If a woman is truly fortunate, she will know two distinct dating periods in her life. The first will be when she is deemed mature enough and interesting enough to date older men. The second will come when she is declared fun enough and sexy enough to date younger men.
The key is knowing when the time has come to change sides.
My friend Dee Dee and I were lamenting over the kind of blind dates that folks send our way. Though we both enthusiastically declare regularly that we are not going on any more blind dates, we succumb to exceeding peer pressure.
"I have one next Saturday," she admitted. "He's 52." She rolled her eyes. "I'm sure he's old looking."
"Listen, I just had one who was 54," I said. "He was an old looking 54, too. Gray hair, stooped, half blind."
We were at dinner with Dee Dee's mom, who was listening to our lamentations with amused enjoyment. Never one to keep her opinions to herself, she spoke up. "You two need to be dating younger men, not older ones."
We looked at each other then we looked at her. The idea was definitely interesting. She continued.
"When you're 30, it's fine to date men 12 years older, but after you hit 40, it's a whole different ballgame. If you're not careful, you'll wind up with someone you'll be taking care of in a few years."
Well, it didn't take long to talk us into that new game plan. My first boyfriend was three years older than me, my second was two years older and my third was 10 years my senior. Dating older men is a streak I've followed a good bit of my life, but it's not working any longer.
Dee Dee and I looked at each for a moment, our minds clicking in unison. Slowly, we started to nod and then we smiled.
"Let's do it," she said, grinning.
"I'm with ya, girlfriend." We high-fived and began our scheming, uh, planning.
"It means more rigorous workouts at the gym," I warned.
"No problem," she promised. "Regular facials and highlighting, too, will be required."
Dee Dee leaned forward, a serious look springing from her eyes. "Here's our new mantra: No men over 40 need apply." With a firm nod of our heads, we shook on it.
We're quite happy with our new proclamation. It's the solution. After all, men do it all the time, dating girls half their age. But we won't look ridiculous doing it because we have Clairol, Botox and thigh masters on our side. And when the time comes, a good cosmetic surgeon for any rejuvenation we might need is ready and waiting on speed dial. That's a lot different than how a paunchy, gray-headed man looks with a pretty young thing tucked under his arm.
Instead of ridiculous, we'll look vibrant, spirited and, of course, sexy.
Not even Dee Dee expected me to move so quickly. But for a few years, there has been a flirtation in my life with a handsome, sweet guy with abs that are rock hard and deep cut muscles. He's had a crush on me and while I saw him occasionally in a casual way, I didn't "date" him because he's, well, too young. Ten years too young. Or he was. That's all changed now.
I called him up. "Wanna date?" I asked before explaining the new "no one over 40 need apply" rule.
He laughed delightedly, and in less time than it takes to mascara coat one eyelash, he exclaimed, "Baby, I'm there. When?"
So it has begun. Because a girl needs to know when it's time to change sides.
And then she needs to do it.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should) and The Town That Came A-Courtin'.