Dating While Old

Do We Ever Outgrow Love Addiction?

This is me. Unretouched iPhone selfie, albeit taken with that lovely portrait lens because I’m not an idiot. You may have seen this posted on Bumble or Hinge, but probably not because I’m over 60 and essentially invisible. Men on dating apps my age and older still set their upper age limit at 49 — don’t lie, I see you — and never even know that I am on the site.

Which, technically, I shouldn’t be. On the site, that is. For a recovered sex and love addict, hanging out on a dating app is like a recovered alcoholic hanging out at the corner bar. The AA old-timers used to say, “sit too long in the barber’s chair and you’re going to get a haircut.” Thing is, in the 21st Century, places for single adults to meet are about as common as barbershops. Dating co-workers is an HR complaint waiting to happen. College was decades ago… what are we going to do, flirt with strangers in the produce aisle? (Insert cantaloupe joke of your choice here.)

Plus there’s been this whole, you know, pandemic.

I’ve been generally okay with not being pursued by men in my dotage. Going from prey to invisible overnight is less than flattering, but sort of a relief. I no longer live with that low thrum of fear that I’m going to be raped in the next parking lot, or assume that every man I meet just wants to get in my pants. And do I really want the most salient thing about me to be my ability to give you an erection? I enjoy my own company, I’m picky anyway, I have a dog… it’s all good.

But then this weird thing happened. Hinge sent around an email saying “You should stop being so restrictive in your age requirement. You never know who you might meet!” No doubt they were talking to those men in my first paragraph, the 60somethings seeking a 30something. (I think it was Iliza Schlesinger who joked, “I used to think I liked older men, but then I realized I was just hungry.” )

So I removed the 55+ filter on my profile.

It was a bigger deal than it sounds, because I had been so good for so long. I was taking contrary action, establishing bottom lines, being appropriate…. In my years as an active sex and love addict, you see, I was constantly involved with men half my age. There were a few reasons for that. I was cosseting my inner teenager by being subversive and rebellious, reenacting high school with a better outcome. I was living out a fantasy, and love addicts cannot resist a fantasy. Plus it made great copy.

The real reason, of course, is that I was actively avoiding genuine intimacy and connection. As The Twelve Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction puts it, “We avoid responsibility for ourselves by attaching ourselves to people who are emotionally unavailable.” Married, gay, living in another country, clinically insane… what I was doing, without realizing it, was guaranteeing that I would never have a normal (read “dull”) relationship. I would always be pining for that unavailable man, because my brain confused longing with love. Love is common. Longing is deep and powerful and tragic — now, there’s an emotion I can sink my teeth into!

Finally, I made a decision to stop chasing younger men. To stick with my own kind. But… what am I supposed to do when they start chasing me?

The minute I took off that lower limit, I was besieged by men in their 20’s. Also men in their 30’s and a few in their 40’s (none, tellingly, in their 50’s), but mostly adorable millennials 24 to 29. “Surely these are scammers,” I thought. “Maybe a prank, or a bet.” So I agreed to meet. And meet we did. In public. In broad daylight. Turned out, they were exactly who they said they were, and even solvent. (There was one who lived with his parents, but at least he was in grad school.) Some guys just like older women, the same way I like younger men. Exactly the same way. And that’s the catch.

I neglected to account for the fact that these kids had the same problem I did. They were love addicts, falling for the most unavailable woman around. Did they really plan to bring a gal home to meet their mother when she’s older than their mother? We were both living in a fantasy, and like I said, love addicts cannot resist a good fantasy.

I won’t lie: being desired by these young studs was a great high. But I also know that anything that gets you high will also make you crash, and I can’t afford the crash. So I reset my parameters back to 55+ and unmatched the kids. You know what? Blocking those numbers felt exactly like flushing my last bindle of coke down the toilet 33 years ago. But I’m glad I did that, too.