How do I attract and date men (not boys) ?
June 5, 2013 2:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm in my 30s but still feel/look/act like I'm much younger, so I tend to roll with a younger crowd and my last 3 boyfriends were all 2-4 years younger than I am. This needs to stop.

This was me a few weeks ago, and if you read any of my past questions you know I'm ready to settle down.

I think my prospects for marriage and kids is better if I date guys in the 36-45 range, but I've never dated anyone that age before. I did have a relationship with a guy 8 years older than me when I was in my early/mid 20s but he was the most immature punk-rock skater man-boy ever.

My last 3 boyfriends were all 2-4 years younger than I am. The thought of dating a mature, has-it-all-together (and hopefully dashing) older man is outside of my box and pretty I need help!

A little about how I look--When I tell people I'm 34 they are always shocked, and I'm not saying that to flatter myself. I don't look younger in a sexy way, more like a girlish-tomboy way..think Ellen Page and Kathleen Hanna. I'm slender with small boobs, tattoos, and longish brown hair. I ride a bike to work and theres no dress code so I'm in tees, jeans and converse most of the time. I don't like jewelry and hobble in high heels, and wear minimal makeup. Sometimes I paint my nails (always clipped short) but they always end up chipped so often I don't bother much.

Do I need to change my look to get an older guys attention?

I've been described as 'scrappy', 'goofy' and 'sexy but doesn't know it' by my guy friends, and my girly friends say I'm pretty badass. My gay guy friends think I should put more effort in being more 'womanly' but my lesbian friends think I'm fine the way I am (and that I should switch to their team haha). I have one older guy friend who I've travelled with and he says I need to buy lacy underwear and that its important that the bra and panties match (is this true or this just his personal kink?) which I wrinkle my nose at, and thinks women should always dress nice. He's European though and may have higher standards.

Anyway, I thought I'd get some strangers opinions on here, since you've all been helpful before.

Also, besides the looks department, what do older guys want in general? If I snag a date with one, what are good topics for conversation? How do I know if they are interested? And if they are interested in sex, how do I know thats not ALL they are interested in?

Thank you for reading and if you are a 36-45 straight guy, please let me know what you guys looked for/are looking for in a potential wife.

Update on my living sitch: I moved into a sublet for 2 months to give me time to figure out if I want to leave LA or not. Portland has always been a dream but I don't have any friends there so I may feel depressed there. Going back to San Francisco is another option but its so expensive and I don't know if I could get a job that pays enough.
posted by hellameangirl to Human Relations (51 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Maturity is not necessarily something that comes with age. You seem very fixated on how you look, and how that might be affecting the men you meet. Let me ask you this: how do you meet the guys you date? Are you going to bars/clubs, social outlets such as Meetup/hobby groups, mutual friends, online dating networks, work, what? Because I think that's where you want to start, really.
posted by trunk muffins at 3:06 PM on June 5, 2013 [8 favorites]

Mature, has-it-all-together people tend to want mature, has-it-all-together people to date (or people much younger than them as trophies, but that's another story). Attract what you want by being what you want.
posted by xingcat at 3:06 PM on June 5, 2013 [31 favorites]

Take this with a grain of salt but from my fifty-four year old perspective what is wrong with being yourself and just looking for more responsible people of whatever age? Besides, if you are in your thirties, two to four years younger is NOT that much of a difference.

One reason I am saying this is that for a young-at-heart person, the last thing you really want is some stodgy stick in the mud. Do you really want an older fellow or do you think that is what you are supposed to want????
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:07 PM on June 5, 2013 [20 favorites]

I think my prospects for marriage and kids is better if I date guys in the 36-45 range

I think your basic premise is flawed. It's not about age once people get over 30, I don't think, but more about who they are drawn to - older steady settled types, or people refusing to grow old. So possibly more to do with social circles than age, I think. Maybe it's the kind of people you are meeting, not their ages, that means you aren't meeting the marrying kind?

if you are a 36-45 straight guy, please let me know what you guys looked for/are looking for in a potential wife.

Again, odd wording. Do people look for a 'potential wife' these days? Especially in the 36-45 range. I'd have thought that people are either looking for a hook up or a relationship. Once you're in a relationship you move onto whether it is serious or not. I don't think you can start wearing a certain kind of beacon (through dress or whatever) that suddenly attracts the kind of people have a timescale for marriage in their pockets.
posted by Brockles at 3:07 PM on June 5, 2013 [11 favorites]

I don't know if there's really a direct correlation with age and "readiness to settle down," so I think you should look for guys who are looking what you're looking for regardless of age. Also consider that if you start dating a guy who is in his mid-40's now, he'd be close to 50 by the time you'd be having kids, and there are health and other risks associated with that. But I think there are a lot of guys in their early 30's who are ready to settle down too.
posted by Asparagus at 3:10 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Never try change yourself in order to attract someone. You end up more focused on how to project that image, or on how uncomfortable you're feeling, that you don't really connect with the man at all. Or you end up in a relationship that superficially seems like what you want, but feels false.

Much better to examine your feeling of intimidation about older men. Notice how you assume a man only 2 years older would be mature and has-it-all-together, while men only 2 years younger (30 to 32 -- not exactly snot-nosed teenagers) are not.

