I never intended to date men at all, let alone older men – for most of my early twenties, I was head-over-heels for a woman. She and I had just parted ways when I vowed to stop dating for at least a year, and to try to clean up the hot mess that was my 26-year-old self at the time. In an unguarded moment, I began flirting with James, the teacher of the community acting class I was taking. It’s easy to flirt with men when you want nothing in return. The sparks that flew caught me completely by surprise.
My relationship with James was essentially a one-night stand that lasted nearly two years. To his credit, he warned me from the beginning that I wasn’t what he was looking for in terms of a life partner: our 30-year age difference was too much for him to get over. He was never willing to meet my friends or family, and never willing to make any kind of commitment, but I do know that the love we shared was real, if deeply imperfect (for a Hollywood version of our relationship, watch the film Elegy, and reimagine Penelope Cruz as a white, tattooed, would-be lesbian). How do you know when love is real? You just do.
After James and I broke up, I swore I'd finally settle down and find a nice young man my own age. Maybe 10 years older, at the most. As it turned out, fate had something different in mind. I’m now engaged to a wonderful man who is 18 years older than me, and in so many ways, he is younger at heart than I am — it’s a May-December relationship that feels like a gentle Vermont summer. Some things I have learned along the way about love: