Advice for Sleeping Beauty with Atrophied Wings
October 28, 2010 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Older women, younger men; is there hope for a sleeping beauty?

I'm a 45-year-old single woman. An anomaly to be sure in my world, as I've not married so far and am a heterosexual, attractive, relationship-wired woman. I've dated a lot, but I'm holding out for a happy, sustainable connection and I've not experienced that to date.

Sparing you the details, I've "awakened" from a long night of sleep and here I am, Ms. Rip Van Winkle, feeling like I'm just blooming and discovering life in my own skin....and honestly, just hitting my sexual peak and experimenting (feeling like most people feel in their teens and twenties, maybe early thirties....) Wishing my body were still 23.

But I am 45. Middle-aged. It all feels strange and awkward. I wish I was swimming along with others doing the same thing as me. But I'm not.

So, I'm like this lovely, odd bird freed from a cage, but with slightly arthritic wings and a self-conscious lack of flying experience (no doubt hindered further by harsh criticism from my last boyfriend). Honestly, I feel, sexually, like a big dork. Mostly because I've not had supportive, intimate experiences with patient men seeking more than just an orgasm from me.

I regularly am guessed to be in my late twenties and early thirties and I'm in good shape. I'm active and alive and more passionate about life than ever. But, I find that the men who share the energy and passion level I have are in their late twenties and thirties, 10-20 years younger than I.

I'm developing a complex about being 45 when younger men show interest in me. If I tell them my age up front, it quashes the interest right away, so I stopped that practice. If I wait and they spend any time with me, the realization hits them with just a bit of conversation. When they realize I'm significantly older, they seem to lose interest.

I'm frustrated that men seem to have little trouble dating women 10-20 years their junior, but women don't have a serious chance (aside from the "hey, I'm a cougar and I'll teach you what the young girls don't know" meaningless sex). Of course, there's Ashton and Demi, but now Ashton's getting restless, too.

I'd love to hear from anyone in an older woman/younger man (by at least 10 years) successful relationship -- lasting longer than a few years. Do they exist?

Also, insightful MetaFilter friends, I need help with this complex, to overcome a lack of confidence this strange place of life is bringing out (and yes, I've done some counseling around it). I just want to fly free.
posted by sleeping beauty to Human Relations (25 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: Congratulations on discovering more about who you are as a person, and best of luck to you. I've almost exclusively dated (and married) older women, and I've been genuinely attracted to women as much as 10-20 years older than me -- so it's certainly not unheard of, although it might not be common.

Just remember that the most attractive thing about anyone is who they are as a person, and since you're discovering all these new things about yourself, you are now more attractive than you were all those years previous when you weren't so comfy with who you were. Embrace that, and don't sweat the people who focus on one thing (in this case, age) rather than the person they're talking to.
posted by davejay at 11:03 PM on October 28, 2010

The (female) colleague I share an office with is 47, and in a relationship with a 22 year old man. She sounds like you in some ways - not very experienced in relationships, and regularly mistaken for a 20-something-year-old physically. Her relationship with her current boyfriend has lasted over a year so far and he doesn't seem at all bothered by her age (although he only found it out after they had been seeing each other for a couple of months.)
posted by lollusc at 11:03 PM on October 28, 2010

Best answer: I hear you. My age, for the most part, goes against everything else I know about myself to be true. I find myself in an environment where, for the first time in my life, most of the men around me are intellectually and academically matched (AWESOME). But a decade younger (NOT SO MUCH).

It's hard to deny that's empirical evidence of...something. BUT, focus on the other things. Play 'em up. Being intellectually or sexually stimulating/stimulated trumps any number over 20-something any day.

And oh god, have some good quips on hand when the conversation nosedives into the great abyss of Awkward Moments, revealing the disparity of years between you's so painful, ugh...but if you can flip it, it doesn't have to be such a buzzkill. Basically, you need a little bit of PR spin that reframes the age gap as something exciting and sexy.

Know too, that even though your body isn't what it was at 23, your confidence about it is where it should've been then. A good man will appreciate this infinitely, regardless of the actual physical form that confidence takes shape in.

Also, I can't believe I'm going to admit this here, publicly, but I think it might this comment by rockhopper; copy it, print it out, put it on wall (that's what I did). The gist:

We're nothing but the stories we tell ourselves.

Forgive yourself if you flail a bit while figuring out this new role/identity/narrative. It's hard to be leader (or older follower) when you're not terribly sure about how to go about it.