Date people you feel comfortable with, able to be partners with. Work on self-growth. When you feel more mature and has-it-all-together, the men you feel comfortable to date will inevitably be that as well.
posted by enlivener at 3:11 PM on June 5, 2013 [10 favorites]

I think there should be some signal that you want to settle down, while still "just being yourself", if that makes sense.

I also do agree that if you want to get married at some point, you are going to have to stop dating guys who still want to be little boys.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:12 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

xingcat has it exactly. Start thinking about people at the level of qualities they manifest (for example: reliability, resiliency, compassion, honesty, and self-awareness might be qualities that signify "maturity" for you) and less about external trappings like age, appearances, hobbies, etc. This allows you to relate to people you meet in a more meaningful and authentic way, and will allow them to get to know you (and for you to get to know yourself) more authentically as well.

That's the path to crafting more grown-up relationships, not matching lingerie.
posted by scody at 3:12 PM on June 5, 2013 [23 favorites]

"I'm in tees, jeans and converse most of the time"

So you dress like a kid. Nothing wrong with that, but why be surprised that you'd attract kids? Dressing like a grown-up may get you more grown-up attention.
posted by Quisp Lover at 3:16 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

This sounds less about whether they're 2-4 years younger than you are than about the fact that they're immature and don't have it together. I assume you meet plenty of scrappy, immature men your age or a couple years older but you are less willing to picture yourself with such a person when they're older but "allow" it when the guys are younger.

I've been described as 'scrappy', 'goofy' and 'sexy but doesn't know it' by my guy friends

You sound like exactly the person I wanted to date in my mid-20s! I am no longer in my mid 20s.

Look, "be the change you wish to see in the world." You talk a lot about how you look, but what about your job, your demeanor, and temperament? Do you come across as an adult who "has it together" or could you be easily mistaken for someone living sort of a bohemian lifestyle just scraping while trying to figure herself out in her 20s?

You can't just say you are ready to settle down. You have to live that life and be willing to date people who want a committed relationship and appear like yourself as though you want a committed relationship. I am guessing that you attract people who look at you and think, "This person is great. She is laid back and probably doesn't want something to serious." When an older guy you encounter comes across this way, you think, "this guy is older and should be much more grown up." When a younger guy you encounter comes across this way, you think, "hey. He's a bit unpolished, but he has potential." And so you end up in these situations.

If you want the polished person who knows what he wants and has it together, become the polished person who knows what she wants and has it together.
posted by deanc at 3:17 PM on June 5, 2013 [15 favorites]

Also, re this:

If I snag a date with one, what are good topics for conversation? How do I know if they are interested? And if they are interested in sex, how do I know thats not ALL they are interested in? helps to keep in mind that men (of any age bracket, but certainly of the 36-45 age bracket) are not actually a separate species from women your age (or from any women). Men, like women, are pretty much just people, who like to talk about a million different things, and who will indicate their interest to you in most of the usual ways you are used to (flirting, eye contact, etc.). There may be some generational/cultural differences if you're dating a 45-year-old when you're 34, but those are relatively minor. It's not like you have to start off the date by asking him where he was when Kurt Cobain killed himself.
posted by scody at 3:18 PM on June 5, 2013 [26 favorites]

Response by poster: "how do you meet the guys you date? Are you going to bars/clubs, social outlets such as Meetup/hobby groups, mutual friends, online dating networks, work, what?" All of the above.

"Dressing like a grown-up may get you more grown-up attention."
Can y'll be more specific? Like where should I shop and what are some items I should buy?

"It could be that the way you express and present yourself generally skews younger and maybe less mature than you'd prefer?" yes, this is probably true and why I need help.

"Do you come across as an adult who "has it together"?" I don't know, how does one present that? Maybe I don't even recognize it in men and thats the problem.
posted by hellameangirl at 3:35 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think you have to change your image, but you do have to be comfortable in your own skin. The same goes for the person you are atteacting. The clothes they wear, car they drive or where they work is not telling of their maturity and ability to have an adult relationship. What you need to pay attention to is: how they treat others, how they express themselves about others, do they take responsibility for their actions, do they make commitments and keep them, and how well they treat you, themselves, and strangers. So just be more observant. There are people out there that are willing to make you their priority and the center of their romantic affections and love.
posted by happysocks at 3:58 PM on June 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Ok, sounds like the meeting is not the problem. How are you screening them? Are you listening for view about how they ask or what they invite you to do? No hard and fast rules here, but 'let's hang out' is different from 'there's a cool thing happening (art walk/rodeo/outdoor movie night) happening, would you like to come with me?' Double check this if you are initiating dates. Another good sign is a guy you meet saying he wants to get to know you better (though that can also signal creepiness...but then so can anything. Which you already know.).

You can shop at the thrift stores. You want a polished version of things you are comfortable in. Add a blazer and more grown up shoes to jeans and a tee shirt and you look much more adult. Even peep toe flats convey a different message than converse sneakers.

If you wear jeans with a silk sleeveless shell, again, it looks more grown up.

