The other day I pulled out a picture of myself from when I was 27. My first response was, “what’s up with this photo? It doesn’t look the same as my image in the mirror…” You see, when I look in the mirror, I see myself as someplace around 27 or 30. Is it possible the mirror is lying? I mean, look at the picture at the top of the page. That’s not the picture of a middle aged man, is it? (Note – in this context I am talking someone who is really around half way through life (40 – 60 is half way to 80 -120), not as a euphemism for “as old as rocks” (80 middle aged? how many 160-year-olds do you know?))
Here is the thing: a middle aged man doesn’t feel middle aged. Well, some might, but I don’t. If I met my 27-year-old-self, I’d be able to keep up with most of what he did, except cycle – I haven’t been biking much lately while I used to ride 150 miles+ a week back then. I know I am stronger in most ways and I get sick a lot less often. In general, I am at least as healthy. My mind works quicker on a lot of subjects. I come up with new ideas quicker, solve problems a lot faster; I have forgotten more than I knew back then. I sometimes see old writing of mine and ask myself, “Who is that idiot?” My libido is just as strong, though I do a better job controlling it. I feel great, as good as I’ve ever felt. The only area that I feel behind in is my eyesight. I do use reading glasses now. Sometimes.
The older we get the more often we reassure ourselves with “age is just a number”. We even believe it to some extent. And in many ways it’s true. In my work life there are people of all ages. Even in my social life there are people of all ages. I’ve done things with people of mixed ages and we’ve all enjoyed it with no inter-generational grumbling. I’ve spent days with people in their early twenties and felt as much a part of the gang as any of them, and I’ve spent the day as the youngest in a crowd of people who ranged up to their eighties. A lot of it is just a state of mind. Sure, there comes a time when you have to slow down, but I’m not there yet.
Of course, when I hang out with people in their 20s, I will feel out of place after a while. There are a few things, with cultural references being the biggest. I don’t watch TV and haven’t since I was a teen. I know the names of some of the shows, but… And bands. I hear new music, but I don’t even try to keep up anymore. I’m not some old fogey who says, “what’s with the music these days!!” I actually like a lot of it, but now days I listen mostly to jazz and classical. With all of the missing cultural references, when I’m with a group of young people, there comes a time when I have no idea what they are talking about.
And then there is, “let’s do…!!!” and I say, “really? Why? That’s boring. Been there, done that, let’s move on.” What’s cool changes. Sometimes it changes a lot. Interests are a lot different. To be fair, they all think that what I do is ultra-boring (place eye-roll here).
So there are times when age is more than just a number.
If I were single, would I want to date a woman in her early twenties, say fresh out of college? There is a part of me that says, “hell yes!” but the more practical part of me says, “no way”. Besides what I said in the last two paragraphs, there are a few big issues. She would be just starting out, looking at life ahead, making plans for a career. She’d be discovering who she is. Right now, although self-discovery is life long, I’m relatively comfortable in my skin and I’m trying to figure out what I need to do to have an early retirement. Do you see a disconnect there? Career planning vs. retirement planning? So I will notice a woman a lot younger than me and maybe even flirt a little without realizing what I’m doing (though typically I’m too shy for that), but if I stop to think about it, I really don’t need a long term relationship with someone just starting their life. It would be unfair to her, for one thing.
This post went in an entirely different direction than what I had in mind. Oh well. Where I was going really had little to do with me personally. I wanted to talk about “middle age men” in general, and the fact that so many middle aged men seem to be attracted to, and sometimes flirt with, much younger women. Some even try really hard to pick up much younger women. (As stated above, I am using a definition here of someone who really is half way through life, not a euphemism for an ancient person. I’m talking 40 – 60. Of course, that is a problem – I’ve typically heard “middle age” as being mid 50s through early 70s and then old after that. So when I read a post about middle age men, does it have anything to do with me?) The middle aged man chasing a 22 year-old-woman happens a lot, perhaps too often, and always has. But is it possible for a young woman to be friends with a middle aged man without worrying about sexual advances? I say yes. Should she be careful? Of course. They can have a very fulfilling, non-sexual relationship. But the fact remains that straight middle aged men are attracted to women in general and young women in particular. Some act on that attraction.
Just FYI – I started this as an answer to a question on Britta’s blog, but I think I took it a bit too far the wrong direction. What do you think?