Lastly, and most importantly, pass on anybody who isn't completely into you. You don't need their angst/indifference/confusion/whatever fucking with your head.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:03 AM on October 29, 2010 [26 favorites]

My ex was with a woman 18 years his senior [he: 22, her: 48] for 8 years before he met and married me, a mere 23 year old. He left me for a woman well into her 40s when he was 32. To my knowledge they are still together 14 years later.

He wasn't interested in having his own children, or raising a young step-family with someone, so I think that 'obstacle' to loving a woman significantly older than himself wasn't relevant. I get that the gendered double standard sucks, but it applies probably for this reason in many cases.

I think after being with an older woman throughout his twenties, he thought he was missing out on something and that he'd enjoy a young, fit thing. But apparently I did not meet any of his [so-called] intellectual or spiritual standards in the long run. My perspective, however, is that he was actually an old fashioned dude who wanted someone to do all the cooking n cleaning, be grateful for his sexual attentions and financially provide for him. [He mentioned these things as markers of excellence in his relationship with his ex, and wondered what my problem was with doing the same infantilising stuff.] I've seen this in one or two older female/younger male relationships - not a blanket observation at all, but a small something to consider. That said, I know of several successful relationships between older women and younger men that aren't predicated on the cougar crap or the mummy crap.
posted by honey-barbara at 12:08 AM on October 29, 2010

But, I find that the men who share the energy and passion level I have are in their late twenties and thirties, 10-20 years younger than I.

I can't refute your personal experience but you might want to re-examine this. I know plenty of men in their forties who are passionate and energetic (and even look ten years younger than their age).
posted by sockpup at 12:30 AM on October 29, 2010 [10 favorites]

I have a friend who's 50, seeing someone's who's 34, and they've been together for a few years (not 10, yet, though). She looks a bit young for her age, but not as young as it sounds like you look, and they're apparently quite happy. My 32 year old cousin also married someone 10 years older than him, and, though a weird series of events, is a grandfather twice over. They appear to be happy, though I don't see them often.

One tiny caveat - I've seen similar questions from men thinking they would only be compatible with someone 10-20 years younger, and they get backlash from this. It actually squicks me out when I see a guy *only* looking for women out of his age bracket. You don't sound creepy at all, but maybe keep an eye out that you're not missing guys closer to your age just because you've already assumed they won't be energetic and fun.
posted by wending my way at 12:59 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know plenty of men in their forties who are passionate and energetic (and even look ten years younger than their age)

So do I, but in my experience they tend to be looking for women in their 20s.

I'm 51, but look younger. My last boyfriend was 12 years younger than me, and he looks much younger than his actual age. He is a child of the 80s and I am a child of the 70s, so our cultural reference points were quite different.

My sister has been married six times, each time to a younger man, with the age gap getting bigger with each marriage - the last husband was 19 years younger than her, and they were married for 9 years. He eventually left her for a younger woman after she turned into a mother figure, became very middle-aged and frumpy in her appearance and attitudes and treated him (in public) like a misbehaving child.
posted by essexjan at 1:07 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: > aside from the "hey, I'm a cougar and I'll teach you what the young girls don't know" meaningless sex

Particularly because you're approaching from a position that (U.S.) society does not positively reinforce nearly so much as it should, sometimes it takes a fair amount of "meaningless" sex to find a meaningful connection.

A friend of mine used to haunt the clubs, prowling for guys a couple decades younger (this wasn't hard for her, as she's a knock-out). Eventually she chose one to marry her, and they've been together for about ten years.

Fly free, and fly often.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:17 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

> When they realize I'm significantly older, they seem to lose interest.

Since they're already evincing physical attraction to you, I honestly suspect they're reacting to perceived discomfort on your part.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:21 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

How do you know men your own age and older don't have energy?

Ashton Kutchner is not a good model for the younger man.
posted by vincele at 3:14 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

My wife is 12 years older than I am. We met when I was 39 and she was 51. In France and Spain, no one treats it as something out of the ordinary, and I must know a dozen similar couples, with age differences ranging from 7 to 21 years.

Sometimes it felt weird at the beginning when I thought too much about the age difference, but that weirdness disappeared immediately when I thought about how much I enjoyed being with her. And that's all that matters.

So really you should listen to darth_tedious and just stop thinking about it so much. If you want your partner to think that your age doesn't matter, you have to find a way to do the same. Don't look for younger men, look for men you want to be with. And when you find one, enjoy it for all it's worth, secure in the knowledge that you're past the age where all the stresses younger women often have -- finding your one true soulmate, worrying over where things are going and whether you look good as a couple in public, getting married and having children -- get in the way of just being with the other person.
posted by fuzz at 3:23 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

It sounds to me like you actually want to be younger and deny your own age... like a form of self-dislike and making up for lost time.