If you want to ditch the jeans, go for natural fabric skirts like wool or silk or linen. Hell, Ben a great denim peni skirt (I have two from thrift store, one banana republic and one....some other 'niceish' label. As easy as jeans, but looks more like I tried. Plus? Ventilation!)

Most importantly, you should be wearing clothes that fit and look clean and well cared for. Nothing ripped or excessively faded until you've had more practice.

The best part about thrifting is mistakes aren't so painful. Go with a friend. Don't buy anything that already looks used (pilling, misshapen, faded, loose threads, missing buttons. Inspect Carefully!)

For further help presenting yourself the way you want to be seen, hang out with the people who already project that image. Join your local ladies' garden society or book club if that's where you find them. It might be joining a volunteer organization, attending local theater, something. Talk to people. Ask the women about their clothes, which we can do as women. (where did you get that, how did you decide to pair that skirt with that scarf. Don't be too disappointed when women look at you and say some variation of 'they just go together.' they have, like you, developed a uniform of sorts. It's just different than yours.)

As for presenting as 'having it together' this means you show up when You say you will, you follow through on commitments. It also means you don't giggle a lot, don't engage in negative self talk or gossip, don't whine, don't fret openly about money or relationship status, don't proselytize about ... Anything. People are considered 'with it' when they remember to ask after the friends/family/partners of others without seeming creepy. They also are engaged in some way with the world beyond their front lawn, maybe aware of world politics, actively volunteering, or organizing a group activity.
posted by tulip-socks at 4:00 PM on June 5, 2013 [18 favorites]

One of my old, old friends is an amazing, reliable, intelligent, outgoing guy pushing 50 who endured so much slow-burning criticism from his ex that all he hopes for now is someone who'll look on his participation in tabletop games with kindness. That's it. That's his sole concern beyond ordinary compatibility of temperament and mild attraction.

I wouldn't suggest doing anything special to attract mature guys beyond stating your interest in going out for coffee or dinner or whatever pretty clearly whenever there's even a slight chance it'd work. Non-creepy guys of any age may have a habit of ignoring ambiguous flirty behaviors. You'll doubtless increase your failure rate for getting dates, but it only has to work out once.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:15 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another great "grown-up" item is a dress. Easier to put on in the morning than jeans & a t-shirt- it's one piece, throw it over your head and go. A few ideas: 1, 2, 3
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:18 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I need to buy lacy underwear and that its important that the bra and panties match

What? No. I don't think these are higher standards so much as a specific preference that this guy has. I managed to get myself married—and to an older man—without adhering to anything like that. And I dress pretty much like you've described, in rock T-shirts, jeans, Adidas sneakers.

I think part of the key is that this wasn't something I was trying to do, though. I just happened to be working with someone in that age range, fell for him, and we got together. You just need to put yourself in situations where you'll meet the kind of guy you want to meet.
posted by limeonaire at 4:22 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Cute dress ideas, pinksuperhero! I stay away from dresses on work days because I cant cycle in them, plus I'm a graphic designer and everyone in my department dresses pretty casual, but I'm going to start wearing dresses when I go out with friends!
Limeonaire, thats great to hear! I don't work directly with any single guys, but they may be around--I work in a large city building/downtown area. I guess I mostly need to work on my screening process.
posted by hellameangirl at 4:36 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

what do older guys want in general?

A distinct lack of drama. Been there, done that and she burned all my T-shirts because she was batshit insane and now us older guys are done with all that shit. Some of us are tired, some of us are divorced and some of us just want a nice date on the weekend to help us forget that we're stuck in middle management.

I moved into a sublet for 2 months to give me time to figure out if I want to leave LA or not.

That right there? That's drama. Or rather, the potential for drama that we want to avoid.

If a 30-something woman said that to me, I'd be like, "You're subletting, which means you're living cheap, which means you may not have a stable income* and you don't know if you want to leave L.A. or not. Tell you what, why don't you take the time to figure that all out. Be seeing you."

* You might indeed. Hell, you could be loaded. But please admit that subletting isn't a positive clue for mature no-drama stability.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:36 PM on June 5, 2013 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: Errr, I don't know if you are familiar with city living Cool Papa, but LA sublets are not cheap (I'm paying $1000+ a month for the swanky downtown loft I'm staying in) and I thought I was doing the mature thing by moving out and letting my ex boyfriend keep our beloved apartment--which is what many people suggested in my last post/question. Plus if I'm going to sign a lease on a new place, its got to be great, and thats not easy to find short notice. You're comparing that to burning someone else's property?
Anyway, I'm not even ready to start dating NOW, or even in LA..I'm just gearing up and seeing what I can do to develop myself into a more polished adult that will eventually attract a mature man.
posted by hellameangirl at 4:59 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Errr, I don't know if you are familiar with city living Cool Papa

Which is why I said, "You might indeed..."

In other words, an older guy doesn't much care why you need a cheap place -- we're not sticking around to find out. Presenting yourself as a person that needs a cheap place says something about where you are in your life.

I'm just saying if you're presenting yourself as "unfinished" in any way -- whether or not it's true -- IMO, that's drama and, IMO, older guys like me are just really averse to anything that even smells like drama.

