 more than a 5-foot-10-inch one to be as successful in the dating pool.
Men in the study demonstrated a strong, and depressing, preference for women with a BMI of 18 or 19, which basically means if you’re 5′ 6″ you’ve gotta weigh 115. So okay, women want men who can afford to take them to dinner, but the men don’t want us to eat. This should work just fine.
Sarcasm aside, I’m still annoyed with this study — or at least, to some degree, this article about it — and the way it only, and unnecessarily, perhaps even misleadingly, perpetuates and underscores that same-old same-old depressing, needlessly divisive message: “The only thing men and women have in common is that they’re shallow.” ‘Cause here’s the thing: the article and the researchers talk about what a fertile field for study these online sites are, because there are just so many people on them. Right: there are just so many people on them. That’s why people go in — or at least online — with those faux-”high” standards. Because they can. There are so many eligible singles there, at least in urban and urbanish areas, that you can afford to impose a minimum height or maximum BMI standard. You know? Then later, at a party, you happen across someone who — for whatever ineffable reason — makes your heart go pitter-pat, maybe someone whose attributes you wouldn’t have click-clicked and checklisted, and boom, you give them a chance. I’m not saying some people aren’t shallow, but still.
As the article, to be fair, does state: “Since the study focuses on first impressions and initial contacts rather than marriage, it doesn’t rule out the chance of true love winning despite appearance or income. ‘If you had to sit down and write what you wanted in your dream guy, most girls would write ‘tall, hot and well-off,’” said Kari Castle, a 27-year-old online dater in Charlotte. ‘But in reality, is that the only thing they’d settle for? Probably not.’” Right.
So, I guess, since the study doesn’t really tell us much, the reporter is forced to fill in with dumb cranky unhelpful — and dare I say self-fulfilling — quotes like, “It’s got nothing to do with anything but green,” [said one bachelor]. “If you’ve got enough money, you’ll have women swarming all over you.” Attitude, people! Actually, it might be a guy in the comments who said it best: “If you think women will only like you if you have a sizable bank account, you are the one who makes that happen.”
Lauren Graham in More Magazine: “I’ve only connected with people I met by accident,” she says. “My first boyfriend in high school was the guy who sat in front of me, because, you know, alphabetically we were soul mates. I looked at the back of his head long enough that I was like, ‘I think I’m in love with you.’ ” Any pressure she might feel about settling down is external, not internal. “What is so funny to me is I’m in a profession where two percent of people are working, yet there’s still this implication that you’re not completely successful if you’re single and in your forties,” she says. “Well, why not? I wanted a horse when I was growing up too. Does that mean I’m not successful, because I don’t have a horse?”
Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:17 am
MSN.com, Match.com, HappenMagazine.com: they’re in a healthy and satisfying 3-way relationship. Meaning that you can find MSN/Match.com’s “Ask Lynn” columns –penned by BG’s alter ego — over at Happen now as well.
This week Lynn helps Jennifer who is in the typical on-again, off-again, friends-with-benefits-again, off-again, FWB-again relationship. Or at least she was until recently…
Now we’re boyfriend and girlfriend again. And he’s treating me much better than he did the first time we dated! Picking me up to go out, taking me to nice restaurants, spending more time at my place, the works.
Is he a changed man like his friends say, or will he leave her again as her friends say? Read the full letter and Lynn’s advice at Happen, then comment below!
I’ve been dating a guy for five months and the first three weeks were great…until he bought a racecar. My concern is that he’s still legally married but separated physically from his wife. He’s said that he was going to court the end of January for a divorce and to this day hasn’t. Are things too comfy for him? Why hasn’t he divorced yet? By the way, his wife is pregnant by the man she’s living with. What’s keeping my boyfriend from getting divorced? He had that intention before we got together.
–Torn and Confused
You know how when you’re confused and upset, you go and buy an excellent pair of shoes, or a pony, and you feel a little better? Well, that’s kind of the deal with this racecar … except this guy seems to think that having the race car actually means that all his midlife problems are sorted out. And I’m also worried that for the last five months (minus three weeks) you seem to have fallen for it, too. Leave him spinning his wheels in his new toy; ride off into the sunset with your new Manolos. Alone.
I’ve been dating a guy since last summer. Things seemed to be going rather well. Then I discovered an ad in the personals online that he placed. After the initial shock, I called and asked him about it. He said that he must have been mad or something and that he would delete the ad. It is still there. How should I handle this?
1. What were you doing reading the personals? Snooping, or scoping? Neither bodes well.
2. Unless the ad now says, “SM seeks F” — F as in Forgiveness — it’s time to delete him.
Turned out that 9-year-old Noah Cyrus, sister of Miley, is not launching her own lingerie line (SHOCK Perez Hilton got the story wrong SHOCK). But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to hell in a skimpy, midriff-baring handbasket.
The real shonda, as Tablet Magazine’s (and FOBG) Marjorie Ingall points out, is that the Cyrus story, after all, was credible. (”This didn’t seem shocking, since Noah was photographed on Halloween at a children’s AIDS fundraiser in a slinky black dominatrix outfit, sexy makeup, and knee-high, high-heeled, black, shiny PVC boots, then seen in the boots again the next day, along with a super-short ruffly polka-dot mini, black sheer stockings, and a black spaghetti-strapped top. A few weeks later she was filmed performing Akon’s ‘Smack That’ (’Smack that/give me some more/Smack that/Till you get sore’) while smacking her own teeny butt. And then there was that time she played around on the stripper pole.)”
But Ingall isn’t there to Cyrus-shame. Framed in the context of traditional Jewish notions of modesty (”tznius“), though relevant to anyone who has ever been, all, “That tween is wearing what?!”, her question is: How do we teach our daughters, collectively speaking, to not (un)dress like that, to not be pulled in by porn-glam, to enjoy and love and respect their bodies — all without instilling a sense of shame and fear and something to hide? There’s a “shaming,” “hectoring” kind of “modesty,” Ingall observes, that objectifies them just as much as microminis.
Here’s what she suggests:
“Maybe we can all agree that one kind of modesty worth embracing is one that preserves childhood—when children are unashamed of their bodies and think “hot” only refers to the temperature of the bath water—as long as possible. Tznius 2.0 would involve keeping newborns away from spike heels (Heelarious high heels for babies, I’m talking to you!) and toddlers away from Bratz dolls. It wouldn’t stuff little boys into outmoded gender roles by discouraging play with “girly” toys. And nobody would wear a Huggies Thong. /snip/
Ultimately, I think, the pinnacle of this new modesty would involve teaching our kids to value themselves for who they are rather than what they wear, whether that’s a floor-length denim skirt or a micro-mini. Of course, we want our kids to know they’re more than their looks. I’m just not sure how we achieve that. It’s easy to be horrified at the little Noahs…But more nuanced struggles with self-expression aren’t easy for anybody.”
I dare say that this new modesty, to the degree that we can achieve it, would also better prepare our chilluns for dating and the immodest stirrings of young lurrrve. Glib as it may sound, if they truly value themselves — no matter how much of themselves is showing — they’ll only get all goopy over people who truly value them, too. Insofar as young boy/girlfriends are accessories, they’ll choose ones that make them feel good in their own skin.