True Stories: The Twenty-One-Year Old and Me

On the perks and perils of dating younger men.

By Mia Salazar

When you sleep with someone from work, it's surprising to see them at work the next day. They never vaporize in a bad toaster-oven accident like you hope. The coworker I slept with is a college student eleven years my junior, and he brags the next day at the office about an even older woman he has been seeing for months. Though news of this older woman has been trickling through the office gossip chain for some time, I still find it disturbing.

I pull him aside. They are "not really dating," he admits, which is worse, because now I imagine that their sex is amazing enough to power California for a month. I figure they'll hit it until she moves to Vegas, where all the chosen cougars go.

This is how it is when I meet younger men. It's never this romance novel where I'm the first older woman, we break boundaries, and then there's some tawdry scene where we're caught zesting lemons together. It's more like the perv classic Lolita — that moment when Humbert Humbert realizes his corruption of Lolita is a sham, that she's been having threesomes at sleepaway camp for years.

My Lolito has been pretty busy. The other woman is about twice his age. Cougar One, Original Cougar, as I call her, has a more impressive degree than me and a far more impressive job. This other woman is a good thing, friends point out, because it means he's been taught already. I always wonder about this. Taught what? And what twenty-one-year old is humble and willing to learn?

Yet there must be real older-woman teachers out there, because I keep hearing about them, and not just when Susan Sarandon craps out another movie. Sexually confident women. Cosmopolitan women. I envision a whole trade fair of nipple clamps under the bed, coordinated with cream wool boucle suits. They eat at French restaurants with amuse bouches. I've decided amuse bouches are sexy. I've decided people who eat amuse bouches are sexy. This older woman he's dating must be one of them. A mythical creature-teacher. An unapologetic amuse boucher.

I would like to be one of these women. Like Bianca Jagger. Caftans look like ass on the rest of America, but I pull them off. I spend afternoons eating caviar out of the pool boy's bellybutton. I call myself "dirty old woman" the way men are called dirty old man. "Dirty old" just means you're perverted and aged. I can respect that. "Cougar" means you sit around in cheetah-print robes and eat a lot of Activia.

Most twenty-eight-year-old women would run away when they hear college freshman. I should have too. But I was strangely curious.

I have always been physically attracted to much younger men, but I never dated one until about six years ago. Our eyes met at a Bushwick warehouse party, and he came up and started dancing with me. This has happened maybe three times in my life, and every time I feel like a slightly cross-eyed Jennifer Aniston in a sweater shrug until they approach. He was really attractive, like a young Joaquin Phoenix. Initially he lied about his age and told me he was twenty-three, instead of twenty and a college freshman. Most twenty-eight-year-old women would run away when they hear college freshman. I should have too. But I was strangely curious. Would we make out in his dorm? What does his dorm look like? Would we eat microwavable Kraft products? Would I get caught buying booze for him? Was it worth it because he looked like a young Joaquin Phoenix?

He had many tales of debauchery. I find tales of debauchery very exciting, like I have participated in them just by hearing them from someone else. It's a wimpy way out for those of us who didn't smoke a cigarette until college. Part of me wondered what he would have left to look forward to his sophomore year.

The college freshman took me to see his dorm room, and only because I begged. ("You really want to see it?" he asked, confused. "Why?"). I don't know what I was expecting to find in there. Maybe I thought I could be elevated to a higher state by the mere sight of a Dave Matthews ticket stub. It was like every other college dorm: outrageously well-located, but ugly, from the standard-issue loft beds to the hospital-style lighting.

Still sometimes the thrill of an idea can be thrill enough. I imagined racing out of work, tossing off a "Gotta meet my man, you know, at his dorm" and watching my coworkers keel over in jealousy or barf up their bagels. Yeah, so it might not have been exactly like Diane Lane dating the hot younger French guy in Unfaithful. I didn't have a neutral-hued Westchester home and a neutral-hued family to run away from — just a total lack of dates with guys my own age. So this would have to do, as my own more ridiculous version. But looking around the college freshman's room that night, I didn't see my failure to score six-figure professionals, to get on the marriage plan with the promise of sectional sofas gleaming in the distance. I saw "bucking the system." By avoiding it entirely.

I didn't regard it as regressing. It's more like I didn't understand why certain paths are closed off to you when you're older, why there's one long road to domestic bliss for you to take and you're a failure if you don't jump onto that track by a certain age. If I was physically attracted to men who are supposedly too young for me, why couldn't I date them? Especially because the older I got, the more I learned that age hardly dictates maturity. With this solid reasoning, I went forth.

