By TAMAR CASPI
A few years ago I dated a guy about five years older than me. When the relationship ended, we were able to stay friendly and worked hard to make sure our mutual friends didn't feel awkward inviting us to the same events. We thought it worked until he brought a date to a mutual friend's wedding.
I wasn't jealous, but I couldn't help but be stunned. It wasn't the fact that I thought it was inappropriate to bring a new girlfriend to this type of event, but rather I was taken aback by the girl herself: She was beautiful, smart, funnyâ€¦ and five years older than him. That's when I realized I was competing with women ten years my junior for the same men. Not a comforting thought.
This realization opened my eyes to a number of things. First, the guys on J*Date are selecting a much wider age range than I had assumed. Men are far more open to dating much younger women, as well as those much older than them. Second, women tend to have much stricter standards, and that calculates to more women per capita, an equation that makes a tough dating scene seem impossible.
It also made me realize that I don't want to still be single ten years from now dating guys that are also dating girls ten years younger than me. If it bothers me as the younger woman in the scenario, I can't even begin to imagine how perturbed the older women are.
WHEN MY "competition" got married this summer, I breathed a sigh of relief. Actually, three of her same age counterparts also tied the knot, eliminating four of my rivals in one season. They each married men the same age as them and look incredibly happy and beautiful in the photos I saw on Facebook.
The weird thing is, I now I feel like I could actually be friends with these ladies since they are no longer on the prowl. In fact, I'm so happy for them (and the fact that they're off the market) that I'm barely even jealous that they're married. They've dated long enough... they deserve it!
Still, there's this nagging issue about guys who date women who are on completely different sides of the age range spectrum. It's hard for me to comprehend what they can possibly have in common with me one day, and a woman much older or younger than me the next. No matter how beautiful a woman is, how can a guy relate equally to a woman a few years out of college and another woman who is nearly over the hill? The mentalities of the women are so different: One is just diving into the dating pool and is splashing around having fun while other has been around the dating block and has a loudly ticking clock. The former is probably a bit naÃ¯ve, still trying to figure out her career and what she wants in a partner, while the latter may be overly-independent and has too many rules from so many years dating.
I suppose I can appreciate that men aren't discriminating based on age and are trying to find a connection to every age woman in an effort to find love. The men who select an unusually wide age range on their J*Date preferences are only increasing their odds, and even though I'm not comfortable with that for myself, I do envy their openness. These guys have doubled - and maybe even tripled - their options because they're more interested in finding the right match instead of the right age.
Women, take note, because we can learn a lot from the men. We may not want to create a twenty-year age range, but ten years or even thirteen is definitely doable. If your age range on J*Date is narrow, learn from the men and add a year or two on each end. And don't even bother looking at what age range the men have selected because it doesn't matter. Really, it doesn't!
When my friend Karen was 27, her magic number was the age 32 for the guy she wanted to meet. She figured 32 meant the guy was enough past his thirtieth birthday to be ready to settle down. But when Karen turned 28, that number remained at 32 and now that she's 29, it's still at 32. I'm not sure why her ideal age for a husband stays the same as she ages, it sounds ridiculous right? I asked her if it really mattered if the guy was 33 or 34? Or even 30 or 31? Altogether, a guy could be ready to marry in his mid-twenties, but she has systematically eliminated all these prospects!
My friend Julie met a guy that she later described as "perfect" for her, except he's four years younger than her and she won't even give him a fighting chance.
I have a very long list of qualities I'm looking for in my partner, and age isn't anywhere near the top of that list. Even if you haven't written down your wish list, it's probably floating around in the back of your mind, so try and determine if - and where - age ranks. And make sure you keep your real priorities straight when you meet someone and ask them their age. Or rather, don't ask and just get to know them first.
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