A while back, I unexpectedly found myself single again at age 50.
50 really is fabulous
Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m great! I’m having a lot of fun with it. As someone who became a parent at age 20 while still at University, it is insanely liberating to not be responsible for anyone but me. Sometimes slightly terrifying, but that’s a different story!
So onward to online dating
All good. I’m techy, and I know *most* of the jargon. And I’m a moody old bitch who knows what I like. So I can deal with sifting through the spam quickly and efficiently.
The new diversity
Online dating casts a wide net. One of the great things about this is that you can meet people who wouldn’t usually appear in your orbit. However, I’ve been surprised by the frequency of requests from men 10 -20 years my junior.
Personally, I have a rule that I will not date anyone younger than my children. Having become a step mum at an early age works out to a maximum of 14 years younger in my case. I realise there is nothing wrong with this, but I just feel weird if my date has more in common with my sons than he does with me.
I’m not especially interested in finding a younger guy (or any guy; Being single and self-sufficient rocks!) However, there appears to be a cohort of men who seek out older women. Here’s the thing that’s been bugging me:
Hello Young Lady
Many of these gentlemen open with “hello, young lady”. Seems innocuous enough?
This is not just the super young people. It’s quite a standard opening greeting for men of all ages. But I find that:
- The younger the man, the more likely they are to use it and
- The younger the man, the more patronised I feel
I’m not a young lady
I’m 50. It says so right there in the top line of my bio. I haven’t had any work done, and you can clearly see wrinkles and sags in my photos.
If you don’t believe me, here is a photo of me sipping tea from a china cup. Very much an “old lady” pastime. Note the grey hair, crow’s feet and bingo wings.
I feel that being addressed as “young lady” as a form of flattery implies that I would prefer to be younger than my actual age or for people to think that I am younger. Another comment I hear is, “you don’t look 50”. As if it is somehow better to look younger than 50.
Complimentary? I don’t think so.
Worse than misinformed flattery, it sometimes comes off as condescending and shallow. As in: “I know you’re not a young lady, but I’m going to lay it on thick ….”
I’m noticing this lately in a dating environment, but this happens everywhere. It becomes even worse when I think about this phrase being used in a work setting. Because at work, “young” can be used to imply “inexperienced”, “junior”, “less capable”, and all manner of things that disempower women.
When is it okay?
There have been a few occasions when I have been comfortable being addressed this way in a professional setting. Here’s what they had in common:
- Working with a colleague, female or male, who was significantly older than I
- Having a formal or informal mentoring relationship with that person
- Having a very high level of trust and ease with that person
Not usually features of your typical Tinder interaction!
I’ve been a young lady. It was a lot of fun. I made stupid choices and tons of mistakes. I raised a beautiful family and built a successful career.
Being 50 is so much better. And if you assume that it isn’t, then you underestimate many women.
I don’t want to be a young lady.
I don’t even want to be an old lady.
I am aiming for “sharply honed battle-axe.”
If you have a snappy retort to “Hello Young Lady”, please share in the comments. Currently, I’m leaning toward “hello thirty-something fella”.
Just ask if you’d like to know my thoughts on being called “love” by baristas. I’ll tell you!
And if you’re younger than 36, swipe left.