Age Ain’t Nothing But Encumber

No one prepares you for dating in your late twenties. No warning shots are fired. Like how episiotomies are silently associated with “the miracle of childbirth,” you simply discover the depths of gruesomeness when it’s already too late. Because my birthday is fast approaching, and I can’t actually prevent it, I’ve taken to doing the next best thing when it comes to going on the prowl: lying.

After reading up on some online dating trends and discovering that two-thirds of men are looking for women aged twenty-five or younger, I thought about shaving off a few years. You know, just to remain competitive. Besides, a woman reaches her sexual peak in her early thirties, men in their late teens. Legally, never the twain shall meet. When it comes to getting action in your twenties, nature wants you to lie.

So I turned twenty-four. Again.

And, indeed, I noticed a difference nearly immediately. There was a sudden influx of “musicians,” and guys with a lot more hair and fewer chins. There was also an increase in how many guys contacted me, many of them using iterations of “hey wassup” in their missive’s opening line. But hey, they were young, dumb, and full of…well, you know. I still had it! Birthday be damned!

It only took a week or so of being twenty-four again before I agreed to meet up with a guy. Online, he appeared to have all of his teeth, seemed to understand my Def Leppard reference, and wore glasses. Like me, he was from New York. Like me, he was twenty-four. We agreed to meet at a local coffee shop and chat. You know, like kids do.

For a judgmental prick like me, who bases the worthiness of 99.9% of all interactions on the physical desirability of a person, and who has standards that are higher than the Photoshop staff at most women’s magazines, the worst part about Internet dating is the arrival. I know out of the gate whether or not I’ve hit Bingo. So, when I get there, I often just hope to sweet baby Jesus that my date doesn’t spot me, the tattooed midget in the crowd, first.

Unfortunately this guy recognized me, smiled, and waved, so I was visually hogtied to the disaster-in-progress. I have no problem with men whose shoes are fancier than mine, or who have soft, tiny hands, I just don’t want to run through them with my pussy ban-saw.

Separate from the physical turn-offs, the date was a wreck for a few, likely predictable reasons. The first being that I’m a bad liar, and dishonesty is hard fucking work. Since I was out of college, I’ve lived in four cities, had a bunch of jobs, started sleeping with men, and went sober. Suddenly I had to somehow or another gloss over, avoid, or otherwise minimize all of these facts.

I found myself asking questions like, “What is your ultimate goal?” as though he were on a job interview. (For the record, the answer was to land an assistant managerial position at a retail store. Not even a particular retail store, any retail store.) He was living at home with his folks for the summer before he returned to school, which I didn’t think was a problem. What I did take issue with was the slow realization that he was going back to school to complete his undergraduate degree. Because he was that young. Young enough to still be in college.

I should state that, other than the dainty hands and shiny shoes, none of his life-related details were deal breakers. What really put the kibosh on any future dates was the fact that I had been forced to stare into the abyss of maturity, and I didn’t like what I saw. I was no longer so idealistic to believe the world was just mine for the taking, I couldn’t even pretend that my degree was more than an exorbitantly expensive piece of paper. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that a lot of what I learned in college is worthless, excluding anything having to do with beer, vagina, or triphop. I know I have to work if I want to be able to afford cable, and that sleeping on a futon isn’t really comfortable. I can’t make believe that I can stay out until closing time on a weeknight either.

I also spent a good deal of that date wondering if I had any wrinkles that were visible in the coffee shop’s light. It was stressful. It made me feel old. In fact, lying about my age may have aged me. But it was nice to get a text from the kid at 11:30PM that following Tuesday, even if it was just an invitation to go to a bar and “get crunk!” I didn’t respond.

But maybe it was just this particular twenty-four year old! my brain hollered. The last guy I’d had in my bed was twenty-five, and he hadn’t made me feel like a pedophile! (He was a preacher’s son though, so he made me feel a whole bunch of other things.) It was just this one youn’un, I figured. Uncomfortable with the fact that that my sex life was starting to closely resemble Garfield Minus Garfield, I continued to misrepresent myself as twenty-four, still wet-behind-the-ears and maybe in other places.

Besides, Internet dating introduces you to the petri dish of society, I figured. There are much worse encounters than one awkward coffee date with a male shoe fiend.

Other than a complete lack of nookie, an approaching mortality marker, and a smelly New York City summer, another thing I’ve been dealing with recently is my new puppy. Because she’s so young, she has to get a lot of shots and check-ups just to make sure she’s not actually a Mogwai. And I go to the animal hospital a lot just to say hi, since it’s down the block and I suddenly find myself plagued with “questions” about dog ownership.

These questions range from “How do I brush her teeth?” to “Is she old enough to have her nails be that long?” No, I’m not one of those creepy ladies who transfers her need for a relationship into a bond with a creature whose brain is the size of a thimble and who can’t use language to communicate. It’s just that my vet is insanely hot. Extremely, unfairly, other-worldly hot. He’s also considerably older than me, even when I’m not lying about my age. I wasn’t sure if he was in his early or middle forties, as he was about a foot and a half taller than me and, as he said with a twinkle behind his glasses, he’s actually much older than he looks.

I was sure it was just my complete self-obsession, coupled with sexual frustration, but I could swear that Dr. Domealittle was flirting with me at one point. I mean, it’s not every trip to the vet that you leave knowing that your doctor is divorced and lives alone in a different part of town, right? So I thought up some more questions – “Will she grow a longer tail?” – and went back making sure that I dressed like an adult. (No fishnets, no ripped Misfits tee-shirt, any possible wrinkles emphasized.) Although I envisioned myself as thirty-four instead of twenty-four, I vowed not to lie. Which was good, ‘cause it was during that visit that he asked me my age outright.

No, I’m not going to say what I told him, but I promise it was the truth.

“Aw. I remember that birthday,” he joked. “That was a good year. I was that age the same year James Dean died. Twenty-three years ago.”

“At least I know who James Dean is,” I retorted.

The last death that stuck in my head when I was growing up was Kurt Cobain’s. When I brought this up to the hot vet, it took him a few minutes to remember who Kurt Cobain even was. Then he brought up Brian Jones, and I had to go home and Google him.

It was from this conversation alone that I was able to figure out that the yawn of years between us was likely too big to overcome. I’m sure that a generation gap can’t complicate a simple bedroom tussle, especially in the age of Viagra, but when it comes to actually dating, I’m finding out that age is a helluva lot more than a number.

So, as of next Sunday, happy birthday to me, and here’s to years of spinsterhood. With Botox! And cats!