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Remedial Dating for the Chronologically Challenged

We normally think of passing on knowledge as a one-way street. It’s handed down to the new kids on the block by elders who themselves have been around the block a few times—not the other way round. There is a good reason for this: We never truly know what we haven’t yet lived. What can battle-scarred veterans learn from newbie recruits? Usually, not much.

But when the “veterans” in question are people returning to dating after a long absence, the answer may not be so clear-cut. It isn’t that teenagers have achieved enlightenment in the years since you last dated; they simply know some things you once understood but may have forgotten. If you’ve hit the 5-0 mark or beyond, here are four dating skills you can learn from your much-younger counterparts:

How to flirt. Above all, flirting is about standing out from the crowd in a playful, alluring way. By the time we reach a more advanced age, most of us have perfected the opposite skill: how to keep our heads down to avoid embarrassment. Teenagers will do a cartwheel on the school lawn, sing the national anthem after breathing helium, break into a dance routine in the middle of the mall—anything to make themselves known to the one they desire. For certain, you don’t have to make a fool of yourself to draw attention from members of the opposite sex. In fact, please don’t. But the lesson from teens still applies: blending in and fading out rarely gets you noticed. Don’t be afraid to step forward, push yourself to talk to new people, and make a lasting impression.

How to “chill.” Young people are generally not too worried about the long-term consequences of today’s choices. They rarely let complicated “what ifs” spoil a good time. Mature adults, on the other hand, usually scout the territory ahead for any and all possible hazards. Just remember: worrying about avoiding the potholes can take all the fun out of a road trip—or convince you to cancel it altogether. In the early going of a new relationship, don’t let the potential dangers cause you to slam on the brakes. Make up your mind to enjoy the journey and savor the scenery along the way.

How to make out. If that term causes you discomfort, you can amend it to say, “How to express your physical affection.” Either way, the point is: Teenagers kiss like their lives are at stake. They’d make out straight through an earthquake or a bomb blast rather than divert attention from their beloved. They consider every second together to be a stolen jewel the authorities are likely to confiscate at any moment, so they make the most of each one. Chances are, your previous relationship had mellowed into a comfortable coziness without much urgency. Don’t make the mistake of expecting your new romance to pick up where that one left off. Let your heart race like a giddy kid. Steal some delicious moments again.

How to write a love note. Okay, most notes passed between teenagers don’t constitute great poetry. But if you expected them to, you’ve missed the point. When she (or he) is holding a piece of paper covered in your handwritten thoughts all about her (or him), you might as well be Shakespeare composing sonnets. In love, it really is the thought that counts. Young people are often exuberant and excessive in their expressions of love –and that’s part of the joy of youthful love. Just because you’re “older and wiser” doesn’t mean you have to be stuffy and restrained with your feelings. Go on—be a little flowery and fervent.

Now that you’ve decided to reach for romance once more in your life, acting your age may be the wrong course of action. Take some lessons — at least a few — from younger folks and open your heart to new possibilities.