I was driving home from Chicago this past New Years with two of my younger girlfriends, and we found ourselves stuck in a blizzard that extended the entire length of Indiana (otherwise known as the Birthplace of Every RV ever). A normally 5 hour trip turned into 7 and some change, so we had plenty of time to dissect our dating lives and crushes, past and future sex claims. We found ourselves composing a book, a zine really (there was some late 90s early 00s nostalgia going on) about how to be a Real Boy, a handbook for guys on how to properly ask girls out on dates, behave on said dates, and be a decent boyfriend. The book never came to fruition, but it set the tone for my year. What follows is one chapter of said imaginary book, Guys Over 30. It's been on my mind lately because so many of my guy friends have been bitching, so listen guys, here's what we're looking at.
I'm about to be 33 in a few months (what up Jesus, here come the miracles) and the struggle to find anyone acceptable to date in my age range has been...character building. Not only are, as they say, most of the good ones taken, but seeing as we live in Cleveland, the married with kids factor increases exponentially. People love to get hitched in Ohio. The dating pool has weakened, and become way smaller, especially if like me you prefer to date childless people. Once you cull out the ones with children, and the alcoholics,and the ones with whom you have nothing in common with, then there's still the hurdle of finding someone nice who also happens to like you. I've met a lot of guys, and gone through a lot of OK Cupid accounts, and at this point my standards of who's acceptable to date have dropped so low I'm actually a little disappointed in myself. But there are still 7 warning signs I look for.
Seven is incidentally the guideline for who is acceptable, age wise, to date. 7 under, 7 above, but nothing under 21. This rule is based on very sound logic I created in 5 minutes while sitting at a bar with a 26 yr old friend and trying to sound pithy, but it stands up.
Most of the single guys I know are actually closer to the 26-29 range, so you all should consider this a List of Things Not to Do When You Get Old. And of course, these apply to women too. So don't start on me. I'm just trying to help.
Look, by now, we've all been screwed by somebody. We've also been the villains ourselves. Dating is messed up, hard, and stressful. And the particular stress of romance is only added to the adult stresses we also accumulate - work and bills and our own expectations of where we would be at 30. The worst thing you can do though is allow yourself to get Bitter. Not just kind of bitter, where we still feel mad over a particular breakup, but Bitter, where we feel mad over every relationship. Bitter at all the girls who have said no to you. Bitter at the younger person you see who is prettier than you, or more successful than you already. Bitter over your body starting to feel old and used. Bitter at all the happy couples who got married at 25, and have decimated your social circles. Bitter about all the time you spend alone, living alone or going to events alone. See, it's not like I don't understand the reasons for an infection, but you can't stay sick.
Nobody ever lived a happy life, or really any life at all, who wasn't able to be positive about life. It's just a waste of time to spend all your free hours bitching about everything. Snark every once in a while is fine and funny, but Snark 24 hours a day is more than off-putting to someone trying to get to know you, it's sad and pathetic. If you really truly believe that everyone at every bar you go to sucks, that every person in the world is an idiot, and that you will be alone forever and ever then fine, stop going out, stay in your room, and shut up about it. But unhappy bitter people don't usually want to shut up, they want to make sure everyone who bothers to talk to them about anything more perfunctory than the weather is fully aware of how much their world sucks. It's gross, and it's why after 15 minutes being trapped talking to you in the kitchen at the party, I made an excuse about having to use the bathroom, and then high tailed it for the group of people in the other room who look like they were actually having fun. Curmudgeon is not a compliment, it doesn't lend you some sort of validity, it's an insult and it's unnecessary. Someone who is not you is going to win most of the time, get over it. The world is not fair or equal. But it's still fun, and people are still awesome.
2. Entitlement, and sharing every opinion you fleetingly have.
It's my experience that living through half an average lifetime should teach you that the world owes you absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, message boards from the late 90s appear to have taught most older men that not only does the world owe them everything from livelihood to hot girls, it's also their god-given mission to make sure the world knows all the opinions they have on everything in detail. If I say "I really like the Weakerthans", I don't need a ten minute speech from you about why I know nothing about real post punk, and Propaghandi was a much better band, and how you used to date this awful girl who knew all the lyrics to their third album and would sing them ad nauseum, because girls have crappy taste in music (which you won't say out loud but strongly imply, the exception being that really hot 19 yr old skater chick you're in love with on facebook). Don't be an idiot. Sometimes you can just say "not my cup of tea" and leave it at that.
I'm sort of convinced that the reason so many of my older guy friends don't like social media is they don't like the fact that now, instead of just their little group of friends, everyone gives their opinion, and it's too much opinion challenging. The internet should assist people with being more open minded, but it seems to have the effect of making certain people even more stringent in their own predeveloped views and tastes. (see point#4)
The other side effect of always talking about your own opinion is a lot of times you forget to ask mine. If we have an entire conversation in which you don't ask me a single question cause you're too busy talking about what you think, I'm probably never making plans with you again. Sometimes I'll chalk it up to nervousness and give it another shot, but two strikes and you're out. I mean, this is just a rule for people in general right?
