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#625 Dodgy older dudes being dodgy

Edited to Add: The Toast has compiled a list of telltale comments re: creepitude.

Hi Captain!

I’m 21 and recently graduated from university. My best friend Sam is 23. Sam struck up a very close friendship with a 43 year old married man named Chris. I’m concerned because:

1. They spend 3-4 days/week together in a larger social group setting and alone.

2. They often stay out for hours and hours till 4-5am while Chris’s wife Judy sleeps at home. Sam says Judy doesn’t want to go with them.

3. Sam says her name has come up in un-related fights between Chris and Judy.

4. Chris said his mother thought their friendship was odd in the context of an, “older people just don’t understand me” conversation.

5. Within the first HOUR of meeting Chris, he made two separate slights toward his wife (who was not present) in the form of, “Oh, Judy would never come out to something like this” (swing dancing) and, “Oh, Judy isn’t one to try new foods”.

6. Chris commented to a different mutual friend once that sometimes he “thinks he married the wrong woman”.

7. Chris goes to Sam for emotional support, especially when he has a fight with his wife.

Sam doesn’t see anything uncomfortable or inappropriate with this dynamic but I have foreboding feelings. It feels weird and I can’t seem to separate their age discrepancy as a factor that’s magnifying the weirdness. When I talked about this with Sam, she told me I’m acting ageist.

Flash forward several weeks to the person I was dating recently, Mike. Mike and I met online and hit it off right away. He was kind, funny, feminist, and WONDERFUL. We discussed problematic masculinity on our first date (THE ACTUAL DREAM!). Sleeping with him was a pretty big deal for me because it was my first time and I had been waiting to have sex with someone I felt “all in” about. Mike’s profile said he was 27, which was fine because I’ve dated a lot of guys my age who are so nervous that I feel like I’m babysitting. Things with Mike were going well until, unexpected plot twist, I found out he was actually THIRTY SEVEN. He claimed 27 was a typo online but that he looks and feels like he’s a twentysomething (he’s in university), and that he thinks I act very “maternal”, so it shouldn’t be a problem. When I talked to Sam about my misgivings, she said I’m acting ageist again.

Can you help sort out my feelings about all this? Am I really being old-fashioned and ageist in these situations? How much is too much of an age difference to date someone? Do the rules and dynamics of friendship change if there’s a big age difference between friends?

Thanks!

The Adults Are Not All Right

Dear Not All Right:

There’s a line in Tana French’s In The Woods where our protagonist detective who has made a giant hash of his life goes on a few dates with a colleague. She dumps him, as kindly as possible, telling him “There’s a fine line between interesting and fucked up. You should date younger women; sometimes they can’t tell.”

People of different ages can be friends and men and women can be friends. But I think your instincts are dead on, and that Chris is almost certainly laying the groundwork for an affair with Sam. (The disparaging comments about his wife when she’s not around are the telling detail here, where he’s typecasting her and typecasting other women he meets as attractive foils to her. I also bet he has wicked mentionitis at home.)  However, it takes two to have an affair, and you’ll insult Sam if you insult her motives when she is not pursuing this person romantically or thinking of him that way. If Sam’s not uncomfortable, Sam is the boss of Sam. It isn’t on you to do anything about it unless Sam asks for your input. Sam will make her own choices and mistakes. If you want to take a little bit of care of Sam without being intrusive to Sam, do what you can to make sure Sam always has an option for getting home from events that is not Chris. She can choose to take you up on it or not, but that way she’ll never be stranded with him if at some point she doesn’t want to be.

People of different ages can have successful romantic relationships. However, Mike’s “but I feel young!” and “you act very maternal, so it’s okay” line of complete bullshit made me throw up in my mouth. He likes you. He likes sleeping with you and probably wants to keep doing that. If you’re enjoying yourself, then keep enjoying yourself. But the most likely explanation is that his dating profile age was not a typo. This smells to me like the deliberate work of a dude who wants to sleep with women 15+ years younger than he is (and can get away with it most of the time without being found out), so guard your heart and your health around this one. Especially beware the “fairness” or “ageism” arguments when they’re used to convince you to do something you personally feel is skeevy or distract you from the fact that this person lied to you. Has he actually ever apologized to you for that, or taken into consideration why it might bother you, or did he skip right to “But it’s cool, because you are so mature and special, not like other girls” (aka The Older Douchebag’s Magic Spell of Obfuscation)? If it was an honest mistake, he should be able to understand why you’d be wary and give you an actual apology and some space to process.

You are smart and have a good heart and good instincts.

Much love,

Captain Awkward

P.S. Sam, while pure of intentions and heart, might not be the best advisor about matters of the Middle-Aged Heart/Peen right now.

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379 comments
  1. Stephanie said:

    It doesn’t feel to me like age is relevant to the first scenario. Even if Chris was exactly the same age as Sam, the behaviors are tricky (although it does not change the outcome/advice that the Captain has given).

    I met my husband through an online dating service, and I have to say, I’d be MIGHTY suspicious about a “typo” in a profile as it relates to age. Oh, it was a typo? Well I guess you’ll want to fix it right away, then. I feel like if someone is going to make that choice on a dating profile for people they have not yet met, it seems like a good flag to pay attention to before you get really invested.

    • Rachelle said:

      My thoughts exactly on both of those points!

      Especially the dating profile bit: most people I know are more likely to very carefully curate the details of their dating profile (usually truthfully) than they are to let a typo slide on it.

    • Muddie Mae said:

      Agreed – I call bullshit on the typo excuse. The birthdate you enter when internet dating typically changes the matches you see and your age is pretty prominently displayed on your profile.

      Lying about something like this (both the age and the explanation) could function as a handy filter, similar to compliance testing favored by PUAssholes. If you don’t accept the implausible explanation, you may be less likely to accept ridiculous excuses and such not down the line.

    • perlhaqr said:

      I have intentionally mis-stated my age on dating websites, but it was just because I didn’t want the site to have my actual birthdate, and in those cases, I always made myself ~2-3 months older than my actual age. And, y’know, told people about it.

      So yeah, the “it was a typo” excuse doesn’t hold a lot of water.

  2. unlurking said:

    Maternal! What a word choice. The mind boggles.
    There’s not necessarily too much of an age difference in friends or dating. But, also, you are not necessarily ageist in general to think something’s a bit off with these situations specifically.

    • wordiest said:

      Yeah, I was very uncomfortable with that. I’d view being maternal or being viewed as maternal within the context of a romantic relationship as a warning flag that there are problems in the relationship. Maternal can be a great trait, especially if you’re acting that way toward a young child, but it’s not appropriate within a relationship of equals. Unless you want an adult child to be your obnoxious responsibility, you probably don’t want to be viewed as maternal by your dating partners. So, either it’s a bs excuse (most likely) or he actually views the letter writer this way – and either of those is a problem (oh, or it could be a combo of both, which would also be a problem).

      • Sebastian said:

        My first interpretation of that word choice was that he was thinking about her as a future mother for his children, which at this early stage is worrying in a completely different way.

        • Cyberwulf said:

          My first interpretation of that word choice was that he’s looking for someone to wash his clothes, cook his dinner and wipe his backside for him.

          • annejumps said:

            Yeah, a 37-year-old who “feels like a twentysomething” would kinda make me side-eye.

      • JaniesTiredShoes said:

        “It’s not appropriate within a relationship of equals. Unless you want an adult child to be your obnoxious responsibility, you probably don’t want to be viewed as maternal by your dating partners.”

        While it’s true that LW might not want to be viewed as “maternal,” I’m uncomfortable with classing this quality as being “not appropriate” as a feeling to have in a dating relationship. Lots of people feel lots of different ways and are looking for different qualities in dating partners. Specifically, this example brought ageplay to mind. Can we be sensitive to that?

        • wordiest said:

          Ah, my apologies. I suppose it is something some people want – and yes,that is okay. Let me change that to, this is not something most people want, and if you are into it, you should probably explicitly discuss it as the relationship progresses to ensure that you have matching interests. Honestly, it’s the combination of “I feel young” which can be completely innocent or could be code for, “I am immature for my age” combined with “You’re maternal” combined with using that as a way to dismiss the letter writer’s concerns that really set off alarm bells for me. But people are entitled to feel whatever they do, want what they want, and act on it with other consenting adults so long as they are honest about it.

          Also, I’ve seen the younger woman, older man thing play out such that they really were more or less on equal footing at first. But she continued to mature at a typical rate and he continued to be immature for his age until she outgrew him. So, I worry that either he’s trying to manipulate her by being dishonest about things or that he’s being honest and this relationship is likely to grow apart.

        • Tabitha said:

          A lot of my discomfort about his use of ‘maternal’ comes from earlier in the letter when the LW describes him as feminist. A decent feminist dude would not deflect her feelings about his real age by calling her maternal AND EXPECTING HER TO LIKE IT. That’s a creepy creepy thing to do unless the LW had already expressed a desire to be viewed that way.

        • Ethyl said:

          I’m totally baffled that you went to “ageplay” from “I lied on my dating profile and am using one of the oldest tricks known to older guys who want to date younger women.” They are really, really not the same thing, and I don’t think it’s being insensitive to people who want to do that kind of sexual play to say that this guy the LW is dating seems dodgy.

          • wordiest said:

            In fairness to the commenter, the reply was to a comment I made, not to the original post. I made an overgeneralization, because I was not thinking about ageplay at all. Obviously, consenting, honest ageplay is a very different thing from lying about your age and/or telling someone that they are very maternal as a method of dismissing their concerns. I doubt anyone here is likely to disagree about that. But I did accidentally insult ageplay in my over-generalization, which I have no desire to do.

  3. Jill said:

    OP, I think you’re seeing age differences as an issue here. Age doesn’t have anything to do with either situation.

    I agree with Captain, Sam’s friend sure looks like he’s aiming for an affair. People of all ages seek opportunities or excuses to cheat. That’s not an age thing. Sam may be naiive and is not seeing the warning signs, but older people are naiive, too.

    And your internet guy lied. Again, you, OP, may be naiive – lots of people lie and embellish online dating profiles. (Amiright, Awdkwarders??). But again, people of *all ages* lie in online dating situations and people of all ages can be fools for love. (There are honest people in online dating sites too – I married one 🙂

    Age isn’t the issue – two guys being a couple of jackasses are.

    • Eh. I think there’s a very specific dynamic that is occurring in both of these relationships that DOES have a lot to do with the age difference.

      You’re definitely right: people cheat no matter what the age discrepancy, and people lie on dating profiles no matter how large the age gap. But the thing about these scenarios is that both of these men are taking advantage of women who are in different life-stages and who are at different levels of relationship experience by dint of their age. This is not a 60 year-old man romancing a 45 year-old woman (a woman who is presumably much more self-knowledgeable and who probably has some relationship experience under her belt). I think that often when someone over thirty targets someone in their early 20s for romance, there’s a vast amount of potential there for exploitation of the younger person’s lack of experience and lack of self-awareness.

      • What I’m saying is that it doesn’t seem like a mistake to me that these two middle-aged men are seeking out women in their early twenties, as opposed to trying to romance women closer in age.

        • Mary said:

          Yup yup yup. Creepy dudes can be any age, and there are lots of relationships with 15+ years age difference which are totally groovy. But if you’re being a creepy dude at someone significantly younger than you, it’s rarely pure coincidence.

          • hrovitnir said:

            That is excellently put! I’m never quite sure how to say that succinctly. Creepy OR age difference = not innately linked. Creepy AND age difference = not a coincidence.

          • MuddieMaeSuggins said:

            And not just significantly younger, but also people who are only recently “real” adults.

            There’s a growing up process that happens whenever you first move out of your family homestead and, in my experience at least, takes a few years. Part of that process is recategorizing other adults as “peers, generally” rather than “basically my parents.”

        • Agreed, while I think there is some affair dodginess going on, (groundwork that is), in the first scenario and that could be separate of anything age related, there are some age dynamics here at play. At worst, lying about their age in the second scenario and refusing to acknowledge it as an understandable issue could be an early form of gaslighting. Not saying it IS, but I think the LW is right to trust her instincts on the weirdness here. In agreement with the Captain LW has a good radar here, and also in agreement it would be probably be a good idea to hold future conversations of this type with another friend. Good luck LW, and if you’re tempted to continue against your instincts just because this guy has a lot of good qualities remember he’s not the only one out there who possesses these 🙂

          • boutet said:

            Your name makes me smile every time 🙂

          • Thank you boutet!

          • Jake said:

            Me too. I love it.

        • adorkable said:

          And ermagerd does it make me especially angry that the guy who talks about problematic masculinity on dates is lying about his age for the sake of dating much-younger women. Ew.

          • Redgirl said:

            Honestly, that bit struck me as “he’s trying way too hard to show off how much of a nice, sensitive, evolved guy he is.” I don’t know, I’ve dated some strongly feminist guys, but they didn’t launch into deep discussions of feminism on the first date. Perhaps that’s just my experience, though.

          • Ethyl said:

            You know who it made me think of right away, right?

          • Helen Damnation said:

            Yeah, some guys appropriate the language of allyship to get into women’s pants. It sounds like that might be what this guy is doing. Just because he can talk the talk doesn’t mean he’ll walk the walk.

          • Zillah said:

            YES. Often, guys who are Super!Loud about feminism are not actually feminists. It’s a convenient mask for them that gets women to trust them.

        • Lyla D. said:

          Agreed. I’m getting a vibe off of these dudes, where they seem more than happy to exploit what they see as lack of experience (and a possible perceived power imbalance, since age is often equated with more credibility/clout, whether that’s actually the case or not) to manipulate the circumstances the way they want.

          It’s definitely cause to tread carefully, in any case.

        • thepaintedlady said:

          As a good friend of mine put it with regard to a mutual acquaintance who, as a late-30s grad student, regularly hooked up with the freshman undergrads:
          “It says a lot about a man when he only dates women who don’t know any better.”

      • I have been said younger woman in a dynamic with an older man and yep, “exploitation of the younger person’s lack of experience and lack of self-awareness”. Yep yep yep. I’m sure there are cases where it’s fine but it wasn’t in mine. Nope nope nope.

        • YES THIS A THOUSAND TIMES.

          Also, that spell of obfuscation works super well on, OH SAY, NO REASON, PICKING IT OUT OF THE AIR, young women named J. Preposterice.

          What kind of jolted me out of that relationship were two things: my mother observing that my much-older bf’s group of friends “passes around girls”, and one of those friends talking gleefully about the creepy things he did to his my-age gf and the size of her vagina. And then a few months on kind of…passing her on to another of the friend group. Hahaha IT WAS SUPER GROSS btw that girl never got out and ended up with a much-older creep who now creeps on young girls while making disparaging comments about her when she’s not around! Hilarious! So much fun!

          There can be relationships with big age differences that are not creepy in the slightest. An example! A friend of mine started dating a man 30 years her senior when she was 22; he was recently single, and they met through a mutual interest in blues guitar.

          The difference is: he wasn’t lying about things like his age, trash-talking a current SO, putting weird emotional burdens on my friend, or ANY SINGLE ONE of the skeevy things the two dudes in this letter have been doing. Because he wasn’t skeevy; he was just a 52 year old dude who happened to make a connection to a 22 year old lady.

          LW, you are right to be skeeved out and giving the side-eye to both these dudes. I feel like both of them are probably attempting to take advantage of younger women in gross ways, because they are gross dudes.

          • I feel like, when age-related creepiness is absent in these relationships, you can often see it in the fact that the older more experienced guy may express concerns about the age difference himself. I have seen that, where it was explicitly addressed by him and both parties talked it out. And I’ve seen it where he never mentioned it and if the younger party did he tried to dismiss it. The latter is infinitely creepier.

          • Lis said:

            JP, I hope we dated the same person, but sadly there are probably several of the fuckers out there 😦

          • Lis, sadly, I think they are legion.

          • victoria said:

            “I feel like, when age-related creepiness is absent in these relationships, you can often see it in the fact that the older more experienced guy may express concerns about the age difference himself. I have seen that, where it was explicitly addressed by him and both parties talked it out.”

            Yes, this, OP! This person speaks truth! I’ve been married to someone for a decade plus whom I started dating when I was 19 and he was 26. If he’d actually known I was 19 when we met I’m honestly not sure he would’ve pursued me; I was a senior in college when we met so he assumed I was older. At any rate the age difference was…maybe not a bug, but definitely not a feature. It was something he had a couple “Is this OK?”-type conversations about with friends he trusted before he and I got serious, and needless to say I was not part of a longstanding pattern of him dating vastly younger people. In our case there wasn’t even much of a gap in terms of dating experience, although there were of course some big gaps in terms of life experience in other ways.

            And yeah, I have never felt anything less than an equal, egalitarian partner with my dude, and we have an excellent marriage.

          • notemily said:

            @victoria *younger college student high5*

          • anninyn said:

            Likewise.

            I’ve been in two relationships with a significant age gap – the first was super-creepy and controlling and he was definitely in it because he thought a younger woman wouldn’t ‘know better’.

            The second was with the man who became my husband, and we addressed the potential power imbalances and issues early on. He made an active effort to not control or ‘mould’ me.

            The most important thing, though? He hadn’t been actively looking for a relationship with a much younger person. We met, he thought I was only five years younger than him and was already very interested before he found out my age.

    • golden peanut said:

      People of all ages lie, but only people of older ages lie about being younger. This is not a “he lied in his profile” situation. This is a “he lied about being 10 years younger and tried to justify it” situation occurring in a matrix of men chasing inappropriately younger women. Age is the issue.

      • *points* THIS. Listen to golden peanut!

        • *Seconds your pointy finger* Yes yes yes. I’ve been in several May-December relationships (or whatever they call them these days), and most of them were very very good. But this one is throwing up flags all over, and we can’t ignore the social matrix in the name of equity- doing that loses sight of the culture that surrounds and influences us.

      • anorak said:

        That he’s 37 and interested in a woman of 21 is, well, eyebrow-raising certainly, but I wouldn’t be comfortable with any formula that firmly marks some age difference between two adults as “inappropriate”.

        To me, the biggest red flag there is that the dude dodged sooo casually any real discussion of the significant age difference in the first place. “Oh, that lie was just a typo or whatever. Now that that’s out of the way and we kind of know and like each other already, there’s obviously no reason to make a big deal of the age difference.” And he did it in a way that sort-of sets LW’s youth against her if she tries to question it or articulate a disagreement.

  4. Yeah no that wasn’t a typo in his profile. Not unless he’s got the age of the women he’s looking for set to 33 – 40 and ended up with you through inexplicable algorithm error. If he’s got it set for women in their 20 s that wasn’t a mistake.

    • notemily said:

      The OKCupid founder’s new book Dataclysm has a bit about how women generally look for men their age and men look for women in their twenties, no matter how old they are.

      • Cactus said:

        Guess that explains why 23-year-old me got so man messages from 50-year-olds.

        • Linden said:

          And those of us in our 40s, who might welcome messages from 50-year-olds, don’t hear from them.

          • slfisher said:

            When I was on dating sites in my early 40s, all I heard from was guys in their 50s and 60s.

          • I’m 39 and even though my profile says explicitly I’m not even remotely interested in anyone older than me, I get messages from men in their 50s and 60s on the regular. And the messages are always SUPER gross.

          • Linden said:

            When I was on dating websites, I was in my 40s but stated I wasn’t interested in people 10+ years older than me. Which puts some 50-year-olds in my range, but the ones who messaged me were always 15+ years out and more. I even went out once with a guy who was 58, because a friend had set us up and I wanted to give him a chance. It was dreadful.

        • Muddie Mae said:

          I started internet dating when I was 29, and turning 30 was the best thing that happened to me there. First, there was a noticeable drop in both views and messages from inappropriately older dudes. Secondly, it was easier for me to get the attention of non-skeevy men in their 30s, who I’m assuming were unconsciously categorizing me as “too young” when my age started with a 2.

      • H.Regalis said:

        Lovely >_<

      • (╯°□°)╯︵ uǝɯ

        • Myrin said:

          This is an absolutely lovely emoji! 😀

    • Relatedly, I came here to wonder about the mechanics of this “typo”. For instance, has he changed it since you “brought it to his attention”? If so, maybe it was an honest mistake (or maybe not, of course). I’m guessing he hasn’t, though, which thins down his shield of plausible deniability.

      • panda flannel said:

        Also, this is pure conjecture because that guy seems sketchy, but every dating site I’ve ever seen doesn’t have you *type* in your age – you pull it up from one of those scroll-y bar list things (clearly I am not a web designer) by selecting your birth year. Obviously, people can make reading errors for a number of reasons, and maybe this website is different, but in my experience it’s not just as easy as making the typo of “2” instead of “3”.

        • Muddie Mae said:

          That’s been my experience, too. It would be way, way more likely to be off by a year in either direction than to be off by a full decade.

        • some name said:

          I’m inclined to think that the guy lied about his age, but as far as those scroll-y bar list things go: they are navigable by typing, and there are people (such as myself) who prefer keyboards to mice.

          • JenniferP said:

            Sure. I am growing very bored with the whole range of Typo Forensics Squad comments, though. Your age is one of the most basic facts about you on a dating site. It shows up everywhere next to your name. If you type it in wrong and can’t correct it, delete your profile and start over again.

    • Anne Shirley said:

      Exactly. And the proper response to a typo is “Oh, ugh, I can’t believe I typo’d like that! I’m sorry for accidentally misrepresenting myself to you, I’m going to go update that now.” Nottttt “But it’s true in my heart!” 😦

  5. ellaindc said:

    Oh Lordy, I have been there. My “Mike” was a fellow I’ll call Lex Luthor. Damn sociopath. The age difference wouldn’t be such a problem– the obvious lying asshattery is. What are we supposed to believe, he never noticed a ten-year typo on his dating profile until now? Or this is some magic website where you can NEVER ALTER YOUR DETAILS OR MAKE A NEW PROFILE? And Sam’s “friend” is a creeper too. You can’t help if your marriage breaks up or who you get a crush on, but this is some serious prep work. Ick.

    • SarahTheEntwife said:

      I can totally believe someone wouldn’t notice a typo like that until someone else pointed it out to them — it’s the sort of thing where your brain just skips over it because *obviously* it has your correct age. But then the usual response is “oh wow I can’t believe I did that; this is totally awkward, I’m sorry!” or similar. Dodgy dude in the letter is clearly dodgy.

      • ReanaZ said:

        Yeah, I would buy that mistakes sometimes happen. (Although dating websites I’ve used ask for a birthdate and then calculate your age, which to me make a typo even less likely.) However, I would only believe this was an actual typo if a) He’s only had the profile for like, a month, and hasn’t gone on many dates b) upon discovery, he was super embarrassed and apologetic and understanding you might be upset and gave you space and c) he changed it RIGHT AWAY. Otherwise, that was typo of misleading convenience not an accident.

        • Knights Who Say Knit said:

          The asking for a birthdate doesn’t really make a typo any less likely, though– it’s just as easy to accidentally type 1987 rather than 1977 as it is to type 27 rather than 37.

          Not that it matters, really– I’m 97% sure it’s a lie, in this case!

          • But websites almost never ask you to type in the birth year; they usually have a list of years that you scroll through and select the right one. It’s a lot more plausible that someone’s finger could slip and hit the wrong number than that their finger could just so happen to slip and land on a year ten spaces away from the one they meant to click.

          • wordiest said:

            Actually, it isn’t. Since 77 are both the same key, it’d be less common to get it wrong once and then right. 87 versus 77. Whereas 27 and 37 use key presses from different hands, so one hand could be off by one much more easily. This is actually true even if he’s not actually a 77 birth year due to months, since he’d still be within a range of keys where typoing the year would be less likely. But it is especially true if he is born in 1977 as many 37 year olds are. If he were to mistype it, he’d have been far, far more likely to have typed 1988 or 1966. Not that I think it was a typo in the first place. And yes, a typo of 1977 to 1987 without noticing is still technically possible.

    • Kat said:

      Not that it’s a dating site, but I don’t think facebook lets you change your birthdate…? I had to make a new profile way-back-when once I worked out that I’d accidentally told it that I was born in 1900 rather than 1990…

      But yeah, change it as soon as you notice!

