It’s come to my attention, recently, that I’ve changed my habits in dating. I suppose.
When I was younger, I dated exclusively older men. I think the oldest I dated was thirteen years older than me which even I’ll admit was a little excessive.
For a while, I dated the same age as me – by that, I mean I had a three year relationship with someone a month older. Believe you me, he gave me shit about it.
Now, I date younger.
I don’t think it’s so much my dating habits have changed, I think it’s just that I date according to the ages surrounding me: if the people surrounding me are mostly older, I’ll date older. If the peoples surrounding me are mostly younger, I’ll date younger. Tim – the month older guy – was an anomaly, back when I felt very strange, being about five, six, seven years older than all the people I surrounded.
But for the most part, it’s who I’m surrounded by that shapes who I date.
Which leads me to the subject of today’s journal.
Back when I was first dating I had a really ugly breakup (the dude was seven years older than me which seems to be an ugly age gap for me in general). One of the things he said to me was “Why did you waste my time?”
Why did you waste my time…?
Now that I’m older, and have had chats with other people about this, I understand the psychology behind this statement. When an older person says to a younger partner in the process of leaving this, what they mean is this:
If you knew you weren’t going to stay forever, why didn’t you leave earlier when I was younger and more beautiful and more attractive and more likely to find the partner who will stay with me forever? Why did you waste my time and likelihood to find the partner who will be my husband or wife or non-gender specific love? Why?
We’ll put aside the arguments against this viewpoint and come back to them – I can empathize, to a certain extent, with the anger in this statement. With the feelings of frustration, and the fear, and the loneliness.
That said, there are a couple of statements I want to make to anyone who, like me, finds themselves an older person dating someone significantly younger than them:
NEVER SAY THIS.
Oh, by all means, think it. Say it to whoever you get drunk with to get over the break up. By all means. But DO NOT say it to the person you were dating.
Because here is what that person who you used to love will hear:
All that time and effort and love that I put in towards loving you – every hour, every minute, every drop of sweat, every cent of money, every day we spent together, every date we did, every sweet, beautiful memory that I cherish, every lovely day we had – to you that is now wasted? That is all wasted, just because I’m ending it? All of that time, all of that effort, all of that love that I gave you, and you’re telling me that all I am is wasted time?
You see how the psychology is deeply interesting and empathetic, but the phrase itself is intensely insulting, right?
On top of that, it’s also a really reductive view of relationships. Yes, not every relationship is going to end in marriage. That does not mean that every relationship that doesn’t end in marriage is wasted time. If you had fun and if you enjoyed yourself then the relationship was worth something. I mean, do you cut all your friendships that aren’t deep, soul-rending, heartthrobbing BFF Fo Life? No, because it’s nice to have some sweet, meaningless, friendships around the place that aren’t filled with drama.
Seriously. All y’all. Chill, and remember the wise words of Bill and Ted: Be excellent to each other.