I forked over my driver’s license to the dapper man sitting across from me at the romantic restaurant he’d chosen so carefully. Not just any man, but the one who was slowly but surely becoming mine.
Handsome — let’s just call him that — and I were celebrating my 57th birthday. What he didn’t know was that I was celebrating my 57th birthday for the sixth year in a row.
That’s right. I freeze-dried myself at 57. We met online and had been dating for five months. Let me tell you, 57 is a great number to halt time if you are "of a certain age." Fifty-nine sounds like a lie, 55 is somehow too young, and 60, well, that was the number I was doing my damnedest to avoid.
The look on his face was priceless … a blend of shock, disappointment (whoa, I am not dating a “babe” in her 50s) and, well, hilarity.
After weeks of holding it in, I could finally say: Yes, indeed, mister, I am not only your age, I am one year older than you and sick of bulls—ing about the stuff I pretend to have missed. So you can stop man-splaining events and happenings I know firsthand, thank you.
But I set myself up for that, didn’t I? I didn’t own it — my age and all the chapters of my very rich life — sexually and otherwise. By showing him that ID, I was changing all that, both online and off.
Coming clean and the immediate liberation it brought me made me wonder about the younger ones (both men and women) and just when the age-denying starts in their online dating world. And why?
I know why I didn’t fess up. I was afraid of being bombarded by the very oldest group and not getting access to the younger men I may have been partial to (OK, cruising...). For those who don’t know online dating, you have to choose within the limitations of the age range you are interested in, and vice versa. You can cut off a lot of possibilities by being numerically honest.
And the younger generation? Why were they shifting their digits? I took an informal survey. Many women start fibbing from the time they hit their early 30s — or even their late 20s! Staggering. These were the kinds of assumptions they wanted to escape:
- I’d look desperate to get married.
- My baby clock is ticking.
- There must be something wrong with me to still be single.
And what about men? They may shave off a few years once they hit their 40s, but most guys I spoke with started making like Pinocchio once they hit their 50s. Then they lie — a lot.
Well, I’m baaaack and have recently started dating online again. This time I’m honest Abe. Handsome and I had a great run of it, but we eventually wanted different things. No, it had nothing to do with my age. He became a retiree. Yikes!
When I made the decision to be up front, I was inspired by the unapologetic lived-in faces I’d adored as a kid. Idols like Jeanne Moreau and Simone Signoret, who made baggy eyes look appealing and something to look forward to. Project that chutzpah online and the right ones (and some delicious wrong ones) might come forward. My straightforwardness not only felt good — and I am going to use manspeak here and confide — it wound up being an excellent strategy. It’s raining men. And all different ages.
Does anyone remember Jane Juska? She wrote the book A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance. It’s based on this ad she placed in The New York Review of Books in the fall of 1999:
“Before I turn 67 — next March — I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.”
Jane received 63 responses within a month. That number means nothing in our digital world today, but for that time and for that media, it was bonkers. Plus, she got a best-seller out of the deal.
I felt like Jane when I revisited my Facebook profile to do some serious un-fudging. For those in the know, you get two chances to fix your age on FB. I was going in for a second time and claiming those six years back.
It felt empowering to be old "owning my age"— and plenty sexy.
Maryjane Fahey is the editor of Disrupt Aging.