      • Erin said:

        If that was the case on a dating site, you could also write in in your profile, if it was important to you. That dude’s shield of deniability is very very thin.

  6. FlyBy said:

    A friend of mine is dating a guy who lied about his age by four years. My friend’s boyfriend eventually fessed up on his own, with much trepidation and shamefacedness. He explained why he lied, didn’t try to minimize it, and expected her to be upset. She thought it was both funny and kind of crummy of him, but not a deal breaker (either the age or the lie). They’re getting along fine and it hasn’t been a big deal. YMMV. I’m much more worried about the excuses and minimization your dude is throwing out.

    • BookLady said:

      My grandmother (now deceased) lied about her age – according to my mom, some dude turned grandma down for marriage when he found out she was older than he was, so she told grandad, who was two years younger than she was, that she was four years younger than she actually was.

      She kept that lie going her ENTIRE LIFE. And forced her younger sister to also take four years off her age. I don’t know how she managed a marriage, etc., with her husband never finding out her real age, but I’m kind of impressed.

      But also, my mom’s family is kind of fucked up. Don’t be that person. Don’t date that person.

      • Haze said:

        How did you find out about this?

      • That's No Moon said:

        My grandmother (a bastion of healthy relationship structures) succeeded to the point that I had an argument with my mother about the birth date on her mother’s gravestone. Which was four years later than the date on the birth certificate that I had acquired while putting together a family history. Apparently she used to creep on street corners on Friday nights to giggle at my grandfather as he came home from choir practice. He thought she was shy. And two years younger than him.

        *Her* family, on the other hand, knew she’d told all her friends she was going to marry him before he ever introduced himself.

        Sooo fucked up, those two. And they fucked up their kids too. BPD, the gift that keeps on giving.

        People who lie about their age are saying something important about themselves: they have a plan, and are willing to tell whatever ‘little harmless’ lies necessary to achieve their end goal. Now, sometimes we’ll forgive that, and sometimes we won’t. Sometimes they’ll come clean and ask forgiveness, and you’ll think, no, I wouldn’t have bothered giving you a second glance but I’m glad I did.

        And sometimes, you’ll think: that was the first clue.

        The problem is not the age. It’s the lie.

      • Xenophile said:

        Maybe it was easier to avoid documentation with birth dates back then? Fun story: My abuelo’s birth certificate and passport were destroyed in the Mexican revolution and when he had them re-issued, the birth years didn’t match. He claimed he was born in an entirely different year, and that year changed over time. First he lied to make himself seem older so colleagues would take him more seriously, then he was in denial about being middle aged so he said he was younger. Then once he had grandkids he said he was older again. When he passed in 2003, he could have been anywhere from 91 to 98 years old. I doubt even he knew what his age was.

        • Laughing Giraffe said:

          Maybe it was easier to avoid documentation with birth dates back then?
          It definitely was, and especially if you didn’t grow up in a world of forms submitted in triplicate and stored in a secure government office. My roommate is from Taiwan, and he told me that his grandfather fled mainland China and lived under an assumed name for years. His family didn’t find out what his birth name was until he was on his deathbed.

      • Northlight said:

        My grandma swore her entire life that she was one age. Then, her pension cheques started arriving a year sooner than they should have. She was still convinced that she was a year younger than the government had her listed as. We’re pretty sure her family just reused a birth certificate that was issued from a stillborn baby that fell between my grandma and one of her siblings. Weirdness.

        Of course, when she first met my grandpa she lied about being older than she actually was because she was still a teenager and he was in his 30s. Weird, weird, weird family dynamics there.

    • aebhel said:

      My grandfather was almost thirty years older than my grandmother–he had three children who were older than her–and apparently he asked his kids not to call him ‘dad’ around her, because he didn’t want her to know how old he was. :/

      They were married for twenty some years before he died, but, seriously. Fucked up.

  7. I agree with the Captain. Age isn’t the real issue here. The issue is Chris’ creepy behavior regarding his wife and Mike’s lying. Both would be just as creepy and gross if they were men closer to the letter writer’s age, but the fact that they’re older does up the creep factor a bit because older men often target younger women for this sort of thing on the assumption that younger, less experienced women won’t realize what they’re doing.

  8. Cricket said:

    I dated an older person who was honest about their age but admitted that was only the case because a friend had talked them out of lying about it on their dating profile, and talked a lot about “feeling younger.” Just FYI, that kind of sketchiness turned out to be a prelude to some serious emotional manipulation/abuse and a lot of sexual boundary pushing that I had trouble recognizing/getting out of at first because of the power dynamics of age. I hope LW’s dude is better than this, but it’s possible for someone to talk a good game about feminism and consent and then turn out to be crummy in practice. I hope for the best, LW, but listen to the Captain and do remember that this dude lied to you. Lying about your age to date younger people is not a good sign. I hope it turns out to just be a weird incongruity in an otherwise great person.

    • Cactus said:

      “it’s possible for someone to talk a good game about feminism and consent and then turn out to be crummy in practice”

      Yep. All the Hugo Schw–OLDEMORT*, Kyle Paynes, and Charles Clymers of the world know a thing or two about this.
      But seriously, I’ve seen some guys talk a pretty good game about their progressive opinions (I’d almost call their bullshit “admirable,” in a “wow, you would be a fun fictional character that I would hate but also love” sort of way) and pretend to care about all the things that their date cares about (it can be surprisingly easy…just cede the floor)…when it was really part of an act. The dude who pulled this on me NAILED the sweet, sensitive listener thing. He was a cad, but ultimately a harmless one who just left me a bit heartbroken and worried for the next 6 months, and we didn’t have a giant age gap. Some of them will be more malicious, and the details about the Perfect Feminist Dreamboy who’s also lying was a giant red flag for me.

      [[[[*forgive the slight moderator edit, that dude Googles himself compulsively and will show up if summoned.-CA]]]

      • Can Hugo Schw-OLDEMORT officially be his name now?

        • AMM said:

          I always referred to the person in question as “the one who must not be named.” But Schw-OLDEMORT is good, too. BTW, it was not just The Unnamed One who’d look out for references. The One’s fans apparently also do (or did) — just mentioning the name on a blog would bring a swarm of fans ready to defend The Not-To-Be-Named One against any suggestion of imperfection.

          • JenniferP said:

            I have seen this phenomenon, too. As has my banhammer.

          • Xenophile said:

            I’ll always picture them as Death Eaters from now on!

          • Cactus said:

            Yeah, I considered not using Schwoldemort’s name based on knowledge of what he and his fans tend to do, but I didn’t know if some people wouldn’t know who I was referring to, and considering that moderation here is strong, I risked it. But yes, he is a vile man.

        • I am sitting here laughing and saying “Schwoldemort” to myself over and over.

          • Annalee said:

            I have it stuck in my head to the tune of the song from Harry Potter Puppet Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Noise.

            Schwoldemort, schwoldemort, ooh, schwolde- schwolde- schwolde- schwoldemort!

          • JenniferP said:

            Now is the Schwynter of our discontent made glorious Schwummer…

      • khtas said:

        My darth ex did exactly this, all the way through

      • So many liberal guys. SO MANY. I actually identify as a trans guy, but I still have major trust issues with men, and particularly leftwing/”ally” men because the right wing/conservative ones I usually don’t associate with to start with.

      • Cactus said:

        Totally forgiven. No one wants to deal with that dude.

        • DameB said:

          I know this is totally off topic, and I don’t want an answer (because this Schwoldemort dude sounds awful), but I wanted to say that the best part about being an out-of-touch old person is that I have no clue who this dude is. (I tried Googling. I has not has not helped.)

          • If you type in Hugo Schw and let Google autocomplete, it will suggest a name as the first autocomplete. That name is not the name in question, but running a search on that name gets you several hits that are that person.

            Or so Google works in my part of the woods. God knows what the regional settings and customization have done in terms of making that universal or not.

  9. While both these scenarios COULD be handle in an ageist manner, LW, your thoughts and feelings don’t seem to be crossing that line. In the Sam/Chris situation his age is irrelevant to the fact that he’s married and talking smack about his wife and using another lady as emotional support when his wife is ever so mean. With Mike you could have seen an honest profile and thought “hey, he seems cool enough that idgaf that he’s older I want to try this!” If you think he deliberately lied to you about the typo thing (trust your gut on that), then you have a ginormous red flag.

    • Actually, it’s very difficult for young women to act in an ageist way towards middle-aged men who want access to their bodies and who are prepared to lie to get it.

      • JenniferP said:

        The LW is not a corporation, hiring and promoting people, nor a government body awarding contracts, nor a creator of media, nor in any kind of position of structural power or advantage over her date. It is literally not possible for “ageism” to be at play here. Age as a decision-point and possible dealbreaker? Certainly. Just like I would not go out with dudes who were 45 but who listed their desired age-range as 18-40. It was a telling detail in an environment where snap judgments and subjective preferences are completely allowed.

        • Jaz said:

          I ended up in a very silly argument with a law student over the case from Germany where an 80-something year old sued a 24 year old when she turned down sex cos “he was to old”. This law student thought the case was totally legit and couldn’t figure out why I totally agree with the judge who’d laughed the old dude out if court. He finally got my point when I asked if it would be sexist of a lesbian to turn down a man.

          • Laughing Giraffe said:

            I’m what many people would call a militant atheist – a term I profoundly dislike, but seems to be widely understood to mean “someone who is quite vocal and uncompromising about the fact that they don’t believe in God”. I once mentioned, in passing, that I don’t think I could ever date someone who had religious beliefs more specific than “vaguely deist” or “kind of a pantheist”. Bear in mind, from my POV, that’s basically saying “I don’t want to date someone who I would argue with all the time”.
            Someone in earshot lost his shit and declared that I was a bigot. I was discriminating on religious grounds!
            I love my friends; they all laughed him out of the conversation.

        • LeighTX said:

          This. Ageism is a thing to avoid when you’re hiring. It is not a thing at all when you’re deciding who to date, and anyone who tells you it is, is missing the point. If you, LW, only want to date men who were born between March and August of 1989, that is 100% your prerogative and it is not “ageist” in the least.

      • In the event I was unclear I do want to clarify as I have seen true, actual ageism at play in completely consensual relationships between younger woman/older man as the man is almost always assumed to be a creeper and she a money grabber even when that is not the case. What I meant with my response was if the LW’s question was just “how do I stop my friend from dating a guy cuz he’s old” or “I’m attracted to an older dude and it’s gross cuz he’s old” then yes, that would in fact be ageist and reason for the letter writer to do an attitude check, but the facts of these scenarios make that 100% NOT the case

  10. slfisher said:

    Any dating website I’ve been on, you don’t even put in your age. You put in your birthday, and it calculates your age, so it gets updated automatically.

  11. Anon For This said:

    Duuuuuude, the second scenario could be, but with ages slightly alerted. I dated a guy for a little while, enjoyed a good physical relationship with him and we broke up due to things unrelated to our ages. His dating profile claimed he was 24, and I was 26 at the time. Two months later, I’m back on that same dating site, and find a duplicate profile of his, with all the same information, except that it claims he lives in a different part of our large metro area, and that he’s 31.

    I still don’t know which one was the right one, because he basically doesn’t exist online other than on that dating site (I googled) and his job is such that he could have been either age, assuming, of course, that he was truthful about his job. That skeeved me out. So, LW, if you’re getting skeeved out by knowing that he lied to you while you’re still dating him, I’d suggest that’s enough to put a hold on things. He could be hiding way more.

    • golden peanut said:

      You know what, that happened to me, too. The age difference between profiles wasn’t large, 35 vs 42, and I think I was 40 at the time. Still, finding that second profile just raised all sorts of sketchy flags.

  12. monologue said:

    LW, you and Sam are the boss of yourselves, but your descriptions of both dudes set off my personal spidey senses for whatever that is or isn’t worth.

    Also, about the ageism aspect, I think rather than being objectively cool with age differences (which is a good thing to be) the question here is whether you’re personally cool with age differences. If you feel like the fact that this dude is 37 makes him a no for you, or the fact that he surprised you with that information makes him a no for you, that’s ok. For example, it’s definitely not that ok for you to think two women shouldn’t date, right? But if you’re a woman who personally only dates dudes, that is ok. That wouldn’t make you homophobic. You can keep dating this guy or decide you feel weird and not date this guy. Ageism the concept is kind of unrelated.

  13. Craterlake said:

    Good advice. I don’t think age is the real issue in either case.

    I agree that all LW can probably do for Sam is be there..but as a former Judy myself: run, Sam, just run, before you share any blame for the shitstorm brewing in their marriage.

  14. Alex said:

    LW, I don’t think you’re ageist at all in this respect. While you’re all adults, there is still a certain amount of power that middle-aged adults have over young adults. You’re allowed to have an age range you feel is appropriate for you, and you’re allowed to change that age range over time.
    I have a current sexual partner whom I found out was ten years older than me. Before that point, I felt a man over 5 years older than me was too much. I’ve since changed my mind.
    The difference here though is that I never knew what his age was when I met him, and just assumed he was around my age. That is, he never presented himself as anything he wasn’t. You’re totally in the right to feel skeeved out by this guy most likely having lied to you. Additionally, the reason I’m cool with the dude who’s ten years my senior is that he doesn’t talk down to me.
    Calling you “maternal” just sounds like one of those things older men say to younger women to make them feel special.
    Also, I just want to point out that ageism can be used against kids and can be used against the elderly. Ageism against middle-aged adults isn’t really a thing. You’re concerned for your friend’s well-being at probably manipulated by Chris, and you’re uncomfortable with finding out you’ve been seeing a guy who turned to be much older than you initially felt comfortable with. Neither of those things is ageism even if these guys were elderly.

    Good luck, LW. You do you, and I hope things work out okay.

    *Sorry if this is a double-post. I think wordpress ate it when I tried to post it*

    • argent said:

      “Ageism can be used against kids and can be used against the elderly. Ageism against middle-aged adults isn’t really a thing.”

      This. Being concerned about possible ageism (older adults taking advantage of younger adults) isn’t ageism, just like being concerned about sexism isn’t sexism, etc.

    • Charlene said:

      “I’m sorry, but ageism against the middle-aged isn’t really a thing.”

      I have to very strongly disagree with this. In my experience, the middle-aged are massively, massively *more* victimized by ageism than the young. Women are especially targeted: middle-aged women are stereotyped as cruel, bitter harridans, nagging stupid bigots, ugly hags, or (ugh) crazy pathetic worthless losers *all the time*.

      • winter said:

        Can we not do the “more than”? Children can literally not allowed to decide where or with whom they want to live. People are differently oppressed.

  15. HostaPasta said:

    Hey, there’s an easy way to see if it really was a typo – has he fixed it? Or did he just forget about his profile in the wonderful whirl of dating you, and it’s sitting there saying 27, even after the conversation where you were upset about it? (And if he says he didn’t fix it because now he’s got you, and what does he need with a dating website…how come he didn’t delete it or put it to sleep after that conversation? Because you can do that.)

    Also, maternal? Are you planning on having kids together? Or adopting him as your son? Because otherwise, why would your boyfriend/lover/PERSON YOU HAVE SEX WITH be thinking about how maternal you are? Is he planning on acting like a child?

    • Rose said:

      Well … admittedly, I am hoping to have children some day in the near future, and I do look for a man who would be a good father. However, it wouldn’t come to my mind to directly call someone “paternal” or such. Most of the attributes of a good parent are good attributes for a boyfriend, too, after all. (I mean, I’m looking for a gentle, caring person, the kind of person who would get up at 3 a.m. to help his girlfriend with an emergency OR feed the baby, or whatever needs doing).
      It’s more the choice of words that’s strange here, in my opinion.

  16. Honestly, I’ve dealt with sooooooooooo many fishy older dudes and both of these scenarios are skeeving me out. As was pointed out above, they fish for younger girls because they won’t know enough to see through their crap.

    • Yup.

      Because for an older woman? Hearing your boyfriend/sex-partner say “you act very maternal” as a way to justify lying about his age would probably have you running for the hills before the sheets lost their warmth. I shuddered when I read that.

      • miss_chevious said:

        Right? Because one thing worse than discovering that your boyfriend was actually 16 years older than you would be realizing that you are now expected to be the adult in the relationship. ::ugg::

        • uuuuuuuuuuuh said:

          Apparently the crux of being a mature human being is “being maternal”(probably meaning “willing to parent someone who shouldn’t need parenting”), who knew?

        • *cringe* I can’t imagine a point in my life at which that wouldn’t send me running.

    • Yeah, I know more than a few guys now in their 30s who only date women who are 16-21. In high school I knew a girl who was 14 and was dating a 28-year-old.

      None of the dudes I know who do this are good people. They’re specifically seeking out relationships where they know there will be a power imbalance in their favor. Late teens and early 20s, you’re not going to have 10-15 years of dating experience. I’m not saying everyone that age is naive, but you at 20 will be less experienced than you at 25 or 30. It’ll be easier for dudes to give you lines about how you’re special/different/understanding/cool/whatever, because you haven’t yet had a lot of the bad experiences that will make you weary of that shit.

      Older people can be suckered into this shit too, of course. I don’t want to sound like I’m talking down to people because they’re young. Skeevy guys seeking out relationships where they have control over the other person is a thing, and age is only one facet you can use to get that kind of power imbalance.

      • Cyberwulf said:

        In high school I knew a girl who was 14 and was dating a 28-year-old.

        This sentence made me pull my lips back over my teeth. EW.

        I’m a member of a martial arts club where about 50% of us are aged from our mid-twenties to our forties, and the other 50% are 15-17 year olds. I’m 32 and I cannot, cannot imagine being with a teenager. What on earth would attract someone my age to somebody that young? Nothing, unless you were the kind of scuzzball who wanted someone young and naive to manipulate.

        • ordinarygoddess said:

          Or who never grew the hell up and genuinely has a mental image of oneself that is that age. Either way, it’s serious bad news.

          I have said on more than one occasion about my Darth Ex: I slept with any boy who would stand still long enough, when I was a teen, to convince my vicious bigoted family that I wasn’t gay. He was twenty-six, and he was the one that stuck. Twenty years later, he was still the kind of guy who’d unshamefacedly justify screwing a scared kid two-thirds his age with “she was the one who came on to me,” and I was still more gay than straight, so I dumped him.

          I literally do not know TO THIS DAY if I was attractive to him because being with a teenager reinforced his Peter Pan too-smart-for-the-world nobody-is-the-boss-of-me maverick self-image, or whether I was attractive to him because I was manipulable. Or both. Or if he ever even knew, or ever gave a second thought to the question. Which is absolutely horrifying.

        • Og said:

          As a person who used to be the 14 year old in that context, and at the time thought it was okay because I was so “adult” and mature/intelligent/worldly/special/etc:

          It’s not. Those men are bad people.

          LW has a lot more worldly knowledge than a 14 year old, I’m sure, and there’s a difference between straight up pedophiles and 35 year olds dating 20 year olds, but even men who seem feminist, shy, or other otherwise harmless have a REASON they’re dating someone at such a different life-stage. That reason isn’t always because they’re easier to abuse, manipulate or lie to, but it often is. Even if that reason isn’t conscious – a lot of manipulative behaviour comes from low self-esteem, and can seem sympathetic (or pathetic, but that just gives you a greater sense of false power). Just be careful.

        • Laughing Giraffe said:

          I’m a teacher and often work with teenagers. I love working with that age group. They’re old enough to have actual conversations with, they have goals and motivations, but most of them aren’t yet truly cynical and still have lots of energy and creativity. Many of my tutoring students, whom I got to know deeply, were cool, smart, interesting individuals.
          And I can’t imagine a single reason why, as an adult, I would ever want to date a single one of them. It’s not just because they’re my students, although I’m also rarely attracted to my adult students; it’s just the simple fact that they’re KIDS. I mean, we’re talking about people who have to ask permission to go out at night. Even if there are times when I feel like someone is going to find out I’m not really a grownup and take away my Adulting Licence, I still live in a different universe than a high schooler. There’s just no way I can expect emotional support from someone who may not even know how to do laundry, let alone cope with being laid off, finding a new apartment and putting together a grocery budget. If someone my age (late twenties) tried to date one of my young students, I would side-eye them so hard they’d wind up in a parallel universe. Either they are legitimately as mature as a high school student, or they are cool with using their “I have my own car and can buy booze” mystique to get sex, and either one is not a good thing.

          • As a fellow teacher, I completely agree. Nothing skeeves me QUITE like those teachers who have “affairs” (aka molest) their students. They are children! No matter how big they are or how old they look, talk to a teenager for five minutes and it becomes immediately obvious that they are nowhere near an adult’s ability to reason. And of course they love dating older people – they don’t really understand what that MEANS or how it may affect them when they are older. They’re smart and sweet and funny and I love them, but they are still children.

          • Nicothodes said:

            Seriously. I’m 22, but I’ve lived on my own and handled my own bills for about five years now, and I just moved into a flat with four 18-year-olds who are living on their own for the first time. That age gap isn’t usually one to side-eye, but they feel so young to me at this point that I would be uncomfortable with even that.

          • dsbs42 said:

            As a new teacher unexpectedly thrown into a highschool (I had been expecting elementary), I love this comment so hard. Hell, as a person with access to the internet and the ability to read, I love this comment so hard.

        • Kat said:

          Seriously. I remember being in middle school and knowing girls who were “dating” (more like being victimized by) young adult men. I just started volunteering in a middle school now at 25, and every day I’m shocked by how young they and the high school students next door are. Even the biggest boys in the misbehaving group of older boys in the back of every classroom – you know, the ones who seemed so adult and dangerous to me when I was a middle schooler myself – it could not be more obvious that they are still basically children. It’s sick how many men (and sometimes women) see that as an advantage to exploit.

        • blackcat. said:

          I have a non-sketchy example coming out of a scenario like that. Late in high school, my dear friend was in an activity club where most members were 22-23. She and a guy really hit it off–each believing the other was in the early 20s age range. On date five it came out that WHOOPS, she was 18 and he 28. Oh it was awkward. Super, super awkward. BUT he handled it like an adult–he told her he’d like to meet her friends and family and would be happy to take a step back b/c the age difference. And they did for a while. 10 years later, they are happily married. So these things can happen and can end well. BUT you can generally tell the creepy guys from the non-creepy guys very quickly…

          • Zillah said:

            It’s like with many other things: people who acknowledge that there might be a problem often aren’t the problem.

          • Dr Sarah said:

            Utterly OT example of this from my job: I’ve been a GP for many years, and one thing I’ve noticed is that the people who start a consultation with ‘Uh, I feel like I’m wasting your time here’… are never, in fact, the ones who actually are wasting my time.

        • Zillah said:

          YES. My perspective on age differences in relationships has changed radically from when I was in high school. Back then, I thought that I was super interesting and mature, so it wasn’t really creepy for this guy in his mid-twenties to be dating me.

          On the other side of the fence? NO. I know interesting and mature teenagers, and I like talking to some of them, or recommending books, or trying to help them figure out life stuff that I struggled with when I was that age. Romance or sex could not be further from my mind.

          So… yeah, that dude was sketchy as shit.

      • Jenny Islander said:

        I knew a 14-year-old who was dating a 28-year-old too. She was the very first in my class to get pregnant. 14 years after that, in the course of my then-job as a court data collector, I discovered that she was still trying to get the father to pay support.

        People who specifically seek out partners of a specific age, no matter how old they themselves become, are the kind of thing Nopetopus was made for. They have seething cooties of nopeness oozing from their pores.

      • mythbri said:

        I had a cousin who was “dating” a man in his 20s when she was 14 years old.

        Or, more accurately, my cousin was the victim of statutory rape.

  17. AW said:

    “he thinks I act very “maternal”, so it shouldn’t be a problem”

    NOOOOOOOPE!

    He’s basically saying, “Well, **I’m** OK with it, so what’s the problem? It’s not like your opinion or feelings on this are important or even relevant.”

    Did he even bother fixing his profile? I bet he didn’t. But the fact that he thinks his opinion on the lie/mistake and the age difference is the only one that matters is a huge red flag.

