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In my 20s, it was all about navigating a minefield of d*cks.
(I believe I stole that from a Louis CK bit, but hey, he’s apparently the expert.)
Men would approach me constantly, and it was often unwelcomed. They would cross the street to talk to me, hit on me in the grocery store, on the subway, in coffee shops—you name it. Apparently I was quite hot.
It was flattering, but it could also be overwhelming at times because I was shy and didn’t know how to handle the attention. Also, I was always in a serious relationship. At the time I was young and naïve, and I didn’t realize that I was already at my peak “value” in terms of the dating world—and I was only 25.
Seven years later, I was divorced and single. I had been in back-to-back relationships for 12 years, and I had no idea how to be on my own. I had been a part of a “we” for so long that I didn’t know how to be a “me.” I had just moved into a new apartment and was living on my own for the first time, where I spent a lot of nights crying and wondering how my life had gotten to this point.
In my 30s, I was still dodging d*cks, but it was in a different way. I had my first “friend with benefits” and it was so empowering to be with a man simply for sex. I was able to fulfill my physical needs without picking up his socks for the next six years or dealing with his emotional baggage. For many, this would not seem like a huge revelation, but for me, it was liberating.
I had a few different relationships, but nothing serious. It was also around this time that I started to face my own fading youth and beauty in the eyes of society. The first time I was called “Ma’am” in a store, I was about 34, and it was so jarring that I think I cried on the way home. (I am not proud of this reaction, but I am trying to be honest here.) To me, only “older women” were called “Ma’am.”
I realized that the months of anxiety and insomnia triggered by my divorce had shown up on my face, and it was a difficult realization. Instead of celebrating my age and maturity, I was starting to feel insecure about it. In my 20s, I got so much male attention that I didn’t know what to do with it, and in my 30s I was suddenly becoming less and less visible.
Flash forward to my 40s, where there are few d*cks in sight. The dating pool is much smaller at this point, and unfortunately, women my age are competing with girls in their 20s for the same men. Also, I have worked from home for the past seven years which limits my human interaction—and we are in the midst of a global pandemic.
But still, it is somewhat disheartening.
Now that I am finally emotionally stable, secure within myself, and ready for a relationship, I seem to be “past my prime.” I question a society that values youth and beauty over women who are financially secure, successful, intelligent, and capable of taking care of themselves. What message are we sending to young girls? I read somewhere that a woman on a dating app gets exponentially fewer matches for every year that she’s over 18. That is crazy! What 18-year-old woman is even a fully formed human, let alone ready for a long-term relationship?
As women, why are we putting up with this? Why are we settling for this treatment? We are still valuable, beautiful, and capable of loving and being loved at every age and stage in life. Our age should be celebrated, not denigrated. I am not sure why this continues to happen, especially with continued emphasis on the equal rights movement, but I’m also not sure how to change it.
Despite everything, I still believe in love. I hope that it finds me again in this lifetime. Until then, I am staying off the dating apps and focusing on the things that truly matter in life, like my real friendships, time with family, and staying healthy and positive.