This is the same reason why people are advising you about dresses to wear. It's a social display. Nothing more.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:19 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, take this to MeMail at this point. OP, please don't threadsit.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:19 PM on June 5, 2013

Ok, I'm 30 and only recently have people stopped asking what's I'm studying in school (And two years ago I was asked if I had my high school ID on me to receive a discount), and, well, this almost exactly described me:

" I don't look younger in a sexy way, more like a girlish-tomboy way..think Ellen Page and Kathleen Hanna. I'm slender with small boobs, tattoos, and longish brown hair. I ride a bike to work and theres no dress code so I'm in tees, jeans and converse most of the time. I don't like jewelry and hobble in high heels, and wear minimal makeup. Sometimes I paint my nails (always clipped short) but they always end up chipped so often I don't bother much. "

And I've dated mostly older men.

Your physical appearance is not as related as you have convinced yourself it is.

I would really stop looking at the age number as many people have suggested, it's not actually what you are looking for. Having dated older men, I assure you that the only thing worse then dating someone 5 years younger who is immature is dating someone 5 years older who is immature. You can at least expect the younger guy to get better as he ages, hope is lost for the older boyfriend!

Also thinking you need to wear matching lacy undies and bra to attract an older mature man is... questionable logic at best. Not knowing if that's your friend's personal opinion or stark reality says to me you don't have a lot of confidence in your view of the world. You come off as much younger than your age in your writing.
posted by Dynex at 5:24 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

I guess I mostly need to work on my screening process.

I think you should focus more on this, and less on the age of the men you date. There's nothing about a 31 year old guy that precludes stability and settling down. Plus the population of men 35-45 is naturally going to have a higher proportion of men who are single because they don't want to settle down, so you'd need to screen them anyways.

I'd look more closely at your criteria for pursuing a serious relationship and how you ended up in a LTR with someone who wasn't even close to thinking about kids, let alone ever wanting them. Maybe the answer is to only date guys who know they want to have kids and settle down in the near future and maybe that will lead naturally to dating more older men. But if you just start dressing more "adult" and keep going for the same kinds of guys but older, it seems like you'll just be right back here in a few years.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 5:24 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hello sort-of-me -

I was tired of dating "boys" (though mine were all older than myself) and a friend of mine told me I should date a man. Well, how does one tell? I had an ex 4 years older than myself, college degree, good job, had his own place, seemed together ... check, check, check. Then he lost the job and bummed around on unemployment for a year, went back to college for a second bachelors and revealed his college kid mentality. Constantly surprised by normal bills, buying fast food when he was in the brown-bag income bracket, spending frivolously, complaining about his retail job but not pursuing anything better. Jeebus. You just can't tell by what's on paper.

I'm now in my mid 30s, dating someone seven years younger than myself and yet he is the first "man" I have ever dated. The difference is:

- adults get themselves out of situations that suck, and they don't make a big special deal out of the fact that they are doing so. Like driving around a pothole. Look for someone who doesn't have drama because he knows how to manage it when he sees it on the horizon. Look for someone who avoids his own heartache.

- adults do what they say they're going to do. They don't jerk you around. They apologize if they can't make a commitment, and then make sure whatever interference doesn't get in the way again.

- adults are generally positive and able to ride ups-and-downs with a stable, long haul attitude. Everybody has a bad day or week - adults know that it's not the end of the world and there's probably going to be a good week coming soon.

- adults do not have extreme emotional swings. They are not overly super excited happy pants gushy gushy ... and they are not sad life-always-sucks I'm-god's-punching-bag complain-y people who need you to cheer them up and fix what is wrong. Look for someone who can manage good and bad days.

- adults are kind when they can be kind, with no concern if the recipient can "pay them back" in some fashion. They always default to the kind option, as long as it doesn't overburden them.

- adults can say no to instant gratification. They eat their vegetables (metaphorically and literally).

But something had to change in myself, too, for me to appreciate these qualities. I had to let go of wanting to be "in control" of the situation/relationship. I had lamented feeling like a mommy to my exes, but really I put myself in the mommy chair. I did not trust the guy to do his part on his own (possibly because I knew he wouldn't) so I was nagging and reminding and picking up after him over and over, wondering why nothing changed. No more of that. If I can't trust the guy, I do not date him. If we have a chat about X happening, I assume he is handling X. But if X doesn't happen, I make sure I am not stranded because of it, and that I am not emotionally invested in X happening perfectly. And he better have an explanation and an alternative plan.

Being an adult means you walk away from situations that are bad for you (like boyfriends who can't meet your needs and let you down time after time). Now I only tolerate people who are good for me.

Girly stuff is pretty easy in comparison. It's just the shiny coat of paint. What you really want is to make sure your mental engine is running smooth. The rest will come.
posted by griselda at 5:24 PM on June 5, 2013 [159 favorites]

Best answer: I think it's incredibly important that you not change the way you present yourself in a way that is deceptive. You are who you are, and who you are is swell. And also probably a bit on the youthful, casual side; that doesn't mean you don't have your life together! The right guy--the guy who is your male counterpart--will recognize that and like it.