    • allreb said:

      Not to mention that saying that is a weird variation on “but you’re not like other girls.” It’s basically saying “you’re so much more mature than other girls, so it’s cool.” It’s a guilt/manipulation tactic and it’s gross. If it was a genuine mistake, he should have just apologized.

      • Except not complimentary at all. Who does that?

      • Phospher said:

        I read “maternal” and was all “Oh, dude! That’s your play? Not even ‘wise beyond your years’? Not even ‘so mature?'” All those things are obnoxious and manipulative justifications, but at least they’re things a person might wish to perceive themselves as. But MATERNAL? What woman wants to be “maternal” in relation to her 37-year-old boyfriend? It’s like “It’s fine, because I am a little tiny boy at heart, and now you’re going to take care of me.” Ick.

        • H.Regalis said:

          I read that and was thinking, “Maybe he’s got a couple kids stashed somewhere?” Like he’s looking for someone he can offload parenting duties onto? Either that situation or “I am at 37-year-old man! Mother me!” both sound unpleasant.

    • charmed.omega said:

      seriously.

    • olives said:

      Also though? Please don’t let this dude get away with the excuse of, “oh, I can’t actually edit that field of my profile – oh well, stuck for life! Victim of the system! *dramatic poor-me sigh*”.

      Because I can totally see where, TO PREVENT EXACTLY THIS SORT OF TOMFOOLERY, one would not be able to change one’s age and birthday on an arbitrary dating site. (How strange! They don’t think your birthday is an attribute that changes about you!) Which would leave dude open to lies, more lies, and horseshit.

      But y’know? Dating sites are gonna have support systems, and you’d be able to easily have them change it in the event of a true typo. Get that dude to issue a change request pronto, because he wouldn’t want to accidentally dupe someone else, WOULD HE?

      And also it is not a valid excuse to say “oh baby, I’m with you now! My profile doesn’t matter!” because that is So. Not. On.

      Also: to me, the use of the word “maternal” in a dating situation would come marching in accompanied by a whole dang parade of shiny red flags. So much skeeves here.

  18. Bunny said:

    Age differences don’t mean nearly so much once you’re both adults. But that doesn’t mean that an older person can’t be into a younger one for *decidedly creepy reasons*. That’s not you being ageist. That’s the older person being ageist and fetishizing youth on top of it.

    I honestly cannot say whether that’s what’s happening with your friend and her older dude – potential for an affair does not mean creepiness is going on, and your friend has to handle that situation herself, albeit I agree with the Captain that giving her options for her safety is an excellent idea.

    But I do think your dude might be fetishizing youth a bit there, and both what he said and the way he said it are sending up… yellow flags, I guess? The age mistake on his profile might be an honest mistake… if he hadn’t then gone on to justify why it’s okay because of his Magical Youthful Spirit or whatever. Also, if the profile still has the “typo” on it now, then it’s not a typo. His reference to you as “maternal” is weird. But it’s possible that he’s insecure, got horrifically embarrassed and nervous about the whole age thing and performed an exquisite foot-in-mouth manoeuvre by way of forgetting how words work. I’d say the best thing you can do is talk to him frankly about it and any misgivings you have, but also trust your gut. Does he have his life in order in a way that would be normal for someone his age, or is he more at the same stage as your peers? Does he seem to be trying to relive his youth? Does he have other red or yellow flag indicators going on – even subtle ones – that form a pattern? Are you just straight-up not interesting in dating significantly older dudes? It’s okay to not be.

    • olives said:

      Yeah, the typo justification combined with Magical Youthful Spirit (excellent phrase btw) reminds me of one too many sitcoms where someone’s “tell” for when they’re lying is that they give one too many details / explanations. If it was just a typo that he happened not to fix, WHY does he also somehow think that he “feels like a twenty-something”?

      Being in university still doesn’t explain that. From the few people I knew who were slightly out of age group in university (say, by 3-4 years) and my own experience being in classes with undergrads while a grad student, trust me when I say that being older than everyone in your class does not magically transmute your inner age-feelings to where you sort of think you’re just the same age and maturity as everyone else in the class. If anything, it becomes abundantly clear that the opposite is the case for basically everyone I’ve seen in this situation. And that’s wayyy before we’re looking at 15+ years of age difference from most of the oldest people in university.

      Too many excuses, so much skeeve, would probably run screaming from this dude.

      • Muddie Mae said:

        Yeah, I’m back in school at 30, and this semester I happen to be taking a first-year level course with mostly 18-19 year olds. They don’t make me feel young at all – precisely the opposite, in fact.

        • Amy said:

          For reals. I’m 30 and I find 18-year-olds a) exhausting and b) very very clearly at a different life stage to me.

          Don’t get me wrong, many of them are lovely interesting people. But I would find it hard to even be real friends with one of them, much less date one (…in God’s name, why?) because our perspectives, priorities and experiences are really very different.

          • Muddie Mae said:

            Totes. I can imagine there is some 18 year old in the universe I could be friends with, and if I somehow met and befriended them I wouldn’t write them off because of their age. It just happens to be very, very unlikely.

            Stage of life matters, and shared experience matters, particularly when you’re young and have so little experience. (My instructor had to point out that # symbolizes numbers, it’s not just for Twitter. Sigh.)

        • Arashi said:

          That happened to me last year. I returned to college for another degree, which I’m already finishing, so, older than 30. right? But I had not attended one of the first semester classes. So there am I, ending my second degree, in a classroom with people who can barely order a drink. Goood, it was awful. Their sense of importance was so ridiculous (we’re talking about teens smart enough to get into a college rather difficult to get into, so they all thought they’re geniuses. Oh were they in for a surprise). I spent the whole semester praying for it to end soon.

    • This thread is reminding me of a dating profile I once saw of a dude who had entered an age in the late twenties, but then confessed in the free text box that he was really forty, but “look thirty and have the mind of a twenty-year-old”. As icing on the cake, his photo actually looked closer to fifty. Dude… dude.

  19. miss_chevious said:

    As someone who sometimes dates people who are significantly younger than I am, I feel like the misrepresentation about Mike’s age is a big red flag. Other commenters have provided some good advice about how to judge whether he’s being truthful about the typo, which might be worth considering if you want to keep seeing Mike, but, for me, this typo would be a dealbreaker.

  20. o.O Being called maternal would NOT sound sexy to me. Oof.

    • HostaPasta said:

      Yeah, that line skeeves me out so much that I can’t really focus on anything else. I feel maternal towards babies, and kittens, and other helpless creatures that don’t have the brains/ability to advance their own interests. I do not feel maternal towards freaking adults, and I especially do not feel maternal towards people I want to have sex with.

      • Immature men gravitate toward women they read as “maternal” because they think that they won’t have to step up and be an adult in an adult relationship.

    • ona555 said:

      But you’re so mature for your age!
      But you remind me of my mother!

      *hurl*

  21. Hi LW! The Captain is spot on with her response. I really want to speak to a few elements of your letter from my personal experience. As an older teen (18, 19) and in my very early 20s, I pretty much only dated older men, for a variety of reasons that mostly boiled down to “they were who asked me out”. I ended up, at a young age, the spouse of a man 20 years my senior until his death several years ago.

    It sounds like your friend is being groomed for an affair by this dude, but she’s the one in the situation and you have to let her play it out. The Captain’s advice about checking in (not checking UP, checking IN) and making sure she always has a place to go is definitely on target. I know it’s difficult, but you have to ignore her rhetoric about ageism. She’s probably getting a lot of that from her dodgy old dude, and until his influence wears off, it’s going to be a common feature in her opinions about age politics. The thing that will help her the most is if she knows that absolutely you have her back, and when she gets into a problem because of this dude, you are there for her. If she knows she has a Team Her, she’s more likely to be able to walk away when she needs to than if her dodgy old dude succeeds in driving away all her friends with his dodginess and offensive talking points. Because make no mistake, part of most dodgy dudes’ grooming strategy is not only to make the victim feel a sense of intimacy and trust with him, but also to drive away her friends so she doesn’t have a reality check or a friendly sofa to sleep on when it goes pear-shaped.

    Also, I had a dodgy old dude try something similar on me when I was 18 or 19, and part of his strategy was to make it seem to everyone we knew that we were *already having an affair*, so as to make it more difficult for me to retain Team Me and to try to pressure me into doing what he was telling everyone we were already doing.

    Now, your Mike: it was not a typo. He lied to you, and he did it because he knew that a young woman your age would think 27 is on the older side of okay and 37 is too much, and he wanted a 21yo. You feel a natural misgiving upon finding out he’s 16 years older than you, and your friend, who has her own issues about this right now, is telling you that your natural hesitation about someone who lied to you to get in your pants is actually you being a meanyhead. Your friend is wrong. Your natural misgiving is a good thing, because it invites you to consider more carefully what the situation is. He lied to you to get in your pants, and that is Not Okay. If he had lied to you about something else really big for the sole purpose of gaining sexual access to you, would you question yourself? Probably not. My opinion of people who lie about big important life stuff in order to gain sexual access to people who would otherwise not consider them as appropriate partners is VERY, VERY LOW. And so should yours be.

    My late husband had a lot of issues that I was too young to recognize or understand (there really IS a fine line between interesting and fucked up). I loved him very much, but if I had it to do over again I would have broken up with him very early on when I found out he’d let me assume something big and important that wasn’t true in order to make himself seem like an appropriate partner. It’s a bad start to a relationship.

    • erin said:

      Yes exactly. He lied to get you LW bed. This is really, really, really bad.

      • erin said:

        *to get LW into bed

    • VG said:

      “She’s probably getting a lot of that from her dodgy old dude, and until his influence wears off, it’s going to be a common feature in her opinions about age politics.”

      This reminds me of the dodgy old dudes who pursued me when I was in my early 20s, and how one of their favorite tactics was to meaningfully say “I know a beautiful young girl like you would never date someone as old as me,” instead of actually asking me out. I guess this was supposed to be a challenge to prove I wasn’t shallow by dating them. It never worked, but they kept trying.

      And yeah, I don’t believe the typo story for a second. If it had been a typo, he would have cleared it up pretty early on, certainly before they slept together. The fact that he didn’t is so, so skeevy.

      • golden peanut said:

        The original neg. 🙂 I think that kind of thing was covered in The Gift of Fear.

    • Ankh Morpork said:

      Is letting people think you are already having an affair a common thing with these tactics? Because suddenly this letter is striking a lot closer to home…

      My husband’s going back to school to go into his dream field and has made very good friends with a girl who’s about ten years younger than him. We do all hang out together sometimes, and I do like her (even though she is very immature, and it grates sometimes) and I have been trying very hard to not be irrational about the whole thing. She’s ahead of him in the program, and I know has been a big help with studying and practice. The issue is… my husband has always been a huge flirt, with both sexes, and has apparently been openly flirtatious at school (a very religious collage) and now about 80% of the people in the program think that either he’s cheating on me or we’re separated. He’s open with me that people think this… and open with me about the flirting but it bothers me that most of the people he spends his days around think this. He says that he talks about me all the time and that if people are stupid enough to believe that he’s cheating then it’s not worth it to argue with them. But if this is some commonly used guy tactic I suddenly feel a lot more gross about the entire thing.

      • neverjaunty said:

        It is absolutely a tactic. By telling you about “silly rumors” he’s trying to neutralize any information you may get about his relationship with Snuggles. He’s hoping that now, if somebody tries to warn you things are going on, that you’ll just dismiss it as “oh, what a silly rumor”.

        I don’t know that your husband IS having an affair. He might just be acting profoundly stupid, by not realizing that when ALMOST EVERYONE he interacts with thinks he’s having an affair based on his behavior, the problem is not that they are “stupid”; the problem is his behavior. And if he’s trying to make connections and advance professionally, having 80% of the people at his small religious college think he’s cheating on you is, like, not the best move careerwise.

        • I agree with this comment in almost all situations! But depending on HOW religious the college is, standards for assuming things like that can be different, so that could be a factor worth considering sometimes? Then again, I may err on the side of not assuming affairs even when my partner was having one. (It was okay! We were bad for each other! She was much better for him! He and I were basically going to break up anyway and I dumped him for unrelated reasons before I found out. She still got skeeved out when I congratulated them on their wedding and then kid(s). I… honestly found that kind of hilarious.)

          ANYWAY SORRY just saying, depending on the degree of social conservatism that fuels the rumor mill at the college, could still be completely normal behavior.

      • Linden said:

        My ex used to bring his women friends home. It took me a long time to realize that by having them hang around the house, he was hoping that I would get to like them and then when he tried to get them to have an affair, if I found out he hoped maybe I wouldn’t mind. And my ex was one of those men who don’t have male friends, just female ones.

        In fact, my ex is no one’s friend. If he was an ice cream flavor, he’d be pralines and dick.

        • Hlyssande said:

          If he was an ice cream flavor, he’d be pralines and dick

          I’m sorry, but that just set me to giggling something fierce.

          • Linden said:

            I confess I was just watching “Wayne’s World” again the other day.

      • Yes. This is a very, *very* common element to grooming tactics. It allows pre-emptive denial and gets it out there so that when it actually (dude hopes) happens, the rumours will already be present and the spouse will already be inoculated against them. It also serves as a kind of pressure on the target because if she’s already being blamed and shamed, she might decide that she may as well hang for a sheep as a lamb.

        It’s pretty insidious, actually. I feel bad for you in this situation, and I feel REALLY bad for the young lady. None of this is any good. At the very least, it sounds he’s being really inappropriate toward someone who is unlikely to have the experience and social capital to deal with the situation she’s being put in.

  22. Here’s the thing, LW: Discussing toxic masculinity on first dates? SUPER EASY WAY INTO A LOT OF LADIES PANTS. Unfortunately, it is increasingly becoming A Thing – kind of the liberalish boy version of being a manic pixie dream girl. “I’m not like those OTHER people!! I’m sensitive and special and unique!!” This is especially true if your date couches their discussion in terms of how it has affected and harmed them (a sensitive straight man!!) with only lip service to the people who are harmed most by toxic masculinity (trans men! Gay men! Male victims of violence! Victims of IPV from men! The list goes on a long way before it comes to ‘straight boys who were made fun of for putting gel in their hair in school’.)

    It’s not a red flag on its own, but in conjunction with lying about his age, with brushing off criticism about lying about his age, with a general uneasiness you seem to feel about the whole thing… It is giving me the skeezes. As it becomes more mainstream, there are an increasing number of creepy people who use the grammar of social justice to camouflage themselves as nice people. Criticising socially constructed ideas of masculinity is a great way to use the words without really criticising anything or acknowledging your own role in perpetuating it.

    And even if Mike really really means it and totally walks the walk and isn’t even a little bit of a creep… There are feminist 27 year olds. There are feminist 17 year olds. You’re not obligated to touch someone’s dick just because they know what the word ‘cis’ means.

    (Also, OH GOD your friend, do not date people because it would be ‘ageist’ not to. Do not do that. EVEN if ageism in your dating life were an actual problem (SPOILER: young women frustrating the desire of older men to have access to their bodies, literally the opposite of a problem), the way you fix it isn’t by dating an old person when you’re skeeved out by this. (If you felt like you were unfairly discriminating against potential dating partners based on race, the solution is very much not to just date a brown person. It is to challenge your internalised racism outside of romantic relationships first, because PoC aren’t your laboratory to learn not to be racist on.)

    TL;DR
    – dudes using the grammar of social justice doesn’t mean you should touch their dick
    – you still don’t have to touch THIS dudes dick
    – dick is low value and in abundant supply
    – don’t date people to get over your ism
    – seriously find someone to make out with who doesn’t have THAT ONE TINYHUGE THING WRONG
    – maybe consider befriending people who are not doing the intricate dance of IT’S TOTALLY INNOCENT
    – your friend has her own shit ahead but there is nothing you can do to stop that

    • Hahah my response was already so long I didn’t want to bring up the insidious dating strategy of Sensitive Ponytail Feminist Man, so thank you!

    • paddlepickle said:

      Ugh, WHY does this have to be a thing?? I just want to have an unadulterated boner for feminist dudes, why do creeps have to ruin it? Though, I did have fun recently telling off a dude who claimed to be a feminist on his Okc profile, but made a rape joke in his questions. He then mansplained to me that it was not, in fact, a rape joke, because men explaining to women what should and should not offend them is definitely the essence of feminism.

      • gingerbreadquorum said:

        Because creeps have to ruin everything. That is their job. And they are good at their job.

      • Muddie Mae said:

        The good think about those jackasses is that they usually reveal themselves fairly early on. The bad thing is I think it takes most of us one or two experiences with Fake Feminist Dudes to notice the tells in the future.

      • Cricket said:

        Oh god, the “let me tell you why you shouldn’t be upset by the thing I said about rape” move. I found out the hard way that nonbinary, supposedly feminist folks can totally pull that one off, too. I’m glad your mansplainer was just someone you talked to online, because that situation can start to feel pretty damn scary when you’re at their house and they’re your only ride somewhere. (As a connected side note, I super endorse the LW being available as a backup ride to Sam because transportation limits were a lot of what put me in an unsafe situation with an abusive older person.)

        • slfisher said:

          After several bad experiences with this, I decided that I would no longer allow myself to be alone with a guy at his house, or he at mine, unless I had already decided I was going to sleep with him. It’s just too fraught. Not suggesting this for anyone else, just that it’s what works for me.

    • Key said:

      +1000

    • Oh man, your first paragraph is sadly very true.

      My personal policy with men who identify as feminists is to withhold belief until I’ve had a few encounters with them. I need them to show me through various actions that they actually know what they’re talking about when they identify that way, instead of thinking that they are feminists because they agree that women should be able to vote and they retweeted that #YesAllWomen hashtag that one time but, you know, really if we’re getting down to it, shouldn’t the term be “humanist”?

      It takes a lot of self-reflection for a man in our society to realize the way he benefits from the structures of patriarchy, and I’m not willing to extend those credentials to someone based simply on his word.

      • Erin said:

        Yes, important strategy: Do NOT believe the good news until you had actual real-life proof.

        • slfisher said:

          Just in general, anytime anyone identifies as anything, it puts my back up. Feminist, intelligent, whatever. Don’t tell me how much of a feminist you are. You show me how much of a feminist you are. People who talk about it a lot generally aren’t.

          • ALL RIGHT IT IS TIME FOR MY LIST OF FEMINIST STUFF.

            No, wait.

            Anyway, I’ve left comments before with short lists of things that Actual Feminist Dudes might do, to help people spot the ones who are lying liars who lie. It is not a comprehensive list, nor is it a list of must-do’s, but it’s a list of the KINDS of things Actual Feminist Dudes will do. If you know a dude who claims to be feminist, look to see if he does the following KINDS of things.

            – has female friends that he has absolutely no evident interest in having sex with (if he is straight or bi)
            – talks up his female friends and/or female SO to other people such that when you, his female friend or SO, meet other people, they are fully prepared to find you interesting and fun
            – reads books written by women on a regular basis
            – has female work colleagues whose work he obviously AND IN PUBLIC respects
            – says “dude that’s not cool, rape jokes are gross” in response to rape jokes
            – buys his daughter a spider-man costume without blinking
            – does not freak out when someone assumes his long-haired son is a girl

          • Yeah, the guys I trust are all the sort of person who would find a little boy dressing as a princess to be totally adorable and would defend him if needed. (Assertively but not aggressively.) A large number of them have also been very visibly fanning out over the woman co-leader of the Green Party here recently since it’s election season, along with several of the other women candidates from that party, and I can recall pretty much all of them sincerely apologising when they’ve fucked up in a way that shows they understand what they did wrong. I have no idea whether they actually call themselves feminist, but they act in a feminist manner.

          • Mildred said:

            Yes. That. It’s the old rule of creative writing: show, don’t tell.

            People who deliver up strings of adjectives – intelligent; feminist; whatever – always give me the sense that they’re waiting to be patted on the head and praised. Whereas people who behave in a certain way usually do so because they believe it’s the right way to behave.

          • Mildred said:

            The “Yes. That” was directed at slfisher’s comment. This is less clear than I thought it would be…

          • Where are you guys even finding all these magical dudes who would find a little boy dressed as a princess adorable? I’m not sure I’ve ever once met one.

          • notemily said:

            Well, I don’t know. I identify as feminist on my online dating profile because the people it scares off are people I wouldn’t want to date.

          • Leonine said:

            Re J. Preposterice’s list: Yep. If you asked my husband whether he was a feminist, he would probably say, “Uh, I dunno. I mean, sure, I guess.” But he totally does all those things, right down the list. The only exception is the one about buying a Spider-Man costume for his daughter, but only because we don’t have a daughter. Our two little sons get mistaken for girls all the time, and he usually doesn’t even bother to correct the error. He also does housework and child care not a some kind of favor to me, but just because they need to be done. Feminism is as feminism does.

      • sometimeswhy said:

        YES. I am 100% show-not-tell when it comes to personal attributes and beliefs that are important to me in friends and lovers. You don’t get to tell me that I can trust you with something. You have to demonstrate to me and eventually, maybe I will. AND it’s not my fault if (1) you don’t meet my minimum criteria or (2) you meet them but I decide not to share my thoughts, feelings, vagina with you anyway.

      • keelyellenmarie said:

        The truly feminist guys I’ve known are actually the ones who DON’T throw the word at me super early on. Not because they’re ashamed of it, but because they are aware of creeper pseudo-feminist men as a thing, and therefore like to let the topic come up organically so as not to set off alarm bells. And then when it does come up, instead of framing it as “god, guys can be so awful, but I’m not one of those guys”, they talk about it in ways that show they understand that a) regardless of how feminist they are, they still benefit from male privilege and b) they probably aren’t perfect themselves.

        Basically, guys who are actually feminists are usually not super proud of themselves for it and bragging about how enlightened they are. A good sign of an actual feminist dude is that they approach the topic with an appropriate degree of humility.

        Of course though, your overall point still stands. You can SAY what you like, I’m still watching to see how you act before I 100% believe you.

        • monologue said:

          Also isn’t that early bragging thing kind of weird and gross in itself? Like shouldn’t respecting women be the bare minimum? I’m white so I don’t know if this happens, but do PoC go on dates with white people and have to listen to someone say “Hey, you should date me check out how not racist I am!!1! I totes identify as not racist” cause that sounds annoying as fuck. New potential friends I meet don’t usually brag to me how not homophobic they are. And if they do I’m like “k that was weird”

          • keelyellenmarie said:

            I am also white, so I can’t speak to the POC dating thing, but cool story re: dudes wanting cookies for basic respect of women…

            After my most recent breakup, I was lonely and horny and wanted sex and physical affection, but felt I was too “damaged” still to start dating for reals, even though that was what I really wanted. I then made the not-very-smart [for me personally, due to my own personal preferences] that I would attempt to do the Casual Sex thing. I then set up an online dating profile for this specific purpose, in which I laid out what I was looking for.

            I included in that profile a list of boundaries that were non-negotiable for me, including that our first meeting would involve zero touching below the waist and all clothes would stay on. Basically I was terrified of screwing myself by ending up falling into bed with a dude that did not grok the basics of consent, and this seemed like a screening method I could live with–the second he tries to push past my clearly stated boundaries, I’m out, and I’m still fully clothed and hopefully in a position to leave quickly, but the potential for makeouts at least still allows some evaluation of sexual chemistry at the first meeting. I also figured that articulating these things in advance would help attract the types of dudes I was looking for.

            For the most part, it seemed to work fairly well in terms of the types of messages I got–I don’t know how it would have worked in person, because I shut the whole experiment down pretty quickly when I realized how transactional and gross the whole thing felt to me [again, my own biases here, no judgement to people for whom this sort of thing works!].

