I read advice columns sometimes. I read them for the same reasons I suspect a lot of people do: it’s an opportunity to see that someone else is not only fucking up worse than you are, but that they are so desperate for help that they’re willing to put their problems right out there for public judgment – a state which you have, hopefully, not yet reached. (Unless, of course, you have a blog. Don’t judge me!)
I just read the April 12th “Dear Prudence,” in Slate, and I was not pleased. I was so not pleased, in fact, that I felt obliged to respond. And since I spent so long writing this response, I’m going to make you read it. Because that’s how I am.
First, the original query:
I am a 47-year-old divorced man. I have been through three (yes, three) bad to very bad marriages and have become very cautious about talking to, meeting, and dating women. I am not one of those older guys who goes out looking for younger women; as a matter of fact, all the women I have dated in the past are around my age. I have never been attracted to young women, as I find that most do not possess the maturity level that I’m comfortable with. That is, until recently. I met a girl who instantly grabbed my attention. The attraction grows each time that I see her. But she is only in her mid-20s. I am very outgoing and friendly, yet I find myself hesitating and having a difficult time attempting to ask this young woman on a date. In some ways, I feel I’m doing the right thing by not asking, but then feel I may be keeping myself from finally having a good relationship in my life. I don’t know if the age difference is something that would bother her or not. My daughter (age 22) encourages me to talk to her, but I still hesitate. What should I do?
Scroll down here to read the full response.
And here is my response to that response:
I rarely write letters to advice columnists criticizing their advice – after all, you do this for a living, and you’re usually pretty good at it. But I was absolutely appalled by your April 12th advice to 47 year old Tom, who questioned whether he should ask a 20-something woman out on a date.
You are what every girl is dreaming of: a middle-aged guy with a miserable track record, a daughter her own age, and apparently no self-insight.
This response is not only insulting, but unfounded. If this man had no “self-insight,” he would have charged right ahead and asked the girl out on a date already. Instead he has hesitated, asking his twenty-two year old daughter how she felt about it, and then asking you. The fact that he asked his daughter at all demonstrates that he cares about her feelings, not, as you assert, that he is using her inappropriately as a confidante.
Sure, dating women more than two decades younger after multiple marital disasters is standard behavior for billionaires and movie stars, but at least those guys are billionaires or movie stars.
You pack a lot of insult and reproval into one sentence, I’ll give you that. First, your suggestion that young women date older men solely for their money and/or status is insulting to younger women’s intelligence and ethics. Second, your suggestion that wealthy and powerful men have somehow earned younger women because they have wealth and power is insulting to all women, falling neatly as it does into the old “woman-as-commodity” cliche. Third, your suggestion that somehow the man writing in is less valuable as a person because he is neither a billionaire nor a movie star is insulting to him personally, as well as to every person who falls into neither category.
When I walked into my friend’s dinner party four years ago, I was in my mid-twenties and not dreaming of anyone in particular – I certainly wasn’t dreaming of “a middle aged guy with a miserable track record [and] a [child my] own age.” But a man at that party struck up a conversation. He was in his mid-fifties and had been married three times – death, divorce, divorce. He had a son who was eleven years older than I was. He sure as heck wasn’t a billionaire, nor a movie star. But he was intelligent, handsome and fascinating, and had a wonderful sense of humor. He asked me out on a date. A little over a year later we got married, and we’ve been ridiculously happy ever since.
While I agree that anyone with three failed marriages could probably use some therapy, I don’t see any reason why this should preclude Tom from dating altogether, nor dating this particular woman. If Tom feels a strong attraction and suspects it may be returned, he should ask the girl out on a date. The worst that can happen is that she’ll say no.