"Um, I think it's time we talked about highlights," my twenty-five-year-old hairstylist said brightly as she looked down at the white roots in my hair.
"You're going to need bifocals soon," my thirtysomething opthalmologist said. "It's fine. My mom wears them too."
"Oh, you're looking for anti-aging products?" the teenage Ulta salesgirl asked. "They're right over here, and we're having a sale on the anti-wrinkle cream right now, you know."
Two years ago, I met two young women in their early twenties at a Meetup event for a board gaming group that I used to belong to. The women had recently moved to College Town and had enrolled in a graduate program at the college where I teach. We hung out a few times, and they invited me to a bar with their other grad student friends.
I remember how the bartender carded everyone, including me, which surprised me, because the last time I got carded, MySpace was still popular and no one could watch videos of people eating Tide Pods on their cell phones yet. The young women I met and their friends were nice, but I remember sitting there and thinking, I feel so OLD. I literally was the oldest person in their group at age thirty-eight because the rest were in their early twenties. I didn't understand half the things they were talking about and I felt tempted to ask them who this Billy Eyelash guy was that they liked so much. (Apparently, the correct name is Billie Eilish, and she's female.)
One of the young women made a date with some guy she literally just started messaging on Tinder, and they made plans to meet up that night. I remember checking the time and thinking, It's 11 P.M. How is she not tired yet? How are none of them tired yet? I should be in bed right now, looking online for coupons for anti-wrinkle cream.
I never saw any of them again after that because those two women who were initially so eager to befriend me ghosted me once they made more friends and got boyfriends. One of them took two weeks to respond to my text, only to say that she couldn't hang out like we originally planned but that she would let me know when she was free. That was two years ago, and I haven't heard from her since.
Being ghosted by them hurt my feelings, but at the same time, I wasn't sure I could take any more late nights at bars or the feeling like I was closer in age to everyone else's parents than I was to them.
It's not the first time I felt old. There were the other times I mentioned above, and yes, I did take my hairstylist's suggestion to start coloring my hair to cover up the white hair. I get it colored every few months. It's expensive, but I'm not ready to surrender to white hair yet. Not to mention even my job makes me feel old, considering that I teach students who are literally decades younger than me and talk about things I don't understand. For example, I still don't fully understand what Snapchat OR TikTok is. I also realized that most of the freshmen I'll be teaching this year were born the year I graduated from college.
I've heard older people who say things like, "I'm sixty years young," and that's a positive attitude to have if you truly believe in it. I've often been told that I look a lot younger than I actually am. But the truth is, I don't feel young anymore. And I don't actually want to be young again, at least not most of the time, not unless I could go back in time with the knowledge I have now. When I was in my twenties, I was still uncertain about my future and what I wanted to do. Now that I'm in my forties, I have a better sense of what I want to do and how to get there.
I wrote a post recently about giving up on dating. But after I wrote it, I started thinking that maybe I was too hasty and should try online dating at least one more time. So, I signed up for a free membership with Bumble, which I've used in the past.
Bumble allows you to specify the age range you are looking for. I indicated that I was looking for guys in their thirties and forties. But because I kept swiping left on 99% of the profiles I saw, Bumble started showing me profiles of guys in their late twenties and fifties. The ones in their fifties stated things like, "I've got two kids and three grandkids," and I thought, Oh wow. Am I old enough to date a grandfather now? Does this mean I should start wearing cardigans and handing out butterscotch candy to kids?
I swiped left on 99% of the profiles for several reasons. For one, many of the middle-aged guys were clearly lying about their ages, or they put their oldest pictures at the front of the profiles (so that those would be the ones that were shown first to prospective dates), so that when you scrolled down, their pictures showed them aging by twenty years. Others were lying about their looks and stole Instagram influencers' pictures for their profiles, and I know this for a fact because I actually follow several of those influencers on Instagram. (And I should add that I only follow those male influencers for their exercise and dieting tips. It has nothing to do with the fact that they often post videos of themselves lifting weights with their shirts off.)
Another reason was that some guys wrote things like, "My wife and I are looking for a special friend"; "The world would be a better place without people who wear masks"; "Liberal ladies swipe left"; "Trump 2024!" and "I hate it when women are drop dead gorgeous on the outside and drop dead garbage on the inside." Um, I feel like referring to women as garbage in your dating profile is not the way to go if you want to get other women to date you.
There are a lot of guys on there claiming to be pilots, which made me think of that Sex and the City episode where Miranda falsely claimed to be a flight attendant in order to get a date.
I actually "matched" with a twenty-eight-year-old guy. (When you swipe left on someone's profile, it means you're not interested. When you swipe right and the other person also swipes right on your profile, you "match".) I was on the fence about messaging him (on Bumble, women have to make the first move) because he was more than a decade younger than me. I thought, Am I too old to date men in their twenties now that I'm forty? But men date younger women all the time! Why can't I do it too?
I did actually send him a brief message, but he deleted his profile soon after. You could have just unmatched me, I thought. It's not like I would have brought butterscotch candy to the date.
I also swiped left on a lot of guys that I wasn't even a little bit attracted to. They don't have to look like those hot Instagram influencers, of course, especially because I do not look like an influencer either. But there has to be some physical attraction. I've tried dating guys that I wasn't attracted to before because I thought if I got to know them better that eventually I would become attracted to them. That never happened, though, especially because their personalities did not make up for the lack of physical chemistry, like the guy who spent twenty minutes explaining to me how the government was trying to control us through our cell phones. It got their hopes up for nothing, and it left me dreading dates with them and feeling like I wasted my time and theirs. Looks are not the only thing that matter, and they aren't the most important thing. But they do matter.
And ever since I turned forty, I started thinking more about how I spent my teen years, twenties, and thirties doing so many things that I didn't want to do, only because I felt like I should or because I wanted other people to like me. When I tried Bumble again this last time, my heart wasn't in it, and I thought about how much I didn't want to go on yet another awkward first date. Now that I'm in my forties, I've realized that if I don't have to do something, and I don't want to do it, then I'm not going to do it. And that includes hanging out with twentysomethings who make me feel old and toss me aside once they find "cooler" friends, and it also means I don't have to date guys I'm not attracted to just so that I don't have to be alone.
Now that I'm in my forties, I'm going to focus my middle age doing more things that I want to do. I also think I'm going to delete my Bumble membership soon, especially because one of the profiles I saw stated, "I love basketball, beer, and boobs!"
When I saw it, I thought, Annnd, I'm out.