            One dude who messaged me though… yikes. His first message was basically “hey so you’re hot and I’m hot and I can totally respect your no sex on the first date rule, so let’s do this.” I didn’t reply, because that was not an enticing offer and because there were things I had explicitly stated that I wanted in a first message [again, a screening tool–girls looking for casual sex get a looooot of messages], and he hadn’t included them. Within about a day, he started sending more messages, all basically doubling down on the “but I’ll totally respect your boundaries!!” as his primary selling point as a sex partner. Eventually they actually got pretty hostile, like “I totally said I’d follow your rules, so what’s your fucking problem?” Now, the first message I could have laughed off as cluelessness, but the rest made it abundantly clear that he thought was such a gentleman for doing the bare fucking minimum and respecting my boundaries sexually.

            So yea, a dude totally tried to get me to fuck him by basically telling me he wouldn’t rape me, and wasn’t that great of him?

          • Cyberwulf said:

            I’m white, but I totally believe there are white people who date POCs and are exactly that clueless.

          • Nerdlinger said:

            I am a PoC and in my personal experience this happens A LOT. My spidey-sense for it has gotten more honed over the years, so I don’t put up with it as much as I used to, but yup. This is a Thing. I don’t want to derail the thread by going into details (also it makes me rant-y), but yes, SO FUN. It’s a very subtle and gross form of boundary-testing.

            Its an immediate deal-breaker for me – my brain blanks out – and I can’t really engage. I used to get angry. Now I just leave.

        • Kat said:

          I think you could go even further and say that often, a dude who is clueless about feminism (especially if he’s young) is better than one who shows off how much he knows about it. When I met my partner, he knew jack shit about feminism or feminists beyond having a vague idea that they were always making a fuss over nothing, thanks to being brought up in Fox News-watching household. However, his actions were that of the ideal feminist dreamboat. He listened to and cared about what I thought; he didn’t ever try to pressure me into or out of anything; he was kind to people and animals; when we discussed feminism he didn’t try to tell me How Things Really Are, Little Lady; he treated me as an equal; instead of getting all “I’ll kill him with my bare hands GRRRROOAWR” when I told him about my experiences being sexually assaulted he focused on empathizing with me; when we moved in together and I complained about doing more housework than him he made an ongoing effort to fix it. These are the things that truly matter and that we should look out for. If a man is decent to start with, he’ll probably naturally acquire a feminist point of view anyway just from hanging out and relating with you, like my partner did. Actions speak louder than words, words are wind, etc. Flashy feminist rhetoric means nothing if the dude is still going to act like an entitled pig, and I’d say lying to get into younger women’s pants definitely qualifies.

          • Muddie Mae said:

            Jumping off your comment, people I’ve known who are very invested in their identity as a Capital Letter Something always run into some situation where the reality and their idea of themselves conflict. Sometimes that Capital Letter Something is a good trait (feminist), sometimes a bad trait (slob), sometimes neutral.

            It reminds me a bit of Fixed vs Growth Mindset (super short version, a Fixed Mindset approaches characteristics like intelligence, empathy etc as innate, unchangeable qualities; Growth Mindset approaches them as skills that can be developed). I find myself screening for a Growth Mindset in partners.

          • Muddie Mae said:

            Crap, I accidentally deleted part of my comment. Meant to say that after the Capital Letter Something people run into a situation where their self-identity conflicts with reality, they either start arguing about reality or make nice words about changing but never do (whether well-intentioned or not)

          • When She Was Good said:

            @Muddie Mae me, too. I’m ok with it if someone has a fixed mindset in one limited area, but someone who defaults to that in most/all areas is someone I steer clear of. Not that people with fixed mindsets don’t deserve love, I just don’t have it in me to deal with that kind of mindset on a daily basis.

          • MamaCheshire said:

            Yeah, I’d say that Spouse started off fairly similar to this – considered himself “conservative-leaning independent” politically, without a whole lot of thought as to what that actually meant, and WITH a whole lot of misinformation about, well, basically everything thanks to having grown up in what was essentially a fundamentalist cult. But as soon as he was no longer in that environment and suddenly had questions about All The Things, lots of mind-changing and “oh, I didn’t know that things actually work like this, I was led to believe something very different” happened. (Most memorably: he was ranting about social security taxes, and I explained about how my friend who got in a horrifying hit-and-run car accident in his mid 20s was able to put his life back together because social security disability was available after the short-term employer-linked benefits ran out. Led to many discussions about where taxes go and what benefits actually are and etc. And MANY years later found out that Spouse had been receiving derivative child benefits from his adoptive parents’ Social Security and they never told him, and in fact told him that he wasn’t, because they were abusive lying liars. But I digress!)

            Much better than dealing with Viagra Guy, who I know I’ve ranted about a few times before – his entire selling point was his leftist activism, and he bought me this AWESOME book of feminist essays that I totally loved. And he also said I didn’t look like a [my real first name] so he was going to call me by my middle name, which is…um, not my name. And then years after we broke up, when I was sort of but not very seriously dating someone else, he flew cross-country mostly to visit me and once we were at my place he let me know he had Viagra and wanted to use it. NOPETOPUS. I think Viagra Guy was the worst of “scary supposed feminist dudes” I encountered, but he wasn’t the only one. 😦

        • ordinarygoddess said:

          When I finally called Current Partner out on the question of whether or not he actually identified as feminist (we’d been together several years at that point, and I was gearing up to come out as bi, and it was in the context of “are you prepared to be in a queer relationship?”) what I got was: he didn’t know enough about movement feminism to feel like he could claim the word, he thought it would be really appropriative to do so as a somewhat ignorant dude, and he wasn’t sure he really needed to attach a word to the sentiment and practice of really just, in general, liking and respecting and enjoying the company of women.

          I was like, “Oh, honey. If only we lived in a world where that wasn’t a radical act.” And then we had a long talk about the current state of feminism and feminism backlash.

          I give the side-eye to guys who have to tell you that they’re feminists. Show, don’t tell.

        • Cactus said:

          Yep. My fiancé’s one of the biggest feminist dudes I’ve ever known. Though I’ve never heard him directly identify as such. Our first few conversations were about alcohol, TV shows, and random life stuff, occasionally touching on politics. I did tell him that I was bisexual early on though–mostly because I was telling an anecdote that involved my ex-girlfriend (good sign: I trusted him enough to let him know I had an ex-girlfriend), but I wanted him to know that yes, I am also interested in men, hint hint. And he was cool with that.
          I think one of the things that solidified things for me was his appreciation of woman-fronted bands (he had never seen Portlandia, so I was explaining why I started watching it and who Carrie Brownstein was and then started explaining Sleater-Kinney…as soon as I said “Sleater-Kinney,” his eyes lit up); books written by women, including women of color; TV shows focusing on female characters…and then I started realizing that I didn’t have to painstakingly argue/explain everything about feminism and anti-racism to him–but that he wasn’t going to be patronizing to me, either. It was so weird and revelatory.

          • Nerdlinger said:

            “I started realizing that I didn’t have to painstakingly argue/explain everything about feminism and anti-racism to him–but that he wasn’t going to be patronizing to me, either. It was so weird and revelatory.”

            OMG THIS! You’ve given me so much hope.

      • Word. Word.

        My most recent ex said he was a feminist, and I know he got a lot of the theory and could be very nice to me when I got street-harassed etc. But he also was totally fine with not doing any of the domestic work which meant that I ended up doing it by default, because mess triggers my anxiety like whoa. He also tried to argue me out of perfectly reasonable needs and wants, in a way that married a little too closely with “women be CRAZY, yo”. He was also fine with my taking on responsibility and risk around our sexual and reproductive health in a way that made me sick (literally), when some early actions from him could have prevented any problem. So really, his brand of feminism amounted to a high ability to talk the talk, and very little inclination to walk the walk, especially if it any way inconvenienced him, would require him to change his behaviours or habits, or to actually give a shit about other people and to act like their needs and wants mattered.

        :/

      • A woman once told me, if a man says he’s a feminist, I tell him he’s not allowed to call himself a feminist. Just so I can see how he handles women setting boundaries and personal entitlement.

        It seemed a little unnecessarily combative to me at the time.

        A little older and wiser, I’m now fully in favor of this strategy. Because dear lord.

        • My life has been gloriously free of guys who only pretend to be feminists, so maybe I’d feel a different way with different experiences. That said, unless he’s displayed specific signs of not being a feminist, telling a guy he’s not allowed to call himself a feminist does seem unnecessarily combative. It wouldn’t sit well if anybody told me I couldn’t call myself whatever I called myself.

          Besides which, do you want to encourage him to be one of those guys who says he’s a humanist? 🙂

          • SarahTheEntwife said:

            Yeah, saying something you don’t actually believe as a relationship-testing strategy would raise major red flags for me. I hate that sort of mind-game.

    • Cactus said:

      This is a lot like what I said in a comment upthread before reading yours (mine got sent to moderation land)…but yours is better. In fact, it’s perfect.

    • enigmaticblue said:

      Also? A guy might say problematic things, but when challenged on those things, completely change his tune, which is what happened with my husband. But then, he demonstrated through words and actions that he was a kind, fair, and generous person who likes to think through arguments and is willing to change.

      This dude? What was his response when you asked about his age? Did he acknowledge your concerns, and that ten years is a pretty big deal to a lot of folks, and maybe he should be sensitive to your concerns? Because I am guessing that he did not do this. Have you had to challenge him on anything else? How did he respond? Was he defensive or dismissive? Because no amount of feminist talk is going to make that character trait go away.

      • Yes. My current BF had/has some pretty uncool habits but when I talk to him about them he listens and doesn’t try to argue around/out of it – and then he works very hard to not do it again. He might not know the rhetoric but he’s on his way to becoming a feminist whether he likes it or not lol

  23. Hildur Ýr said:

    While I agree that the age is not the main issue here I do think that the LW (and anyone else) is totally justified in wanting a partner of any age of hir choice. If LW wants to date a 37 year old man, fine, but it´s also totally fine if zie doesn´t want that. It gets to be a dealbreaker.

  24. gurps said:

    Oh my god, Mike’s comment about the typo set off loud alarm bells in my head. LIAR. he is LYING. It definitely sounds like an intentionally manipulative thing to do, and I would probably have misgivings about it too.

  25. sioushi said:

    “He claimed 27 was a typo online…”

    I’m sorry, I was going to keep reading, but my brain broke into HYSTERICAL LAUGHTER AT THIS WHOPPER.

    • sioushi said:

      Right, now that’s out of my system.

      First issue first. LW, it’s not ageist to give Sam’s relationship the side-eye. This guy is clearly meeting social and emotional needs via the attention / affection / validation of an unattached young female who is (1) not his generational cohort and (2) not his wife. A married man meeting his social and emotional needs with an unattached female who is not his wife while telegraphing his marital woes in huge, unmistakable signals is a man who is maneuvering to “accidentally” end up alone in a hotel room with said woman one day, and if he can blame THAT on a typo then by God, he will. Age has nothing to do with it.

      Regarding ageism: your early twenties are weird, generation-wise. You start having friendships with people who would have been “your teacher” or “your parent’s friend” just a couple of years prior, but are now on equal footing with you as “adults.” It can feel empowering to kick back a beer with your former professor or to work with (or even manage) someone your dad’s age. It can feel very weird when your coworkers start comparing menopause symptoms. Eventually you start to feel like an adult-on-the-continuum, but even so, there’s nothing wrong (or prejudiced) about wanting to date your own age bracket. Life goals, reproductive fitness, career mileposts, etc. can vary tremendously between the decades. Ageism is a problem in the workplace, especially if your prejudice affects your hiring decisions; but no one should be made to feel they should be attracted to someone (or NOT attracted) if they’re out of sync. (It was fine for me to dump the 22 year old I was sleeping with at 30 when he was genuinely put out that I could not stay up til 2 am playing Warcraft on work nights; our goals were a TAD out of sync, and we parted with no hard feelings.)

      Storytime! When I was 27, I became friends with my former high school art teacher, who was 47. It became clear that Gunther really wanted to date me (okay, sleep with me), and that would have been fine to any outside observer – but I wasn’t physically attracted to him. I (gently) rebuffed his (subtle) advance, and after that, we were great buddies. We went to gallery openings, we cooked amazing Thai food in his kitchen, we drank beer, we board-gamed; one New Year’s I fell asleep on his lap watching the ball drop and woke up with a blanket around me the next morning. He never engaged in any of the skeevy passive-aggressive passes or subtle mooning you get from guys who think they can wear your resistance down. Complete gentleman. Which is why I was so blindsided by another older male friend – Jack, 50-ish, who was a friend of my dad’s – cornered me in the parking lot and tried to lay a smacker on my lips. I’d gotten in the habit of having lunch once a week with Jack because he worked at my new job, and I never, ever for a moment thought there was anything suggestive in going out for lunch with a married male coworker. I completely missed the “midlife crisis, let me tell you about why my wife never wants to do anything fun” signals because I’d never run into them before at my age. So when confronted with an emotional smash-and-grab, I dodged the kiss, slammed my car door, and drove straight to Gunther’s for feedback. (Diagnosis: Jack was an asshole I should evict from my life, which I promptly did.)

      Midlife crises are a cliche because they’re true. I’ve known more many man (and a couple of women) have a last fling with youth by acquiring a 20-something lover in their 40s. Sometimes it was in response to a 20-year marriage going stale. Sometimes divorce happened; mostly they went back to their spouses, abashed or refreshed. Sometimes it was a desperate sop to the older person’s ego in the face of aging. And, yes, sometimes it looked like a genuine meeting of minds between two kindred spirits in disparately aged bodies. But the power differential between young and old – especially young women and older men – makes these relationships a minefield.

      You’re right to be worried for Sam. But you probably can’t say anything to change her mind about this guy, so I wouldn’t. Just be there later for her.

      Regarding the 37 year old? He is a LYING LIAR WHO LIES so that he can feel young instead of pathetic and I hope you will have dumped him before you get to the end of this sentence. Regardless, feel free to judge his actions clearly, and absolve yourself of looking through the lens of prejudice.

      Take care!

      • I feel like you kind of skirted around a Thing I wanted to touch on; for men, dating/sleeping with younger/more conventionally attractive people is a way of gaining social status. That’s why ‘dating a 25 year old’ is lined up right next to ‘bought a sports car’ in the midlife crisis cliché playbook; because we are socialised to think of ‘dating someone significantly younger and more attractive’ in the same bracket as ‘acquiring a shiny object’.

        This is dehumanising and objectifying, and is another layer of grossness to ‘Mark’s behaviour: he’s tricked the LW into a relationship that de facto dehumanises her and boosts his social status, without her consent.

        People fall in love and get into relationships that aren’t what they pictured or have downsides all the time (I was very much looking for a professional who had lived independently for a number of years, I ended up marrying a student who’d never lived away from home), but the LW didn’t decide ‘wow you’re so youthful and great I don’t care’, Mark decided that his desire for sexual access to the LW was more important than her freedom to make that decision, so he lied to her.

        • satsuma said:

          Agree so much with this comment. I think you’re spot on about the gross assumptions that give rise to the whole skeevy older dude behaviour thing in the first place, plus the fact that liars effectively remove their target’s ability to consent – consent isn’t consent if important info has been withheld!

        • annejumps said:

          This is a great point.

        • the cat in the mask said:

          “Mark decided that his desire for sexual access to the LW was more important than her freedom to make that decision, so he lied to her.”

          This right here is really the crux of the whole issue, I think.

        • dsbs42 said:

          Excellently said. I love this site, and I love the comments.

      • Lilly said:

        “Midlife crises are a cliche because they’re true. I’ve known more many man (and a couple of women) have a last fling with youth by acquiring a 20-something lover in their 40s. Sometimes it was in response to a 20-year marriage going stale. Sometimes divorce happened; mostly they went back to their spouses, abashed or refreshed. Sometimes it was a desperate sop to the older person’s ego in the face of aging. And, yes, sometimes it looked like a genuine meeting of minds between two kindred spirits in disparately aged bodies. But the power differential between young and old – especially young women and older men – makes these relationships a minefield.”

        Yes x 1000.

        When I read the story of the LW’s friend I was very uncomfortably reminded of a recent experience with an older man who developed a crush on me the way that Sam’s admirer has on her. “Dick” was on his second marriage and assured me that this was happy but trash-talked his second wife constantly (she was unadventurous in bed, she didn’t like giving blow jobs (yeah, thanks for that info), she was getting old and made him feel old) whereas I was amazing, the woman he had always wanted to meet and he cursed fate that I had not been around in his life earlier. He told me his marriage was basically over and he wanted to get a divorce. Dick had a lot of power though because I was involved in a project with him, something I had always wanted to do, and he made me a lot of promises about how this would develop (it turned out they were all lies). He was very manipulative, charismatic, charming, had no qualms about lying but was very, very good at it. Dick had terrible mentionitis at home, and his wife suspected he was having an affair. Dick moved out of his house and rented a house that he said we could live in together. His wife’s mom gave him a very large sum of money to buy him out of the joint house he had with wife. So I thought he had left his wife — he HAD left her — but of course he was manipulating her too and after lying about a vasectomy (he said he had had one, he had not, I had a pregnancy scare, he said he wanted to have my children, I turned out not to be pregnant), he dumped me and ran back to his wife.

        (I don’t know why she took him back.)

        So in some senses age is irrelevant — here it was relevant because Dick was going through a mid-life crisis where he wanted to prove he still “had it” as he put it, and he was facing growing old as reflected in his wife’s getting older with him; and also because he had power thanks to the work situation.

        • Erin said:

          That is some fucked-up lying bullshit. Like, all the manipulation, lying about the vasectomy, then leaving you. Wow.

  26. Key said:

    Oh, boy, LW, I cannot know what’s really going on here with this dude, but I have been the young woman who was wooed by the older man and who was too young to know how much of his interesting and romantic self and life story was utter deluded bullshit. Oh, man. Unfortunately, a BS detector is something that grows with age and experience. I can spot them a mile away now, but that dude wouldn’t try to date me anymore, because I’m old enough to know better.
    Red flags: – being flattered by how you’re so not like other women/so much better than the last woman/every previous woman who broke his heart
    – you’re so mature
    – the world doesn’t understand me, but you do
    – you’re there for me in ways that no one has ever been before (this was prelude to lots of money leaving my possession)

    My situation was extreme and hopefully you’ll leave this relationship with some good sex and good experience under your belt. But yeah, like the good Captain said, guard your heart and watch for boundary pushing.

    • And how easily the “you’re not like other women” turns into “you’re acting like my ex-wife” once he’s landed you and isn’t in the laudatory phase anymore.

      • ona555 said:

        ^^^^^^^
        ALL THE THIS.

        “You’re acting like my ex”
        Who had opinions about certain behaviors of his and how he should change them to make the relationship more fair on her end…

      • Redgirl said:

        That can be much more subtle, too. When he spends the whole beginning of your relationship spelling out how awful his ex was and all the ways you are so different and wonderful, then even the slightest insinuation that you are being like her can make you frantically do everything in your power to prove how you are SOOOO not her.

        Until you recognize what’s going on and stop falling for it, anyway.

    • Mary said:

      Yeah, it does sound like this guy is hanging it out for 21yos because his bullshit detector detector tells him it’s not going to-work with women who’ve had a but more experience.

      Fortunately it sounds like the LW’s bullshit detector is also pretty well-developed.

      • “Fortunately it sounds like the LW’s bullshit detector is also pretty well-developed.”

        Yes, and to me that’s the wonderful thing about this letter. LW, you KNOW this situation with Mike is off. You wouldn’t be writing to us if you didn’t. If his typo really was a mistake and he was the type of guy who would genuinely never lie to a younger women in order to have sex with her, that would have been more easily discernible in the way he handled the situation.

        Your spidey-sense is good. It tingles with righteousness.

        • sioushi said:

          All the awesome is encapsulated in the above thread.

    • Further red flags: (I suppose not specific to older men, but in my experience these were things I should have noticed)

      – “You’re so entertaining” or some variant of the older guy expecting you to perform humour / excitingness / interestingness / distraction

      – A refusal on his end to confirm / publicly acknowledge relationship status – ie I was on the phone with this guy for hours every night for six months, flirting; we would go for dinner and drinks where he would sniff my hair and to movies where he would feel me up and we had sex and I met his mum – but NO we weren’t in a relationship what are you talking about?!

      – Using you to complain about their ex / love triangle at work / whatever – basically making it clear that you are not their first romantic priority

      – If age difference is in any way coupled with any other power differentials – ie both of the sleazy guys I encountered were also tutors at my uni and if I wanted to be totally cynical, I would guess that one big upside of having uni tutoring as a second job was access to 18-22 year old girls. IN FACT I actually ended up helping to call them out to the Head of Department who could think of SIX separate male tutors with a history of going for young female students despite signing paperwork to the contrary. She compared it to abuse in the Catholic Church in terms of a systemic issue (I don’t agree with the comparison but I think the fact she used such severe terms was interesting)

      – Telling lurid stories about their even younger exes – ie the time where I actually RAN THE FUCK AWAY from a 40-year-old tutor whom I’d slept with once before and with whom I had a fun, low-key, snarky email exchange relationship, once he told me about his ****17 YEAR OLD***** EX. He’d met her in a pub and thought she was older than she was (in her early twenties at least!) and by the time he found out her age they were already together and oh my god, wasn’t she mature and hot. I literally called an end to the night and left with him saying “Was it because I mentioned the 17-year-old?” and “You’re breaking my heart” with a hangdog expression on his face as I got into a cab. To which I replied, with a cheery wave: “I’m sure it’s not your HEART I’m breaking!”

  27. notemily said:

    LW, you are not required to justify your preferences to Mike or anyone else. If you prefer to date men closer to your age, that’s your preference and not up for debate. (If you decide that maybe older dudes are OK after having a relationship with an awesome older dude, that’s a different story. The point is, YOU get to decide, not Mike or anyone else.)

  28. Key said:

    I should add that after my awful ex-husband experience, I went on to have very good short-term relationships with a couple even older men. They had issues that were age-difference-related, but overall were very satisfying and non-exploitive experiences that I don’t regret at all.

  29. Right, so I’m going to disagree with a lot of the other commenters who have said that age doesn’t seem to be a relevant factor here. Fact is that there is something alarming about any relationship where there is a significant power differential, and age is absolutely something that will contribute to that. Consider relative wealth – there’s nothing wrong with dating someone who makes less (or even much less) money that you do, but there is something wrong with using that to make someone feel indebted to you. Ageism isn’t what’s happening here. Ageism is saying things like “People over 60 don’t/shouldn’t have sex” or “That guy who we don’t know anything about is gross because he’s 50.” Shaming you for being ageist is your friend trying to shut you down because she doesn’t want to see his age as something that might mean he is taking advantage of her. No one wants to feel like they’re being played.

    Yeah, you could focus on all the other reasons why both situations are sketchy. But when they’re paired with the fact that these older people are also men, that’s another telling thing that says BEWARE BIG POWER DIFFERENCE. Chris is more established in his life: he has more contacts, more resources, including a wife who is closer to his equal (and who he villifies – she can’t just be neutral or cool, she has to be the foil to fun refreshing so easy-to-talk-to Sam). Mike is old enough to know that there’s a huge difference between 27 and 37, when the person he’s trying to date is 21. Everything about this sounds like intentional manipulation and unless he giving you a sincere apology and **correcting the profile immediately** this would be an immediate, no second chances dealbreaker for me. I say listen to your gut and keep watching your friend’s back. You can’t tell her what to do, but just because she doesn’t see a pattern of alarming behavior doesn’t mean you can’t be there for her if things go seriously bad (that is, any/all of the Captain’s columns on having a friend with a Darth Vader apply here).

  30. Esti said:

    “He claimed 27 was a typo online but that he looks and feels like he’s a twentysomething (he’s in university), and that he thinks I act very “maternal”, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

    If it was a typo, he wouldn’t have had a ready-made explanation for why he’s just like a twentysomething and you shouldn’t have a problem being with his 37-year-old self.

    Based on what he said, I would hazard a guess that BECAUSE he’s in university at age 37, you/his online dating profile are not the first person he’s told his particular lie to. “I look and feel like a twentysomething because I am surrounded by people in their twenties” are the words of a man who WISHES he looked and felt like a twentysomething because he is surrounded by people in their twenties.

