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One Extreme to the Other

November 2, 2006 By:
Roy S. Gutterman
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In the same week a woman asked me whether I had children in graduate school, a bouncer at a bar actually carded me. I'm not sure which was more vexing.

Now that I've officially reached my mid-30s -- and remain unmarried -- I'm in a strange position. While my dating field spans more than two decades -- I can just as easily date a girl in her early 20s or a woman in her 40s -- I feel as though I find myself in even more awkward situations.

Dating a girl in her 20s is about as practical and realistic for me as dating a woman who's in her mid-to-late 40s. Even if the chemistry and attraction are there, I should probably be with someone within a few years of my own age.

Whether it was flattering or just plain nerve-wracking, the young woman I was chatting with asked me whether I had any children her age. She was a third-year law student I met walking into the gym several months ago. We talked for about 10 minutes. Maybe I looked a bit haggard or bedraggled that particular day. Maybe my business attire made me appear somewhat older.

And yeah, okay, my hair may be graying in a few spots. But am I old enough to have kids in graduate school?

The answer is maybe -- if I had one in sixth grade!

Not a Hallmark Moment 

When I recounted this conversation with my friend, Amy, who is actually in her late 40s, she said, "If someone said that to me, I'd go home crying."

While the matter didn't quite send me reaching for a box of tissues, I remain perplexed.

Amy hypothesized that the girl was just clumsily trying to gauge my age because I have a mature demeanor and am one of the youngest people in my office, a workplace usually reserved for older people.

As I licked my new emotional wounds -- or at least continued to ponder the encounter -- several days later, I stopped at a bar near my house, which is frequented by a younger crowd, including many college-age kids.

It was a Saturday night. I was dressed in casual khakis and had two-day stubble. I nonchalantly strolled past the bouncer sitting on a stool in the doorway.

"Can I see some ID?" he said, sticking out his arm as a barrier.

"You're kidding, right?" I responded.

"ID?" he repeated.

I handed him my driver's license and watched the cogs in his head do the math. I easily exceeded the drinking age by more than a decade.

"Have a nice night," he said.

"Too late for that," I mumbled.

I know many women my age would be flattered to be carded. Carding women well beyond the 21-year-old threshold is a common ploy employed by bartenders intent on generating bigger gratuities through trite flatteries. Admittedly, sometimes there are those baby-faces whose ages actually defy prediction ...

Last year, I emerged from an intense year-and-a-half-long relationship to find myself back in the singles scene, a little older and a little more skeptical about dating and relationships.

The challenges of dating in your mid-30s are tremendous. Women find themselves under pressure with that ticking "biological clock." (Though at this point, none of us has too much time to waste!) From a male perspective, okay, there's no clock, but practicality does factor into the equation. I really don't want to be one of those ancient fathers who can get to share baby food and diapers with a newborn because I waited until old age to bear a child.

At this point in my life, most of my friends from high school, college and various workplaces are married. Some have kids, or are working on having them. At least two couples are contemplating divorce.

I suppose I can find solace that even though I am single, I haven't been through a divorce.

Nevertheless, this is hardly where I thought I'd be socially at 35. I think about my parents, who are still married. By the time they were my age, they already had two sons, a house, a dog and responsibilities for aging parents.

And if I go back a generation or two, at least one of my grandfathers and one of my great-grandfathers didn't even reach the age of 35.

Now, I do have to explain one thing. All of this doesn't mean that I haven't had opportunities to settle down with a nice girl over the years. I've been in a couple of relationships that could have continued on into marriage, but the timing was off. Of course, things like three career changes, geographic moves to and from major and minor cities, and then three years of law school certainly didn't create a level of stability where I felt comfortable settling down. But that was then; this is now.

And try explaining all that in a JDate profile!

Roy Gutterman is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based writer. To contact him, visit: www.Lrev.com.

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