As I nibbled on a Caesar salad and he wolfed down a giant cheese burger, I felt the restaurant’s eyes on us: the bottom escort about to get f**ked by his client after they finished eating the meal that he paid for.
None of that was true, but being on a date with a guy that was noticeably older triggered my anxious mind to spiral into stereotypes about age-gap couples. It left me wondering if I was really that bothered by the opinions of other people, or if I was just one of them.
I believed that love doesn’t care if someone is older or younger than us… but apparently we do.
Since coming out, I don’t think I’ve dated - or even had the intention of dating - someone younger than myself. Even guys a couple years younger felt decades less mature - and nobody wants a boyfriend they have to babysit… for free.
But it’s like the closer you get to 30, the Tindersphere flips, and most of your potential matches are too young to remember the release of '...Baby, One More Time'.
While age itself plays its part in our attraction to one another, it’s also a signifier of how much we have in common, and how together they have their shit. But when there’s no filter for emotional maturity or personal growth, and we make assumptions based solely on that figure, are we really just being ageist?
In a numbers-obsessed society, where so many gay men want to know your height, your weight, your length and girth before accepting a coffee date, it’s no surprise that age is one more number used to judge each other by.
Hence why men lie about their ages. Which was my exact thought as the guy who’d been chatting me up removed his hat and his sunglasses. There’s no way he was only 40.
Although the more I drank, the less it mattered. At least, so I’d thought.
But as we sat down to dinner and he leaned over to kiss me, I felt uncomfortable. Clearly the entire restaurant thought I had daddy issues, was being paid by the hour, or was accompanied by my sugar daddy. (Although if I wanted a sugar daddy, I could have a sugar daddy, because I am what? Sickening!).
I never saw him again, but after meeting a man that was actually mature, secure and consistent, I wondered if I’d been too quick to dismiss him. Until I realised my perspective wasn’t standalone:
“Well, I don’t really wanna be with someone who I could see as my dad,” my friend Lewis said as he instantly identified the problematic ick factor.
“I’ve always liked older men, I think it makes me feel young and sexy” Matt interjected, “but it does show that something’s wrong if they’re on the shelf that long.”
Or had they just matured slower than we’d like?
Although when it’s said that the average age of emotional maturity in men is 43, sometimes you have to stop and ask… fucking REALLY? Especially when it’s more common for gay men to surrender their maturity to Peter Pan syndrome.
In our search for something stable, were we just supposed to exclusively date men a generation older than us or to hold out for the exception to the rule?
No wonder it’s so difficult to meet the right man: emotionally mature men who didn’t look like sugar daddies were the unicorn of gay dating.
So the following week when I matched with a guy I’d known (through the scene) for years, I hoped I’d found one. He was handsome, genuine and seemed settled.
Although the more we spoke, the more I wondered that if in giving up all of his bad habits, he’d kicked his fun side too. Could someone be too mature?
But when our date came around and he blew me off a little too casually, I questioned my initial judgement. Perhaps the mature thing to do was to outline that, but at this point, the last thing I wanted to do was act like an adult.
So I went to the nearest gay bar and got drunk.
It wasn’t intentional that I ended up playing tonsil tennis with a 22-year-old, but it was definitely relief from the seriousness of dating.
Until he asked me my name for the fourth time, and then slurred something about sloppy facials. Needless to say, the thrill fully expired when he attempted to mount me in an O’Neill’s full of rugby fans and spilled his drink down his shirt.
Clearly, too mature was better than not mature enough.
Immaturity had its place; just in moderation. Besides, dumping someone for being too mature, was just immature. Especially when you’re searching for a unicorn.
To read more from the Single & Fabulous? series click here.