    But more to the point, EVEN IF it was somehow an accident that he misstated his age by 10 years and then had a prepared script for brushing off your concerns about it, it is COMPLETELY OKAY for you to not want to be with him solely because he is 10 years older than you thought he was. I am sure some 21 year olds have had happy relationships with 37 year olds, but you are not required to be one of them. I would not date someone 16 years older than me. I DEFINITELY would not have dated someone 16 years older than me when I was 21.

    And even more to the point, EVEN IF the age thing was an accident and you were theoretically okay with dating a 37 year old, this particular one sounds like a dick. If you make a mistake like that, you APOLOGIZE PROFUSELY. You say you understand if she might want to take a step back. You do not try to justify how you’re just like a twentysomething and she’s “maternal” (which, WHOA) and so it’s not a big deal.

  31. Tamsyn said:

    “You act very maternal” for me, reads as “I’m immature and expect whoever I’m involved with to look after all of my needs.”

    RUN TO THE HILLS. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE.

    • rosy said:

      +10000

    • XtinaS said:

      Kudos for the Iron Maiden reference!

  32. paddlepickle said:

    People have made most of the relevant points here, but I just want to chime in that even if this dude DOES look and feel like a twenty-something, and he hadn’t made a point of telling you that but you just felt that way, being 37 but seeming like you’re in your twenties is a red flag in itself. I dated a guy who was 38 when I was 24, and he was actually way more worried about it than I was, because I was just like ‘oh, well you SEEM like you’re about my age so who cares?” Turns out, most 38-year olds who seem 25 have some real issues that make them that way. If you’re going to date someone older, they should seem older.

    • Yes. I’m in a weird life stage because I was in a committed relationship with someone much older very young, and THEN I went back to school and ended up doing grad school, so I’m 39 and am in the same circumstances life-stage-wise as my grad-school friends a decade younger. However, my personality, experience, and maturity are commensurate with my actual age. There’s a huge difference between life circumstance and personality, and it tends to be pretty obvious when you’re interacting with a person, once you know what to look for. I get along great with people in a wide range of ages, and I am in the end stages of living la vida estudiantil, but if you talk to me for 30 seconds it’s obvious I’m a grownup.

      BRB, eating fibre and watching The Mentalist.

      • When She Was Good said:

        I love your whole comment, but the end killed me.

        (I am right there with you on that last part, only I’ve always liked high-fiber foods and old people shows, so I was happy about getting to the age where it was expected of me.)

        • Is there anything better than a gigantic salad, a huge glass of wine, and an NCIS marathon?

          • Pictures of you laughing with the salad.

          • When She Was Good said:

            NOTHING. Except maybe a side of prune juice. Don’t laugh, it goes really well with some wine.

          • @FiercePassion: I shall spear a grape tomato and laugh as though it is the most delightful thing that has ever happened to me.

            @when she was good: to make everything worse, I water my red wine. 🙂

      • Erin McJ said:

        +1. Also did grad school late. Also agree that it was very easy to tell. And that’s a good thing.

    • R. said:

      A friend of mine had a situation where they supported themselves for a couple years, before going back to school for a further degree, and could not see any dating potential in anyone going to school with them because of the stark difference in life experience. Eventually they tried with a guy who was actually a few years older than them, but who’d spent his entire adult life vaguely studying one thing or another, never graduating or getting serious about anything work-related. He’d actually assumed my friend was younger than they were, because preying on university students was apparently his thing (he also turned out to have a gross racial fetish, which probably fits the preference for “infantilized” partners as well). They ended up not wanting to date him because of all of the above, but I can absolutely imagine someone younger not seeing through him.
      I wouldn’t call him a Darth, but definitely a major creep.
      And like, even if there’s nothing wrong with someone who’s 40 coming across like they’re 25 per se, it is indicative of stagnation. Chances are they have been 25 for 15 years and are unlikely to change, which is probably not the same for their potential, actually 25-year-old, partners. If I were to imagine the future for a long-term relationship like that it’d be pretty bleak. Yeah, you feel like you’re the same age now, but what about in three years? Or in five? There’d probably be a lot of resentment and anger when someone at the age of 28 has outgrown their 45-year-old boyfriend.

      • One of the dudes I was dating when I was 19 was 28 and seemed like the coolest 28yo in the business. We broke up, fell out of contact, and reconnected about 8 years later, when I was 27 and just getting back to finish my BA. He was still the guy that a 19yo would think was the coolest 28yo in the business. As a 27yo I felt literal revulsion.

  33. annstarrr said:

    1) Like everyone else said, the age thing was NOT a typo. He is lying. That is, unless he fixed the “typo” right away when you pointed it out, and also during this WHOLE TIME (not after you pointed it out) his search parameters were set to a normal age range for a 37-y-o, which would not include someone who is 21.

    2) Lying can be OK sometimes. I lied the other day when someone at work asked me the last time I cleaned my fan blades. I wanted to look good, so I said I did them once a month (lies!). But my lie affects no one except the dust mites living on my fan blades. His lie about his age was an intentional deception to get you to start dating him, when you otherwise might not have started dating him, had you known the truth. This is not an example of an acceptable lie. It is an example of a creepy manipulation. Being skeeved out about manipulative behavior has nothing to do with his age and is not ageist.

    3) There are plenty of lies I have told in the interest of maintaining a relationship. (“OMG, no, it totally doesn’t bother me that you don’t have a car at age 31 and I have to drive us everywhere! It’s like you’re eco-concious even though you don’t recycle!”) That was not cool of me, and was definitely manipulative. But over time, I learned that lying really didn’t help things, so I stopped doing it. And I like to think that even with those lies, I was a good and helpful partner overall. So… know that the age thing is a lie, and a red flag. And pay CLOSE ATTENTION to see what other red flags pop up. There will be others. No one is perfect, and you will find flaws. Do not ignore these flaws.

    4) This guy skeeves me out. There are plenty of men in their late thirties who are immature enough to date an average 21-year-old and be on the same level. BUT… these immature guys, if they’re genuinely seeking a true partner and will be a good guy, will be honest about their age and why they want to date someone 21. (“My age range is pretty broad. Other people my age don’t normally like to stay out until sunrise, and I am looking for a partner to take tent camping at Bonnaroo. So if you like these things too, message me even if you’re younger or older!”) He just lied about it and called you “maternal.”

    5) “Maternal”???? This guy wants to sleep with you?? o_0

    6) If this guy was your first, you probably have some complex feelings about him. Be careful with yourself, and give yourself plenty of slack. He’s been doing this a lot longer and is likely both more jaded and more manipulative.

  34. Lark said:

    As a relatively old person (late thirties) who recently decided not to ask a younger person out because I was worried about being skeevy and power differentials and stuff, I want to add that if you’re, like, 37 and you’re thinking of asking someone out who is much younger and you’re a reasonably astute and caring person, you are aware of some of the challenging aspects of age difference in a relationship – you know that you’re at different life stages, have different experiences of your body (because even as a relatively robust older person, I don’t feel like I did when I was 25), have different cultural references and have probably had some generational/formative stuff that’s really different. (the cultural and political events that really shaped you, your access to cultural stuff growing up, your experiences with the internet…and lord knows, if you’re queer it’s very different to have grown up in the late eighties/early nineties than to have grown up in the early 2000s.)

    And if you’re an older person of good intent, you’re well aware of how we as a culture are encouraged to fetishize youth, especially young women, and you’re well aware of how young women are simultaneously overvalued and disrespected as romantic partners. And you should be reasonably aware that you yourself are not outside of culture – no matter how sincere an attraction may be, it’s still contoured by the culture we live in. (Which was what ultimately dissuaded me from asking out the person in question – I don’t trust my unconscious motives in seeking out a significantly younger partner.)

    The point is that an older person who isn’t a creep is going to give some thought to the stuff that comes up when you date a younger person rather than just romping ahead with a cry of “but I’m young at heart!!”

    • I really like this contribution.

      Plus, your last line makes me picture Mike as a somewhat oafish Newfoundland dog who bound knowingly off the edge of Mt. You Should Know Better because someone threw a duck-decoy over the ledge (“…but I’m young at heeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaarttttttt!!……”).

    • EXACTLY THIS. People who don’t want to be skeezy can make efforts to not be skeezy! They don’t make thinly veiled *aghem* “typos” on their dating accounts and try and blindside you with jargon. And ‘maternal’??? WTF? In my book that’s one large steaming pile of NOPE. (there is a beautiful cartoon floating out on the interwebs of a godzilla nopeing at some hornets. Here is a link, if I may: http://imgur.com/gallery/Mhvzhvg)

      Also, I just want to second the Captain’s advice to have lifts and couches and a Team Sam prepared. Probably the best way to one-up the creepy dude is that he can’t destroy Team Sam and you’ll be there ready with a safe place she can choose to run to no matter how much icky rhetoric is spouted.

      • Og said:

        If he was really a Good Feminist Man, he’d probably have a few thoughts about why describing a woman as “maternal” in this context is pretty messed up.

  35. My first marriage started a bit like Chris and Sam’s relationship and it was an unmitigated disaster. He was 34 and I was 18 with sometimes suicidal depression and chronic physical health problems and most of our intense friendship/ grooming took place on-line. But otherwise, the same kind of thing. Subtle digs at his then wife who didn’t share his interests. Protests that this lady was jealous of me, and wasn’t that ridiculous (mentionitis is a good term). Also, lots of reinforcement of the idea that my people, my friends and family did not understand me. For this reason, I’d suggest the LW try to avoid talking about Chris where possible and concentrate on having as good a friendship you can with Sam – if she does run into any trouble, it will help her in more ways than you know.

    Anyway, of course, my first husband’s first wife threw him out and he suggested, since my family were so terrible, we should live together! We hadn’t kissed or anything, it was that fast. Later he told the story of the breakdown of his first marriage as if I had seduced him. There followed ten years of emotional and physical abuse.

    I have known some fantastic relationships with a big age gap. But there’s almost always a power dynamic, especially between an older, often wealthier man and a younger woman. This isn’t to say it can’t be negotiated but for some people this is absolutely no problem at all. In some cases, force of personality neutralises or even reverses the dynamic – some younger people even bully their older partners. But it’s there, it’s real. I’m 33 and I’d be nervous of dating much younger people, because it’d be so easy to take control, even unintentionally; I know more about myself, about life and I’m miles more confident than most people even ten years younger.

    Many men who seek out younger women (as opposed to just happening to meet and mutually fall in love with one) do so because they want someone more easily impressed and malleable than women their own age, who have less sense of what they want in life and are in a weaker position in any argument. Who can be told, “You’re really mature for your age, but you know you’re completely wrong about this feeling you have.” or you know, “You’re maternal, so this problem you have shouldn’t be a problem.”

    This doesn’t mean they’re all terrible abusive people. But they may well be playing a game.

    The way the LW tells it, it sounds like Mike’s age revelation came quite late. Not like on the first date, where discussing your lives together might have thrown up the fact that he had ten years extra life experience. Meanwhile, although it’s not unheard of, it’s a novelty for 37 years olds to date 21 year olds, so you’d think there might at least be some line about that little elephant in the room way before there was a plot to get twisted.

    • I was in a similar situation (late hub was 39 and I was 19 when we met) and I do actually date younger men now, but I’m also really careful about it. And I’ve gone out once with some men and been like “…there’s no way this goes well” and refused a second date, because I could tell it would be The Novel Show, and not even Novel likes The Novel Show. 🙂 It makes her very tired to have to be responsible for more than one person all the time, which is part of why her marriage was so exhausting.

  36. misspiggy said:

    I had a lovely fling with a man 23 years older than myself, in my earlyish twenties. Although he was cagey about his age initially, because he thought it would be offputting, he made it very clear that he was interested in younger, inexperienced women, because they were younger and attractive and he liked corrupting them. I made it clear that I was attracted to older men, and very much up for being corrupted and having my poor battered heart healed by some major adoration.

    Did he manipulate me to get into my pants? Yes – but through disarming frankness, not lying. Being with him was tons of fun and both of us were open about what we wanted and got it. If he had pulled that dating-profile nonsense and claimed that he felt younger, and I was more mature, so really there wasn’t much of an age gap, that would have been ridiculous. Why seek out a younger person if you can’t be open about liking their youth? If they want an equal in age, it’s horribly creepy and dishonest to present yourself as what they’re looking for. You’re saying that you don’t trust their choice of someone of similar age, so you’ll deceive them into making another choice, which you’re sure they’ll be fine with. No.

    While Chris is clearly an arse of the first water, I think possibly Mike gets more of a side-eye from me.

  37. I totally agree that Sam’s problem — if indeed it is a problem — is not the LW’s business unless Sam chooses to make it her business. But i’d be a little stronger in my response about Mike.

    Mike lied. I am morally certain that was no typo, precisely *because* he didn’t apologize for it. Someone who inadvertently misled a young person into having sex with him by making her think he was ten years younger than he was, would be MORTIFIED by it, and unlikely to stop babbling profuse apologies until somebody stuffed a sock in his mouth.

    What’s more, he didn’t actually tell you his age, despite knowing he was dating a 21-year-old. Decent guys who are dating 15 years below their age range worry about it, and check in with their new partner to make sure they know and that it’s OK with them. They do NOT wait until their partner, subsequent to choosing them for said partner’s first sexual experience, stumbles upon the information on their own and then try to deny, minimize, and blame everything except themselves for the deceit.

    Dear LW, this man is a liar. That is the big issue here, not his age. He has lied to you personally, by saying that the age on his profile was a typo when it wasn’t. He has lied to the world at large, by claiming to be 27 in the first place. And he has attempted to devalue your own instincts and feelings, and deflect blame from himself for the lies when he was caught. Devaluing your feelings, and the deny/minimize/blame pattern of responding to criticism, are both symptoms of an abuser… as is lying to you.

    A man who lies to you in the first weeks of dating will lie to you again. And again and again, whenever it is more convenient to him to have you believe a falsehood than to have you know the truth. He has proven he will lie to you. He has proven he is unwilling to accept responsibility for his actions, by the deny/minimize/blame response to criticism rather than “humaning up” and taking it. And he has proven your feelings are of no consequence to him, by the way he attempted to pretend they weren’t reasonable or important when he insisted that the age difference didn’t matter *even though it mattered to you*.

    Why would you date someone — whether fifteen years older, or your own age — who lies to you, refuses to accept responsibility for his faults, and dishonors your feelings? These are the important things going on here; the age itself is secondary. Your friend Sam is focusing in on the age difference… possibly because she feels pressured by your response to her friendship with Chris, into defending all age-discrepant relationships. But what she’s missing is that this guy has proven by his behavior that he is not somebody safe or decent to date, no matter what his age might be.

    There are assholes who are 21. There are assholes who are 37. There is nothing wrong with dating a nice 37-year-old man, even if you’re considerably younger, if that’s what you want (although there is also nothing wrong with deciding that isn’t what you want, and if it isn’t, you shouldn’t let accusations of ageism pressure you into doing something that isn’t right for you). But there is a lot wrong with dating an asshole, of any age, and I’m afraid that’s what you’ve got in Mike.

    Finally, let me suggest that it sounds as if you are feeling like, after choosing Mike for your first sexual experience, you’re kind of stuck doubling down on the relationship even if it now looks like a bad idea. I hope you won’t do that. I know it can hurt to choose the wrong guy for your first time – especially after such determination to choose carefully. I did somewhat the same thing, many decades ago — I chose, finally, to have sex with my boyfriend of 8 months; my first time ever, because I trusted him. Three weeks later, wanting to dump me but not having the courage, he gave me an ultimatum about something he knew I could not possibly accept, counting on me to reject it and thereby dump him. I did so, after 24 hours of agonized deliberation, but I know how much it hurts; and the feeling that, even after all that thought and care, one chose wrongly, makes it hurt more. But that hurt is nothing close to the hurt of remaining in a relationship with a man who treats you badly — who lies to you, deceives you, denies responsibility for his faults, and shows contempt for your feelings and misgivings.

    Mike is showing every sign of being a Darth Vader Boyfriend. Run. Don’t look back.

    • Maiasaura said:

      Signing up for to comment for the first time to emphatically endorse this part of your comment:

      “Finally, let me suggest that it sounds as if you are feeling like, after choosing Mike for your first sexual experience, you’re kind of stuck doubling down on the relationship even if it now looks like a bad idea. I hope you won’t do that. I know it can hurt to choose the wrong guy for your first time – especially after such determination to choose carefully. I did somewhat the same thing, many decades ago — I chose, finally, to have sex with my boyfriend of 8 months; my first time ever, because I trusted him. Three weeks later, wanting to dump me but not having the courage, he gave me an ultimatum about something he knew I could not possibly accept, counting on me to reject it and thereby dump him. I did so, after 24 hours of agonized deliberation, but I know how much it hurts; and the feeling that, even after all that thought and care, one chose wrongly, makes it hurt more. But that hurt is nothing close to the hurt of remaining in a relationship with a man who treats you badly — who lies to you, deceives you, denies responsibility for his faults, and shows contempt for your feelings and misgivings.”

      ^^^^^^LW, you don’t have to figure out a way to redeem him for your first time to still be a positive experience. He is a LYING LIAR SLUG fucknugget (probably), but it sounds like you trusted and respected yourself and enjoyed your own sexuality. You can dump him and never look back and still consider your first time to have been right for you.

      • I had a fantastic first sexual experience with a creepy older dude that I would punch out if I saw him on the street these days. The sex was great. I still feel really really positive about the sex and happy about how it set me up for enjoying my sexuality and my sex life, even though the dude turned out to be a total creepster. (39yo me is not surprised. 19yo me was really upset and never saw it coming.) At this point, I don’t even remember if I felt awful about breaking up with him. So it’s entirely possible to take all the awesome things about a good first time with you and have all the bad things about the partner fall away. 🙂

  38. Jolly said:

    When well-meaning adults make an honest mistake like typing the wrong age into a dating profile and getting a date using false information, they say “oh wow, that was a typo, I had no idea. I’ll fix that now, but I understand if this changes things for you.”

    They don’t say, “well, that was a typo, but I’m totally that age *~*~*at heart*~*~* and you’re super mature so it’s fine, don’t worry about it.” This guy lied to you, and is already manipulating you into overlooking his shitty behavior.

    You’re not being ageist here, you just have instincts that make you suspicious of creeps and keep you vigilant against being manipulated. That is a good thing.

    I think it’s worth still analyzing your own motivations (because that’s almost always worth doing), but in both of these scenarios you sound pretty much on-target. I wouldn’t worry about it too much here.

    Agree with the captain, though: your friend’s love life/friendships aren’t really your concern. Don’t give her your opinion on this unless she asks for it, don’t focus on his age if she does, and do be a supportive friend who she knows won’t “I told you so” her if things get creepy there.

    I’d definitely dump the guy who is already trying to manipulate you, though.

    • miss_chevious said:

      IME, I’ve found the disclaimer “I look/act/feel much younger” is usually used by creeps who are trying to convince themselves that they are 25 when they are actually 45. As someone who dates much younger people sometimes, I just express interest or respond to expressed interest and get to know the person. If we like each other and have things in common, we do. I don’t have to *articulate* that I feel/act/look “younger” because I’m demonstrating that, regardless of age, we have things to say to each other or do with (and to 🙂 ) each other.

      It’s like that old adage about being cool: if you have to say it, it ain’t true.

      • Leonine said:

        I have to say, I get the “feeling younger” thing. I’m going to be forty in a few weeks, and that is really hard to understand. Every time I think about it, I kinda go, “I’m gonna be what now?” and then stare off uncomprehendingly for a minute or two. I don’t *feel* forty, whatever that means. I *feel* about thirty two, maybe. Here’s the thing: I’m not thirty two. I’m thirty nine, and I’m about to be forty. Those profiles don’t ask how old you feel. They ask how old you are. I would be interested to know how exactly the LW found out dude is older than he “feels.” Did he mention that his twentieth high school reunion was coming up and did she want to go? Or did she happen to see his driver’s license and did the math? Was he obviously surprised that she thought he was so young, or did the excuses pour out immediately?

        • Mary said:

          I’m thirty-six in a month’s time, and I also identify with “thirty-SIX? HOW?” feelings. At the same time, nothing makes feel, “…oh yeah, thirty-six” like hanging around with people in their twenties. I have a mortgage! I have been with my partner for ten years! I have friends with teenage kids! I have seen Doc Martens, black tights and ditsy floral dresses come in, go out, and come back in again! I have seen and experienced (and occasionally perpetrated) a wide variety of relationship bullshit and have No Time For That Nonsense! I tend to consider workplace dilemmas from the perspective of “what should management be doing here?” instead of “oh god my LIFE what am I even DOING”! I regard sleep and exercise and reasonably healthy food as good things that I can do for myself rather than oppressive tools of the conformist system!

          I mean, not everyone has the same list, obviously, but if you get to your late thirties and see no difference in experience and knowledge of the world between yourself and a twenty-one-year-old, even a mature and intelligent twenty-one-year-old, what on earth have you been doing with that time? It doesn’t say good things about you.

          • paddlepickle said:

            This is off topic but I just need to say how immensely comforting I find the thought that by age 36 I’ll get to stop thinking ‘oh god my LIFE what am I even DOING??’ every time there’s any kind of issue at work (or elsewhere, really).

          • Leonine said:

            Oh, man, that’s for sure. I teach college, so most of my students are in the 18-24 range, and wow, no. They seem like kids to me. Not only that, but there’s so much growing up that happens between 18 and 21, and again between 21 and 24. In three years, LW is going to be a different version of herself–more confident and mature–but in that time, dude is just going to be pretending he’s not forty.

          • miss_chevious said:

            Yep, exactly. It’s one thing to feel like “wait, I’m HOW OLD?” and another thing to try to convince yourself (or your partner) that mentally/emotionally you’re actually 15 years younger than you are.

          • Brigid said:

            Your comment is the best, and the thirties sound AWESOME.
            I am 24 and just beginning to experience peaceful, no-nonsense competence in most areas of my life, and I like it. I’m so glad it keeps getting better.

            Three cheers for getting older and wiser and cooler.

          • Anisoptera said:

            Yeah I just turned 37 and it was a bit “woah, how?” And being single, childless and not owning a house it doesn’t seem accurate. But then I think about what I was like when I was in my late teens or early twenties or late twenties and actually I am a very different person now (and I was pretty different between all those younger ages too). While I don’t feel middle aged, when I actually think about my past self or compare myself to actual twenty something’s, yes, I am in fact older. *This* is what middle aged feels like for me.

            Dudes with Magical Youthful Spirit may fit in with early twenty something’s but they are not the same. They’re people with an extra 15-20 years of experience who have apparently chosen not to change despite all the good reasons to do so, and/or have chosen to act a certain way to keep getting what they want (young compliant manipulable sex partners). The actually 22 year old guy who seems similar is someone who will learn and grow and change and hopefully respond to changing influences in his life. Mr 37 going on 23 is a whole different animal, even though his life seems the same on the surface. This goes for women too, but I use male pronouns because I have seen this way way more often with guys.

        • miss_chevious said:

          Oh, yeah, I totally get the “feeling younger” thing, especially as a person who is not attached and does not have kids. I feel around 27, if I think about it. (WAY not 27 in age.) It’s the protestations of “I FEEL YOUNGER” that are the flag for me.

      • Leonine said:

        Shoot, I didn’t mean that as a reply to you. It should have been an independent post. Sorry. 😦

  39. sarahcircusnachos said:

    Let me take you on a short time travel trip, to 1999, when I was 15 and dating a 21 year old. Plenty of people thought our relationship was Bad and Wrong because of the age difference. The 21 year old told me a great story about when he first saw me at Event, he didn’t realize I was so young, and since neither of us thought to ask for driver’s licenses or other forms of ID before we started dating and eventually became a couple, that was proof positive that age didn’t matter and I was super mature and all these uncool jerks just want to stand in the way of TROOOO WUV.

    Now it’s 2014. It’s been 15 years since I had that boyfriend, and the language has changed, but the results are the same. Dodgy older dudes are always going to find ways to explain away their dodginess to the young targets of their attention. Good for LW for recognizing there was a problem and getting some outside input on it.