It's okay for you to be the age you are. You weren't really asleep all this time, you were building experience and learning. I hope it won't sound too insulting when I point out that it really isn't possible for you to be 23 again knowing what you know now. The reason for your clarity and energy is because you've learned so much, and there was no way of learning it without taking the time.

I am prepared to date men 10 years younger or older than me, although I must admit I don't really relish the thought of dating one 10 years older... but you have to take each guy on merit. I would rather date a 50-year-old athlete than a 30-year-old beer-swilling slob, for example. You want men to take you on merit and not on age, so it's fair to extend them the same courtesy.
posted by tel3path at 3:50 AM on October 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

> I know plenty of men in their forties who are passionate and energetic (and even look ten years younger than their age)

So do I, but in my experience they tend to be looking for women in their 20s.

I've noticed this as welll. I actually feel something like sleeping Beauty - except I'm NOT looking for guys in their 20s, I'm looking for guys who are about my own age.

Athough, my current experience is more so evidence for "but confidence can help a lot." I seem to be having a wee bit of shift of luck (fingers crossed).

I also think that "finding someone who wants to stay with you rather than just fuck around for a while and leave" isn't so much a function of age difference so much as it's...what dating is all about. Because I was also looking for that when I was in my 20s and 30s, and the guys I was dating were in their 20s and 30s as well. Finding a sustainable connection -- and by that I mean sustainable past a couple years -- has been hard. But it's hard for EVERYONE, at EVERY age. And the reasons why it may have been hard for you so far are, I think, a bit more complex than just age difference -- they were thus for me, I believe.

What I'm saying is: the age difference may not actually be as big an obstacle to "finding a sustainable connection" as you suspect. It's an additional obstacle, yeah, but not the main one. What the main one is is something only you can answer, and when you do, things may start feeling easier.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:52 AM on October 29, 2010

I am having trouble putting

I'm active and alive and more passionate about life than ever.

together with

I'm developing a complex about being 45 when younger men show interest in me. If I tell them my age up front, it quashes the interest right away, so I stopped that practice.

One worries that perhaps there is a smidge less confidence here than might be liked. If you are more passionate about life than ever it should be I'M 45 AND THAT EFFING ROCKS! YEAH. Zero pussyfooting, because what possible interest could you have in anybody who didn't instantly get that 45 = the shit, as applied to you? "Own it," as they say.
posted by kmennie at 5:29 AM on October 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't think a midlife awakening is as surprising as you make it out to be, but glad you are feeling it! One half-full cup way of looking at this is that it has happened to you when you're single and you can have fun exploring it, which sounds a lot more enjoyable than having that kind of mid-life awakening when you're in an LTR with a partner who hasn't. You awoke to a wonderful vibe, but it's also one that can easily break a marriage. So lucky you!
posted by quarterframer at 7:01 AM on October 29, 2010

I always admired and had great relationships with older women; and that has always been far more attractive than a poster girl for the 'beauty now; brainless tomorrow' scenario.
posted by buzzman at 7:18 AM on October 29, 2010

Best answer: Mrs. Beese is 10 years older than me. We've been married for 12 years.

Visit Ageless Love.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:26 AM on October 29, 2010

Best answer: On the one hand, I think that people tend to dig people regardless of their age.

On the other hand, it sounds like you're fetishizing youth, both your own past youth and other people's youth. If you let the whole thing go and stopped judging your own age and your prospective partners', and just evaluated each new person you met as a person and expected them to do the same for you, you might find that a lot of the awkwardness and what-not went away.

On the third hand, my brother's ex-wife and current partner of many years are both 10-ish years older than him, and the same is true for several of his closest friends. There are certainly really awesome, kind, brilliant, fun, handsome, sexy guys out there for whom age disparity doesn't make the slightest difference in the world.

The thing is that it sounds like it makes a big difference to you. Until you move past that, it's always going to be an issue.

(Bona fides: I am 46 myself. And women's sexual peaks tend to be in their forties, so you're not an outlier.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:52 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Dear people, thank you -- got teary-eyed on a couple of those thoughtful posts.

A couple of clarifications --

1) I'm definitely open to my age or older, not seeking just youngsters. Just seem to draw the younguns. My city is full of families, and those my age who aren't married or in the midst of family-burdened years/very preoccupied and tired and in a totally different place than me....are mostly musicians who have lived hard and are substance-worn. This city is where I have to live 'til next March.

