She says, "So... after you left the other night, when I was playing pool with blonde Josh, he and I got to talking. He asked me if I felt awkward about being the only girl in the group while eight other guys are flirting with me constantly."
I say, "Huh. And?" I'm driving and am unable to look her in the eye, except for the occasional glance. I'm in the process of changing lanes on the way to my place, where we will make out like naughty teens and nothing else will happen. Maybe. We havent' gotten there yet. We're going under the pretense of playing Scrabble on my computer since it'll be a few hours before our friends come back from bowling. It was her idea. Kinda.
"I told him no. That I kind of like it, but I don't take it seriously because of all the guys hitting on me, I see them only as friends. And, really, he's the only one at the time I would even consider dating, but since he's engaged to someone else, he's off-limits, so it's no big deal." She pauses for a few moments. "Then he says that he's sorry to hear that, because if he was a girl he'd be crazy not to want to date you."
"Yeah. And you know what I said?"
"I said that I'm crazy for not dating you, too. You're the perfect guy. Only problem is that, well... you're thirty."
"Nearly thirty," I correct her. "I'm still twenty-nine, you know."
"Yeah, but not for very long."
She's been making comments like this all night long, like she's trying to rationalize every reason she can come up with for not dating me (not that I've asked her to... the word "girlfriend" still hasn't fallen from my lips in reference to her), but the only one she can devise is the little matter of my age.
I've made no bones about it, I'm attracted to her. I've said as much and haven't bothered hiding it. I flirt with her incessantly and make it quite clear that I think she's beautiful. I'm not looking for a long-term thing, not really. Commitment would be nice, for a while, but I'm nobody's fool. She's 18, I'm nearly 30. There's a whole, wide gulf of experience and living between us. She's just now discovering things about herself and the world around her that I've long-since gotten through my thick skull. Every step she takes over the next few years is, quite literally, child's play for me. Been there, done that- from her perspective.
She's concerned with having to introduce me to her parents, some day ("Hi, Mom. This is my new boyfriend. Ignore the gray hairs, please."). She's worried that she'll always feel like she's playing catch-up with me. She's scared that she might drive me crazy with her growing pains. She's young and she's looking at the kinds of reasons young people think of when they're involved with older people. I thought the same things and felt the same way when I was in her shoes, once.
I tell her that she's not my child, that it isn't my responsibility to raise her and that I think her parents have done a superb job of that already. I tell her that she's a woman who will make her own decisions and that I respect her right to do as she pleases. I tell her that I will not try to force her to do anything against her wishes, but I will leave the option open if she wants it. I tell her that I have no expectations, that I'm... testing shallow waters, still.
"You know the perfectly right things to say," she says. "And the worst thing is that you mean them. You mean what you're saying and you're telling the truth, and I know it because you don't say things you don't mean. That's what really sucks, because it's not fair that you know the right things to say without even thinking about them and I still can't date you."
How can I tell her that her concern is all a load of hogwash? Okay... no, it isn't all hogwash, but it's not the kind of stumbling block that she's making it out to be.
And I'm not anything like the guys she's dated before, she tells me. I mean, even if our ages weren't a consideration, I still wouldn't be like any other guy she's been out with.
She says, later, while we're on the way back to the cafe to meet our friends, "When we kissed... the way you kiss me... it's like... something familiar. But I don't know what it is."
She's scared, not of the difference in age. She's scared that she might not be able to control me, that I'm going to break her record of breaking or being broken by the men she's been with. I do not conform to her previous liasons. I'm not a "boy" or a "guy." I'm a man. Big difference.
I am different and that scares her.
Funny. You'd think that a person who's college major is psychology would understand this simple fact of human behavior: most people are typically afraid of that which is different and the only way to overcome that fear is to embrace that which is different, to accept it.
Long days ahead of me, I know it.