    • boutet said:

      Ugh, this. I had a friend who always “accidentally” went for 14-16 YOs when he and I were early 20’s. He’d be like “oh she’s hot, I’m going to go talk to her.” and I’d be like, “she’s 15 at the most.” Because she would very clearly be exactly that. And he’d make a big stink about how, no, she’s even older than us, just look at her. Anyone he approached while I was around, we’d find out that she was, in fact, the age I thought she was.
      It got to a point where there’s no way that he honestly thought all these CHILDREN were mid-20’s. He just told himself/me that they were so that he could go get involved with them without finding out their age until it was “too late.”
      The worst.

      • sarahcircusnachos said:

        I was going to ask if you knew my ex, but this situation is apparently so common that would be almost impossible.

  40. K said:

    I love that quote! “There’s a fine line between interesting and fucked up. You should date younger women; sometimes they can’t tell.”
    That pretty much describes most of my experiences with older men while I was in my early 20s.

    When a guy lies to you about something pretty major SO early, that is a BIG red flag. It happened to me though: when I was 23, this guy told me he was 35. He ended up being 48 – 2 years younger than my mother. In retrospect, I don’t know how I didn’t see the lie sooner, but I wanted to trust and I was not looking for him to lie since he was otherwise a pretty nice guy. I just would not have gotten romantically involved with someone 20+ years older than me.
    Even then, I tried to make it work because I felt like I had already gotten too involved and I believed the whole “age is just a number” and I didn’t want to be “ageist” or whatever. I found out: age gap relationships are hard. That relationship really fucked with my head, and it took a while to undo the damage.
    I still went on to date guys who were 10-15 years older than me, because it seemed they were always pursuing me and it was harder to say no to them. Unfortunately that dude was not the only older guy who ever lied to me about his age (just the biggest gap between fictional and real age).
    If nothing else, from that big liar and other experiences, I have learned: When someone THAT much older is pursuing younger women AND especially when they are LYING about it, there is usually something MAJORLY wrong in their heads.

    Fastfoward to a few years ago: I had just turned 30 and I started dating a super nice guy. Neither of us thought to ask eachothers age since we kinda hung out in the same social group. Neither of us had our age listed on FaceBook viewable to the friend lists we had eachother on (“acquaintances”). Right before we moved in together, I said something about being my 30s… and turned out that he was 45. He had assumed I was older because of my life experiences, and I thought he was younger (he didn’t have kids). We laughed and moved in together anyway. His family questioned the 15 year age gap at first, but 4 years later we’re still together.

    There is a BIG difference as far as emotional maturity and point-of-career/life between a 20 and a 35 year old. There is much less of a difference between a 30 and 45 year old.

    Trust me, I know from experiencing both.

  41. My first attempt at a comment was eaten, so I’m going to use the second chance to make this one much briefer.

    1) Mike is an asshole. It doesn’t matter whether he is a 37-year-old asshole or a 27-year-old asshole: any man who lies to you (the claim that it was a typo), lies to the public at large (the age on his profile), denies/minimizes/deflects blame in order to avoid taking responsibility for his own faults (“it’s okay because I feel just like a 27-year-old and anyway you’re so maternal,”), and devalues your feelings (“it’s okay because…” when he sees that you are not feeling that it is okay just now; in fact it’s pretty damned un-okay with you) is an asshole. Do not date assholes. Do not date assholes of any age. You are not ageist because you don’t want to date an asshole.

    2) As the Captain said, ageism is not really a Thing at all, in interpersonal relationships. You’re entitled to decide you don’t feel like dating a guy above X age without being ageist, just like you’re entitled to decide you don’t feel like dating a girl without being homophobic. Choosing a partner is one of the few activities in life which you get to do entirely based on your own preferences, answerable to nobody, and with no need to consider ANY criteria other than “do I want to?” (Well, except, “does he/she want to, too?” but that’s clearly not at issue here.) You have utter and total freedom of choice. Use it — and don’t let yourself be pressured by anyone who wants to claim that you have to justify your choice to them against the charge of ageism or anything else.

    3) If you were trying to be especially careful not to have sex with anyone until you were sure you were making the right choice, then it’s bound to feel pretty rough to find out that you didn’t make the right choice after all. This sucks — I know; I went through it my first time too. I waited eight months into a relationship before deciding it was time to have my first sexual experience, and he dumped me three weeks later. It hurts a lot. Seconds on all the people above who have said to be really gentle with yourself and focus a lot on self-care for a while. But none of this should be a reason to double down on the mistake and stay with an asshole. Any man who will, in the first weeks of a relationship, lie to you, lie to the public, deflect criticism rather than “human up” and admit the wrongdoing with deep apologies, and devalue your own instincts and feelings by telling you that everything is okay when you don’t feel that it is, will only get worse during the course of the relationship. I promise, however much it may hurt to feel that you have chosen to have your one and only First Time with someone who turns out to be an asshole, it will hurt a thousand times worse to stay involved with an asshole because you cannot bring yourself to admit that you accidentally chose an asshole, and drop him, and go on to try again.

    You’ve done nothing wrong, in having chosen to sleep with him. You were the victim of deception — that is HIS fault, not yours. Nor do you actually have one and only one First Time (I put it that way above because that’s the way one tends to feel about it when this kind of thing happens, but it isn’t true.) You really have an infinite number of potential Times to have sex with people of your choosing — and the First is only significant if you choose to make it so. If you’d rather write this one off as a mistake and decide that the next time is *your* chosen First, because it happens with the person you want your First Time to be with — that is totally okay. Virginity is a concept in the mind, not a condition of the body. Decide for yourself what form yours will take, and when you consider the important First to occur, if having a First at all is important to you (as it sounds like it is).

    Meanwhile, take good care of yourself; dump the asshole regardless of his age, and don’t let Sam talk you into thinking of yourself as ageist when you’re not. The Captain is correct that Sam’s friendship with Chris is Sam’s business, and only yours if she invites you to make it so; but equally, your choices regarding Mike the Asshole are your own, and not Sam’s business unless you invite her to make it so. And right now, she’s too busy defending her own choices to see yours clearly, which makes her — as the Captain also pointed out — not the best person to give advice about your situation just now. Be friends, enjoy each other’s company, and stay out of each other’s relationships with older assholes who are seeking out naive young women they can seduce via deception and misleading… because you’re right that that’s probably what Chris is doing, but it’s still not something you can interfere with until Sam sees it for herself.

    • JenniferP said:

      It got uneaten, but both are great, so here they both are.

    • I was thinking all these things about “first time” etc. Thankyou for articulating them so well! I would like to reinforce the “You absolutely do NOT now or ever have to stay with this person because they’re ‘your first. NOPE NOPE NOPE.”

  42. Thanks. Sorry for the semi-duplicate (especially since word-creep caused the “brief” one to end up nearly as long as the first). I am on a cranky old borrowed computer which swallows things in weird ways, and that is what it looked like had happened. Can’t wait to get my own machine back from the shop soon.

  43. LW

    I’m sorry that your first experience of a sexual relationship is with a lying liar who lies. Because Mike did lie to you.

    On the other hand, it’s completely ok to drop him for it.

    As far as Chris and Sam go, well maybe she doesn’t believe he’s grooming her for an affaire, and maybe he doesn’t intend to consummate an affaire, but he is showing himself to be a manipulative lying jerk. Because Judy isn’t the dull lazy type he’s portraying her to be. And he is mean.

    So do your best to get past Mike, and try to remember that Sam will need you soon.

    All the best

  44. wondering said:

    My sis-in-law started dating my brother when she was 15 and he was in his twenties. They married a month after she graduated from high school and have three awesome kids now. My sister started dating a guy 15 years older than her when she was 17. They have been happily cohabiting for nearly 2 decades. Those are some big age differences, especially given that my sisters were in high school when they got started.

    All this is to say is that age differences don’t have to be a big deal. But those relationships were built around honesty and equality. There were no “tedious” wives who “didn’t understand them” in the background. There was no lying about ages and intentions. Green flags are green flags, regardless of age difference. And red flags are red flags. Watch the flags! They are very nice flags, and want to be your friends.

  45. When choosing a romantic partner, housemate or friend, you can be as ageist as you want.
    I have a group of friends where I am one of the youngest – the two oldest of our 5 are the same age as my parents. But thats cool, because they are friends.
    My sister in law is married to a man almost 15 years older than her. And she is ok with that. I wouldn’t be for me, and thats OK. But I have no problem with her being happy with that.

  46. rosi5 said:

    Oh wow LW are you me?!

    When I was 20 I met a guy who told me he was “27” and gave me lots of lines about how mature I am and how intelligent I am. Which I swallowed of course. I totally did not see through it and ended up going home with him.

    At his house, I saw a letter on his kitchen bench that said he was 33. I confronted him about it and he continued to lie to my face. It was chilling.

    This all happened at 3.00am at this guys apartment in Sydney (Not where I was living – was on holiday). I had no clue where I was or how to get out. The situation chills me to this day.

    Apparently 27 is the golden age for older creeper dudes.

  47. Frost said:

    Wow, yeah, this setup feels really wrong – I’m pretty darn sure that guy is trying to set up your friend as an affair, and right now he’s trying to groom her into that ‘but you’re the cool one so you’re okay with it right?’ position, where if she DOES feel uncomfortable, she won’t say so because she doesn’t want to no longer be the ‘cool ‘ one. As for the second guy, keep a sharp eye out, he MIGHT not be that bad, but his conduct so far is raising lots of red flags.

  48. duck-billed placelot said:

    Age is not just a number.

    • This is an excellent point.

      The next time somebody says age is just a number, I would love to be there and pop in to point out that the oxygen content in the air, for example, is just a number. But let that one change and boy howdy people will get all excited. (and dead)

  49. MargoVictorious said:

    I’m 42 and regularly get confused for a much younger person – people typically seem to think I’m 10-15 years younger than I am. And it’s weird. I mean, it’s not exactly a hardship (#ralphmacchioproblems), but it comes up nearly every time I meet someone new. People who fall into this category are likely to be very, very aware of it. An appearance that far out of sync with your chronological age is enough of an outlier that the world will make sure you know it.

    Now way does this dude look that much younger and not know to correct for it. You don’t make it to 38 without having figured that out.

    This is an intentional misdirection for the purposes of dating younger women. Doesn’t mean he can’t still love you for you and whatever – but he trolled for you by baiting the hook with a big fat lie. You probably want to figure out how you feel about that before getting in any deeper with this guy.

    • Aine said:

      “An appearance that far out of sync with your chronological age is enough of an outlier that the world will make sure you know it.”

      Having an appearance that is pretty out of sync with my actual age – this is so true. As much as I personally enjoy my body/looks, it makes interacting with the world a lot more difficult and makes me more conscious of age stuff.

      • MargoVictorious said:

        Exactly. We’re not necessarily more discriminate about age, but we are much more aware of it than most people.

        So the idea that this guy “accidently” listed his age as a decade younger gets some serious side-eye from me. He didn’t. The same way that someone 100 pounds overweight isn’t likely to ever “accidently” list their weight as 50 pounds lighter; or a guy who’s 5’1 doesn’t “accidently” list his height as 6’2. When you live outside society’s stereotype of “normal,” you notice.

        I mostly enjoy it too, but it is weird.

    • Oh yes. All the born-female people in my family look ridiculously young. My oldest sister is nearly 40 and still gets IDed by people who are genuinely shocked to find she’s over 25. (The usual rule is ID anyone who looks under 25, except in places who ID everyone no matter what.) Believe me… we know.

      • Astral said:

        I’m over 40 and a 20ish guy who recently ID’d immediately me brought his other co-worker and they both stared at me in amazement, commenting how I did not look that age. This would be a good problem to have if I actually wanted to date any of the 18-25 set who message or hit on me. But nope, not a bit. I get attention from the 15-20 years younger crowd and the 15-20 years old crowd. Guys 5 years either side of my age? Not so much.

    • miss_chevious said:

      Just commenting to say #ralphmacchioproblems is an *excellent* tag and I feel like that meme would be hilarious.

      • The Cobra Kai rejected my application for their Fit-N-Fifty bowling league. #ralphmacchioproblems

        Still can’t grow hair on my chin, but have to wax on / wax off my old man ass every freaking week. #ralphmacchioproblems

        Poor Ralph Macchio. It can’t be easy to go through life looking like an increasingly tired 23-year-old. He seems to have a good attitude about it though:

        “I’m not Chachi, motherf*cker!” #ralphmacchioproblems

        .

    • Kaz said:

      Yeah… I’m 28 and look early twenties and I know this gap will probably increase as I age, seeing as both my parents look a lot younger than they are. And it’s something I am definitely aware of when I meet people – *especially* when it comes to people in their late teens/early twenties, because they’ll assume I’m in their age cohort when I’m not and it is weird and makes me feel creepy.

      Also… tbh? This is a thing that naturally comes up in conversation. What kind of life experiences you’ve had, what was going on when you were a kid, what kind of technology you grew up with, what your family looks like (are your parents still working? Do you have siblings and if so what are they doing? Do you have nephews/nieces and if so how old are they?) etc. No one could think that I’m *actually* in my early twenties for any sort of longer period without me actively trying to fool them because there are just too many things about me and my life that don’t match up. I’m guessing that that becomes easier as you get older and life stages are less marked, but still…

      To me, the “typo?” question is a red herring, because the fact that LW has known Mike long enough to be dating him, comfortable deciding that this is the guy she wants to have sex with and going on to have sex with him without the fact that he’s actually in his late thirties, not late twenties, coming up just screams active deception to me.

    • When She Was Good said:

      “People who fall into this category are likely to be very, very aware of it.” Spot on. Sometimes I want to wear a sign that says “nearly 40, for real” because when people find out, I can tell they are mentally re-playing in their head conversations we’ve had so they can figure out if they’ve said anything they’d like to take back. I always feel bad about that, like I’ve some how misled them by not introducing myself with my name + “and I’m in my late 30s.” So if I think I’m in a situation where my age will matter (like, say, DATING), I try to find a way to put my age into the conversation. This dude knew what he was doing.

      • sometimeswhy said:

        Word. In lieu of skywriting my age, I tend to advertise that I have an adult child. That tends to help on a number of levels.

  50. Tyrannosaurus Vex said:

    First, I love “Into the Woods.” Tana French rocks, even if “The Likeness” was kind of a ripoff of Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History.”

    Second, I love the captain’s advice here. LW, if you don’t want to date a guy who is 37 years old, that’s not ageist. It’s your preference, and that’s totally okay. You’re in a different place in your life from someone who is almost 15 years older than you, and recognizing that could cause problems in a relationship is totally ok. But I agree that even if you decided age was not a deal-breaker for you, the fact that this guy has lied to you already, and about something pretty major. If he thinks age shouldn’t be an issue in relationships, that’s a valid opinion for him to have. But he doesn’t get to make that decision for you by lying about how old he is. That’s not okay, and being upset about it isn’t ageist or any other kind of ist. It’s completely rational.

    Third, your friend Sam is totally being groomed for an affair. But she gets to make her own choices just like you do, so there probably isn’t anything you can do about it.

  51. Nyltiak said:

    Are you dating my ex? He also lied about his age by about 10 years on an online dating profile and had what seemed (at the time) very reasonable explanations for why he claimed to be in his late 20s instead of the truth of pushing 40. However, this was just a prelude to worse behavior. His ability to smoothly talk over a glaring lie was basically a sample of his ability to smoothly talk over a great number of things. I ended up stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship with a dude who could rationalize away every concern I had. This gives me ALL the red flags.

  52. Stabbity said:

    I’m sure this point has been beaten to death, but as someone who actually did forget to update the age on their dating profile for *cough*fiveyears*cough*, I think it’s worth mentioning how I handled that when I caught it. When I realized – all by myself – that I forgot to update my age, I messaged each of the people I had been talking with to tell them that I was actually five years older than they thought due to forgetting to update my profile, that it was an embarrassing mistake, and that I completely understood if that was a problem for them. And I wasn’t even looking for dates! I was looking for non-sexual kinky play partners, which for those who aren’t kinky is a situation where people often don’t worry too much about the age of their play partners, and I still thought the people I was talking with deserved to know how old I actually was.

    Also, ageism is when a person in a position of power does things to a person with a relative lack of power such as ignoring their wants and/or needs because “they’re too young to know anything”, or refusing to hire someone because “they’re old and used up and they’re just going to retire in a couple years anyway.” Worrying that your friend may be getting taken advantage of by a much older man is not ageism, that is good sense. LW, as others have said your instincts are good, keep listening to them.

    LW, I really feel for you. Getting lied to like that by your first sexual partner is awful and unfair and I think he’s a tremendous jerk for doing that to you. If you’re hurt and angry and don’t want to date him anymore or ever see him again, I think you’re completely justified in feeling that way and doing so. You seem very smart and in control of your life, so I hope you don’t take this as some sort or terrible failure on your part. This guy took advantage because you want to think the best of people, not because you’re dumb and naive.

  53. Bec de Corbin said:

    Long-time lurker, first-time commenter! I don’t generally comment on anything unless I feel like I have special knowledge to contribute, and in this case I do: I’m twenty-six, and my husband is forty-nine. That’s a–count it!–twenty-three year age gap. So I think I might have some useful input on the LW’s ending questions: “How much is too much of an age difference to date someone? Do the rules and dynamics of friendship change if there’s a big age difference between friends?”

    Here is what my husband did not do, during the course of our friendship/dating:
    1) Lie to me about his age, or anything else
    2) Treat me differently than his other friends
    3) Make it weird (well, weirder than dating usually is)

    So in my experience, the answer to LW’s second question–do the dynamics of friendship change if there’s an age difference?–is “they shouldn’t.” The only dynamic that’s different between Hubby and I is that I get to ask him things like, “Was being smart ‘uncool’ twenty years ago?” and “What was the early punk scene in LA like?” and “What was the name of the brontosaurus you rode to school?” *

    And whether there’s such a thing as “too much of an age difference”…obviously twenty-three years isn’t too much of an age difference for me. It’s a purely personal choice, which is why I get a trifle irritated when people make up rules or formulas for how much is “too much” or “weird” or “creepy.” It’s like, “Thanks, Random Person, for deciding that MY relationship, in which you are no way involved, is creepy and weird! No, that’s totally something you get a say in, as opposed to something my partner and I should decide for ourselves.” (I do not generally actually say this, because I understand that my husband and I are special snowflakes and that probably a twenty-year age gap would not work for most people, and also because yelling at the Internet doesn’t usually produce anything except higher blood pressure.)

    On the whole, I agree with what most people here have said. The issues here are a) some problematic, possibly leading-to-affair behaviors and b) lying about some very basic and important information. Both of these things may be influenced by age, but age is not the crux of the issue. What’s more, “ageism” is not a valid argument against the LW’s very understandable dislike of being, you know, LIED TO. And even if it was a legitimate argument, as every Captain Awkward reader knows, trying to logic someone out of their feelings is Not Cool.

    Some of the comments I do find puzzling, though. “Access to young female bodies?” What, are we keeping twenty-year-old women in guarded underground storage facilities now? “Power differential between older men and younger women?” Unless the older guy is actually one’s boss or teacher or the like (in which case, don’t date him!), why would there be one? If some random guy acts like he has authority over me just because he’s older, I don’t consider myself the victim of a difference in power, I consider him sadly mistaken.

    It’s like Captain Awkward’s rule about not dating people who aren’t as cool as your friends. If an older man isn’t adhering to the same standards you’d set for your other friends/lovers–like being truthful and respecting your boundaries and feelings–then he probably shouldn’t be your friend/lover. No “ageism-or-not” debates required.

    * His favorite way of starting a story: “It was shortly after the Civil War. The South was in ruins. Carpet-baggers were everywhere…”

    • “Unless the older guy is actually one’s boss or teacher or the like (in which case, don’t date him!), why would there be one?”

      Because men, in general, have more power in society than women do. And because people in their 30s and 40s, in general, have more power than people in their 20s.

      So Default Man In Late 30s has more power than Default Woman In Early 20s. “authority over” is not the only kind of power out there.

      • olives said:

        Came to say exactly this. Thanks for explaining it so well.

      • Bec de Corbin said:

        That has not been my personal experience at all, but I admit that as an expat English teacher, my social scene is pretty atypical. Most of the middle-aged men I know have accumulated experience, which I respect, but not a lot of money or social standing within the country we live in. If anything I have an edge over them, because as a young female with advanced degrees I’m far more employable. So my assessment might be skewed by unusual circumstances.

      • Cricket said:

        Seconded. Also, an additional specific factor that comes into play with that kind of age/gender difference: at least in the U.S., I know enough about the legal system to know that if I agree to go to an older dude’s house after going on a date or doing flirty things and he chooses to assault me, his opinion is going to be more respected in court if I try to press charges, and messed up tropes about women who “cry rape” mean he’s essentially unprosecutable. Differences in social capital/respect across age and gender lines can seriously affect safety.

        • This is indeed one of its ickier manifestations. 😦

  54. Joey said:

    If he knew it was a typo but did not fix it, he lied. Strike one.

  55. Sometimes all the guys who talk a great feminist game just to get into women’s pants depress me a heck of a lot. Like, is that all there is, fake feminists and misogynists? But lately I’ve been noodling around this idea, ever since a disability rights advocate I follow said of someone she met through work, “You talk a lot about violence. Your work is focused on violence, abuse, and murder. Your work is intensely personal to me. And it isn’t to you. It’s exploitative.”

    Because once I think about the difference between fake feminists I’ve known, and men who I believe are genuinely invested in feminism? The latter have skin in the game. They are talking about things that directly affect THEM, going into places that feel uncomfortable or unsafe, talking about what hurts them and benefits them from personal experience. Fake feminists always make it about other people–about men they hate and women they want to sleep with. They don’t want to make things un-smooth by talking about their own ideas and opinions. Meanwhile, the men I’ve met who are genuinely behind feminism often spend most of their concern on their own issues–racism, homophobia, ableism, that kind of thing–but come back to feminism like, “Oh yeah, yes, I support this, although in my community we handle X and Y issue differently and our whole take on Z discourse disagrees with yours.” And we both come away from talking about it enriched, because we never could have each other’s unique personal perspectives if we hadn’t talked.

    So these days I don’t even know that I want to talk to men who are “feminist” more than anything else, unless they are very specifically working on gendered violence and socialization in the realms of domestic violence, mental health, or child and youth care. Otherwise they’re probably using those anti-discrimination lenses to look at something a little closer to home, whether that’s economics and labour problems or LGBTQIA issues or race or disability or something else.

    So the dream guy who Gets It is out there, but his dream should enlarge yours, not just match it perfectly.

    • Rose said:

      Oh no! I’m recently writing mails with an apparently feminist man, and he’s 27. Allegedly. Now I’m worried that he might be a fake. He doesn’t hold exactly the same opinions I do, but that men are more into sex-positive feminism is a given, so that doesn’t say much. He doesn’t do anything particularly feminist, either. 😦
      (He isn’t a self-declared feminist, so that may be a good sign?)

  56. neverjaunty said:

    Hey LW, I think it is awesome that you are looking out for your friend Sam, but you should not discuss these older dudes or listen to her about these older dude relationships anymore.

    Calling you “ageist” because you are skeeved by her Married Creep Friend or because you are having second thoughts about a dude who, let’s be blunt, lied about his age to get into your pants — that’s gaslighting. She wants to shut you down and shut you up so you don’t say things that make her think hm, maybe MCF is not such a great dude after all. On some level, LW, she knows where this is going, but she doesn’t want to admit it. She’s so not wanting to think about why this dude is interested in her (spoilers: youth) that she can’t even handle an age problem in YOUR relationship.

    She is not really on Team You right now. It is cool if you want to be there for her, but I strongly recommend that while you deal with your own middle-aged creep issue that you gently disengage from her.

  57. Myrin said:

    This is very timely considering my younger sister yesterday gave me an update on happenings in her social group she’d told me about. Namely, her close friend who is 17 just came back from visiting/being on vacation on Rhodes with this 29/30-year-old dude called S.