3. Unrealistic Expectations of Girls You Like
Sure, you need to lose thirty pounds and you prefer to stay home watching netflix than going to shows or even just hanging out at bars, and you work 80 hours a week, but of course that 22 year old CIA student should have been interested in you, or wanted to stay with you and not dumped you for the 24 yr old sculptor. It's nice that you are into interesting girls, but if you're not interesting yourself than what exactly do you expect? You know, like any other older girl, I get a little bitter when I see a guy preferring to date much younger girls, but more and more now I often feel protective over that kid too. Like, that was me ten years ago, and I wish someone had explained to me the difference between an interesting guy, and a guy who only seems more interesting because he has a lot more stories and more money, just by virtue of being old enough to have a real job. Maybe then I would have learned to express my unhappiness or anger at something in a healthy open way, instead of a cowering passive aggressive way which bottles up inside and then explodes one day. Because if you're a young girl and you get angry at your older boyfriend then you're crazy and naive. Nobody explained to me that those older guys probably thought any girl that had a problem with them was crazy, and that's why they were dating easily impressed 20 yr olds that didn't have expectations of them, because all the older girls had figured out their bullshit.
This basically applies to any trait you desire in a partner: If you want a successful girl who's good with money, you'd better be that yourself. You want a girl who's adventurous? Super caring and gentle? Charismatic? Fun at parties? Clean? Never raises her voice or cries? Doesn't expect you to call? Hot and really good in bed? Funny? ALL OF THESE THINGS ALL AT ONCE? Well, if you were all of those things at once yourself, you wouldn't be single all the time, would you?
4. Being Set in Your Ways
The other day I was trying to figure out why it was I connected so much easier with guys in their mid twenties than in my own peer group. I was discussing this with my sister and our friend, and I was searching for the right word to define what the problem was with older guys, and then our friend pointed out that older guys are often so stubborn about their lifestyles already. They've got their routine, they've got things they refuse to do or try. Not only is this not exciting or interesting, but it basically means either you've got to also have a lifestyle just like theirs or you don't have a place in their life. It's all well and good to have a settled lifestyle when you married, but if you're still looking to actively date, you have to maintain the attitude of a younger person when it comes to entertainment, you have to stay creative, energetic, and adventurous. You have to be willing to make time for new things, to be flexible about adding new things to your life. Frankly, shouldn't we all be trying to be those traits anyway? Till we die, significant others or not? That, dear guy friends, is how you stay interesting so the interesting girls will like you.
5. The "Nice" Guy
If you put anywhere in your dating profile that you are a "nice" guy, then you are either boring or a serial killer. That's the constant whine "Oh these girls I like always date these assholes, why don't they date me, I'm a nice guy." Well, it's probably cause you're boring, or a serial killer. And they just didn't want to sleep with you. Maybe also they can tell you kind of hate women (see point#1)
6. Being Too Hard on Yourself
You know the other reason that girl didn't want to sleep with you? Because you hate yourself. Because you are over 30 and still haven't figured out how to be at peace with the faults you can't fix, and how to fix the ones you can. Self-loathing is not honest, it's indulgent. It's easier to have no expectations of yourself if you tell yourself constantly you're just a fuck up. But if there's really nothing about yourself that you like, nobody else is going to like you either. Most people do like themselves honestly, but if you are constantly cracking self-deprecating jokes, then that's a big old advertisement that you're not that cool. Frankly, you should have figured that out in high school. As you get older, money and looks have very little to do with whether a girl will go out with you or not. Liking yourself and having confidence is everything.
"But But But even when I did do that it didn't work!" Well, guess what. It doesn't matter who you are, lots of people don't want to sleep with you. That is a fact. Being rejected by a girl doesn't mean you are unlovable, it just means you have to move on to the next girl. Once again, high school. I'm 33, I no longer have time to waste trying to make guys like themselves.
7. All the Girls You Like Are Either Way Hotter Than You, Or Lesbians
This sort of links back to point 3, and it's a big giant warning flag. If a guy is constantly crushing on the hottest girl friend he has, or is really into lesbians or girls with boyfriends or girls that have already made it clear they don't like him, then basically he's just scared of relationships or isn't into dating anyone at all. You are never going to be good enough for a guy who's like that, because you will be available. Guys, if you are this guy, your standards aren't the problem. You are just not happy with some big aspect of your life, and probably you need to reevaluate what you do for a living, or where you live, or what kind of hobbies you have.
8. The Fact That You are Old and Don't Know Any of This Yourself Already
I mean, there's nothing we can do about that now. Maybe just don't admit you read this?