I date younger men.
Or rather, they date me.
All of that ‘cougar’ predatory-female stuff is just nonsense – they’re the ones on the prowl. They sometimes try to laugh it off by saying that I’m ‘on the hunt’ but I’m not. They are. And more often than not, they’ve made the first move.
When I was 38, I started to notice that my ‘attention demographic’ had shifted. I’d never really attracted the attention of twentysomethings when I actually was one, but suddenly I started noticing a glance here and there, a cheeky grin or even a wink.
At first I thought I was imagining things but I ‘checked in’ with one guy who was at a party I was at, clearly giving me the eye and he confirmed it.
He was interested.
At that time I was still married so nothing happened but I started to notice furtive glances all over the place. By the time I was set free I was keen to test the water, so to speak.
And oh, the joy.
Once you’ve weeded out the PUAs (look it up) and the ones just ticking a box on their life to-do list, there are some really lovely guys out there who just like dating older women.
I’m going to change the names of the guys involved, but here are the moments that have been some of the happiest times in my life, brought to me by this unexpected target audience.
The Spontaneous One
Liam met me in person for the first time at a Muse gig in Wembley Stadium (Timehop app is telling me this was four years ago this week). It could have gone horribly wrong: we’d met online and I found myself offering him my spare ticket (not a euphemism). I spotted him outside the venue, looking a bit uncomfortable. By the time we’d had a beer, and I’d convinced him to remove his shades, we were getting on really well. Luckily.
An older couple were sitting next to us in the stands and Liam told me later that after we’d kissed, he’d turned round and found the woman scowling at him and the guy giving him a thumbs-up and a wink.
The Risk-Taking One
Niall was an apprentice engineer and lived at home with his god-fearing family. Under the guise of doing ‘overtime’ at work he came to meet me, on his motorbike. He was beautiful, and a really bright, emotionally mature young man. He boasted to all his friends that he was seeing an ‘actually hot 43-year-old.’
How we laughed.
Particularly on those occasions when he avoided church and worshipped me instead. Ha.
The Thoughtful One
There are actually a few of these – guys who bothered to arrange days or nights out and put in the effort.
There was Harry, who bought a load of ingredients round to my flat after work and made me dinner, followed by a day out at a stately home.
Back then, I was worried what people would think, seeing me hand-in-hand with a gorgeous tall, blond twentysomething, but he insisted. No one even blinked an eye and it was one of those magical days.
Then there was Zayn, whom I always arranged to meet in a pub. He always texted beforehand to tell me exactly where he was sitting so I wouldn’t have an awkward moment in the bar, and when I got there, he’d have bottle of wine and two glasses, ready to go.
One night, while Zayn was at the bar, I overheard a woman in the pub bemoaning her relationship woes to her male friend. She pointed at me and said, “I want to do what she’s doing.” As my date returned to the table I beamed with pride.
And then there was Louis. Half-Irish, half-Jamaican, about six foot five. Last summer he took me to Regent’s Park and when I met him, he’d bought champagne, strawberries and lots of other good things. I laughed as we strolled through the park to find a picnic spot and everyone – male and female – gawped at his beauty.
He once drove past me unexpectedly, shouted my name, stopped the car, ran across the road to tell me I looked gorgeous, ran back to his car and drove off. What a guy.
The One That Asks You Out Properly
I can count the number of times I’ve actually been asked out from a cold, standing start, on one hand.
Less than one hand, in fact.
And the ones that have asked me out on a date, properly, are younger men who aren’t British. Go figure. The sweetest one asked if he could take me out for a cup of tea. Just lovely. Of course I said yes.
The One That Slightly Breaks Your Heart
Of course, one of the sidebar themes of dating younger men is that it can never be a ‘thing’. It’s very much ‘dating in the moment’ and there is usually an unspoken, or spoken, agreement at the start that it won’t lead to a relationship. There is both joy and sadness in being together, and with one particular guy, let’s call him Justin, we even cried a little at the start because we knew we had strong feelings for each other.
Against my usual rules, I let myself become more than just a lover with Justin. One of the things that is so intoxicating about a younger man is their engagement with life. Everything is exciting and new, even a fortysomething woman. I loved how Justin lived his life – he worked hard, played hard, and wanted to know and experience everything. To me, it was an elixir of life I couldn’t stop imbibing.
This situation could not be sustained and after a couple of months it became clear that it wasn’t going to work. I was thrown for a while into a mini mid-life crisis. I realised that I was so jealous of Justin’s youth – that he could simply find someone else straight away (he did) and carry on opening all of life’s doors. I had to cut off all social-media contact so that I couldn’t witness it – it suddenly seemed like a relentless stream of The Joy of Youth and I had to turn it off at the source.
But as the months went by, I found myself looking back on that time with increasing gladness. Dr Seuss’ maxim: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” became my way of describing the feeling.
I’m still smiling.
Some friends say to me that it’s all very well having fun with these young guys, but when am I going to get serious and find someone my own age, or older? Guys my age aren’t interested, I reply. They want someone younger, especially if their dream is to have kids (and it usually is). (They’re also often threatened by someone successful with a brain, but that’s for another post.)
That’s been one of the really unexpected twists in my post-marital world. I thought there might be guys my age who would pop out of the woodwork. Instead, I was met by a vast silence, punctuated with approaches from married men (I’m afraid so), and the stealthy advance of the younger guard. And I say again, it’s their advance, not mine.
For months, and maybe a couple of years post-divorce, I found myself trying to recreate the same-age coupledom that I’d had with my ex-husband. It was ‘almost’ irritating to have young men buzzing around me, with the promise of nothing long-term. Almost.
But as time has gone on I’ve realised something: what if these are The Years? The ones where I have the most fun with the beautiful young men that I didn’t date when I was their age? What if these moments of joy with these great guys are the things I will whisper about happily when I’m on my deathbed?
I am definitely a late-bloomer – I look and feel so much better than I did in my late teens and twenties and back then, I led a very sheltered, Catholic-upbringing, worried-about-everything, date-free existence. Is this the time I make up for all that?
Well, yes I think it is.
Because I can.