Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Problem of Fifteen

     I was talking with my friend Rikki, before she moved to Kigali, just talking about things in general.  Juba, being a city of transients, always has a lively dating scene, couples constantly getting together and breaking-up.  It's almost a sport - a blood sport, really - keeping up with the ever changing landscape of shifting relationships.  Juba is a city overrun with twenty-somethings come here to "save the world" or at least a small part of it.  It's only natural in an environment like that - lots of young people, freedom from home constraints, lots of alcohol and a jaded, cynical culture that there will be a lot of people falling in and out of love, or if not love, at least lust in all its forms.
     Anyway, Rikki was updating me on her latest romances.  I won't go into any details, but Rikki - who's about 30- had certainly experienced much that was available in Juba before she left town.  I, on the other hand, same as at home, have experienced none.  Partly it's the demographics - they work against me.  Juba is a city crawling with twenty year olds who are all lovely but with whom I could not have a chance, nor should I.  The few thirty year olds are normally a bit more focused on their work, or are involved with people already, or half crazy.  Then there are the sixty year olds, retirees looking for the next big thing in their life or who missed out saving the world back when they were young and are catching-up while they still can.  Normal people in their thirties through fifties are home raising families and living normal lives.  The few people here in those age-brackets have usually been overseas for years and are are, frankly, a bit whack from the stress of living away for so long.  They are usually tye-dyed wearing bone thin people with little sense of humor. 
      Back in 2001 after my wife left me I suddenly and unexpectedly found myself single.  Having not dated much when I was younger I thought, "now will be my chance!"  I imagined I would become a world-class playboy surfing the ladies.  Geez, what a nut-brain.  I thought a forty-year old man with his own home and business, money in the bank, reasonably stable personality, would be an automatic draw and I would have plenty of dating opportunities.  The reality was that I attracted no interest whatsoever, though I cannot say that I tried very hard either.  I was about as knowledgeable about dating as a forty year old as I was as a teenager or twenty year old and that was unknowledgable completely.
      One thing I noticed, however, was that my mind instinctively found itself attracted to younger women.  Much as I really wanted a woman who was the same age as me, just scanning a crowd my eyes lingered on women that were a number of years younger.  It took a while to understand this.  I believe that life is much better when people in the same reasonable age bracket are together.  We change so much as we age, our attitudes and opinions and thoughts about things change with time and I think it is better to be with someone who is more or less experiencing things as you are rather than be dealing with someone who has already experienced them or who will be in the future.  Much as we appreciate the advice of people who older, or want to give advice to someone younger, no one really wants to the that guy who is always telling his younger partner, "oh yeah, this is what you are experiencing and this is what's happening..."  That would get old really quick.  And you don't want to hear it from someone older either.
     Anyway, I started to develop this theory that I call "The Problem of 15."  What is boils down to is that we are instinctively attracted to people who are 15-years younger than we are, while we are ourselves attractive to people who are 15-years older than we are.  I think this has to do with the idea that if you asked people to describe themselves we would probably all describe ourselves looking and feeling 15 years younger than we really are - that is, our image of ourselves is off by about 15-years.  This explains why we are attracted to people 15-years younger, or at least people in their 40's noticeably start to be attracted to younger people (twenty-year olds tend to date twenty years olds and I think the same is true for thirty-year olds, up to their late thirties.)
      In my case, as I said, much as in my mind I wanted someone the same age as me my instincts were to be attracted to younger women.  But I also found myself with two older female friends, both in their mid fifties, about 15-years older than me at the time, who intimated that our friendship could be more if I desired.  I resisted these offers for the same reason I never pursued anyone significantly younger, because I didn't think in the long-run it would be a good idea.  Apparently though, I was not the only person experiencing this because single women my own age had no interest in me whatsoever, they seemed always to be wanting younger guys or were being squired about by men 15-years older.  This just further convinced me that "the Problem of 15" was real.
      Back to the beginning: I was talking with Rikki about the Problem of 15 (and Rikki has been dating someone about 5 years younger, which at 30 is a bigger deal than at 50)  and she said if I write about it. it will probably be made into a romantic-comedy movie, probably staring John Cusack, to which we both got a good laugh.