Jenny Block explores: Is dating an older woman such a bad thing?

My last three girlfriends were all 11 to 17 years my junior. I was with one of them for eight years. Dated the other two for a year apiece. At the time it worked for me, for us. But I always wondered why I sought out women so much younger than I. Which got me thinking: Is there such a thing as “age-appropriate dating?” Does age matter?
I chalk some of it up to coming out late. I identified as bi from my 20s, and into my early 30s. But it wasn’t until my mid-30s that I identified as I do now: as lesbian. Did that have an impact?
I can’t help but think that perhaps I was wanting to experience a sort of lesbian adolescence. I wanted to be their age and I wanted to do the things I did when I was their age, not the things I imagined “women my age” did.
Those relationships worked for me, obviously. At least for a while. But when my last relationship ended, I wanted to try something different. I wanted to see if perhaps I hadn’t found my match because I was looking in the wrong age bracket.
Once I realized that femme girls were not my cup of tea, it seems like I should have figured out that young girls weren’t really brewed to my taste, either. I can be a bit old-school — I relish the femme role for myself. Now, I want an equal when it comes to things like intellect, respect and the like. But when it comes to being the “top,” for lack of a better expression, I want my partner to be in that role … in all senses of that word.
So a woman who was a bit older than I — but not too much older so as to recreate the same imbalance in the opposite direction — made sense. And that is exactly what I was thinking when I swiped right on my now-girlfriend. She is seven years older than I.
I don’t mind telling you, it was a little nerve-wracking at first. She said she liked Sinatra and “classic movies.” She has a high-powered job and is generally the boss of things. She has no interest in after-hours clubs or waking up on the floor of a friend’s apartment. I may be old-school, but I was worried she was just old.
Would it be bye-bye Sunday Funday and hello mah jongg? Was it going to be sayonara vodka and howdy Ensure? Hasta la vista stilettos and nice to meetcha slippers? And what about the sex? And her friends? Would we be spending the weekends bringing flowering plants to Shady Pines? Are we talking making doilies instead of taking shots? I confess, after dating a 28-year-old, 52 seemed, well, ancient.
Then we met in person. And I realized what a dumb ass I was. Am.
I’m 45. I am not twenty-five. And all of the things that I thought I didn’t like or, rather that I was fighting because I don’t want to be “old,” I actually do like. And 52 is not old. At all. I’m just, yes, a dumb ass.
On our very first date, we went to a fabulous dinner, followed it with Alexandre’s for drinks and then shut down the Round-Up, leaving the dance floor only to go to the loo. If I’m being honest, I love Frank Sinatra and not much makes me happier then dancing to the Rat Pack in the “ballroom” as we call her sunroom.
“She and her friends do Sunday Funday better than — or at least as well as — any 20somethings I know. And I have yet to spot a ball of yarn or a crochet hook anywhere among her possessions.
Truth is, I have more trouble keeping up with her than vice versa. And I love being the spring chicken — the hot, young girlfriend. (Insert winky-face emoji here.) Not to mention that she gets my jokes and I get hers. We watched the same TV shows and movies growing up. And we finish classic lines like, “Slowly I turned. Step my step…” and “I am serious…. And don’t call me Shirley” with ease.
I don’t feel embarrassed when my back hurts or the red peppers from the salad repeat on me. We have sex in the morning as often as we have marathons at night because, yes, we need to get some sleep.
We talk on the phone like teenagers instead of texting — a very new thing for me. Here’s an upside: the misunderstandings that arise from texts as compared to actual talking are few and far between. And the fact that we both travel a lot and live in different cities is far less of an issue than it might otherwise might be.
We’re at the same point in our lives and our careers. We want the same things and enjoy the same kind of people. I loved the girls I was with. I wouldn’t have been with them otherwise. But I often felt old and (ugh) maternal in our relationships. I’m the whole me, the real me, the me I am and want to be in this relationship more than I ever have been before.
All of it has to do with me coming to terms with getting older and becoming comfortable with what I really like and want, instead of clinging to the past in a painfully failing effort to stay forever young. I actually feel younger and sexier now. I’m not racing to keep up. I’m enjoying how far I’ve come.
I don’t have to feign allergy symptoms to explain why I can’t read the menu. I can just pull out my readers or borrow my girlfriend’s. I don’t have to Google the band we’re going to see. I already know all the words to their songs. And I don’t have watch Bad Grandpa. I can sing along with Streisand or bawl my eyes out at An Affair to Remember.
Is there such a thing as age-appropriate dating? Yes. But it’s different for everyone. “Age-appropriate” is not about a certain number of years that divide two people. It is about dating someone with whom you don’t have to pretend or hide or be ashamed of things that come along naturally with age. It’s dating someone with whom you find comfort and acceptance. It’s about dating someone who not only doesn’t mind finding your bite guard under the pillow but also loves finding every possible way to have mind-blowing sex. Still.
I was enjoying an excellent sex life before. But let’s just say there’s something to be said for experience…
Jenny is the author of the upcoming book The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex (Cleis Press), coming in May.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2016.