Our romance lasted two dates before he dumped me. But you know what? Sometimes it's not about longevity. It's about planting the seed, man. Planting the seed to something bigger and more beautiful than you ever imagined. Making a tree, my friend. The college freshman was a taste, and now I needed to dive in Scarface style.

After that, I became one of those sickos who hang around dog parks to pet dogs that aren't their own. Every time I wandered past college dorms or skate parks, I gave it the 45-rpm slowdown, admiring the scenery. I was like that old skeevy guy who hangs out at the mall to check out high-school chicks, sucking down a Sbarro Sprite for four hours.

Commentarium (33 Comments)

Aug 15 11 - 1:31am

Relate!! And this following lines were really funny:

"Unless you played with Count Basie and follow it up with the word broads, or you have three teeth and your time on this earth is so fleeting that you are allowed the word cats because you're about to meet the ultimate Jazz Cat in the sky, you cannot use this word."

"He starts to sign off IM with "Awright, dawg, I'm out," a clear sign we will never have sex again. Before, there is sex. Now, there is "dawg.""

Aug 15 11 - 1:43am

well written. well done.

Aug 15 11 - 3:06am

You are Jodie Foster in "Contact". The lone voice proclaiming that there *is* another way. Unfortunately, the social structure in your neck of the woods is deaf to any truth which might nudge well-polished marbles off their pre-determined tracks. Begone disquieting influence!

Like so many adventurers before you, you must make a break and sail for a distant land. Where the tracks are less defined. Where you might skip between lanes if you so choose. All without the suffocation of false social norms. Take the red pill. Go West.

Aug 15 11 - 4:29am

@ibg I actually hated that first line it was way too long and I had to read it four times to actually understand it; it was far too unclear.

Also, nice but way too many references. Especially since almost all of them went right over my head... but hey, I guess I would relate more to the people she tries to sleep with than her.

Aug 15 11 - 7:53am

a great read. in my callow youth i had a relationship of this type with professor's wife twice my age. she desperately wished to continue it; i broke it off. in retrospect, now that i'm 15 years older than she was then, i wish we would have spent more evenings in each others arms. and the sex WAS good too; she was appreciative of it and made me feel so valued (more than girls my own age for whom it was largely an accommadation). sigh. i see her occaisionally when back in my college town (now in her 70s) and wonder . . . could we again?

Aug 15 11 - 8:35am

good story but as a 40+ woman I'd like to ban the obnoxious word cougar.

Aug 15 11 - 1:53pm

As an under 30 male, I completely agree.

Aug 15 11 - 6:49pm


Aug 16 11 - 12:37am


Aug 20 11 - 12:50pm

can we also retire "silver fox"?

Aug 15 11 - 11:33am


Aug 15 11 - 11:58am

Considering I already think younger guys are cuter, I fear this will be my future: progression from cradle-robber to cougar. Ahh.

Aug 15 11 - 12:52pm
Michael in green

Brilliant read. As a younger person I have to say the attraction to older women is the sex and not the relationship, sadly. Although the idea is perfectly fine from your perspective, it's scary when you think of the future. As fun as it is to have a relationship with older women, the idea of being with someone significantly older than you, who may not want to go out when you do is what puts us/me off. But very well written, and funny.

Aug 15 11 - 2:49pm

Oh yeah? Tell that to the guy from kick ass, he seems to be pulling that off very well and seems happy with it. And you know what? Good for him/them.

Aug 15 11 - 4:43pm
Orfan Kub

Where were women like that when I was his age?

Aug 15 11 - 5:35pm

As i note in my story above, i'm a 56 year-old and they were there back in my day. How we got together was a little brassy on her part: it was my first year out of school and she was bicycling through the Wash DC suburb where i had an apartment. She looked me up and asked to spend the night . . . one thing led to another . . . but she planned it, no question.

Aug 15 11 - 11:03pm
Laydown Paige

I'm a 21 year old college senior who is devastatingly attracted to older women. It's pretty tough. I'm surrounded by gorgeous young women at school yet I don't click with anyone. I want to skip the courting-looking-cool-for-each other-pretending-to-be-sexy/mature crap and cut straight to the morning sex, making breakfast, reading/bitching about the news, and doing innocuous chores together. Is that all in my head? People my age just don't come off as terribly thoughtful conversationalists, and I really need that. I think I might be too idealistic.

