I get a lot of emails asking how young is too young to date. And, not surprisingly, most of these emails come from men. Ok, all of these emails come from men. So as a way of answering these “gentlemen,” here’s what happened when, for the first time, I went out with a girl under 25.
Normally, I don’t date young women. I’m 32 (as far as you know), and anyone under 28 usually feels a little…undercooked to me. But a friend of mine, who is, let’s say, a douchebag, recently made an impassioned case. “Younger women are more fun,” he douched, “they’re better looking, and they haven’t been messed up by bad experiences with other guys yet.” He liked to do the messing up himself, you see. This was a gentleman who only after great argument could I get to raise his desired age range from 18-22 to 18-25 on Match. And he’s 35. Did I mention he’s a douchebag? For some reason though, from this person who one should never take advice, I took advice. And of course, because it’s this site, I regretted it deeply.
The girl I chose for my youth experiment was 23. Actually, the one I first chose was 24, but she stood me up – the only time that’s happened in the 100+ Internet dates I’ve attended. A person who is wise would probably have taken that as a sign, but such a person would probably not detail each one of their dating failures on the Internet for others to read, so why even go down that road? 23, however, did show, and she was surprisingly delightful.
She was quiet, to be sure, but had some zip on her fastball once I coaxed her out of her shell. She was a journalism student and from my hometown (as far as you know) of Boston, so my interest was piqued. And, yes, alright, I’ll admit that she was quite attractive. But in that 23 year-old, gravity doesn’t exist, I never have to go to the gym so I really haven’t earned looking the way I do sort of way. So there’s only so much credit you can give for that. But it was a nice and very mature first date, and much to my surprise, I asked her for a second. Say it with me now…big mistake.
I don’t know when people learn to carry umbrellas or buy umbrellas or well, own coats, but apparently it is 24 years and up. It was raining the night of my second date with 23, and she was soaked. But not in the normal way that people get soaked when they’re caught in the rain on the way from the subway or when waiting for a cab – she was SOAKED. Like she had drowned but forgotten to pass away. Dripping, sopping, preposterously wet, from head to toe. I asked her what happened and she looked at me like a crazy person. Obviously further explanation was needed. “You’re so wet,” I said. “Oh, yeah, I had to walk.” That’s all she said. “I had to walk.” Like it was a sentence for a crime she’d committed. She had walked twenty blocks in the pouring rain and not stopped to get a $3 umbrella or a $6 taxi at any point. Now she was going to sit down with me for dinner in clothes that were more water than fabric and try to have a pleasant evening? It was ridiculous. Her clothes were sticking to her. There were puddles under her shoes. It was the sort of thing a 5 year-old would do. They’d laugh and dance and play in the rain, then when you explained to them that they’d now have to be wet for the rest of the evening, they’d look at you confused and forsaken. The polite sushi ladies were apoplectic, and as usual I was right there with them. (Polite sushi ladies and I agree on most things.) I was growing concerned with my plan to master the under-28s…
We talked for a bit, but 23 was, understandably, quite fidgety. The quietness I noted during our first date seem to expand when wet, and complete sentences were getting hard to come by. The night was officially entering the awkward zone, and for the fifty or sixtieth time in my life I was cursing My Friend The Douchebag. Then a strange thing happened. Or rather, a stranger thing. She just…stopped talking. I asked 23 what her plans were after she graduated (did I forget to mention that she was still finishing up college? I don’t know how I could’ve forgotten that…), and she didn’t respond. Not immediately, or anytime close thereafter. It had to have been at least a minute of silence. Not really sure what to do, I decided to just ask the question again and see what happened. Again, no response. There didn’t seem to be anything else to do but wait.
The night took on sort of a bizarre subtext from that point. Basically, it was a game show. I would say something, then she would wait as long as humanly possible to respond. Unwilling to bend to the pressure, I would wait longer still to fill the empty air with a follow-up remark. It was as if whoever could stand the awkwardness the longest would receive a wonderful showcase of prizes and vacations to exotic lands. Really though all either of was going to win was a confused trip home. Alone. But it didn’t stop us from giving it our all. I would open my mouth, about to say something, then close it and turn away. She would lean in, look like she was going to explain exactly what had gone wrong, then grab an California roll and pop it in her mouth. It was breathtaking really, and a performance that far exceeded her age. If I had any idea what was going on, I probably would’ve swooned with delight.
The evening ended anti-climatically with 23, as she gave me a damp half-hug goodbye and scuttled off into the night. I never figured out exactly what I did to upset or aggressively disinterest her, but I imagine it was my fault. I have that sort of way with women. I did learn one thing beyond all measure however: do not, under any circumstances, listen to the douchebags. Date who you want to date, and if you’re 32 then 23 is most definitely way too young.