This is actually the first piece I wrote for Rhonda Perky’s Bits, but held off publishing for obvious reasons. It came to mind just now given I am re-entering the Game, hopefully this time, better equipped!
Adventure Girl learns the hard way…
Apparently young guys dig us older women in the sack. ‘Cougars’, ‘Pumas’, whatever. We are hot. Why? Because we’re mature, experienced, and eager to embrace our dirty-thirties. And we know the rules.
Except I didn’t.
Like many women of my era, I hooked up with my soon-to-be husband at naïve nineteen. Back then it was simple. We were friends, we went on a date, we kissed, we said we liked each other, then that we like-liked each other, then more-than-liked each other, and so on. Before long we were living in each other’s pockets, playing house, and delving into the weekends-at-Bunnings-garden-variety of domestic bliss.
Within a decade, not surprisingly, I found myself back ‘on the market’.
But the marketplace had changed. You didn’t go to nightclubs and have someone buy you a drink. In fact – accepting drinks from strangers was just plain stupid.
Still, I managed to progress from giving boys my number, to not freaking out when they actually called, to kissing someone, and finally to a one-night-stand. So far, so good. These were games I understood, their rules in black-and-white, immutable.
But then I met the Younger Guy. He asked for my number. We went on a couple of dates. So far, so good. We shagged – even better. We shagged again. I was liking this a lot. We continued to date. There were text messages, phone calls – this was all going really well. It wasn’t in the realm of ‘f-buddy’ because we didn’t just meet for sex; we hung out, went for dinner, talked, got to know each other. I stayed over. We were getting close.
Then he started doing things for me, things a friend would do, or more importantly, things a boyfriend would do, like helping me move furniture, catching spiders, listening to my troubles and giving advice. Somewhere along the way I also picked up the burdens of being a girlfriend, helping write job applications, holding his hand while he shopped for groceries and shoes. I taught him how to cook and fielded meltdown phone calls at 3am.
But there were always lines. No meeting friends. No staying over at mine. Dates spent where he was texting other people. There was the Facebook status that declared him eternally ‘single’, and the times he felt the need to tell me repeatedly that he loved being single and intended to stay that way. We weren’t in a relationship, but we weren’t f-buddies either. We were ‘friends-with-benefits’.
I didn’t know the rules at all.
I wasn’t dating anyone else. I didn’t want to. I had fallen hard and fast. And every time there was hope, there was the subsequent crash, and my poor friends picking up the pieces.
I thought about leaving, time and again. I’d psych myself up to go. I’ll just see him one more time, I’d tell myself. Always he reeled me back in. Lines were crossed. He introduced me to friends, acted as my plus-one, stayed over at my house.
Then he told me he wanted to be exclusive, but that he would continue to go on dates – he just wouldn’t do anything with them. My brain was about to explode.
Selected friends learned I was the girl he’d gone monogamous for. Except he was still trying to meet – and meeting – other people. Under the rules of the game I was playing, that was cheating. He was not playing my game.
There was hurt and there was screaming and there were tears. His and mine.
Five years in age and a world of difference.
And we were back to the beginning of the board. He used his get-out-of-jail-free card. I used my Magnadoodle eraser. We started over, new rules on the table. Not his rules, but not my rules either. An amalgam that we defined ourselves. A seven-sided die, perhaps, but we’ll see if we can’t make it work.
And today… It’s been almost a year since I wrote this. In that time I’ve learned that the rules haven’t changed; people just don’t always play by them. Now as I re-enter the Game, I am not only acutely aware of this, I also know I can set my own rules and insist on fair play. –AG