Age of Attraction
Until recently, I never gave much thought to how a man’s age impacts how/if I’m attracted to him. When I was an adolescent and young adult, I was attracted to guys my age, but since we were all young, it didn’t ever seem like age was such an issue. I suppose I assumed, like most young people (especially those who grew up in the church) that before I was “old,” I would be married. Eventually, my husband would be “old,” but it would be gradual, and I wouldn’t notice the change happening so quickly, would remember him “young,” and, being in love with him, I would of course find him attractive. Sure, I thought a few older men (a la Richard Gere) were attractive, but more in a distinguished, isn’t-he-handsome kind of way that wasn’t really any more than admiring a nice piece of art.
Now, at nearly 33, I’m not married, and the men in my proverbial dating pool aren’t as young anymore, either. I still didn’t think anything of it, though. Men my age are just men my age. They look like the look. I might see a photo of how he used to look when he was young, but those photos are just pieces of paper – I have no memory of them.
Except for one.
A couple years ago, I discovered, when he called my office out of the blue, that a guy I’d known in high school lives not far from me. We had lunch and texted now and then. It was really strange, seeing him again.
When he called the first time, he wasn’t sure I’d remember him, but I did remember him, smooth-faced and skinny, conservative and cocky. I remembered his eyes, smile, and his voice. I don’t remember these things because I was attracted to him; I just do. I very vividly remember him 15 years ago.
Then there’s a 14-year gap when we didn’t see each other. We lived our lives with one another tucked safely into the footnotes of our previous chapters.
Somewhere towards the end of last September, our relationship changed. I don’t know what I’d call it, but it isn’t what it used to be. His present-day self is both the same as and totally divorced from the guy I knew 15 years ago.
I know his face now. I know the crinkles in the corners of his eyes when he smiles and the feel of his scruffy face when he hasn’t shaved in a day, and the very slight softness of his belly. I know that his hands don’t feel like they used to when we thumb-wrestled all those years ago. He’s less conservative and the cockiness has simmered down a lot, and now, he’s impressively charming when he wants to be.
I hadn’t been attracted to him 15 years ago, so why now, now that he has all these things that “young” me thought I would have to overlook or get used to? If anything, they add to the attraction, because like so many before me, I have figured out that the lines and wrinkles and soft bellies are really jokes heard and told, nights spent up too late with friends, or work, or babies; they are dinners with family and stolen handfuls of sugary cereal eaten at midnight while standing at a dark kitchen counter. There are trails from tears that I cannot see, but for the lack of youthful skin left behind. His hands aren’t the same hands, but they have worked and loved hard. These aren’t evidence of age – they’re evidence of life, and that is incredibly sexy.
Fourteen years of stories I haven’t heard, secrets I’ll never know. It’s a mystery I both want to unravel and to leave alone. He lives between my intuition and my thinking, someone whom I know without knowing exactly why, and whom I can’t help but try to figure out anyways.
He’s not the only one who lived in those fourteen years. I don’t think I want to know how he remembers me from back then, but he seems ok with the me I am today. Me, with my own lines and marks, my own scars and freckles. My own afternoons of windblown hair, fractured knuckles, broken hearts, and babies on my hips. My own evidence of life.