First things first — let’s tackle the elephant in the room.
I’m 46. He’s 34.
Yes, I’m 12 years older. While you’re digesting that, ponder this: I feel like I’m 35. He acts like he’s 40. That’s a mean mental age of 37ish.
Here’s another way to look at it.
In her TED Talk “12 truths I learned from life and writing,” the amazing Anne Lamott says, “My inside self is outside of time and space. It doesn’t have an age. I’m every age I’ve ever been, and so are you …”
When I was married to my ex and lost in those first foggy years of motherhood, I felt old. Really old. Matronly, even. I was a wife, a mom, and my two kids were my everything. And then, my comfortable, quiet and contented life exploded. After 17 years of marriage, I was suddenly single at 42.
I spent those first months attempting to rebuild myself with parts that were splintered. I hunted for pieces that I now realize are gone forever. I was searching for glue. For stability. I was trying (and not well) to keep myself together for my kids. As I was looking in all the wrong places, I discovered online dating. I quickly learned a dictionary of mysterious acronyms (FWB? DTF? Yes, I had to Google them, too). It didn’t take long for my phone to blow up with poorly written messages (“Hey! Sup? U want to hang?) and a flurry of unsolicited penis pics.
It wasn’t all bad.
The pics were ridiculous, and most dates were terrible, but I met a few decent guys. My therapist called it my “sexual renaissance.” That makes me laugh now, and yet, she wasn’t wrong. I had been with my ex since I was 21 and I was making up for lost time.
After seven months, I was ready to give up on dating. Then I saw HIM on OkCupid. I thought he was cute. His profile was honest, intelligent and funny.
I clicked “Like.”
He responded with a message unlike any other. His writing was thoughtful and grammatically impeccable (swoon!). His seven-year marriage had just ended and he had a 15-month-old daughter. He was a boxer, a runner, and a mechanic. He liked that I was into fitness, that I was a mom, and a writer. He thought I was sexy. We never talked about our ages.
We spent the next week getting to know each other via text (not one unsolicited penis pic!). He made me laugh. He made me feel alive again. Our first date was at a wine bar. We were both late, and we soon learned that this was another thing we had in common. Conversation came easy. After dinner, we kissed and our first date lasted all weekend.
Fast-forward 3½ years.
We own a home together. There are rings on our fingers. We balance each other out as parents. I may have more experience and patience, but he has more energy and a different perspective. We’ve both been married once before and had our hearts broken by the people we loved, so our relationship goals are similar.
He’s smart, mature and talented — he can fix anything! He’s an amazing dad. He loves my kids unconditionally. Our kids. He loves me. I love him. I love us. No math required — it’s that simple.
That said, there are those moments that I remember our relationship is unique.
It’s the odd tinge of jealousy I feel seeing a Gen X couple rocking their new gray hairs and wrinkles together. It’s singing to a song he doesn’t know and realizing it’s because it came out in 1989 — when he was 6 and I was heading off to my freshman year of college.
It’s the sobering realization that we’ll never be “in our 70s” together.
And while we’re talking about relationships and age, I’ve learned a few things. We don’t just choose whom we want to be with. They also choose us. Your heart doesn’t lie, so ignore the critics, the naysayers, and the people who call you a cougar (unless you wear that badge with pride — go you!). Live the life that’s right for you.
Follow your heart, because age is just a number and love makes math irrelevant.
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
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