Question #159: Should I date the gentleman d’un certain age who asked me out??

First, links!

Dear Sugar knows all about the jerkbrain, calling it “your invisible terrible someone.” Such a good description!

I’m reading Jaclyn Friedman’s What You Really, Really Want and will post a review here soon.

I finally watched Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture (it is streaming on the Netflix, as is the brilliant Meek’s Cutoff if you like independent cinema by women and I think you do) and kind of loved it. So real and awkward and reminds me of a million questions here. I wanted to punch both of those dudes so hard. Can there be a punching sequel? Or a videogame tie-in?

I’ve talked about my love for Yo, Is This Racist? before, yes?  Ok, good.

Via Amanda Marcotte, a Friend or Foe question that makes my head hurt. Lady, your spouse is not invited to the hen party. The hosts specifically asked you to leave him out of it. If he can’t fend for himself for one night, and you can’t leave him to himself for one night, then he is either a giant wet blanket or a control freak. I suspect it’s “can’t hang/wet blanket” given the tone of your letter, but if you can’t go anywhere without each other it is not cute and romantic. If he tries to pressure you into not going because of “fairness,” something is seriously off. Send him to the movies or off with a good book and have a good time with your friends.

And now, a fluffy dating question!

Dear Captain Awkward –

There’s this guy. (Of course there is.) We have sung together in our awesome little church choir for three years and he has a voice that would melt butter, but beyond that and the occasional pre-rehearsal chitchat, I don’t know him that well. Today I very suddenly became aware — via a Darcy-esque Grand Romantic Gesture on his part (albeit on a more modest scale) — that he’s Really Into Me. Looking back at our interactions with knowledge of the Into-Me-ness, I think he’s been pining after me for the better part of a year.

Here’s the rub: I’m 32; he’s 54. And not in a “54-is-the-new-44-goes-rock-climbing-and-looks-like-Captain-Picard” way; dude is solidly middle-aged.

I have no groiny or romantic feelings for him whatsoever at present, but he seems like an interesting guy and if he were 44 and wanted to date me, I would probably give him a shot and see where things went. Hell, even if he were 45 or 46, I would probably give him a shot. But the 22-year age difference is giving me a lot more pause. (I’m guessing it’s also the reason for the pining rather than straight-up asking me out, too.)

What say ye, Captain? Is age just a number? Am I being arbitrary and unreasonable in setting an upper age limit on guys I’d consider dating? And if I decide not to give this guy a chance, how do I graciously handle being the object of someone’s pining without things getting weird?

Signed,

I Would Still Totally Do Captain Picard, So Apparently My Age Limits Have Celebrity Exceptions

Hello, Person Who Would Still Do Picard:

First, thank you for a fluffy fun dating question!

Second, you might be arbitrary and unreasonable in setting an upper age limit for guys you want to date.

You might also be arbitrary and unreasonable in only wanting to date guys who gave you groiny, romantic feelings.

Since we fortunately live in an age where your future economic survival is not bound up in marrying some dude from down the lane, you get to be arbitrary and unreasonable in deciding matters of the heart (and groin). You also wrote to a lady that you knew would NOT pressure you to “give him a chaaaaaaance” if you’re not feeling it. Life is unfair. Love is unfair. Don’t talk yourself into something you don’t want to do. “The groin has its reasons whereof reason knows nothing.”

Furthermore, I give grand romantic gestures the side-eye, because they demand response and put things on a plane where they are not light and easy. This guy got way invested in you without ever speaking up back when a “Would you like to grab a drink after rehearsal?” would have gotten an “Sure, why not?” So now there is a lot of pressure! And he’s 54, so the whole “young and new at dating thing” doesn’t hold. But clearly you are considering a date with this silver fox, or you wouldn’t have written to me. Maybe it could be a sexy adventure?

If you are currently Googling synonyms for “distinguished” and ‘shipping Jo March/Mr. Baer, and if you think you can go out on one date with him without it being read as a grand romantic gesture in return, maybe give into the “Sure, why not?” and satisfy your curiosity.  The script is something like this:  “(Name), that romantic gesture really came out of the blue for me – I had no idea that you felt that way, and I did not think of you that way, so you’ll understand if I feel some awkwardness in responding to it now. I’d love to grab a drink sometime and talk with you more away from rehearsal. Can we do that without you reading anything too much into it or pressuring me about feelings?