That said, sprucing up your wardrobe can never hurt! Dark wash jeans with a non-abraded finish can look incredibly put together, especially in slimmer fits. Ballet flats or stylish boots can go a long way as well, without sacrificing comfort (see Tieks and Frye; Marshall's and Norstrom rack are also excellent sources for high quality, but more affordable shoes). A well-fitted, non-graphic tee can look elegant. J.Crew's Perfect Fit tees are a reliable staple, and last well making the slightly higher than average price worth it. As a general rule, it's better to buy fewer, high quality items that will last well and look good. You can look pretty darn fabulous and mature with a high quality, but casual wardrobe.

P.S. If I were you, I'd make the run for Portland. I think it would be a great place for a lady like you.
posted by moxie_milquetoast at 5:24 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

You attract mature people by having your shit together and knowing what you want in life.

Living in a sublet while you prepare for a big move, or while looking for the perfect apartment is a good beginning stage to getting your shit together. But it's not there yet. And your description of it being expensive and swanky gives off the signal that you value status and urban living above settling down and having kids. Especially when you're considering moving to a place that is better known for it's young hipster progressive culture than it's great schools and cheap housing for raising a family.

Don't get me wrong. It sounds like a great adventure. But adventures are usually at odds with goals. I had adventures when I was in my twenties. Now I have vacations. One happened as opportunities arose with little regard to how the future turned out. The other requires a degree of planning and forethought.
posted by politikitty at 5:29 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I agree that if you do a better job projecting yourself as a mature adult, you will attract more mature adults. The below are a list of things that typically make me think, "OK, you're doing well for yourself, AND you have a sense of humor? You're a great grown-up!" The below list is totally subjective, and I know adults who do not meet all/many of the below, so don't stress out about it, but do think through what some of these social cues mean and if you have it in you to apply them.

* When you're at bars, do you often cross the line from tipsy to drunk? No judgments here, I'm a big drinker personally... but nothing signals "grown-up!" like "sober."

* What is your posture like? Your handshake? Do you feel that you have a mature presentation in this area?

* This is such a cliche, but do you have $100 to spend on upgrading your daily shoes? If you can get yourself into NICE flats instead of sneakers, you will look more like an adult. (Please: get the $100-$200 flats, not the $20 flats... and then spend another $10 to have rubber soles put on them by a cobbler... they will last longer and look better than cheap-o Old Navy flats. Those may be cute, but they aren't grown-up.)

* Do you get your eyebrows professionally done? So worth the $15 investment once every 2 months. Don't stress about the makeup, but be aware that managing your eyebrows makes a big freakin' difference.

* Is your home clean and tidy? With a few notable exceptions, you have to be fairly disciplined to force yourself through the motions of making your bed every morning. It screams "a grown-up lives here!"

* Do you exercise regularly? Even if you're physically fit without exercise, this type of will power demonstrates to you and others that you're in control of yourself.

* Do you own a couch that you purchased brand-new from a store? Ridiculous, but true. Think about the people you know who don't own used couches. Mostly adults! Is something holding you back from this mini-milestone? That's probably a hurdle you need to jump, whether or not you end up buying the goddamn couch.

* Do you use a lot of slang, filler words, or "up-talking" when you speak? It looks like your username has some history, and I'm hardly one to judge since my username is based off of a Pokemon character, but I suggest removing "hella" from your vocab if you haven't already (I'm saying this as someone who lives in SF!) and start calling yourself a lady/woman instead of a girl. Even how you refer to your friends -- you use "girly" and "guys" above -- at 34, we're called "ladylike" and "men." It's a weird transition, but you get used to it eventually.

* Consider getting more regular manicures-- when I paint my nails myself, it always chips off in a day or two, but if I get a decent manicure it lasts for 1+ week. Spendy, but they make you look put together if you're trying to present yourself as more mature.

* Oh gosh it makes me cry to say this but: Eliminate hoodies from your clothing diet. This is hard for me, too. You can get blazers made out of sweatshirt material -- those are pretty great and make you look like a grown-up.
posted by samthemander at 5:30 PM on June 5, 2013 [8 favorites]

i think i remember reading your past dating threads and you seemed to have a pattern of dating guys who didn't want to ever get married. i think this is definitely something to find out about early on in the dating process but in a casual way. if you are doing online dating then definitely indicate in your profile that you are looking for something serious and leading to marriage but, you know, not by next tuesday. no need to scare guys off. if you're meeting guys irl then ask them early on what they are looking for in a relationship and if they want to get married. i wouldn't wait months on end to bring this up but i wouldn't spring it on them on the first date either. you may not necessarily need to date older guys just guys with a different mindset.

p.s. try american rag on la brea. they have some fun clothes you might like. some is quite pricey but some is vintage and much cheaper.
posted by wildflower at 5:55 PM on June 5, 2013

I just wanted to say that Griselda articulated what it means to be in a good, healthy relationship so well that I kind of want to have her come and read it at my wedding.

My favorite part is "They always default to the kind option, as long as it doesn't overburden them." Beautifully put.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:58 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

You come across as someone who is very cool/hip/fun, but that is not someone to settle down with. Married with kids is the end of cool, and someone in denial about that is run-away scary.

Whatever your serious side is, you may want to let it show more on dates.

