Must Be This Old To Ride

Comments 22
Is she 19? Is she 35? Who can tell!?!?
Is she 19? Is she 35? Who can tell!?!?

I wasn’t particularly confident or unconfident when I was a kid.

But something changed mid-high school, and whatever social fears people sometimes feel mostly melted away for me. I was nice. I was smart. I was in excellent physical condition. And I had plenty of friends.

The only thing to be afraid of was bigger, tougher kids beating me up, but since I treated everyone pretty well, I never had to worry about stuff like that.

I was friendly and flirty with girls. Some liked me. But that’s not the important part of this story.

“What’s the important part of the story, Matt!?!?”

I never had a problem knowing how old a girl was.

When I was 16 or 17? I was never accidentally attracted to a 13-year-old or made the mistake of thinking a 26-year-old was my age.

You could just tell! You looked at a girl, and you knew whether it was age-appropriate to be interested in them.

That was an under-appreciated skill. 

Now? Not So Much        

And I’m a little confused about why.

In virtually every area of my life, with running fast for long periods of time being the notable exception, I am INFINITELY better now than I was 20 or so years ago. At what? Everything.

But you know what I’m not better at? Identifying a woman’s age.

This isn’t very important most of the time, but now that I’m a single guy again, this has been coming up.

I spent a while talking to a totally cute waitress at my favorite lunch spot today. One of my friends and I met her about a week ago, speculating early to mid-20s.

I just came out and asked her today how old she was because I’m a curious person.

You know what she said? Of course you don’t. She said: “I’m 19.”


NINETEEN, people.


This isn’t the first time this has happened.

And honestly? That’s scary. Frightening, even. Twenty years ago I could nail the age within a year or two every single time. Appropriateness was never in question.

But now? Holy shit. I repeat: holy shit. I can’t be chatting with teenagers(!!!) and thinking they might be of appropriate dating age.



I’m embarrassed. I’m so embarrassed I didn’t want to write about this. But then I remembered that if I’m experiencing something, then thousands of other people are, or have, too.

What’s my dating window? As a 35-year-old. It’s 25-42ish, right? That’s a 17-year margin for error!!!

I find this unsettling. And I feel a little dirty. And I’d like to know how this could happen.

Are female humans evolving whereby younger women look older than they did 20, 30, 40 years ago? Can that be part of it?

Or as we age, do we have a youthful image in our minds that makes us think or feel as if we’re younger than we are?

There is nothing about a 19-year-old girl that interests me. (No, not even THAT, gross person.) I hope you believe that because it’s true.

But I’d really like to know what’s wrong with my brain that I don’t just instinctively know how old someone is like I was able to in my youth.

I told my buddy this story over a text. He laughed at me, shared my surprise at her age, and said: “Must be this old to ride.”

Then I laughed. “Great headline. But I’m too embarrassed to write about this.”

“Just write it,” he said.

Fine. Dick.


22 thoughts on “Must Be This Old To Ride”

  1. I have the same problem. Maybe that’s what happens in your mid thirties? I was talking to a 57 year old last week. I thought he was 42! Similarly I talk to 23 year olds like they’re my peers, but they’re not. Thanks for sharing.

    1. 57! And you thought he was 42.

      I’ll have what that guy’s having.

      Hope you had a nice Christmas, lady. I hope your son had a great time opening gifts and being excited about the season.

      Here’s to 2015.

      And thank you for chiming in. It’s nice to know this happens to women, too!

  2. I think it’s both. Women look older than they used to. I’ve seen more 13 year old looking like 18 year old than ever before. Weird and creepy, especially with all the creeps out there. Also, as we grow older I think that we tend to be attracted to those who look the age we feel or believe we are. It’s hard to imagine or see ourselves for the age that we are. Up until a few months ago, I was in a dream state believing that I still looked 20…I’m one year younger than you.

    1. I don’t want to pry, because it’s none of my business… but are you doing any dating, and do you ever come across situations like this?

      1. I’m not. Only because I don’t think my husband would appreciate it very much. Haha! I crack myself up. 🙂 But I have found myself talking to people who I falsely believe are the same age as me. Then I see a picture of myself and say, “Who is that?” My mirror thinks it’s funny too, trying to make me look like I’m 30.

        1. Goodness. How bad is it that I assume everyone who reads any of this crap is divorced? I’m sure you have indicated you were married. I forget many things. Apologies. Sincere ones.

          1. It’s no big deal. I wasn’t offended at all. Promise. I have been divorced before, so that’s one reason why I appreciate your blog so much. Got married at 18 on a whim, had a son and divorced at 20. Plus as you know, marriages aren’t perfect, so even for those (like me) who are married, your blog is very helpful on many levels.

