“I don’t know where I’m supposed to go,” my date confessed across the table several years ago. “I don’t know where my tribe is anymore.” He was in his mid-40s without kids and newly single after a long relationship and tumultuous breakup. He didn’t know where he would have the best chance to meet new friends or significant others – or even where he was supposed to live.
My answer: “Everywhere.”
During our early years, our existence is organized with others who are about our age and in the same place in their lives. It starts with school and sports leagues. Then it evolves to the kids’ table at holidays and college table at weddings. Even through young adulthood, there’s a sense of moving in the same direction with peers as they get first jobs and homes and get married and have children.
Then at a certain point, the “same life ages and stages” idea goes topsy-turvy. You start hearing about an old friend and her husband going through a trial separation. A few years later, you know about a bunch of divorces. In your peer group, some friends’ kids are starting high school, while others haven’t even started their families. It becomes even more complicated in a decade or two as you add multiple marriages and maybe even sets of kids and stepkids. However, the holidays get way more interesting!
The point is that as you get older, there is no tribe anymore. There’s no cluster of people “in the same place as you.” They’re not living in the right neighborhood or apartment building. You can’t find them in a certain bar or club.
This feeling out of sync with society is actually good news for your dating life! If there’s no longer a group of people you’re “supposed” to date, that means your options just got a lot bigger.
Here’s why your non-status can improve your chances for romance:
1) You can plan your social life according to your interests, not who you think will be there
There isn’t a softball league for players exactly 42 to 45 or a community hike for people 37 to 51. Even if organizers attempt to make age restrictions called “Young Alumni,” “Over 40” or “Boomers Rule,” these events tend to be wide-ranging and usually welcoming of people of all ages. Choose your events and hobbies because you like the activity or want to support a certain cause. You never know the ages of the people who will show up, which brings me to my next point …
2) You can make friends of all ages
I recently went to an alumni football game and socialized with fans ages 25 to 70. Guess what? I had a blast chatting with them all. Of course, this point seems obvious. We should enjoy the spectrum of humanity! But people tend to get so hung up on sourcing “their group,” they miss out on learning about millennial dating rituals or an inspirational Boomer love story. You also never know who has a friend they’re dying for you to meet or who will invite you to a party or dinner, where you just happen to sit next to your future sweetie.
3) You can date older or younger
You already know this, but it’s worth repeating: Date a wide range of ages. It’s more important to screen people who are in the “same place as you” in terms of whether you share the same big-picture goals – as in getting married or having children. Yet a potential future father can be a divorced 32-year-old with two kids or a never-married 49-year-old (and both make great dads!) As for finding a relationship-minded woman, you can’t assume the 28-year-old wants to get hitched ASAP, but that a widowed 68-year-old is done with getting serious. So don’t limit yourself by trying to put people in neat boxes.
Celebrate the fact that those categories don’t exist past a certain age. Everyone brings all kinds of stories, perspectives, and experiences. Embrace them all because you never know where you’ll find love.
Do you think there’s a benefit to not belonging to a certain group of your peers?
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.