For looks, of course bike + jeans + converse says "kid". Wearing a dress would make a difference, though I imagine it's hard to bike to work in a dress.

I liked what griselda said about adults. Getting married and having kids is a lot of stress and responsibility. Of course people can learn this on the fly, and some do. But if it is obvious that you are a decent person who acts like a grown up in your day to day life, people will notice.
posted by mattu at 6:49 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Changing your look may help you attract a certain kind of older man, but that doesn't really sound like it's your problem at all.

Clothing choices and rental situations are indicators of class, and/or of financial success/stability: they indicate the possibility of financial responsibility, which can be a really good thing. However, I don't read in your question a frustration with the financial irresponsibility of your partners (or even, really, their age, actually). You are frustrated that they don't want marriage.

Not wearing a hoodie? It may make you appear older, but that doesn't seem to get at your desire to attract marriage-minded men (age doesn't equal marriage-desire). It doesn't reliably indicate anything about being dependable, making wise choices, or being otherwise commitment-minded. If you work in design, and can wear t-shirts to work, odds are great that men in your peer group who want to get married and have children may still find hoodies and t-shirts and sneakers quite hot. Such gentlemen may also find "adult" clothing to indicate number of things they find unattractive. If you find Kathleen Hannah to be an image-descriptor that works for you, then hell yes: go to Portland; they will love you there.

Anecdotal data about what "older guys" like or want will be pretty subjective and fairly useless in you finding a mate that wants what you want and loves/respects/supports/wants to do you.

Be yourself. Dress up nicer if you want to, if you feel good and you think it will make people notice you more. Screen people early for their interest in what you want, believe them when they tell you they don't want it, and move on. This is what it takes.
posted by eyesontheroad at 7:23 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm 41 for about three more hours, and what I'd tell you that I want in a wife is someone who at the end of the day loves me, has flashes of being a good mother, tolerates my eccentricities, and above all is kind.

At this point looks are really a luxury. I'm not Brad Pitt, you're not Angelina Jolie, let's get on with our lives. I'm sorry, I snore.

As was posted above, no sane adult is gonna put up with needless drama for too long.

I feel like you present yourself as an anti-establishment proto-hipster from the late '90s to the mid '00s who hasn't thought about changing your look in a meaningful way. While fashion is cyclical, that inherently implies that it's always going to be in motion.

By all means, bike to work in the bike pants and converse, but throw on a skirt or some dress pants and some nice shoes and really think outside of your personal 'fashion pigeonhole'.

Seriously, a light/dark shirt/blazer combo, a tasteful skirt and a pair of nice shoes is almost unfair from a gender standpoint to making your "basic good looks to the naked eye" quotient. All we get is the black suit, white shirt, black tie, black shoes combo.

I really think you'll be surprised at what you find. Don't overthink the belt.

Personally, I found out from other people that when I wear pants/shirts/shoes that actually fit rather than the comfortable loose ones I wanted to buy, I look so much better.
posted by Sphinx at 7:24 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a creative too, around your age and dress/dressed very much like you for a long time, the industry pretty much encourages you to never grow up! Luckily when I met my husband he wasn't bothered and saw past the ripped jeans and converse (which I still wear.) Having said that, for a while now, I've been trying to look that little more polished, while still being casual and wrangling a toddler as well. I've had lots of help from this website, which is practically a manual (ignore the fact it's geared towards mums, the issues and age group you share are basically the same.)

The other thing I looked at on pinterest and google was 'French style' and 'basic wardrobe essentials' etc which basically boils down to less than a dozen items which make up their entire wardrobe and then mix and match. It probably won't take too many changes to your existing wardrobe to look a little more adult, I'm not talking about being a fashion plate or buying all the latest trends, just wardrobe staples. You'll find the same items keep coming up again and again, ballet flats,blazer, striped tee, scarf etc. They'll also show look books of how to put them all together which is very helpful.

You still need to feel comfortable and retain your basic character to attract someone who will like you for you, so don't go for a full Pretty Woman makeover but a few tweaks won't hurt.
posted by Jubey at 7:42 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

"Also, besides the looks department, what do older guys want in general?"

I realize your account here is seven years old, but still... I have to say it... older guys don't want a hella mean girl. Or 'hella' anything. Or drama. Or childishness.

It's not about whether or not your bras and your panties match. It's about whether or not who you are fits with who you're looking for.

Always remember that the way you look, the things you say, and the things you do... these are what give people the impression of who you are.

Your home is a reflection of who you are. You may not like that, but it's true. Is your home a mess? Is it a dump? Regardless of the reasons why you chose it, you did in fact choose it.

The way you dress is a reflection of who you are. How do you want people to see you? Dress that way. Present yourself that way.

Describe the man you want. He's mature, handsome, has it all together, right? You need to realize that kind of man wants those same things in a woman. And that's probably why hellameangirl attracts hellaimmatureguys.

Be the person you want someone else to be for you.
posted by 2oh1 at 7:43 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would favorite this comment by politikitty a thousand times if I could:
"You attract mature people by having your shit together and knowing what you want in life."
posted by 2oh1 at 7:48 PM on June 5, 2013

Some guys in their late 20s/early 30's are looking to settle down, some guys staring down 45 have no intention of starting a family and will lie about it to hook up with someone.

