How Do You Know?

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.

— — — —

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.

— — — —

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?

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11 thoughts on “How Do You Know?

  1. I think if I tired to answer your question it would be longer than your post 😉 That’s a great benefit of being a ‘virtual’/online friend….

    You can have older guys as friends, and I think giving them the benefit of the doubt is fine, but make sure there are limits. I know you are careful, but continue to be so. Keep those boundaries. As you get older, age will make less of a difference in your life and with your friends, but you’ll still need to be just as vigilant as you are now, maybe more so – there won’t be that red flag of the older guy….

    I know I don’t need to tell you, but there is a huge difference between someone that you get to know in a natural way and someone who approaches you out of the blue. I understand the meditation instructor a lot more than the real estate jerk. He felt the connection but misinterpreted it. The other guy was just a jerk. As long as the mindfulness instructor knows that there are limits, you can still have a student-teacher relationship with him. Maybe not go out and have coffee alone together, but still a relationship. There can be no relationship with the real estate guy…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was hoping to get some insight from you on this, Trent! So glad you offered your perspective (and for writing the related post on your blog…I read it last night, but haven’t found the time to respond yet).

      I do find this subject a very tricky one to navigate because age stereotyping is just as problematic as gender stereotyping, culture stereotyping, etc. Of course not every older man who wants to talk to me is a creep, and I don’t mean to imply that men my own age don’t have the capacity to be creepy–because they do. You are also right that age starts becoming less of a prevalent issue as we grow older. Also, as utesmile pointed out, this issue does go both ways.

      My parents are ten years a part, so I’m no stranger to romantic relationships with an age gap–however, knowing that both of the men I mentioned in the above post were at least twenty years older than me, if not more, rubs me the wrong way severely. I suppose I don’t have the perspective to see this situation from a forty or fifty year old, but I would never express interest in a sixteen or seventeen year old, no matter how attractive I thought he was. That also presents a different issue, as a sixteen/seventeen year old is a minor by law–but still, it would make me uncomfortable knowing that they are at a completely different spot in life than I am.

      I suppose I just can’t help but wonder why the men I presented in my post couldn’t possibly be self-aware enough to realize how much younger I am than them. Then again, self-awareness doesn’t always come with age.

      You are right that I could still have a friendship with the meditation guy–however, I’m not quite sure I want to because a) I am now aware that he did develop a romantic interest in me,which leaves me hesitant to develop any sort of platonic relationship with him and b) he was actually really annoying. He talked way too much and couldn’t ever leave space for silence in our conversation. While he may have felt that connection, I never felt any connection with him in the first place. We had a common interest and I, again, saw him merely as a teacher figure. Age aside, his personality is a bit too much for this introvert. While a wealth of information, I did find him to be exhausting to be around. 🙂

      This is a tricky subject to navigate for sure, though, and is becomng trickier as I get older. I will definitely continue to be careful, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are a million ways to look at all of this! I won’t even try.

        Here is one thought about one thing in your comment, which you know by looking at your parents, you know that age difference is smaller as we age – that 16 year old is far, far too young for you now. When you are 32 and he’s 24, he still might seem a little young, but not in a totally different league. When you are 40 and he’s 32? Not so big. 48 and 40? Not really different. I don’t know if this explains it, but older guys are attracted to younger women (or many are), but talking about that 16 year old – no, she’s a kid! So a 24 year old is “younger” but not a kid. Not sure if that’s it, but an idea.

        For the mindfulness guy, yeah, I was talking in theory. Again, with that romantic interest thing he raised, even if he wasn’t annoying you still wouldn’t want to be too close – no coffee alone with him. But since he is annoying…

        Anyway, it is a huge subject, and I’m sure you’ll continue thinking about it, at least a little.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re right, Trent. There are a million ways to look at this situation and there isn’t one right answer. Age is tricky to work with, especially as adults because “adult” spans so many different ages.

        It is definitely something I will keep thinking about.

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  2. I think men are just always attracted to any woman whatever age. While I was dating a while ago there were young men in their 20’s, who wanted a “mature” woman. It just depends on the man/woman. I totally agree with you: it is better to stay in your own age range for a relationship as you see the world with similar eyes and have similar experiences. It still should be possible to have a friendship with a middle aged men, but men don’t notice and have to be told how deep a relationship goes. Honesty is the best from the beginning….and some still keep trying it on. 🙂

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    1. I think this is a really tricky subject to navigate because age steretyping is an issue. I also agree with Trent that age makes less of a difference as we grow older. My parents are ten years a part, so I know that relationships with a bit of an age gap can work out and be successful. That said, knowing that these men were between twenty and thirty years older than me rubs me the wrong way severely. I struggle to understand how they couldn’t be self-aware enought to realize the age gap. We can’t control who we are attracted to, but we do have control over how we react to those attractions. That said, self-awareness doesn’t always come with age.

      Learning to navigate the adult world is certainly not easy sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t have an answer to your, “how do you know?” question, but I do have something I’d like to share.

    When I was a few years older than you (mid to late 20s) there was a period of time where I couldn’t go out with my friends without some old dude hitting on me. Every time I’d go out with “the gang”, the husband of one of my friends would always say to me, “I wonder what rich old fucker is going to try pick you up tonight.” My friends thought it was hilarious. I was totally grossed out by it. I mean seriously, eww!

    Fast forward to now… According to the online dictionary’s definition, I’m about to enter middle age. I still find 20-something males infinitely more hot than middle age men. If it weren’t for the maturity gap (which is more pronounced when the woman is older) and, if I were the type of girl who’s comfortable making the first move, I’d probably be one of those eww-y old people.

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    1. The maturity gap can be more pronounced when the woman is younger, or close to the same age, too! Maturity level is something that’s been tough to navigate recently for me in the world of relationshps.

      It really is gross, though, to have older men constantly interested in you. This is frequent for me, and it doesn’t seem to happen to my friends!

      Haha, well, at least you can admit that about yourself, Amy. There are people out there who would go about their business being the eww-y old person and flat out deny it later. I’m prettty shy when it comes to dating, so usually don’t make the first move, either. I’ve also found that when I do make the first move, I usually mess it up somehow–become awkward, share too much information, what have you. I’ve found it’s best for me not to make the first move. 🙂

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  4. You are a gorgeous and intelligent young woman who is going to be hit on a lot. So get used to it :-). Some guys will be total creeps (real estate ring man- yuck) and some will be very polite in their pursuits (meditation man). The nice ones are worth forging a friendship with if there is enough mutual interest. You made it clear that you wanted relationships with people your own age, and he totally accepted that, but if a friendship can result in the end, that is not a bad thing either.

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    1. I suppose I should get used to it. I can’t change my appearance (nor do I want to) and I can’t change the behaviors of men who are attracted to women.

      Meditation man was a bit too extraverted for my taste. He always had to be saying something…in fact, he did most of the talking when we went to coffee (which I was okay with, as I wanted to learn from him anyways). That said, it would be exhausting for me to spend an enormous amount of time in his company–plus, we had absolutely nothing in common besides our shared interest in meditation. You are right that trying to forge a friendship with them isn’t always a bad thing, but it didn’t seem worth it to me in this particular scenario.

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