If you decide not to go out with him, the script is what it always is. “Thanks for your interest, that’s very flattering, but I don’t feel the same way. Can we go back to being colleagues?” After which, you never speak of it and let him save face, unless he pressures you more, in which case you shut it down with a “You are making me uncomfortable. Don’t bring this up again.”

If you do go out, let us know how it goes! (Also, I am curious: What was the gesture?)

22 comments
  1. Greg said:

    He’s had his chance. You’ve known him for three years. If the romantic and groiny feelings were going to happen, they would have by now.

  2. JetGirl said:

    Dear LW,
    When I was 30, I met my now husband. He was 45. We barely qualified for the alleged “half your age plus 8” rule. But the, ahem, “groiny” feelings were very much there. And apart from the sudden realizations I still have that “OMG I was barely in preschool when he graduated high school!!!” we are as perfectly matched intellectually and emotionally as we could be. He has NEVER pulled the age card on me as a way to control me. So to sum up, age is only a number if you feel on equal footing emotionally and intellectually, and the “groiny” feelings are a must!
    –Happily married to a silver fox
    PS Capt. Picard is bangable infinity plus one.
    PPS Captain Awkward, your repurposing of Pascal may have earned my devotion forever.

    • Rosie said:

      Ditto to everything. Married to a guy a decade older, but on the premise that he just plain asked me on a date when we were new acquaintances and I found him smoking hot. (You know those eyes that keep showing up in bad fanfic that vary between grey, blue and green depending on mood? He has those for real.) Age difference doesn’t have to be a thing, but how sad would it be to have a deep involved romantic relationship with someone who doesn’t do a thing for you, erotically speaking, and never did? Can you see it, him mooning over you, trying endlessly to please you, and always falling short as you try and fail to cover your indifference and look for increasingly bizarre ways to avoid intimacy? That does nobody any favors.

      Also, “shipping Jo March/Friedrich Bhaer”? lolyay.

      • JenniferP said:

        Ha, Fanfic Eyes! I always always laugh when I read that description.

  3. Re: the Friend or Foe guy; I think wet blanket is actually just a sub-type of control freak. I think this because I have been one.

    To IWSTDCPSAMALHCE I would say that unrequited groiny/romantic feelings are usually bad news. However, based on her description of This Guy’s voice, maybe she should try talking to him phonewise and seeing if he can melt her butter that way?

  4. commanderlogic said:

    You do not have to date this guy. You don’t have to NOT date this guy. But this isn’t really about age, it’s about how this guy doesn’t ring your groin bell. He doesn’t now, and he probably wouldn’t if you were closer in age.

    I think the reason you’ve homed in on age as the reason you don’t want to date him is that it makes a fantastic, no-one-is-at-fault, non-personal excuse. “Oh man! We were born at the wrong time! Too bad, can’t change it! You’re awesome! BYE.” As opposed to “Oh man! You are awesome! But I don’t feel us being awesome together.” Then he can say “BUT WHYYYYYY.” And then maybe change to fit whatever it is he thinks he can change. Say, by dying his hair. Or working out. Or whatever.

    But yeah. It’s cool to just not feel it and for that to be The Reason.

    And it’s better. Because then when Patrick Stewart and Sean Connery show up for a freaky threesome at your house, you don’t feel like you’re being hypocritical.

    • Stephanie said:

      Your last comment made me chuckle. Because yeah, I’d definitely be in for that.

  5. Ace said:

    My sister is marrying a guy 19 years older than her this Saturday. She was skeptical too when he first asked her out after finding out his age. If it were me, the absence of groiny feelings might be because you never considered him because of how old he is. So, it totally can work, but don’t be afraid to listen to yourself and just say no. You don’t owe him anything.

  6. Stephanie2 said:

    Thanks for the link to Friend or Foe! Ahhhh, a new link to satisfy my advice-column addiction. I wrote off Dear Prudence a month or so back when she called young women who like to have sex “loose”, so it’s nice to have something new to read at Slate.

    Nothing, though, beats your column and those of Dear Sugar and “Everyone is Gay”. Those are my top 3 and I am quite the advice column connoisseur these days.

    PS I noted another commenter on this site posts as “Stephanie” so–being quite original, I think–I am now Stephanie2.

    • Stephanie said:

      Hello!

  7. Yan said:

    I once dated a guy who was actually double my age. We’d met through work and became friends first, though he wasn’t shy nor was he creepy about letting me know he was interested. It was probably the least dramatic, most fun, most emotionally educational fling I’ve ever had. I ended the “romantic”/physical part of our relationship eventually, and I figured any contact we’d have after that would be awkward. But it wasn’t, because he brought it up and out into the open, and I learned a lot from him about taking charge of your own emotions, not projecting them on the other person in your relationship, and being true friends. I will never regret that.

