For the last few months, I’ve been attending this MeetUp on and off that centers around concepts of mindfulness and meditation. I was drawn to this MeetUp because the concepts of mindfulness and meditation are extremely interesting to me, concepts that I’ve been trying to integrate into my life more as I’ve been actively working through personal and emotional baggage.
The last time I attended this MeetUp, the group leader–a middle aged man who I suppose is between forty and fifty–asked me if I’d be interested in meeting up for some coffee at some point in the future to discuss some aspects of meditation and mindfulness more in depth. He mentioned he found some of the points I brought up in our discussion that night interesting, and would like to talk more.
I didn’t see any harm in meeting up for one coffee chat. These are topics I genuinely enjoy talking about, after all, and this man is a wealth of knowledge regarding the topics of meditation and mindfulness. I thought I could learn a thing or two from. I saw him as a teacher figure, and I was eager to learn more.
That is, until he started sending me conversational text messages, and seemed way too eager to see me again when we parted from our coffee chat (“if you want to meet next weekend, let me know”).
Wait, I thought, is this guy looking for a friendship…or something more?
This man, whom I only wanted to learn a thing or two from, seemed to have more than a singular coffee chat in mind.
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I’ve learned in the past months, that young, seemingly confident solo woman are magnets for older men. How do I know this? Because I’m terribly slow at making friends, and also don’t mind doing things alone–so I’ve been doing quite a few things alone since moving to Washington, DC by myself last June. While I do have a rather small group of close friends (and a slightly larger group of acquaintances) here, I would much rather spend time alone than with people I don’t truly click with, so end up spending a lot of time by myself.
Older, single men who are a bit…might I say, lonely?…have no qualms with approaching me, a twenty-something woman, when I’m going about the town on my own. Trent expressed to me a few months ago (and he is probably right) that these men feel more comfortable approaching young woman who are going about their business alone because, generally speaking, it’s much easier to approach a fellow solo person than to approach a group, or even a couple, of people.
The most outrageous of these occurrences happened last summer when I was perusing the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall. A solo middle aged man came up to me as I was reading an exhibit piece, and commented on the piece I was reading. That turned into general small talk–which turned in to him asking for my number. To which I politely declined, saying, “I’m sorry, I’m more interested in meeting people my own age,” and walked away.
You’d think said occurrence was over–until it wasn’t. I was probably five minutes down the road from where I met this man, when he ran up to me and, holding up a piece of paper, proclaimed, “Here’s my number. In case you’re looking to work in real estate.”
“I have no interest in working in real estate, sir, ” I stated firmly.
He looked almost excaperated as he exclaimed, “I know I have a ring on my finger, but I’m not married.”
Wait, how did working in real estate turn into you defending your marital status, which I, in fact, have no real interest in???
I replied quite tartly, “I’m twenty-three, sir. I’m not interested,” and stalked away, fuming about the rights some men think they have over women.
I am no stranger, then, to being a solo young female approached by older men who maintain an outdated and patriarchal belief that it is okay to approach significantly younger women with dating in mind.
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What threw me off about about the MeetUp guy, then, was how polite he was about the whole ordeal. I suppose I’m used to men being blatant assholes about their desires (wow, how sad is that).
He never explicitly asked me on a date–he asked me for coffee to talk more about meditation. Our conversation during coffee was normal, and I learned a lot from him. He did buy my drink (which I thought was a bit weird), and he did casually bring up his divorce, but there was no instance where I felt blatantly uncomfortable by him or anything he did or said.
It was the nervous way he asked to see me again, and the way he was frequently texting me that got me thinking he might be interested in more than a simple coffee chat. I brought up my situation to one of my housemates, who, after I explained the situation, agreed that the whole thing seemed a bit weird.
I eventually decided to put this situation to an end. I texted him and told him that, while I did enjoy hearing about mediaton from him, I thought it would only be a one time thing. I was more interested in meeting and connecting with people my own age. To which he politely replied, “I understand, and I am sorry if I misinformed you.”
So he was looking for something more.
This situation has left me wondering, how do you know? If an older man isn’t explicit about his intentions, and there is a topic of conversation we are both interested in discussing, should I have a problem with going to get coffee with him in the first place?
As a woman, I have been taught to be hyper-careful about trusting men, particularly older men–but if we consistently play into society’s stereotypes of older men preying on younger women, I think we can end up missing some things. While it did appear that this MeetUp leader was looking for something more with me, I also learned a lot of cool things about meditation and minfulness that I didn’t know before from our conversation.
I think that, sometimes you have to give people the benefit of the doubt…or else, how will you ever know?
What do you think?