Am I too old to fall head-over-heels for someone anymore?
by Cait Robinson
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Dear Miss Information,
I recently moved to a new state, which always make it difficult to find friends or start a potential relationship. On a weekly basis, I've been eating alone and reading a book at this bar. (I'm shy, which already men have very little patience for.)
The waiter there approached me and we became sort of friends, since I am a regular. Over the past few months, my attraction to him has gotten stronger, and the sexual tension is undeniable — when he touches me I'm in a surreal bliss.
He's pretty much my opposite — extroverted, attractive, and white. I feel terrible for admitting this, but my hesitation in going for it has been about his race. It's not that I feel that he's inferior or anything like that. I just don't want to be someone's experimental thrill. It's especially difficult for me to believe he's dated a black woman before, based on where I am. He's never been rude and he's always been kind, but the fact that he's handsome and could probably date a lot of women makes me insecure about his intentions.
I'm sort of disgusted with myself for feeling this way, and I want to trust him (and, uh, have sex with him) but I am so scared of being used — I honestly don't think I could take it. I'm also tired of being such a coward. What should I do?
— White + Black = Gray Area
Dear Gray Area,
First let's clear up some misconceptions about service workers. (This is a subject with which I am intimately acquainted, as a writer.) You distrust this waiter because he is "extroverted, attractive," and "…could probably date a lot of women." All valid concerns. Sure, in food service, being cute helps. So does being charming. If you're blessed with being both cute and charming, your shifts end with you rolling around on a pile of $1 bills on the shitty carpeting of your dim apartment.
But there is a limit to how cute and charming someone will be if they're just in it for the dollars. He's not obligated to stick around your table after you order to discuss the book you're reading. Nor is he obligated to "forget" to charge you for that iced tea you ordered. There's a line between "professionally cute" and "actually interested," and if he's crossed that line, you should have faith in the attraction.
Now that's out of the way, who said you'd be his "experimental thrill?" Maybe he exclusively dates black women. Maybe he dates people he likes, regardless of race. Or — shocking! — maybe he's into you because he finds you attractive and charming in your own "opposite of him" way.
If the sexual tension is that palpable, go for it. Ask him out. You'll never know if he's tokenizing you unless you find out whether he's tokenizing you. More to the point, though, it sounds like you live in a place where race is still a big issue. If you're nervous about being seen with him, welcome to the "ugh, stop staring" club. This club is far bigger than you would expect: girls dating girls; boys dating boys; anyone dating older, younger, or your-age-who-looks-younger; anyone dating someone with a mohawk. The list goes on. Most of us have been in this club at one point or another. If the relationship is good, fuck the haters; the rest of us have your back.
Dear Miss Information,
There was a time when I would fall in love at first sight, and it worked. And so I had a few long-term relationships. I would meet someone and magically fall in love and they loved me back and everything was good. But that was in my twenties. I'm thirty-two now, and I haven't had a real boyfriend in over six years.
I am very open-minded and have dated all sorts of guys. But alas, most of the time, after that initial conversation, there's no spark, or very little. I've also tried going out with "real men" — usually older, gentlemanly guys who seemed ready to settle down. But I never feel anything for them and I always feel like running away at the first sign of possessiveness or boredom. I don't know why.
I've fallen for two guys in the last couple of years who were quite a bit younger than me, and neither of them wanted things to become "serious." One said he didn't want to be in a long-distance relationship. (He then found a girlfriend who was like a carbon copy of me, and lived in my city. That really hurt.) The other, I'm still seeing on very casual terms, but he says he doesn't have time for me and that he doesn't know what he wants anyway. I like having sex with him, but the relationship is growing colder and colder. He doesn't pay much attention to me, and it makes me sad, so I think the right thing to do would be break up and make room for someone new.
One small detail is that in the last few years, I've moved back and forth between several cities in Europe. I'm aware that this instability isn't exactly conducive to establishing a solid relationship. But I'm now relocating to my home country, where I'm planning to grow a root or two — and where I also feel more loved and contained by friends from the same background and culture.
I did use to love my freedom (a.k.a. instability), but I now feel really sad and tired of always doing everything by myself. The question remains: how is it possible that in all these years of so much dating and a handful of super-short relationships, none of these stories has progressed into a partnership? It was so easy before…
Of course whirlwind romances were easier a decade ago: sparks fly all over the place when your responsibilities are minimal and your parents still pay your car insurance. Out of curiosity, how did these whirlwinds end? Were they stable and rewarding all the way through? Or did they qualify as "learning experiences," the kind that left you on a misbegotten self-discovery trip to Thailand? If your relationship history follows most twentysomethings, my money is on the latter. Nothing's wrong with that. But if you're pining for a period of your life in the past, you should try to remember the bad parts, too. Partnerships may have been easier to form, but their success rate in the long run wasn't necessarily higher.
As we age, we learn how to avoid old pitfalls; this is good. But we also get judgmental and set in our ways, which is less good. The key is to avoid the old pitfalls while staying open to new experiences. It sounds like you're open to new experiences, but are accepting partners who aren't doing quite the same bang-up job. Why bother with someone who won't bend to meet you halfway?
Oh, spoiler. I'm going to answer my own rhetorical question: these dudes don't sound into you. Though they may tell you they're "busy" or "working" or "at the car-insurance store," it's just a front for "I'm prioritizing hanging out with you somewhere below 'eating a sandwich in my underwear.'" This isn't a fault of yours. Nor is it a fault of aging. It's a sign they're not the right people for you. Move on.
Getting older doesn't necessarily mean giving up on some magic. It just means being more selective about whom you spend the magic on. Neither of the guys you just described sound like they are willing participants in a whirlwind romance. If a whirlwind is what you seek, you'll find one. You may have changed since you were in your twenties, but that doesn't mean your ability to fall for someone is gone.
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