It's important to have compatible chemistry, and if that leads to younger dates, fine. Just be more mindful of what you both want out of a long term relationship, and be wary of him telling you things he thinks you want to hear. No makeover required... you don't need to trap a man with "grown up" clothes. Just be you. Sounds like guys like you just fine as is.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:17 PM on June 5, 2013

The very worst thing you could do would be to change yourself to meet someone else's expectations. Be yourself, and find someone who likes you the way you are, who is also mature. Do you really want to be in a relationship where you can't be yourself? Anything you change yourself into will only be an impersonation of someone else. You are the best "you" there is, and you can only ever be a second-best "someone else."
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:06 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As someone in her 30s who is constantly mistaken to be a 20-something, here are some great tips on how you can look older and more mature with your wardrobe from the fashion blog Extra Petite.
posted by so much modern time at 9:31 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't think you need to date "older men," per se. The older men who likey-like me (I also look incredibly young for my age) tend to be super skeevy and not people you'd want to settle down with either. I think you may just want someone who acts like a grownup. If you find one of those guys who had to grow up early because their parents sucked and they were already kind of an adult when they were 16, that may be more what you want than some 45-year-old middle manager ooking to have babies before he turns 50. I don't think you'd like those guys anyway--you sound like you'd be really bored with them, and you need someone who's stable BUT fun.

And yeah....blah blah be settled yourself and have goals, etc. No scrubs, no slackers--and don't be one yourself. But the housing situation--man, give it a break, you just broke up with a dude and moved out. That's not being a shiftless slacker.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:45 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm 37, and I see nothing objectionable in what you wrote. What I would find offputting would be meeting someone putting on a costume to present an image to the world that wasn't really them.

What I look for is pretty simple: I don't care if your life is together, as long as you aren't a mess. Sublet for two months? Who cares, shit happens. Do you have a plan for what happens next? If you have any "quirks" like anxiety or depression, do you have them under control? Again, shit happens. But legitimately trying to get better or cope better is a must. If you have a shit job but it's what you love, great. I will commiserate with you while we heat up fishsticks on a rented hotplate. But don't whine about it. (IE, drama)

Finally, independence. The idea of dating someone who just bounces from one codependent relationship to the next, where their significant other is more caretaker than partner, terrifies me. I want someone with whom I can share strength, shoulder to shoulder, fighting the world, achieving goals, deflecting misery, spotting toupees and wasting the occasional weekend in our pajamas.

I don't think the problem is you, your underpants or your short nails. It might be that you just are having a run of bad luck, or perhaps aren't too good at seeing through dudes' bullshit. The guy at the group meetup who seems like the most fun probably isn't a good long term choice.
posted by gjc at 11:55 PM on June 5, 2013 [11 favorites]

A haven't had a ton of experience or anything but from what I have noticed about my friend's relationships you really tend to attract people who you share values with. So if you want a guy who is 'sorted', 'sensible' and 'cautiously ready to commit' you have to nurture those parts of yourself. So not act like someone you are not, but bring out the parts of yourself that ARE sorted and cautiously ready to commit. It might not show up in that distant unfamiliar way you associate with mature grown up women, but as long as it's there, it will attract the right people!

And another thing I guess I notice from your question is that you have grouped them together and I guess projected a stereotype onto this demographic. This is useful for the question so I understand why you did it, but when you are talking to them and stuff remember that people are messy and complicated so maybe lumping all the 36-45 year old men together you are simply not doing them justice. Maybe look for the things you want for in everyone you meet and try to learn about them as individual people with varying degrees of each characteristic and find one that fits with you.

TL;DR be flexible and try to cultivate the characteristics you want to find in yourself
posted by dinosaurprincess at 2:55 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

just as a note from a late 30s guy, don't change yourself. It won't work. What will inevitably happen is you will either go back to your old habits and it will strain the relationship, or you will start resenting the fact that you had to change in order to get into the relationship and it will then strain the relationship, either way you end up in a bad spot.

On the specific clothing you choose, again I would recommend not changing. I personally work in the technology industry and on days we aren't seeing a customer, we're all in jeans and tshirts. Hell when someone shows up to work in khakis and a button down shirt, we all start asking where they are interviewing. Besides, girls in jeans and a tshirt, if they have confidence can be incredibly attractive.

One thing I will say, if your first instinct when meeting a new guy is to try and hide your brain, stop that. It is one of the most annoying things in the world, and entirely too many women do it. I'm looking for an intellectual equal when I'm looking at a possible mate. If she is afraid to show me she has a brain and can think for herself, it will not work out. I want someone who can challenge me in a conversation.
posted by Karmic_Enigma at 3:55 AM on June 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'm writing as someone in your target demographic.

Grizelda's comment in particular is fantastic. Read it over a few times.

You seem to be groping for the perfect checklist of simple solutions, whether about "what older guys want" or "what should I buy?" It sounds... young.

That checklist doesn't exist. There are no simple solutions.
Experimenting with how you dress may help, I'll let PinkSuperhero take that one :)

Nobody has it "all together." Everybody's always juggling something, always working on something. But what you want is someone who is self-aware, aware of their own shortcomings and challenges, and willing to take them on, day after day, to plan and learn and grow.

