I finally watched an episode of “Cougar Town” last night. Courtney Cox looked, “good for 40 plus,” though oddly plasticized. I must admit I felt quite relieved when my boyfriend, Jem, voiced his disgust at her botox and collagen, telling me he will love me the same when there are less people in the world who tell me I also “look good for 40 plus.” Which thus brings me to a conversation I had with my friend while walking Monday in which we discussed the issue of age, being a cougar, and why it’s OK to be a cougar unless addressed as “cougar” by someone in his twenties!
Here’s my point: Age doesn’t matter, unless it does.
I spent most of my five years as a divorcee dating younger men. My first post-divorce boyfriend in 2004 was 11 years my junior. He did, however, have two children and was also divorced. Mistakenly, I assumed that because he had children and had been through the process of marriage and divorce he had the emotional maturity required to be in a functional relationship. Needless to say, he didn’t. And, quite frankly, I didn’t either. Lesson #1: Just because someone has the same life experiences as you do, does not mean he/she have the maturity that typically comes from having those experiences.
After I dated Junior I tested the waters dating a few men closer to my age. I met a variety of men who belonged to different MANimal species including a few of the Quality Casual types, Mr. Murse (see blog on him below) and those whom I didn’t date more than once and thus could only be put into the category called, ” Excessive Talk About Ex-Wife and Custody Schedules.” During this period I realized once again, that while sharing many of the same life experiences, these men weren’t looking for the same things as me. Some were still recovering from loss, others were enjoying their freedom, and others just “weren’t a match.” Lesson #2: Dating is a skill to be practiced because it enables you to discern your non-negotiables, likes, dislikes and creates opportunities to practice connecting with people, whether or not you want to have them as a romantic partner.
I continued to attract younger men into my life, and it was during this time that I decided who was too young, and who was not. Too young is someone who has never seen an episode of “Happy Days,” or the “Carol Burnett Show.” Too young is someone who spends most of the date telling you he is “really mature,” or texts you at 11:30 pm asking, “where you at?” These men were perfectly appropriate when my relationship goal was to date casually while I was figuring out how I could keep my independence in relationship and determine what I was truly looking for in a partner. Lesson #3: It’s really is fun to realize you can attract younger men, and that you have it in you to stay up past closing time, but critical to recognize that it’s value is just that, a good time.
Once I became ready to be in a relationship and had identified what was negotiable and what was not negotiable, I knew that I would not be an age-ist (someone who dates regardless of age) because I knew that what I was looking for was a more wholistic package. I knew I wanted a man with emotional maturity, someone who didn’t want to have kids of his own, a person who was on a spiritual path, and who lived in Los Angeles. I am now in a relationship with a man who fits the bill in these areas and is eight years younger than me. Of course there are times when I wonder if he will love me when my crinkles turn to wrinkles. Or, if it really does matter that I have let too much time lapse between visits to the colorist. Mostly, however, I am centered and come from a place of self love, knowing that Jem fell in love with me. All of me. The good parts, the parts that are works in progress, as well as the woman who “looks good for 40 plus.” Which brings me to the most important lesson of all; Lesson #4: Most importantly, determine your values, decide what you are looking for in a partner, and then decide if age is important. Because in the end age doesn’t matter, unless it does.