Aug 16 11 - 12:46am

What you just said makes me extremely happy (especially as a 27 year old 'puma') :)

Aug 20 11 - 3:41pm

hmm, where can i find more pumas like yourself cj ??!!

Aug 16 11 - 2:33pm
Off Cougars

I'll echo the statement of other posters that I find older women attractive, but dating always seems to end badly. For every flattering comment on how younger guys have so much more energy and zest for life, there's an infuriating one on some aspect of your ideology that you'll supposedly grow out of. In the same way that I could never take a 17 year old's political views seriously, I feel that older women view my ideas with a sense of hidden superiority. Hopefully others have had better experiences.

Aug 16 11 - 3:13pm
Older guy

Mia, how 'bout trying out an older guy, for a change of pace? 11 years isn't such a large gulf....

Aug 17 11 - 3:24am
Younger girl

Older guys are great! I'm 36 and dating a 47 year old man..he makes me happier than the 35 year old guy I dated

Aug 17 11 - 10:11pm
act your age and win

MAUDE: Just do not drink so much and get your inner Dom on, under control. He will literally eat out of your hand or anything else you literally put under his nose.

Aug 18 11 - 8:22pm

Bronson Pinchot would have approved this personal portrait. Don't forget interracial couples!

Aug 18 11 - 9:29pm

I did a 45 year old woman when I was 35. Does that count?

Aug 20 11 - 9:02pm

I'm a little tired of these "I tried to buck mainstream conservative capitalistic values, but then I realized what an idiot I was" stories. I thought this pub was called Nerve. Have some.

Aug 22 11 - 3:04am

Erg. I'm sure the author of this story was swinging for at least a triple in the game of trendily controversial sexual experiences, but unfortunately it's crossed the foul line into pathetic territory. In fact, I think it crossed the line, went into the bleachers, and smacked some poor old lady in the face.

Maybe it's because I'm a few years older than the author, or maybe it's because I still remember (vaguely) what it was like to be the 20-something being fawned on by the older-somethings. But there's finding younger people attractive (and who doesn't, when the men our own age have 50% more gut and 50% less hair on average,) and then there's attempting to validate yourself by desperately seeking their fickle, fleeting attention.

Dear Author: Have a little fucking dignity, for the love of Christ. Getting wasted and drunkenly slurring out your fellatio itinerary would put you in the dreaded Randy Jackson sign-off category even if you were a choice cut 26-year old. You're supposed to have learned something in the intervening 8-10 years since you were in your dates' peer group, right? Like the art of retaining a little damn mystery, class, and self-confidence, instead of throwing yourself at half-interested guys on date 0.5, and then wondering why your "relationship didn't work out"?

Good lord, no wonder they're spooked. If they wanted to date someone that insecure and self-consciously promiscuous, they could hook up with someone their own age. Women our age are supposed to know how to fuck like grown-ups, not lower their standards to bargain basement level. Know what I'm saying, dawg?

Aug 25 11 - 8:57am

Now that's a great post.

Aug 29 11 - 12:48pm
1980's pool boy

Werd. I'm still haunted by the memory of two tipsy & cruelly lipsticked Dallas women slurring "gonna get me sumthin' sweet to eat... sweet to eat" over the much younger, simultaneously amused and horrified waiter who struggled to maintain a professional smile without giving the impression of a let's-meet-after-hours nod.

Once upon a time I was 15 and slept with one of my school teachers. Huge ego boost at the time, but hindsight isn't so hot. What was I thinking? What was she thinking? What did my friends think? I was hoping for an elegant instructional course in mature love and ended up drunk on Busch beer and rutting in an outdoor bathtub planter. Mmmmm sex-say mama! *cringe*

I'm all for equal opportunity hedonism, but the "I/we/they should know better" mantra is, well, pretty much full-on resonant at this point in my life. Not judgmental... just experienced. Finally.

Jul 04 12 - 1:59am

@AlexT - THIS. Bingo.

Aug 25 11 - 8:42am

youth is wasted on the young..

Aug 25 11 - 8:47am

hopefully we gain experence as we age.. SOMETIMES,I COULD CRY ,THINKING OF MY WASTED YOUTH..

Aug 25 11 - 8:55am

PARENTS HAVE NO IDEA HOW THEY WARP THEIR CHILDREN.. If you cant be there for your child, dont have another.. BEING HORNY IS NO EXCUSE,tie your tubes, screw your brains out...