Angry Young Men

In a recent post I mentioned an angry Parisian man I’d dated in the past year, but didn’t tell the story, saving it for a future post. It came back to me this week, because I read this piece about a woman called Alexandra Tweten who is ‘outing’ abusive online-dating matches for their sense of entitlement to her attention:

http://m.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/rise-of-the-feminist-creep-busting-web-vigilante/381809/

Fortunately, it hasn’t happened much to me, mainly because I use Tinder, where the matching is reciprocal and you don’t have to deal with the tidal wave of unwanted attention as soon as you appear on there. (Here’s my piece on Tinder: https://becauseicanblog.com/2014/10/12/tinder-is-the-night/).

Tweten is using OKCupid which is pretty much a free for all for wanted and unwanted attention. But actually, abusive moments HAVE happened to me, even with all my careful filtering and my supposed radar for nice guys, and when it does happen it is a very scary experience.

(A quick note to all the nice guys out there whom I date or don’t date: this post isn’t representative of you, it’s a group of a*holes of which you are not part. Please don’t get all defensive about men in general because I’m not talking about all men. You just need to know that this stuff happens to women. All the time. Thanks for reading and supporting me – I’m very glad to know you.)

So, the Parisian. Let’s call him ‘Maxime’. He described himself as 31 and 6ft 7. Yes, Maxime was tall, dark and handsome, played basketball in France semi-professionally and could string a sentence together in a text. Against my usual rules of not letting anyone have my number before I’ve met them in real life, we Whatsapped before our date, and he seemed ok with my ‘no sexting or pics’ rule. So far, so normal.

To the date. We met at the Ape and Bird – a fab pub in London on Cambridge Circus owned by the same people who run Polpo. It’s perfect for dating – lively enough to fill in awkward silences, three different bars to choose from if you need a change of scenery, and the option of eating in the bar or restaurant later if the date goes well.

The warning bell started to sound when I met him outside the bar. He was lounging louchely against one of the windows, smoking of course. What Parisian doesn’t? He seemed to not want to make eye contact, which I put down to being at a different altitude to me, or maybe just nervousness. Ok, let’s get to the bar. The choosing of the drinks took a while – I know exactly what I want in there (the Garganega house white is great) but he huffed and puffed over the choice of beers. I laughed to myself and thought, ‘how Parisian’ as he took time to choose just the right drink. How very French.

The second alarm bell rang softly as he talked at length about his life, his likes and dislikes, his travels, his favourite food, his his his his his… I just settled into the usual ego-pleasing nodding routine, wondering how I was going to extract myself from the scenario. But then the wine kicked in, and I thought, ‘well, things could be worse’ and somehow we ended up staying and getting a table for dinner in the bar.

Ok, so the choosing of the food took a while – Ape and Bird have a ‘distinctive’ menu with uniquely British things on there that threw Maxime a bit. I think he ended up with steak and chips – so far, so French. I can’t remember what I had, because the whole moment was blighted by his fussing and faffing over the food. “This is not steak!” he cried, forking the meat with a sneer on his face. I’m afraid I just started to laugh, and to tease him about being so French about his food.

Oh dear.

One does not tease a French man about his food.

He got very, very angry with me. And all British people, really. For not having the balls to complain about food. I don’t complain, as a rule, unless it’s really terrible and I can’t eat it. I’ll have an opinion on it, but if it’s not ‘wrong’, then I won’t send it back. Not Maxime’s style it seems.

So he made a huge fuss and I ended up apologising to the startled waitress when he’d flounced off to the loo (in a 6ft 7 gangly way). I did contemplate paying and leaving while he was down there, but I thought, ‘no – I’ll see this through like an adult’. What he obviously thought in the loo was, “I’ve paid for drinks for this woman and am about to pay for half a meal I didn’t like – I’ll damn well have sex from her in payment.”

When he returned to the table I’d already ordered the bill and made noises about leaving. “You’re going home?!” he asked incredulously, as if his table manners had undeniably wooed me into sexual submission. “Yes – I’ll be going to Piccadilly Circus – where do you need to be?” He was determined to come with me.

So there I was, striding down Shaftesbury Avenue with a massive Frenchman, angrily snarking at me about how it was ok to complain about food. I kept a fixed smile on my face so as not to anger him further – it felt as though he was about to blow (I certainly wasn’t).

I may be making you laugh with this story, but reader, it was so not funny. I genuinely felt really scared. When he suddenly swerved off into a Chinatown street, I felt relieved, but then panicked as to where he was going to pop out and accost me. I scanned the tube, the bus stop on my way home, the outside of my building – everything. Thankfully a friend was in the pub down the road and I went and told her the story, still shaking slightly from the encounter.

In the last month I’ve had another miniature version of this, in which again, I gave my number out when I should not have. I made it clear that I had no intention of picture-swapping or sexting, but this ‘nice guy’ Toby just wanted to hear my voice. Ahh how sweet. Until he got on the phone, telling me he’d lost his voice and asking, “could he just whisper to me?” “Stalker voice!” I teased, but I’d actually started to wonder…

“Could he also talk about lots of other things he’d like to do?”

No.

He put the phone down in a fit of rage, quickly followed by Tinder messages telling me I’d “spoiled the mood.” I managed to unmatch him on Tinder pretty quickly, but then came the stroppy “that was mean” texts on Whatsapp, which I subsequently blocked. I then got a barrage of ‘no caller ID’ calls for the next two days – with no voicemail, thankfully. But I was truly scared at what this person might do. Could he track me down and wait for me outside work or my home? When would he stop calling? After two days, thankfully.

I’ve wondered over and over about what I did that made these guys feel entitled to be so angry with me, and then I realised. I was just a woman who refused to give them what they felt they deserved and they got angry, even though I was very clear about what was and wasn’t going to happen. It’s like my voice merged into white noise under the loud gushing sound of their monstrous egos in motion.

I’ve only just remembered about a guy I dated about three years ago who made me cry on a date. Yes, cry. He’d been dumped by his last girlfriend and his ‘little revenge’ was to make women feel crap about themselves. The way he did it with me was to flirt outrageously with the waitress and ignore me. He was happy with me over the pre-dinner drinks, then grumpy over the menu, refusing to look me in the eye, then all over the waitress every time she appeared. I let him do it over and over and just sat there in disbelief. Then he smiled cruelly as he asked me if I was crying, which I was a little bit. I’ve never been made to feel so rubbish in all my life.

And it will never happen again.

—————–

Jessica Valenti on why some men are so angry:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/27/why-are-some-men-so-angry

Katie McDonough on male entitlement to women:

http://www.salon.com/2014/10/30/americas_catcalling_madness_what_michael_che_co_keep_on_missing/

 

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In Praise Of Younger Men

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.

Brilliant.

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.

The Years

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.