    Sister and I went to a concert at my high school in July and the dude had worked on one of the songs the choir sang – apparently he’s some kind of composer and my sister’s classmate wrote a paper on him and because he’s kind of local he was willing to help the music teacher out with some stuff. The school’s choirs usually spend a week in Italy for practice for the big concert and S went with them. There, he became further acquainted with my sister’s friend and after that one week (!) apparently declared sister’s underage (!!) friend his soulmate (!!!). But also he’s, as has subsequently been revealed in emails, “not ready for a relationship” and wants to have “liberties” and be “totally chilling and relaxed” and other things, all of which translate to him wanting to either bone her or at least have someone take intensive care of his (emotional) needs while also seeing other women (in whatever capacity, I’m not sure).

    And I just… WHAT EVEN. I’m 23 and I’m not sure I‘d feel comfortable coming on to a 17-year-old. This guy practically screams dodgy, especially with how he openly stated he only wants to be with her until he’s found someone better (points for honestly I guess). I’m also decidedly uncomfortable with the underage factor, something that thankfully isn’t a problem in the LW’s cases, at least.

    I’m also not impressed with sister’s friend’s father who is, get that, the music teacher of my former school, thus worked with creepy S and who should, as I feel, be a bit more concerned about his daughter getting into that kind of relationship. My sister was SO WORRIED about her friend when she didn’t hear from her while she was on Rhodes and I think it’s so red flaggy of S to invite an underage girl to come stay with him on an island in an area where reception isn’t good and there’s no public transport and basically no way for friend to get away if need be. Thankfully, she’s home again and all went well but I’m really wondering how long that will last.

  58. Kourohsgirl said:

    Yeesh. “Chris” is being super dodgy. Probably the best LW can do is be a true friend to “Sam”. Indeed, make sure she has access to rides that aren’t Chris. And maybe more importantly… Don’t respond to her judgingly and watch out if Chris is her sole confidant or near to it. The former will push her away; the latter could trap her in a skeezy situation as surely as needing him as a ride home.

    I’ve been Sam, albeit at 19 with my ” Chris” at 38. It did progress into an affair, mainly due to the dude I was involved with not knowing how to accept no as an answer and to me having few other close friends. He told me he couldn’t just be friends with me. I didn’t want to give up the rare closeness. Things sucked badly during, worse when it blew up.

    I hope things work out less explosively and ickily for Sam and send Jedi hugs.

  59. blairbending said:

    Can we start a Darth Vader bingo card with “Good Feminist Guy” as one of the squares?

    • MamaCheshire said:

      I think we need an entire Bingo card for that.

  60. Phospher said:

    There’s no way it was a typo. And it’s such a BIG lie — a whole decade! I don’t judge people terribly hard who have shaved off say, three years. I haven’t done it, but I’ve occasionally been tempted to make myself 32 rather than 35. But that’s not about wanting to date much younger people, that’s about wanting to date a wider range of people of *around my age*, and when I think it through I figure the only reason I’m even considering it is that so many men my age won’t date women who aren’t at least a year younger than them and why would I want one of those.

    But a decade! That’s not just cosmetic tinkering, that’s not just “I want to make sure I come up in your search results so you’ll see how surprisingly fresh-faced I am,” that’s representing yourself as being in an entirely different phase of life, that’s trying to make people just setting out into adult life accept you as one of them. It’s creepy and exploitative and the “maternal” business is just the vomit on the cake.

  61. Anne On said:

    I think you are giving too much power to age.
    Would it be OK if a guy who was your age acted this way? Mike lied to you and didn’t admit it until you confronted him. Would you continue to date a man your age if he did that?
    I don’t think ageism is in play here- just don’t excuse someone’s sketchy behavior because he is older than you.

  62. paddlepickle said:

    Tangentially related: When I get an Okcupid message from a guy who is the same age as my Dad, when my profile clearly says I don’t want to date anyone older than 36, and his profile says he wants to date only women who are younger than him, am I allowed to respond to tell him that’s wildly inappropriate and gross?

    • JenniferP said:

      Ignore him, is my suggestion.

      • paddlepickle said:

        So you’re saying Okcupid might not be the most productive place for me to channel my rage at the patriarchy? Hmmmm.

        • Heh. The Captain’s suggestion is a good, mature one, but I have to say that I get a lot of satisfaction out of calling dudes out when they send disrespectful and entitled e-mails my way (I”m bi, and it’s always dudes, never ladies). I’ve included the most satisfying (“satisfying”) example below.

          For some context, my OKC profile clearly states that I don’t like to kiss on the first date, and that I am looking for a long-term dating only (no casual sex).

          Here we go!

          HIM:

          Haha I don’t get why you can’t enjoy a good night a kiss or more? That’s just silly 🙂
          I gotta be straight, you seem interesting and I think it would be fun getting to know more about your quirkiness, but I’m not really in a point for a long term thing because of pending projects and maybe move. Plus I just prefer to ride the wave and enjoy the moment wout defining or judging it. Ya know?
          Can we find a happy medium to know each other and have fun?
          Let me know.
          Anyway hope your day is going great
          Ciao for now 🙂
          – F

          ME:

          “Haha I don’t get why you can’t enjoy a good night a kiss or more? That’s just silly :)”

          Haha, I don’t get why you didn’t understand my profile where it clearly says that I like to take it slow and don’t like to kiss on the first date. Haha, I don’t understand why you think it’s appropriate to call someone silly for having that preference and stating it clearly. Haha there are lots of reasons a person might feel that way, ranging from “That’s just not how I roll” to “I was raped and I need to take things slow”, but haha it’s such a great idea to have the first thing you say to someone be your opinion of How/Why Her Preference Is Wrong.

          “I gotta be straight, you seem interesting and I think it would be fun getting to know more about your quirkiness, but I’m not really in a point for a long term thing because of pending projects and maybe move. Plus I just prefer to ride the wave and enjoy the moment wout defining or judging it. Ya know?
          Can we find a happy medium to know each other and have fun?
          Let me know.”

          I gotta be bisexual, you seem completely self-centered, and I think it would be fun staying as far away as possible from your heedless narcissism. I’m not really at the point where I want to meet someone whose relationship status is “seeing someone”, someone who obviously skipped the part of my profile that said that I’m NOT interested in polyamory and that I AM looking for a relationship. Plus I just prefer to ride the wave and enjoy knowing where I stand with someone who I’m fucking, by defining and judging it. Ya know?

          Can we find a happy medium where you realize that you’re not entitled to a person’s consideration just because her profile picture might have made your boner twitch, and that if you want her consideration, maybe you shouldn’t lead by putting down her stated dating preferences and then follow up with an unwanted offer of casual sex?

          Let me know.

          HIS RESPONSE:

          I don’t know what you’re running away from or why you’re so angry and insecure but no need to project that on me. You actually didn’t give me a boner, I’m sure you do for others but I was more than anything curious about why your profile seemed like you weren’t comfortable in your own skin and felt a need to busy yourself with things and people to avoid yourself. That seemed interesting to me. And a bit sad quite frankly but then the smile did me in.
          Hey listen if you have the need to put me down or whatever assumptions you need to make about me without knowing much; then so be it. You’re neither my family or close loved ones to know who I am, so if you feel obligated to “put me in my place” because you’re too defensive and guarded to have a direct conversation, then that’s fine. You do whatever you need to do.
          You know nothing
          Let’s leave it at that …

          Sorry for the interest anyway. Hope one day you get rid of the chip on your shoulder and massive anger and fear.
          It’ll consume you and kill you
          And you’ll never appreciate anyone you have in front of you.

          Have an awesome day
          Take care 🙂

          MY RESPONSE: [none, I was too busy laughing]

          • paddlepickle said:

            Would it be moving too fast if I told you I loved you?

          • Nerdlinger said:

            😀 I like your responses and would like to subscribe to your newsletter!

          • j_bird said:

            @wee_ramekin UGGGHH, so he writes you a completely unsolicited passive-aggressive email, you give him a taste of his own medicine, and he calls YOU indirect while doubling down on his hostility-papered-over-with-smileys. And, oh my god, he accuses you of “projection”, and then projects “massive anger and fear” onto you. People like that make me want to grow fangs.

          • @j_bird Hahaha, I know!

            And don’t you love how he TOTALLY DENIES EVER BEING ATTRACTED TO ME? Like….dude. You hit me up *for some casual sex*. I call you out on that, and now you say that NO, it WASN’T because I was ATTRACTED to you, it was because you looked SO SAD. I WAS REACHING OUT (with my boner) BECAUSE YOU ARE SO SAD.

            That part where he says “your profile seemed like you weren’t comfortable in your own skin and felt a need to busy yourself with things and people to avoid yourself”? My profile pictures are:

            1) A picture of me dressed up for a Halloween party.
            2) A picture of me and four of my friends smiling at a restaurant we really enjoy.
            3) A candid picture of me and a close friend laughing uproariously as someone takes pictures of us dressed up semi-sexily (I’m wearing a corset) for a local queer event.

            But yeah. I’m obviously totally “uncomfortable in my own skin”, and by hanging out with friends and documenting said hang-outs photographicallyI’m clearly “avoiding myself”. The projection and utter lack of self-reflection is actually more than a little scary. I feel *really* bad for the women who interact with this dude in meatspace.

        • Phospher said:

          I always just ignore, but I’m tempted to write back and say “Would you date an 80-year-old* woman? Because if not I have no idea why you think I’d want to date you.”

          (Or whatever his being on the opposite end of an equivalent age difference would be.)

        • Hahah yeah no. It’s best to just ignore everything you’re not interested in.

    • I did once reply to one of these dudes to say he was nearer my mother’s age than mine, and he should try her instead. (My mother is happily married and was in a different country at the time, but the rhetorical point holds.)

      No response, but it was deeply satisfying.

      Also she’s only 23 years older than me so lots of these creepy dudes fall in that category.

  63. Annie said:

    OP, just FYI, discussing feminism and problematic masculinity on a date doesn’t mean the person actually respects women. I had a date recently, also incidentally with a guy named Mike who was about the same age, and we discussed all manner of things feminist and liberal. Turns out, he’s a registered sex offender. So there ya go!

    • VooDoo said:

      “discussing feminism and problematic masculinity on a date doesn’t mean the person actually respects women”
      Bingo!

      Someone can be great at the theory and not practice it in thoughts, words or actions at all.
      “I respect and admire women” is easy to say, but the people who actually practice it don’t have to declare it.

      • Annie said:

        Oh man, totally. I recently deleted and blocked a dude on twitter after he said a bunch of stuff about how much he respects women and challenges other men to do the same, but used some really problematic and offensively sexist language to make his point. I told him that his phrasing was disrespectful and why. So he mansplained that ACTUALLY he was using a different dictionary definition of that word and there’s literary precedent for its use that way, so I was wrong and he stands by his original statement. Mhm. K.

      • paddlepickle said:

        Also, when someone says “I respect and admire women” it makes me feel like they think of women as highly advanced apes who have learned to juggle. So ADMIRABLE, being people!

        • Erin said:

          Exactly. My next question would be “And which women exactly are your role models?/Who’s your favorite female singer?/Which books by women do you like?”etc. Because admiring women as a group? Is just a super weird thing to say.

        • Xenophile said:

          Reminds me of when I tended bar and this one regular would call me over at least twice a night. I’d offer to refill his drink and he’d say, “Can you just stand there while I admire you? I really admire you.” And then he’d just STARE. I was even relieved when the younger guys would try to drunkenly flirt, because at least they were talking to me.

    • anon said:

      People who have committed crimes are still people. They can be liberal or conservative, feminist or non-feminist, just like everybody else. People can change after the offense is committed. Also, in some states people are required to register as sex offenders for things like public urination, which clearly has nothing to do with how liberal or feminist someone is.

      I understand that the main purpose of this thread is not to talk about perceptions of people who have committed crimes, but people often typecast everyone who has committed a crime as a terrible, horrible, no-good person, and these attitudes and the behaviors to which they lead are incredibly damaging to everyone. Folks getting out of prison are often not treated like full human beings, which is bad for them, and also bad for the communities to which they are returning because the harder it is to re-integrate, the more likely people are to re-offend. Clearly you don’t have to spend time with people who have committed crimes if you don’t want to, but it may also be useful to consider that traits vary within this group just like they vary within other groups. People who have committed crimes can still be liberal, feminist, kind, generous, etc., just like people from any other group.

      • notemily said:

        *applause*

        “Registered sex offender” does not automatically mean “horrible human being.”

  64. Since the Captain has made references to the books of Lois McMaster Bujold here before – can I mention “The Sharing Knife” series as an example of a relationship with a big age difference with green flags?

    • Linden said:

      That’s a good series. Both characters deal with the age difference in a matter-of-fact, believable way, without a bunch of mind effery. And it was definitely a relationship that developed organically, instead of how these things often go in real life, with the older person enacting an unstated agenda to bag a younger one for personal gratification.

  65. As someone who has been on dates with men who later admitted lying about their age (or me actively confronting them about it), I want to echo everyone’s sentiments here. The age is not what is troubling. I have a pretty generous and flexible cut-off age, when I’m available. I don’t have a very charitable response to people who use false information as a backdrop for you know, meeting or connecting with me. What’s at issue here is that this is a person who just told you, straight up: “I am willing to lie to you to get the things I want and the things that I feel serve me,” and also, “How I feel/identify is more important to me than telling the truth.” What it also says is, “I have a series of assumptions about what you, LW, want and will accept. I will present a picture that matches with those assumptions in order to get you invested in me emotionally, and then will reveal the truth of myself to you after I’ve established it will be harder for you to separate from me.”

    Everything about this says, “Run.”

  66. HM said:

    Oh my gosh, lying about your own age that dramatically when there is that kind of power differential (younger woman and older man – especially a woman in her twenties! her prefrontal cortex is still squishy and yours isn’t THAT IS A BIG DEAL) is, on it’s own, grounds for an abrupt, strongly-worded dump-o-gram. And he was LYING, full stop, the equivocation that came after “it was jut a typo!” shows it’s something that, at the very very best he’s insecure about and is trying to compensate for in a dysfunctional way; at worst it’s the very worst kind of manipulation. And there are already indicators that he’s acting more deliberately than he let’s on.

    LW, it’s not ageist to think badly of him or to have doubts or to think that all this is Not Okay because it is decidedly NOT OKAY.

    You can see through him, and your instincts are already better than he was hoping for.

    Dump him.

  67. dudedodger said:

    Aw, jeez. Dodgy older dudes, guys. They sure love twenty-somethings, don’t they? *shudders*

    I feel for you, LW, and your pal, because I accidentally picked up two Stealth Dodgy Older Dude plantonic “friends” in my twenties. Both were in long term committed relationships. I knew their girlfriends. So glad they’re gone from my life forever.

    I managed to shake them off as the previously delicate dance of boundary pushing I blithely accepted in my twenties became absolutely untenable years later. Your friend may be ignoring the signs of creepdom, as I did, because the creeping is done on such a level as to always allow for plausible deniability by Sir Douche “I’m Just Your Friend!” Guy. Some things I’ve experienced:

    1. Using the relationship he’s in as a shield. He wants to preserve the relationship for whatever reason, but at the same time test the boundaries for a bit of something something from the girl who thinks their relationship is strictly platonic…because it is being sold as strictly platonic…unless girl who is friend suddenly decides to fall on Sir Douche’s lips…: “what I am doing is not creepy at all! Why look at this girlfriend I have! [presents girlfriend] You are being gross for assuming anything sexual was implied in my overtly inappropriate or sexual comments.”

    2. Hiding behind humor so that Sir Douche can step over the line with impunity. His friends and girlfriend will view all sexual banter as harmless so they will not support you if a chill runs down your spine: “haha! I’m irreverent. Look how irreverent I be! Nothing dangerous or creepy at all, friend who is girl. Just a bunch of creepy ~jokes~.”

    3. Using the very friendship as a shield. This makes you doubt yourself because you are close and friends do have different boundaries with each other, right? The friendship will be invoked to girlfriend at home and to the friend who is girl to brush aside concerns: “I love that our friendship means we can be so frank and open about sex! My girlfriend is not so frank and open. I shall ignore all hints that this sexual convo should be closed so we can talk about sexy, sexy sex. Also I bought you, friend who is girl, flowers on Valentine’s Day…as a friend [this is a true and sad story]”

    4. Use your perceived inexperience with relationships against you. Of course people in a relationship have difficulties and problems and rough patches and all sorts of other patches. You want to be supportive and a good listener. It took me a few years to understand that Sir Douche only complained about his partner. Never complimented her once. It became so uncomfortable that I would change the subject often because it felt more and more like the betrayal it was to listen to Sir Douch natter on: “ugh, blah blah blah blah girlfriend doesn’t want to have sex anymore blah blah blah girlfriend doesn’t understand me blah blah blah blah”

    5. This is the gnarliest one: Sir Douche will try to mold the friend who is girl. Little digging comments about how you act or dress or conduct yourself or your relationship (if you are partnered). For me, it was that Sir Douche wanted me to be more open and ribald and outrageous. I think, as I look back on this behavior, Sir Douche was trying to transform me into the version of me that would fuck him. *showers for thirty minutes in scalding water*

    Eventually, after some time of friendship, Sir Douche will not be able to contain himself and will out himself as supremely dodgy. There will be a comment that isn’t veiled enough in humor. There will be drinks and there will be some kind of awful confession with alcohol used as the scapegoat later. I’m sure this will happen with Sam. He’ll say something so out there that it cannot be contained by the cage of plausibly deniability any longer.

    Worth noting that my boyfriend, now husband, could sense the impending creep, but kept his mouth mostly shut and was courteous because he wanted to be respectful of my friends and my autonomy. When a barrage of come ons were suddenly unleashed by Sir Douche, I felt respected and strong to not doubt what I had just experienced and to sever the relationship completely with full support from husband and friends. I know it’s hard, but try not to overdo it on the lecturing or advice and be present for her so Sam is less likely to be stuck in a situation that goes from discomfiting to dangerous. Your friend will see what she will see and decide how she feels about it when the chips fall. Good luck!

    PS: Sir Douchebags out there? Eff you and your fake, insulting, and dodgy friendships.

    • Hannahbelle said:

      AMEN!!!!!!!!!!

    • Well done, you marvellous Dodgy Dodger!

      “When a barrage of come ons were suddenly unleashed by Sir Douche, I felt respected and strong to not doubt what I had just experienced and to sever the relationship completely with full support from husband and friends”

      This is so important. Another one of the myriad situations where young women (especially though others too) are conditioned to give the benefit of the doubt until there’s no more to give.

      “4. Use your perceived inexperience with relationships against you.”

      This is a big issue, which is partly to do with youth (but can befall anyone who hasn’t come across this stuff before). When I was younger, I assumed that all partnered people were adhering to the boundaries of their relationship at all times (apart from actual adulterers, who got on with that in secret and would never have anything to do with a square like me). So in my intense friendship with an older married man, my “respect” for that marriage included the assumption that he would never say or do anything that his wife wouldn’t be happy about.

      • Hannahbelle said:

        Exactly this. He wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t an OK thing to do, because he’s my friend and my friends are honorable people because they are my friends. And even if they aren’t, it’s not my place to judge them (or anyone else’s to judge me). Because we are friends and this is what adult friends do, and my intentions are spotless, tralala…

        Having said that, I’m not sure how often I actually considered our conversations in the context of, “Would his wife want this conversation to be happening?” If I had, the idea that the answer might be “No” would have made me deeply uneasy. Needing to see myself as above reproach kept me much slower to question those friendships than I should have been…not to mention the enjoyment of all that free emotional intimacy I assumed his wife was OK with. (NB: I’m only comfortable thinking in these terms now that I’m 100% unintimidated by the idea of him going, “See? You DID know something was fishy and you did NOTHING! You liked it!!! Tramp.”)

        BTW, I love dudedodger’s comment so much that I’m copying it for future reference. This pattern is as hard to explain as it is to recognize, but she spells it right out. I wish I’d read this in college…in fact, if dudedodger is ok with it, I’d really like to forward it to my alma mater’s women’s help center/OIE (the sexual harassment office). I have to assume this kind of dynamic is less rare on university campuses than it ought to be.

        • dudedodger said:

          You are welcome to share my words however you see fit! I’d love for them to be useful to other twenty-something lasses because oh, my goodness, I feel like I have a degree in this area. My dodgy older dudes came to me through work and a theater group so they are, unfortunately, lurking in all sorts of lovely places that should be free of their sliming intentions.

          Oh, man, that was totally Younger Me! I just assumed that how the Sir Douches behaved with me already had the stamp of approval from their partners. So if I felt uncomfortable, then it must be MY fault for not understanding and I was being completely judgmental jerk about my friends.

          A few things that might happen in the fallout if Sam, like me, decides that her friend is being creepy and decides she is uninterested in him romantically and breaks off contact:

          1. A barrage of accusations, FEELINGSEVERYTHING, and manipulations. The Sir Douche is going to do everything in their power to reset the friendship back to the way it was. If you aren’t their friend anymore, you might expose them. They fear exposure above all else. It can be a bit scary. One of the Sir Douche’s made a thinly veiled self-harm threat. If thirty emails and a dozen texts don’t receive a response they will either ramp up the harassment or just launch straight into…

          2. …controlling the narrative. If you were friends with Sir Douche’s partner, mourn your time with them and forget them because Sir Douche is going to spin suuuuuuuuuuuch a taaaaaaaaale to his wife/girlfriend about how, “I thought we were friends, but she misread some PERFECTLY NORMAL comments and FREAKED OUT and she accused me of wanting to sleep with her and told ________ [HR, mutual friends, colleagues] which is just RIDICULOUS and got me in trouble and I AM SO SAD”. Resist the urge to reach out to Sir Douche’s partner because they are going to see you as the aggressor and will want to close ranks on their relationship. Trust me on this and just swallow your pride if wife/girlfriend unfriends you or looks through you next time you’re at a party together. She’s got her own shit to deal with and she doesn’t want yours. But also remember that this is 100% not your fault and no longer your business now that you’ve recused yourself from a distasteful role. Write down what happened to you and save it somewhere. When you doubt yourself, re-read what happened in your own words so you don’t get sucked into a guilt/shame/doubt circle.

          Guilt is such a motivator in these relationships. It feels guilty (and sometimes giddy! which brings extra guilt!) to suspect you may be the focus of unwanted sexual attraction. It feels guilty if, like other people here mentioned, you are a bit complicit. It feels guilty to be presumed untoward even if the only crime you’re guilty of is naivete. It feels guilty when you want to expose these creeps and fret that you’re somehow responsible for destroying his reputation or relationship with his partner. It is gnarly and dodgy older dudes are COUNTING on it to be gnarly and complicated.

          Side story: one of the Sir Douche’s identified as a feminist and out of the blue announced that he decided not to fake hit on the younger women in the office because it was creepy for a forty-something to do that. He was so proud of himself. I repeat HE WAS PROUD OF HIMSELF FOR DECIDING TO NOT SEXUALLY HARASS YOUNG WOMEN WITH THOSE KINDS OF JOKES ALL WOMEN KNOW AND LOATHE AND DREAD AT THE OFFICE BECAUSE THIS MADE HIM A GOOD, LIBERAL, AND AWARE DUDE. Jeez, what an appalling asshole. I’m so pleased HR has a file on him.

      • Hannahbelle said:

        Edit: I realized there was some embedded snark in the comment I just posted (I don’t see it yet, it may be modded), so I want to correct it and apologize. I was thinking critically of myself at a younger age, but suspect I ended up indicting everyone else whose situation may have paralleled mine…I don’t want to pull a Dan Savage and claim that because I lied about being bisexual, all so-called bisexuals are liars.

        I got duped by two older guys and allowed them to treat their partners badly in my presence because I didn’t have a strong enough conviction that what they were doing was wrong. This is a VERY COMMON TALE–it’s why women stay in abusive relationships. They don’t think they’re being abused.