  3. It’s biology, partly. We instinctively want the young (but not TOO young) women because that’s how you get progeny. The problem is that as we grow older you run into the age-appropriate thing, and it just doesn’t look right for an older man to be running around with a teenager.

    One rule of thumb I heard awhile back is not to date anybody who is younger than half your age + 7 years. For a 35 year old man, that means he shouldn’t be looking at any woman less than 24.5 years old. For a man my age (I’ll be 60 in March so I’ll just choose that) it means that I shouldn’t consider anybody younger than 37. Actually, I’d probably have to say older than that, a person too young to remember most of the Reagan presidency is gonna be a bit young for a person who remembers where he was when he heard that President Kennedy had just been shot. The only reason I can think of for dating someone significantly younger is that she’ll make great “eye candy” when we walk into a place together. Otherwise the differences in life-experiences will be significant.

    1. You nailed it at the end.

      The life-experiences part. Conversation is important. Being able to relate on an intellectual level with the person you’re with is critical. And there’s simply no chance of that happening with someone too much younger or too much older than I am.

      I just think this is all very fascinating, and a bit troubling, but in a sort of fun way.

      I’ll remember your formula. Half your age, plus seven.

      Sounds like solid-enough advice, and I appreciate you sharing.

      Also. Let me just say. I value age and experience and wisdom more than I can express.

      That you are nearly 25 years old than I am and take time occasionally to read this stuff, and (hopefully?) not think I sound like an immature child means A LOT to me.

      Thank you. Very much.

      I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Here’s the to new year, sir.

      1. At the age of 35, I was making one of the worst mistakes I ever made in my life, and suffering for that mistake. Some 18 years later I did it again. Suffered worse the second time. So– I’m not about to think you’re “immature” because your situation just isn’t as big a mistake as mine was. Difference: we didn’t have kids together, so I don’t miss out on being a full-time father the way you’re going through—- that has to be rough no matter how you look at it.

  4. I think this happens to everyone at some point. Although I tend to think most people are younger than they are lol. I know that, at 31, I dont look that different to what I looked like at 19. Not until you look closely anyway!

  5. I’m glad you wrote about this. Women are evolving much faster than even just a decade ago. I still get carded and trust me, I’m not complaining at all! That being said, I believe the media both print and TV have made it a point to brainwash teenagers into looking a certain way. Some teenagers these day do their makeup much better than I…Now that’s crazy to me. And with that enough said!

  6. Awww….don’t be embarrassed. It’s the war paint and the nip tuck. Makes both teenagers and women over 30 look like they are in their mid twenties. Just the fact that you are appalled that you were accidentally flirting with a 19 yo says you’re a decent sort :). I’m in my early 30s and get hit on online by men in their 50s and 60s, and that’s knowingly on their part. That to me is a bit ‘Ewww’ but I think everyone is entitled a few age misinterpretations!

  7. Ha.
    Funnily enough, I’m having similar problems with much, much younger guys coming onto me all the time – and you know what?
    I’m absolutely turned off by it as well.
    You’d think a ton of women would jump on the whole “cougar” opportunity since it is so glamourized in the media (think Ashton and Demi) but… urgh.

    My dating window is from my age (31) and up to about 35-36 – but problem is, usually all of those amazing guys that I meet between those brackets are already happily married -_- ;;;
    This ain’t gonna be easy.
    *hugs* I’m here for ya.

  8. Matt, I’m 57 – and I can’t believe it; however, it’s true – and I relate to what you write. as well, you help me understand male friends who are divorced. as I get older age matters less than being able to hold a conversation once i asked a date what he thought of Woodstock, and he referenced the cartoon character. oh, well. happy and healthy New Year to you!

  9. I suspect there are a couple of problems, one women plateau around 18 and stay there for a bit, maybe 7 to 10 years. Their aging slows down unless they don’t take care of themselves, or something dramatic happens. They mature quickly between 13 and 18, hard to place them and usually they look older, then boom full stop for a while.

    The other problem? We are convinced by social media we must ‘look’ a certain way. So girls tailor their look. Add to this, I am guess the young woman you were talking with was mature and fairly intelligent, rather than the typical teenager. Easy to miss the signs Matt.

    Best choice? Ask, which you did. There is nothing wrong really with an age gap, but what you find is you run out of things to talk about, there is simply no common ground.

  10. Once I hit 13 people kept thinking I was 20, and it’s not like I wore makeup or anything, but by the time I hit 20 they kept thinking I was 15. I couldn’t win no matter what I tried. (Of course I never did try makeup for anything but Halloween. It just takes more time than I’m willing to put in to it.)

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