Friday, September 12, 2008

308. age as social construct...or not

I’ve never been one to give my age a lot of thought. By that I mean that I’m one who neither looks forward to nor dreads his birthday. I think it’s a fun excuse get together with some friends and throw a party, but that’s about all.

I like to think that age is nothing more than a social construct - that it’s just a number signifying nothing, that all of the benchmarks that we associate with certain ages is just societal expectation that somehow seeps down from the ether of the collective unconscious. It doesn’t really mean anything.

I can’t remember when I started thinking about age this way. Probably sometime in my late twenties. I suppose it was a way for me to justify the fact that at 29 I had nothing resembling a career trajectory. According to my resume, in 2001 I was working part-time at a nightclub running sound. I was also doing temp work at various companies. In theory, my main job during that time was trying to run a recording studio out of the basement of my parent’s house - we had put up new soundproofed walls and I had made some pretty big purchases to make this happen. But the truth is, I was an abysmal business man. I was relatively good at recording bands but I had no idea how to promote my services or how to generate cash-flow.

So maybe that’s why I came up with the idea that age is merely a social construct - because I needed a way to justify my dead-end life at the time. According to what the world was telling me, as a 29er I should have been working at a decent job for a few years - a job that utilized the college education I received, a job that promised promotions or, at the very least, served as a gateway into higher paying jobs.

But that wasn’t where I was at.

But I didn’t feel like a loser even though according to the world’s timeline, that’s kind of what I was - a bum sponging off the parental units.

And so I came up with the idea that age is just a social construct.

I lived with this delusion for quite a long time. I mean, for a while I actually believed it.

In fact, I think it’s only in this past year that I’ve come to see how wrong I was about this.

Let me say that part of the reason I was able to sustain this wrong-headed idea is the fact that I had parents who put next to no pressure on me getting into the workforce in any sustainable way. I mean, every once in a while they would point to openings for state jobs in the paper but I told them that there was no way I was going to work for the man. I didn’t put it that way, of course. Rather, I probably said something like, “I don’t think that’s for me. I have a few leads for bands that want to record - I think the studio is just about to take off if we just give it a bit more time.” Actually, I have no idea what I said to keep my parents at bay. I don’t know how they put up with my lazy ass.

Of course the other luxury that allowed me to dismiss the effects of aging is the fact that I’m a male. On top of that, I’m a male who has no desire to procreate. I mean, of course I want to copulate someday and of course I want to do that properly within the bounds of marriage, I just don’t want to have kids as a result. So as a man who doesn’t want kids, the whole biological clock thing is a non-issue.

And maybe this is a good segue into some of what finally led me to face that fact that age does matter.

It's dawned one me recently that the dating pool for those in my age group is tiny. I suppose part of this has to do with the fact that at my church the single women are primarily younger 20 somethings - most of those who are older are married or engaged or in a LTR.

I think the reason I came to realize this is in part because of the speed dating fundraiser I participated in (and helped plan, I might add) and in part because of how I've been thinking about love lately. And so because of these things, while I'm still mostly content with being single, I have felt a bit more of a longing to find that someone who did I put it once...
Strikingly beautiful, that's the way to describe it - her presence. Not a beauty that wafts at you from across the room like a deep blue perfume, but one that slaps you in the face reminding you that you're alive and in dire need of some aesthetic in your crude singular life.

Ha. Yeah, that's kind of what I've been looking for lately - someone who can bitch slap me out of the comfortable charms of singlehood. And they're out there, at my church in fact - sharp, smart, really beautiful women. And it's not that they're new to the church, it's more that I wasn't looking before...but I notice them now.


But it's in noticing them that I the fact of my age and how it's not merely a social construct has really hit home for me.

There's a formula I learned a few months ago. It's a formula used to determine the lower bound for age-appropriate dating. In other words, it tells me how young of a person I can date without playing the part of cradle robber. The formula goes like this:

Y = (A/2)+7 where A is age and Y is the youngest person that someone aged A can date.

So I'm 36. Plug that into the formula and turns out the youngest person I can reasonably, appropriately date is 25.

Don't ask me where the formula came from or how/why it works, but it does have a kind of logic to it. The older you get, the wider the gap between your age and the youngest person you can date. For example, when you're 22, the youngest person you should date is 18 - a difference of four years. When you're 50, the youngest person you can date is 32 - a difference of 18 years. Which makes sense because the older you get, the less likely you are to exhibit major changes in personality or outlook on life and so hooking up with someone 18 years younger than yourself when you're 50 is not a huge risk because despite the gap, the 36yo is more likely to stay themselves than someone younger. And so the formula seems reasonable to me.

Well, it seemed reasonable to me until I looked around at my church and saw that there weren't very many available women over 25...I mean, they are there (and some of them are wonderful and attractive) but remember that I'm insanely picky when it comes to asking women out - far more picky (see here and here) than I have any right to be, but that's a topic for another post. However, if I forget about this formula, I'd say that there are a couple people I might consider asking out.

Now at this point, some might say that the formula is stupid, that love is love, that age really is a social construct and I should feel free to ask out anyone over the age of consent.

[important side note]

Please don't think that I'm thinking about dating 18 year olds. When I say there are a couple women I'd consider asking out who are outside the range of that formula, I mean they are just outside that range. So put down the phone, no need to call Chris Hansen and report me to Dateline NBC.

[end side note]

But I think that the formula is a good one and I do think that it's a bit odd for a 36 year old to be dating someone under 25. And it's not just the eww factor. A 25 year old is still in that area of life where their character is only beginning to settle and set. Contrast this to the average 36 year old whose personality and character are, for the most part, the way they're going to be. Now, I'm anything but the average 36 year old (I mean I'm the drummer in a rock band for cryin' out loud) and I think my personality and belief systems are still in flux. If age were only a social construct I'd say I'm socially in my late 20's. But I'm not. My birth certificate is not a construct and it tells me that I'm 36 so dating someone under 25 still seems wrong.

And if I can rant and complain a bit, nobody ever told me about how the dating pool shrinks dramatically once you get past 30. I didn't see this coming so I didn't think to get out there and date while the dating was still good. I mean, in the end there's no one to blame but myself. I should have been more aware of where I was in life - I should have seen that opportunities don't wait around forever.

But then again, for most of my twenties and early thirties, I WAS out there looking and trying to date. The problem then was, I was desperate and lonely and somewhat depressed (and women can sense that and it's not attractive). On top of that, I had no game (I was awful at flirting and/or making small talk). And I was still pretty picky even back then. And I was still struggling to unlearn all the bad teaching I got on dating during my early twenties. Add all these factors up and you end up with me the way I am today: if I were any more single I'd disappear.

So here I am. I still don't have game. I'm not desperate or lonely anymore and that helps. I'm a lot more sure of myself and I have a pretty decent job. If I can be so bold, I'm a pretty good catch. I'm pretty sure I'd make a kick ass boyfriend.

But the fish in the sea available to/appropriate for me are few and far between. Factor in my insane pickiness and the odds of me meeting someone are getting mighty long.

But don't cry for me Argentina, the truth is I'm content as a single person.

So in the end, maybe all this thinking about age and dating is all a moot point. Yes the dating pool is shrinking, but I don't mind being single all that much. And that's par for the course.

1 comment:

rjgintrepid said...

"any more single I'd disappear"??? Seriously, Randall, singleness is not equivalent to invisibility!