I suffered my second mansplaining intervention on OkCupid recently. A 59-year-old gentleman to whom I will refer as “Prince Charming” contacted me. He was attractive, intelligent, and reasonably witty. However, he was older than the men I usually go out with and he was a psychologist, which made me wary, since I would inevitably be psychoanalyzed.
If a man sends me a message along the lines of “hi,” “ur hot,” or “got any exciting plans this weekend?” I don’t respond. If he can’t put a sentence together, I don’t respond. So that leaves an infinitesimal amount of men to whom I actually write back.
But because Prince Charming obviously took time to read my profile, and knew his way around the English language, I answered him right away. I answered him honestly, out of respect. I thanked him for his lovely message and said I was primarily dating younger men at the moment because, in some ways, I felt I had more in common with them than with men my age.
And then came his response, with the interpretation I had predicted. He told me my choice made him “concerned” for me and that he felt “protective” because younger men were more likely to be players who would treat me in a “cavalier” way, the way I had urged against in my “Sex and Transparency” clause. Didn’t I want to avoid this, he asked? He knew what it was like to be left and he didn’t want to see the same fate befall me.
Where, where, oh where, to start with the deconstruction of this whopping mansplaination?
Besides the arrogance and condescension posing as concern, the skewed logic left me scratching my head. Why did he assume younger men were more apt to be players? Players come in all ages, shapes and sizes, and, in fact, the world-class Lothario that I had referenced in my “Sex and Transparency” clause was 53.
Why did he assume I only wanted a serious relationship? My “Sex and Transparency” clause makes it clear that I’m down for sex for the sake of sex. And if I were looking for Mr. Long-Term, did he really think I would be clueless enough to set my sights on a man in his 30s? Even if I did embark on a relationship with a younger man, who’s to say I wouldn’t be the one leaving?
Finally, there was the misguided empathy: “I know what it’s like to be left.” He was still stinging from the loss of a significant relationship and should have been attending to his own wounds, not mine.
I politely, yet firmly, addressed his errant mansplaining. I told him that I actually found younger men to be much more honest about their intentions, far less likely than men my age to obscure lust with a lot of faux-relationship window-dressing.
He wrote back with a mea culpa, and, thankfully, was never heard from again.
* * *
Last night I had a date with a smart, handsome, funny, cosmopolitan 36-year-old. It was a smouldery romp fueled by novelty, desire, and a couple of silk scarves. It was also laced with mutual regard and affection. His first message came with a no-commitment disclaimer, a bolt of honesty that made me respect him and, I think, made us free to explore a night of pure, distilled lust unfettered by “what does this mean’s?” and shifting guideposts.
The notion that women don’t want casual sex, or don’t know how to navigate it, is as ass-backward as the cultural message that older women are invisible to men. Perhaps mansplaining comes from a place of fear: fear that women can hold their own with men, fear that women can walk away.
One of the benefits of dating a younger man is that they tend not to mansplain. I’m not sure if that’s because the power exchange is more equal, or if they’ve come of age in an era where women tend to have more self-agency than in previous generations.
In any case, I’m going out again tonight, this time with a 30-year-old. I have no idea where this date will lead, although I’m pretty sure it won’t lead to more mansplaining.