    But there were no grand romantic gestures, which I also feel are pressure-filled and not really honest.

    To the LW — go if you want to go out with this guy. Don’t go if you don’t want to go. I like to give people a chance if I think there’s hope for something — friendship or romantic. But I get the vibe from the letter that the LW is getting an uneasy sense from this guy or his actions, and if that’s true, trust your instincts.

  8. Nobody's Girl said:

    Don’t go out with him. He’ll be expecting so much more than you’re able to give–this isn’t about his age, but about the fact that he’s “pining” for you and that you don’t even think you’re interested in him.

    • I have to second this. Giving this guy a chance when you aren’t massively feeling it is really leading him on, plus leading to awkwardness every time you see him from now on.

      Also, it’s entirely reasonable to not want to date someone old enough to be your dad. If you’re not up to taking on a caregiving role earlier in your life than anticipated (should the relationship work out), that’s something to think about.

  9. This is what I was gonna say: If he isn’t scary and you think he is decent and knows how things work, I say go out with him and let him buy you a few cocktails and see what happens.

    But then I went back and saw the “pining”, which is troubling.

    But then I also saw that there is no evidence presented for “pining” other than the LW’s assertion of a “Grand Romantic Gesture” which is left completely undescribed.

  10. My snap reaction:

    If nervousness about the awkwardness of saying no is ANY significant part of the consideration of whether to date someone, I’d say that’s a really good sign you should say no.

  11. A minor nit-pick: There’s nothing whatsoever unreasonable about wanting sexual attraction to be in place when you date someone. In fact, what’s unreasonable is dating people you’re not attracted to. The odds of it being a giant clusterfuck are way too high. Why string someone along for weeks, months, years even, when at the end of the day your need to be sexually fulfilled will lead you to dump him or cheat on him? No good can come from it.

    No, rationality would dictate that you only date people you find attractive, especially if your standards aren’t so high they mean you’ll never find someone to date. The difference, as I’m constantly pointing out to people who think this is complicated, between a lover and a good friend is the lovin’ part. Women are constantly being shamed for putting a premium on sexual satisfaction. Screw that. Don’t date people who don’t do it for you. Nothing could be more reasonable.

    • JenniferP said:

      Well said, I should have phrased it that way in the first place.

    • Copcher said:

      I completely agree with this. What struck me most about this question was this part: “I have no groiny or romantic feelings for him whatsoever at present, but he seems like an interesting guy and if he were 44 and wanted to date me, I would probably give him a shot and see where things went.”

      Maybe my views on dating are different from some other single people’s (because I hardly do it at all), but I can’t imagine even considering dating someone I had no groiny or romantic feelings for, no matter how close or far we were in age. I think people put a lot of pressure on women (maybe on men too?) to find something wrong with a person to justify not dating them, but the lack of groiny feelings should be enough. (Also, groiny feelings might be my new favourite phrase.)

      • JenniferP said:

        Well, I don’t believe in love (or groin) at first sight. Sometimes you can see someone in a new light once you get to know them a little better, and not-conventionally-attractive people can surprise you with how secretly hot and awesome they are all the time.

        But absolutely, don’t go out with people you don’t want to go out with, whether your reason is “logical” or straight from the groin. I’m going to add a new Captain Awkward Dating Rule:

        “Are you trying to talk yourself into giving this person a chance? That is a sign to say “no thanks” and go on your merry way.”

        • I experience this all the time in my stay at home dad life. I used to prioritize being friends with women I wasn’t sexually attracted to, thinking that would make life easier, but usually I found once I got to know them I’d start having some level of attraction toward them.

          However, I’ve never experienced knowing someone for years and then suddenly “giving them a chance” and magically becoming attracted to them. That strikes me as something that probably does not happen. I could be wrong, but it just doesn’t sound like real life to me.

          • Oliver Jones said:

            There is at least one person on this planet (me) who needs to get to know someone to be attracted to them. But 1) LW already knows Mr. Bhaer and 2) LW would probably know it already and say so if, like me, she takes some time to develop Groiny Feelings.

    • Karinacinerina said:

      As one who tried — “but he’s so sweet and so into me, even though he’s not 1/8 as sexual as I am” — and obviously failed, don’t do it! Befriend him in groups, come to like him as a friend, and dream with all of us about the massively bangable Picard.

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