Is It Really ‘Just A Number’?

Dearest Rachel –

In my continued adventures in online dating, I’ve noticed that ones who have been responding to me have tended to be younger than myself. Coming from a cultural background where that’s more the rule than the exception (sure, there are plenty of couples where both are more or less the same age, but historically speaking, the male is the older partner is still more often than not), this should hardly be worth comment.

Except… the size of this age gap is… widening. As in, most of the girls (and given the age gap, I think I’m permitted to call them that. At a certain age, it’s going to be considered a compliment in any event, wouldn’t you agree?) who are talking with me at present are in their thirties. And while I probably should be both flattered and pleased by this kind of attention, I can’t help but maintain a certain amount of… suspicion? Skepticism? about their motives.

I even found myself challenging one in particular about it, to which she responded with a blithe, “Oh… that’s not a problem for me… to me, it’s just a number.”

But is it?

You certainly made a point of treating it as no more than a number; acting as young as you were capable of. Even down to your last moments, you were acting the little kid, and I’m sure that if it could be said of anyone that ‘it’s how she would have wanted to go,’ it would have applied to you. It’s probably why I keep looking for someone younger than myself, since it’s one way to guarantee that her spirit will be as youthful as I ‘need’ it to be. As my mental picture of you fades into a gaussian blur, I find myself imagining you as a sort of manic pixie dream girl, and look for someone similar to fill your shoes.

But age does have an effect on a person. It’s not just the fact that one is the sum of one’s memories; time and experience take a toll on both body and spirit. Were I to actually find someone brimming with that much youthful vitality, would I be able to keep up with her? And if I couldn’t, would she lose patience with me as I simply trail along behind her like the tail of a comet?

Or am I overthinking this? Perhaps I should just not bother to concern myself with that, with the understanding that our experiences prior to meeting will be vastly different by definition, no matter how much time on earth we each have under our belts.

For what it’s worth, I have done the math. It seems that there’s a certain acceptable age discrepancy that society – and the relationship – will tolerate, and being algebraic in nature it does grow wider as we age. So, by applying the formula of half my age plus seven years, that apparent minimum for me to look for stands at about halfway through her 33rd year. Keep that in mind, as I introduce the two people I’ve been talking to.

Now, why would I be doing this? Well, there was a point in time when I misinterpreted some of the nice things that Erin would do for me, and wondered if it was possible that we might work out as a couple, especially given our age difference. As it turns out, she is well within that range, but there’s so much more between us that would prevent us from being anything other than friends. So I have to abandon that line of thought, even though I find it necessary to still acknowledge its existence from time to time.

But that’s no longer here nor there. As with you, there are times to simply let go of what doesn’t work or is no longer available, and move on.

Let’s start with the one we already know about and work our way down, because as it turns out, Naruko is, at thirty-nine, the oldest of the three that I’ve been chatting with lately. But let me be honest right now, and note that I’m never quite sure how much (if any) of each of their stories about themselves is actually true. I want to believe they’re real, and that they’re interested in me, but I can’t quite accept it, and some of my experience even thus far would bear me out to not rely on what they tell me. So in a certain way, until I meet them face to face, I find myself putting disclaimers and qualifying terms like ‘allegedly’ within their descriptions.

Anyway, you know about Naruko and the fact that she’s been having difficulty finding her stuff and getting back home. She claims been looking forward to seeing me once she does, but without knowing where her passport is at this point, that’s kind of difficult. Don’t know how she’s fending for herself in the meantime. I guess I should be grateful that she’s not asked for assistance for me to get home.

During the period in which Naruko was supposedly occupied with contacting the local authorities about her missing possessions, I was looking through the veritable catalog of names, faces and profiles of potential individuals to reach out to. Upon sending smiles out to a few people, I was contacted by a girl I’ll refer to as Chigusa.

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A year younger than Naruko, she started off our conversation by describing her ideal man… and that her late husband had all of those same attributes she was looking for. So, we would be on somewhat equal footing in terms of that life experience – as well as having to follow a difficult act from both sides. Oddly enough, she described herself as being usually in a good mood, and the type to inspire others to be the same. She leaves me wondering how long her man has been gone, if she’s gotten over the loss. It can’t have been more than eight years, as she does have a young son. Interestingly, she claims to be looking for someone between the ages of 48 through 75. Think about that for a moment; based on that formula I mentioned above, nearly half of that span (thirteen years, from 62 on up) is beyond that maximum age gap. What is someone to make of that?

It get weirder, though, when I bring up Kaoru.

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She is looking for someone between 53 and 75, so I just barely fit her qualifications. But at the tender age of thirty-four, what she’s looking for is almost entirely outside of that socially acceptable gap. Which leaves me wondering, why is she looking for someone so much older?

And it’s Kaoru that insisted to me that “oh, age is just a number.” Call me suspicious, but I’m not sure I buy into that. But until we meet, I’ll have to puzzle her motivations out on my own.

Spoiler alert, though: I won’t have to do any further thinking about her. Between the time I started this letter, and now that I’m finishing filling you in on what’s going on, Kaoru has vanished from the site. There’s not even a ‘Removed User’ designation where she was; she’s just… gone. Of course, since this isn’t the first time, I kept screenshots of the conversation, just to prove it happened.

Just another day on the internet, honey.

Wish you were here, so I wouldn’t have to deal with this.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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