How old the person isn't doesn't matter - where they are in their life, their goals and values, those are what matters. Don't fixate external markers like "must be x years younger/older taller/shorter blah blah blah." If you're using those as gauges to evaluate people, they're going to pick up on the fact that those superficial qualities appear to matter more to you than the values and attitudes behind them.

Focus on whether they have their shit together. Find out early about their feelings on the things that matter to you. Identify the red flags you ignored in earlier relationships, and watch for them going forward. Listen when people tell you who they are.
posted by canine epigram at 7:04 AM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I only have a small fashion tip to add, re: biking: buy a bunch of throwaway bike shorts, and wear those under your dress, and voila! You can bike to work. I like to wear skirts in the summer, so just throw on some knee or capri-length bike shorts for the ride in, take them off for the work day, then throw them back on for the bike home.

Obviously biking in dresses longer than, say, calf-length is difficult because the fabric can get caught. But I tend to wear skirts/dresses right below the knee, and bike shorts do just fine for modesty's sake.
posted by lillygog at 9:35 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

A note on hoodies: I agree with samthemander that hoodies are probably not the best idea if you want to skew more grown up. But! Grown-up hoodies and sweatshirts do exist. Anthro usually has a pretty nice selection of classy (if overpriced) cozy things.

I can also endorse the knit blazer, which is like wearing secret pajamas. It's a perfect, low maintenance companion for the aforementioned slim, dark wash jeans. See here and here.
posted by moxie_milquetoast at 11:59 AM on June 6, 2013

I bike in dresses with shorts under them. My problem with dresses is the shoes. Cute shoes aren't usually comfy for me, and I don't like to bike in cute shoes either. So I wear sneakers and put flip-flops in my purse. Luckily flip-flops are acceptable (marginally) in our casual office.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:14 PM on June 6, 2013

I've been described as 'scrappy', 'goofy' and 'sexy but doesn't know it' by my guy friends

Also, besides the looks department, what do older guys grownups want in general?

I moved into a sublet for 2 months to give me time to figure out if I want to leave LA or not. Portland has always been a dream but I don't have any friends there so I may feel depressed there. Going back to San Francisco is another option but its so expensive and I don't know if I could get a job that pays enough.

Dress - what do you do? If you're a painter, your work tees and jeans will be paint-stained, but the clothes you wear when not working don't have to be. If you're a programmer or cube-dweller, and wear jeans and tees, wear good quality jeans that are clean, in good repair and fit well. Same with well-cut tees. Wear nicer shoes; you can wear Keens or whatever, but not ones in crappy shape. Wear nice underwear because it feels better. Make sure your bra fits properly. I wear lacy underwear if I go on a date, because it makes me feel a little sexier and more confident. Get a good haircut, and maintain it. Keep your hair and body freshly washed and smelling nice. You don't have to change your style unless you want to have a different style, but you'll look more adult if you dress well in whatever style you choose.

Your indecision about where to live is probably due to the breakup, but being directionless for very long will probably make you miserable. Being miserable or unhappy with yourself does not attract terrific guys; it seems to attract guys who are also miserable and/or exploiters.

To be attractive to someone who is a serious person (not solemn, not lacking in humor, but a person who strives to have it together), you need to take yourself seriously. Are you in a career you care about, do you have a sense of purpose and direction? Point yourself in the direction you think you should be headed in. To find guys who have purpose, ask them "Do you ever think about your life's purpose" or other questions.
posted by theora55 at 2:19 PM on June 6, 2013

Please, please don't try to look like or be someone else to attract attention. There are plenty, plenty of guys out there that would fall over in joy to see a closet full of Converse rather than a closet full of high heels. Source: myself.

Be flexible enough to put on a dress or something nice when you go out for a night on the town, but trying to be something you're not will inevitably lead to failure. The bra and underwear thing is completely absurd. The sublet thing is fine. If you want to move, make it about what you want and not about whether or not you've broken up with someone.

You don't say much about yourself, but I'm guessing the issues you're having are more about who you're choosing than who you're meeting. Are you picking people who are stable and happy with who they are, who are clear within themselves what they want? Who are reliable and trustworthy?

You've said in the past that you don't want someone "clingy" but you do want someone who wants marriage and a kid. Think about how you define "clingy." Is it possible you're actually breaking up with or unattracted to the "clingy" guys who might actually want a long-term relationship?
posted by cnc at 3:24 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just found out Ellen Page is dating Alexander Skarsgard. There is hope!! ;)
posted by hellameangirl at 10:56 AM on June 10, 2013

I'm ready to settle down too. The one book I recommend is Become Your Own Matchmaker because it lists the deal breakers you shouldn't put up with, where to meet guys ready to settle down, and the kinds of questions and qualifiers a guy must have in order to want to spend his life with you. She takes a no-nonsense approach to meeting the right men and it's going to find you and I husbands, guaranteed.

I also have had a good experience using SOME of the strategies in The Rules. You attract who and what you are, so it's nice to prevent yourself from making any kind of first move!
posted by lotusmish at 10:59 AM on June 17, 2013

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