2) (thanks to darth_tedious) "flying free" is a new concept and I'm going there...(hence the "OMG, the expectations are so different -- I need to know how to do this and this, and holy shit I feel like a clueless, inept teenager....and you prefer a Brazilian wax, really????) Meaningless sex hasn't offered me the "don't worry, I'll give you tips" kindness I need to learn things I'm finally interested in trying.

3) I don't want to be 23 again....I mostly love my place in life (sans arthritis!). I just feel very alone as the never married 45-year-old who still looks youthful and wants to go out and meet people bravely (and hasn't given up hope on relationships completely). And sometimes, yes, my confidence gets shaken and I fight against the "I can't believe you haven't been married yet" ('what's wrong with you') message.

4) discomfort on my part. Yes -- you're right. I think it's just a mental thing I need to get over. When I turned 40, I was asked out by 23/24/25 year olds and decided to say yes. I had a lot of confidence and as a result, flew freer and had more fun. For some reason, I have this idea that "forty is sexy to them" but "forty-five is awfully close to fifty and seems old and scary to them." It is based somewhat on actual reactions.

SO...I DO need confidence!! That's what I'm seeking and I'm eating up what davejay, iamkimiam, darth_tedious, buzzman, fuzz, kmennie, and others are offering. Thank you -- you're offering me help.
posted by sleeping beauty at 7:58 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I should also have said that I know three women who married for the first time over age forty-five, and all of them seem deliriously happy with their husbands (in two cases) and wife (in one).

One friend had a whole formal white-satin wedding with all the trimmings (at age 51 or 52); she gave herself away, as her parents were long dead, and seeing her bring herself down the aisle made us all cry little joy-tears. It was a beautiful moment that we were all honored to share.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:27 AM on October 29, 2010

I'll be 46 in a couple of weeks and deep in a fling with a 30 year old guy. If I meet a guy in real life first (as opposed to online where my age is readily available) I make my age known right up front. If they have an issue with my age then it's their problem and I have no interest in having to defend or make excuses for myself.

Physical attraction is well and good but it's going to "me" they go out with. I may look younger, and I've been told I project young too, but I'm still a 45 year old woman and damn proud of it.
posted by tar0tgr1 at 9:29 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I feel, sexually, like a big dork.

Everyone, sexually, is a big dork. Everyone.

(How could it be otherwise? -- we're a species of meat monkeys that spends an inordinate amount of its mental energy thinking about methods and scenarios for rubbing that meat together. Anyone who manages to project sexual confidence is just not reflecting on the fundamental ridiculousness of the hobby.)
posted by foursentences at 12:45 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I should qualify that. There's a kind of confidence that stems precisely from not taking something seriously enough to harbor anxieties about it, and that kind of sexual confidence is real (and worth aspiring to). It's Take-Me-Oh-So-Seriously Sexual Confidence that can exist only among the unreflective. We're friction-crazed meat monkeys; since nobody can pull that off without being a dork about it -- not your partner, not porn stars, not Chief Justice Roberts, not the Obamas, all of whom crave objectively-ludicrous things and look silly when they get them -- be dorky unashamedly.
posted by foursentences at 3:06 PM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's not the 10 or 15 or (gasp) 20 year difference you were talking about, but my Mrs is 7 years older than me, and in my opinion she's incomparably cooler, has a far better (and way more attractive and preferable) outlook on life, a fantastic sense of humor, and as an unasked-for-but-appreciated-bonus is in far better "shape" (whatever that may be) than the wives of all her male friends, who are all at least 10 years younger, and mostly very attractive (physically) in their own rights.

She's in her mid-ish forties, me in my late mid-ish thirties.

We've been married for 6 years, and she is more attractive to me every day. (I should tell her that more often.) I wouldn't trade her for 5 twenty-five year olds.

Also, I think it's pretty obvious that many of her male friends (and a few of the females) think she's pretty hot shit on several levels, and I generally get a "you lucked out" vibe from them, not because we're an improbable match, but because they....well, want her.

I really wouldn't worry about it. The Operative Seuss Phrase here is "the ones who mind don't matter and the ones who matter don't mind." You sound very grounded, and that can be very attractive to many younger men, as well as men older than you.

Oh, and I'll get to someday have a wife with long silver or white hair, which...seriously, is just hot shit.
posted by nevercalm at 9:18 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Data point: Mrs. W and I have been together for almost 20 years. She is 14 years older than me.
posted by wittgenstein at 7:10 AM on October 30, 2010

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