        Part of the reason I wouldn’t see it, though, was my need to feel approved of. I wanted these guys’ (non-sexual) attention and was willing to keep secrets to get it. Then my mind said, “If anything is wrong here, it will be partially my fault, so I won’t see anything wrong here.” And this was only strengthened by the fact that I WAS doing something wrong…even if it was only a passive wrong and easy to excuse in a young person. I was scared of what might happen if these relationships turned out NOT to be ok. Would I look stupid? Would he get in trouble? Would people call me a slut or a prude or a suck-up or an ageist? So I just kept quiet and ignored the whole question. I think Sam may be doing the same thing.

        If so, my message would be: Don’t let your own fear of being wrong (morally or factually) blind you to the reality of this situation. Ask for help. Get some perspective. Even if you’ll look stupid, tawdry, “ageist,” whatever…and even if the other guy will look like the creeper he probably is…that’s far less of a problem than making yourself chronically vulnerable to a possibly-shitty person. So don’t keep it secret. That is NOT what friends are for.

      • dudedodger said:

        When I was younger, I assumed that all partnered people were adhering to the boundaries of their relationship at all times (apart from actual adulterers, who got on with that in secret and would never have anything to do with a square like me). So in my intense friendship with an older married man, my “respect” for that marriage included the assumption that he would never say or do anything that his wife wouldn’t be happy about.

        ——————

        Exactly this. Exactly. I was young and a vulnerable combination of open, socially performative, earnest and just assumed all my friends subscribed to the same brand of ethics. My version of “square like me” was that I didn’t believe that partnered men were hitting on me because I thought those were vain assumptions.

    • “Sir Douche was trying to transform me into the version of me that would fuck him”

      FUCK that gave me shivers, YES

      • dudedodger said:

        I KNOW! So. Effing. Disgusting.

  68. commandantcraycray said:

    THIS JUST HAPPENED TO ME. I got into a craigslist correspondence with a fellow who seemed great. I asked him his age a few times, he dodged. He wanted to meet and I called him out. He finally gave his age–16 years older than me and waaay above the 5 I said I was comfortable with in my post. He “didn’t see that in my post”, he was “self conscious about his age”, he “wanted me to guess” — for funs! He “didn’t think it would be a big deal”, if we’d “met another way” it wouldn’t be right? Why was I being so meeaaaan. And the classic: age ain’t nothing but a number.

    My exact quote: “Clearly you think age is solely about attractiveness. It’s not and I’m not comfortable with this. By not sharing this earlier when I explicitly asked, you’ve let a correspondence go on and made me the bad guy. And you straight up lied by omission to direct questions.” Dick.

    Here’s the point: I have enough life experience to be confident in telling the dude to fuck off. I wouldn’t have when I was younger. And that’s part of the power differential of life experience.

    Also, I saw that this was your first time having sex–I hope it was a good experience regardless of the dude! Sex is fun! There are awesome people out there to do it with! But his lying and awful response to being caught makes the fact that he did convince you he was safe, and “all in,” creepier.

    So yeah, DTMFA. I promise there are many fun and caring and awesome, actually-feminist-and-trustworthy, people to have love and sexytimes with.

    P.S. I swear to god I’m going to start carding my dates.

    • This just made me remember a coffee meetup I had with a guy several months ago. His profile said he was 25 (I’m 39), and when he asked me out, I said that I wasn’t interested in him romantically, in part because he was too young. He countered with a suggestion we have coffee and play a game we both like that my profile, at the time, said I was looking for people to play against. (My friends do not like this game.) I was hesitant, but won over by the prospect of playing this game with another human, so we met up for coffee. When he arrived, he was legit at least 40. I was SUPER skeeved, we played a few rounds of the game, and then I said I had to go. When he texted me repeatedly later, I ignored it, because ew.

      One of my friends pointed out later that he probably thought his age would be a nice surprise for me. It was not. At all. (His photos were definitely him, but clearly from at least 15 years ago.)

      Lying about your age: NOT COOL.

      • Erin said:

        That’s almost like expecting one person and meeting another. Ew. It also raises the question what he uses that profile for. Because “to contact much younger women who thing he is their age” is very likely. Nope nope nope.

        • Yeah, I have no idea. I blocked him after the date. And in fact, he gave off skeezier and skeezier vibes throughout coffee and game, to the point where I reflexively lied about where I lived when he asked, and actually took a weird route home because when I left the coffeeshop he was walking in the direction of the area I’d given, away from the skytrain that would have gotten him home.

          He at least got the picture when I didn’t text him back any of the three separate days he tried.

  69. Hannahbelle said:

    As a former Sam who optimistically filled that role TWICE before I realized emotional affairs were a thing (and usually led to being hit on), I can guess where she’s coming from. When you’re a young adult, the last thing you want to believe is that your youth makes you clueless, vulnerable, and careless of others’ emotions (Judy). Unless it’s believing that the older man you’ve come to love as a friend (or mentor) is in reality common, skeezy, and cruel to his wife. Realizing this is the equivalent of realizing you’ve been walking around with your skirt tucked into your underwear: not fun, but much better understood sooner than later.

    Age isn’t the only problem here, either:

    (1) Emotional incest is a real thing when there’s emotional/intellectual closeness plus a big age or power differential. Both of my Chrisses were my former professors (I know…), so I saw them as father-figures and felt paralyzed when they inevitably hit on me (one while I was asking for a grad school recommendation). I let them do and say things I absolutely was not ok with because I was terrified of offending them, and then later felt as if I’d somehow slutted my way into grad school.

    (2) They were both committed elsewhere, or might as well have been. One was married and the other was recently broken up with another older friend of mine; they’d been my surrogate uncle/aunt since freshman year. This turned out to be one of the worst aspects of the whole thing for me: I got over my own anger and disgust much more quickly than I got over the guilt of having helped these idiots act shittily toward their partners.

    If Sam doesn’t have a clear ethos about infidelity (which I never even thought about, thinking it didn’t apply to me), I can recommend the blog at http://www.chumplady.com. They have a no-punches-pulled perspective on manipulative losers and the men and women who fail to spot them…it’s really worth not being an “other woman.” Even if you don’t think it’s a big deal, the cheated-upon wife almost certainly will. Sam can honor that that by dumping her husband.

    Which both of them should totally do anyway, because he sounds like a sleaze. And Mike is obviously no better, if not worse. Best of luck to both of you using their examples to find someone better.

  70. Anisoptera said:

    Hey LW. 37 is a weirdly relevant age to me now, because when I was 19 I dated a 37 year old for a while and each year as I get older it seems more and more dodgy, until this year when I am exactly 37 myself and cannot for the life of me imagine dating a 19 year old. It’s not that age gaps can’t work. I have some dear friends where she is ~15 years his senior and they’ve been happily married for decades and are now retired together.

    But, when I was first at university and a newly minted adult I joined a nerdy hobby community and the older dudes were lining up to shower me with attention. And I had always been the fat awkward girl to people my own age, and suddenly I was the hot desirable woman, and I really liked the attention. On hind sight this fact about me was not an accident – those 30-something dudes lurk in communities like that making the awkward fat girls feel like goddesses for the first time in their lives and it works out great for their goal of sleeping with 20-ish women. I did pick up a bit of self esteem with regard to my physical attractiveness, but I also picked up some selfish, manipulative, emotionally stunted man-children who on hindsight were great at twisting my brain around and seeping over my boundaries and generally being terrible people.

    That 37 year old I dated, if I met him now? Oh boy would it be nope city. He had the kind of life that would be totally acceptable for a 20 year old guy, and I was totally unconcerned by it when I was young. But now I like people who share my interest in late 30s things like financial responsibility and stability and reliability and falling asleep on the couch randomly on a Saturday afternoon (this literally just happened). And this kind of dude has in my experience discovered that about older women and would like to continue living free of demands and responsibility and housework and 20 year olds are great for that. Hell, you can meet that guy when he’s young and be dumped by him when you turn 30 and start discussing a house and kids too (ask me how I know). It’s not just about older guys wanting sex with young women. As many many other commenters have pointed out someone who is like a 23 year old at the age of 37 is probably still going to be like that at 47 when you’re 33 and acting like it.

    None of which is to say you can’t have a pleasant short term non serious pants-relationship with someone you don’t see as long term relationship material. But just know that these guys can be *really* into their Peter Pan existences and that can get weird and skeevy fast.

    All of which is sort of a sideline to the two scenarios you describe because anyone who trash talks his wife publicly while still commited to her is not a good person. And in this case lining up some icky manipulation as others have already described in detail. And someone who lies about their age to the tune of 10 years to get dates under false pretences is also someone you can pretty much guarantee will continue lying about important stuff to get his way and generally not caring about your boundaries and preferences. I’m 95% sure the typo excuse is BS. My 37 year old face pulled the most dubious scoffing snort at that idea that I’m surprised it didn’t leave scorch marks on the wall. Which is why he’s not spinning it to 37 year old ladies.

    All of this is a round about way of saying that while age gaps can and do work for some people, early 20 something’s are the target demographic for selfish older manipulators for a reason, and it’s not just that they think young women are sexier than older women (although a lot of them also think that, FYI, though they won’t ruin their feminist credentials by saying that to your face). When I was 19 I knew basically nothing about how to spot some really common manipulative behaviour. I was easy to push around, despite thinking of myself as stubborn and assertive (I used to think I was too stubborn and assertive, which was on hind sight a great handle for pushing me around). I was wildly non judgemental about how people lived because I knew nothing about how I wanted to live. I was full of respect for logical argument and completely out of touch with my feelings (or the fact that in relationships actual logic takes feelings into account). Basically, I was just *young* and inexperienced. I wish I had had something like this website to write to so that like a 100 different comments could point out the obvious BS some of these dudes fed me.

    I’m so sorry you’ve found yourself with this charming sexy feminist man who happens to almost certainly be a lying creep. Don’t ignore lies like that and hope it’s just that one thing, because it never ever is.

    • JenniferP said:

      “When I was 19 I knew basically nothing about how to spot some really common manipulative behaviour. I was easy to push around, despite thinking of myself as stubborn and assertive (I used to think I was too stubborn and assertive, which was on hind sight a great handle for pushing me around). I was wildly non judgmental about how people lived because I knew nothing about how I wanted to live. I was full of respect for logical argument and completely out of touch with my feelings (or the fact that in relationships actual logic takes feelings into account). Basically, I was just *young* and inexperienced. I wish I had had something like this website to write to so that like a 100 different comments could point out the obvious BS some of these dudes fed me.”

      HELLO PAST ME!

      • Yeah, past me too. I also think that if you’re from a family environment that regularly manipulates you by telling you that their Adult Logic ™ trumps your Childish Feelings, it leads to an unfortunate period of vulnerability as a young adult when you can pretty much be talked into stuff by people who invoke It’s Only Logical and overrule your feelings. Home environment can colour the wild non-judgementality as well, if you move into young adulthood thinking “I don’t know how I want to live but NOT LIKE MY PARENTS”.

        • peregrinations said:

          Wow, so you’re all me?!?

          “I also think that if you’re from a family environment that regularly manipulates you by telling you that their Adult Logic ™ trumps your Childish Feelings, it leads to an unfortunate period of vulnerability as a young adult when you can pretty much be talked into stuff by people who invoke It’s Only Logical and overrule your feelings.”

          Also, too, if you’re from a family environment in which you’ve been told your whole life that you’re too stubborn and assertive and generally difficult and unlikable. Then you enter your 20s trying to be the NICEST, MOST ACCOMMODATING, NON-JUDGMENTAL, AND EASY-GOING PERSON EVAH!!1! Which just sets you up for a string of relationships with dodgy dodgers. Surprisingly (by which I mean, not at all surprisingly!) my first two serious relationships were with men >15 years older than me, and my third with an abusive, manipulative Darth.

        • Anisoptera said:

          Indeed. Having an emotionally abusive, manipulative parent who gasslights you into thinking you’re too stubborn and bossy because you occasionally stand up for yourself is also great for priming you for some abusive adult relationships. I thought so much weird manipulative behaviour was normal that when it happened in my intimate adult relationships I didn’t think twice. 😦

          • JenniferP said:

            Ha, did you know that I “do not possess the patience” to be a teacher? Family messages are hilarious…in retrospect.

          • Molly Grue said:

            Ouch. This is so true. And it also needn’t be explicitly romantic relationships, either, that get

            Apropos of the age thing, has anyone here read an essay online where the essayist is talking about her relationships in her teens and comes around to comparing all the older men she dated to pedophiles? I just had a look for it, thinking people might appreciate the link, but cannot find it. (I know the term is not technically appropriate, but I would define people who consistently engage in statutory rape over a large age gap as abusers and predators.)

            It’s not the fabulous “The Not-Rape Epidemic,” by Latoya Peterson at Racialicious (http://www.racialicious.com/2008/12/21/original-essay-the-not-rape-epidemic/), but another one, solely about the writer’s own experiences. (I do recommend Peterson’s essay, too, although it’s about more violent events than what we were discussing here.)

          • Myrin said:

            @Molly Grue: I think I saw someone talking about that very essay in some of the comments/reblogs of this post by thatbadadvice but I can’t for the life of me find the exact thing anymore.

          • embertine said:

            Ouchie, all of this hit very close to home. My father used to refer to me as “contrary” every time I did something he didn’t like growing up. This led me to be The Chillest Girl That Ever Chilled™ for most of my early twenties, because I didn’t want one of my older dudely friends calling me “contrary”. Way to gaslight me into being manipulated into abusive situations, Dad!

        • Kourohsgirl said:

          Oyyy. The “logical” arguments. When I was 19, I didn’t have any faith in the value of my own feelings and got logicked into taking off my clothes for my married older friend because he decided he was helping me get past my body anxiety. Or at least that’s what he said. Now I know that simply not wanting to be naked for someone is the only damn reason I need. That dude practically expected a dissertation before he’d accept my continued clothed status in private(whee, another red flag!)… For another few weeks, anyways. Until he tried again.

          Good riddance to that Darth.

          • Anisoptera said:

            Whaaaaat? Ugh, lucky you were free of him promptly. 😦

        • human said:

          Oh god. Yeah, when I was 20 I dated (and had a lot of firsts) with a guy who was 33. When we disagreed about something he would patiently explain to me “this is how adults do relationships.” Funnily enough the rules he explained to me always meant he got his way. Did you know that when adults are dating, and one of them has an ex visit from out of town, they don’t talk on the phone or anything during that visit because it would be rude to the out of town guest for the host to spend time on the phone with his gf? Yeah.

    • “Hell, you can meet that guy when he’s young and be dumped by him when you turn 30 and start discussing a house and kids too (ask me how I know).”

      It can work the other way too. When I was 30 and talking to guys on Match.com, one of my red flags was a requirement that the woman be younger. A dude who seemed like he’d at least be a fun dinner date had such a requirement, and I called him out on it. He said he was interested in having a family, and his preference was justifiable because FERTILITY. Which was reasonable enough … except my profile clearly stated that I didn’t want kids, so if he was that invested in having some of his own, why was he even talking to me?

      • Linden said:

        I don’t even find the FERTILITY argument all that justifiable. Women in their 30s and 40s are still fertile, and older men’s sperm degrades. Everyone’s gametes have an expiration date. Men who use the FERTILITY argument aren’t interested in the actual science — they just want an excuse. Watch for them to pull out other biological “just-so” stories to justify all kinds of bad behavior. “I had to cheat on you to spread my seed, because science!” “I’m incapable of cleaning things or listening to you when you talk, because science!” “I can’t be attracted to you anymore when you’re no longer in your 20s, because science!”

        • ten stone lions said:

          “I had to cheat on you to spread my seed, because science!”

          Wow, almost word-for-word the line my dad used on my mom!

        • I never even ended up going on the one dinner date with Match.com dude and can’t vouch/un-vouch for him, but that sounds like a pretty good thing to watch out for. Evolutionary psychology: interesting to theorize about and study, not so good to base your life choices on.

          Be fun to watch one of these guys be on the receiving end of their own logic. “I had to cheat on you with that muscle-bound athletic guy and let you, the brainy guy, help raise the kid I conceived with him because SCIENCE.” I don’t think he’d take it well.

    • dudedodger said:

      Wow, I wish I had this amazing breakdown of manipulation when I was twenty-two. I too thought of myself as so outspoken and worldly and the kind of gal who didn’t take shit from nobody! Instead, the combination of bravado and inexperience made me an absolute mark for the dodgy older dude.

  71. Dr Sarah said:

    Quick thought about the ’27 was a typo’ thing (with apologies if someone else has already said this, as I just skimmed):

    On the particular dating site in question, how do you input your age? Because if you type your age or DOB into a box, then I could just barely buy the possibility of it being a genuine typo (though I’m still *really* sceptical that someone could make a typo like that and not notice). But, these days, sites typically ask you to pick your DOB from day/month/year menus, so you input your year of birth by picking it from a menu. And people don’t accidentally pick a menu choice that’s ten items away from the one they meant to pick. One or two, maybe, but not ten. So if that’s how you input your date of birth on this dating site, and he’s trying to claim that he accidentally typoed it as ten years out from the reality… then he’s a lying git. QED.

    • S L said:

      Dr. Sarah – dating sites require full birth date, not your age. Sometime the year is type-in, but usually – as you stated – it is drop down. He’s a skunk. I dated a gentleman almost 20 years my senior not excessively long ago, and he was up front with me the entire time. Great guy – we just wanted different outcomes 🙂 His opening gambit from the online site was similar to this….

      “I realize I am outside your specified looking-for range and find that everything else seems to be a pretty good match; would you like to go on a few dates and find out?”

      I did think about it a LOT and obviously said yes. The relationship with him was probably the first non-dysfunctional from beginning-to-end relationship I have ever had; and now I really DO know what I should expect from a partner. Not telling you how long it took me to figure THAT one out *grin*

  72. CommaderBanana said:

    I’m giving Sam SERIOUS side-eye here, not even necessarily because of her behavior with Chris, but because her response to a friend saying “hey, I got emotionally and physically attached to this guy who I found out lied about his age and then justified that lie with a bunch of wankery” is to call her friend ageist.

    I mean, seriously. What the hell? I think Sam’s judgement is pretty skewed if that’s her response.

    I got a message on OKC once from a guy whose pictures were clearly at least a decade older than his age on the site. When I asked him about it, his response was a diatribe about how him lying about his age wasn’t really the problem, the problem was really that guys in the age range I actually wanted to meet were terrible to women and he was just selflessly throwing himself between me and these hordes of terrible evil no-good very bad guys. Because, you know, that makes sense. As opposed to “I’m lying about my age because I want to bone younger women and I think being dishonest is a good way to do it.”

    LW, I’d get the heck out of Dodge, here. This dude is not good news – not just the lying part (and I’m assuming that it’s a lie, I frankly think his explanation is bullshittery of the highest order) but the way he turned his lie back on you to justify it.

    • winter said:

      Omg, that OKC dude was the worst.

    • Anisoptera said:

      Bwahahahah! He was selflessly trying to save you from terrible younger dudes?! Seriously. *headdesk*

  73. neverjaunty said:

    Hey LW, I am a little worried that you may be hearing much of the excellent advice here as “ha ha you young ladies sure are dumb and gullible”. IT IS NOT THAT, AT ALL. You are smart and have good instincts. This is about dudes who want to take advantage of a lack of experience and lack of having seen this exact bullshit before. Please do not feel that you were stupid or immature for dating this dude.

    • Anisoptera said:

      Yes indeed. We are all saying this stuff because we experienced it ourselves. It’s not dumb. It’s just that there’s a play book of manipulation that you learn to recognise through exposure to it, and when you’re younger it’s generally new and not obvious right away. :-/

      The biggest lesson you can learn is to trust your instincts when you feel like something is off and not let people talk you out of your sense that something is wrong and you don’t like it.

  74. Linden said:

    Whether the DOB really was a typo doesn’t matter, I don’t think. LW doesn’t have to present evidence that would hold up in a court of law before deciding that Mike was lying. In real life, people can judge other people’s behaviors on gut feeling or scant evidence or whatever they like. They don’t have to satisfy an imaginary jury first.

    The fact that his response to being called on the age discrepancy was to hand-wave the whole thing away, plus his fitting into a tired societal pattern of dodgy dudes chasing younger women, is enough.

    • gingerbreadquorum said:

      ” LW doesn’t have to present evidence that would hold up in a court of law before deciding that Mike was lying. In real life, people can judge other people’s behaviors on gut feeling or scant evidence or whatever they like. They don’t have to satisfy an imaginary jury first.”

      YES! I wish I’d realized this when I was in my 20s. I always felt like I had to have an ironclad Reason, backed up with Logic and Facts and Evidence, because my own gut feelings weren’t enough. Stayed in some not-so-great situations longer than I had to because of it.

      • Yes. And also, you get to have preferences about people you date. They don’t have to make sense, and they don’t have to be fair. You get to like what you like, and anybody who says different, well, send them to me and I’ll set them straight. 🙂 I am really tired of the whole “give him a chance!” geek-social mentality where you’re supposed to give a guy a shot just because he expressed interest in you.

  75. al fair said:

    maybe this a good place to get an answer to this situation I’ve wondered about.

    when I was 34 (I’m a lady) I was in a situation where a person I was staying with on tour seemed interested in me and I was at the time considering being a person that “hooks up” (I’d just gotten out of a 10 year relationship and had never really dated or anything before that) and I’ve heard that is something people in bands do on tour (not my experience in 15 years but you hear about it!).

    ok anyway, this person seemed into me and then I found out he was 21. and part of me was like oooo still got it! but I felt conflicted about doing anything because I know I pass for mid-20’s and got caught up in my head thinking about whether it would be prudent to disclose my age? is that my responsibility? I didn’t say I was younger, it just didn’t come up. I felt like if I didn’t say anything and he found out I was old later, he’d think I was a dodgy old lady. or maybe I would be a dodgy old lady, right?

    suffice to say my various social anxieties kept everything completely unromantic but I’m wondering what people actually think about that. most of the folks of various genders and younger than me ages that I’ve asked have said he’d think it was awesome I was old, but that seems sexist maybe?

    • winter said:

      First: You (or anyone else) can’t know what he would’ve thought because for that, you would have to ask him. Second: If you feel that a person is seriously misjudging facts about you and you think you might get involved, then yes, IMO it’s your responsibility to disclose these facts so the person in question can make an informed decision. If you withhold important information, you take away their ability to make an informed decision, just like Mike did (and he seriously grosses me out). If after disclosure, the younger person still wants to go for it, you have to make a decision for yourself.

    • When I was 35 I had a summer fling with a 21yo, who pretty aggressively pursued me. It was amazing and hot and fun, and we are friends to this day. You don’t have to “have a discussion” about it, you just say “hey, I’m 35” or else when some organic topic of conversation leads there (being in school, music or movies that were popular when you were in school) you say “yeah, I graduated in 93 so I have a soft spot for Radiohead” or whatever. In a dating situation, it’s a little different because the possibility is there that you might end up really liking each other, so I feel like that’s best entered with more caution (but all that needs to be in your head or expressed with your friends, NOT plunked in the other person’s lap!) but in a fling situation, as long as everybody is honest and a good time is all you’re looking for, why not? 🙂

  76. winter said:

    Looking back at my life, you’ve got to marvel at the irony of a disgusting over-forty dude going after a 17-year old liking the movie Dirty Dancing.

  77. b said:

    Yeah, I agree with all the other people saying that the age differences are NOT the biggest red flags in either of these situations. However, I do think that, given all those OTHER creepy signals, the age differences do become relevant – because like you point out with that quote, CA, older men often target young women because they have less life experience and are less likely to notice the creepy shit they pull until it’s too late.

    If Chris were hanging out with Sam like he hangs out with any other buddy, weren’t staying out to the wee hours with her, weren’t badmouthing his wife to her, weren’t going to her for emotional support when he fights with his wife, etc – then there would be no problem with a 43-year-old and a 23-year-old being friends. Given that those things do happen, though, the age difference becomes one more piece of evidence against Chris.

    Similarly, if Mike hadn’t lied and hadn’t said creepy paternalistic stuff when called out on that lie, then a 37-year-old dating a 21-year-old would be maybe a bit of a stretch but not enough to worry about. Maybe an indication that he’s a bit immature, but not a big deal. Given those things, though, it starts to look more like intentional predation.

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