This post was originally published on “This Chair Rocks,” a website by Ashton Applewhite that also hosts Ashton’s blog Yo, Is This Ageist? Read more on This Chair Rocks by clicking here. Read our Q&A with Ashton by clicking here.
A woman wrote in this week to my blog Yo, Is This Ageist?:
I am a 37 year old woman and I am suffering through online dating. Not only do I have to face the insecurity of not being attractive or witty enough to engage a man’s interest (supported by my 0/22 success rate for replies from men I have emailed), not I have to face that I am considered to OLD for many men my age. The number of men in his late 20s, early 40s who list their age range for women as 24-33 is staggering. I never thought that at age 37 I would be viewed as an “older.”
It’s a well-worn fact that men, unlike women, conventionally fish in a much larger pond than their female peers. It’s the rare boy bird who’s willing to date someone even a few years older than he. In his book “The Magic of Middle-Aged Women,” Daniel Evan Weiss sums up the sheer unfairness of the situation in this story from a friend. When she was in her late teens, her uncle tried to set her up with a guy in his late twenties. He wasn’t interested; she was too young. Encountering the same man online 32 years later, she dropped him a note. He still wasn’t interested. Now she was too old.
The ostensible justification is fertility, the proverbial ticking clock. Men are supposed to seek young babes with young eggs, and women to bag high-status provider types, which is why bankers marry bimbos. Leaving aside the fact that that decline in fertility has been way oversold, when’s the last time you heard a woman worrying that her date might be infertile? Or, for that matter, about the fact that birth defects and mental illnesses rise with the father’s age? Which is another reason the fertility issue is largely a red herring.
Weiss makes that point at the evolutionary level, writing that, “The survival of our species no longer depends on our ability to find a fit, fertile partner.” His book is a paean to the social, psychological, and sexual charms of older women, and an argument that more men of all ages should reap the benefits. “I have learned that I am much better off with veteran women, and so it is natural that they look good to me,” he writes. “I don’t think I am violating my genetic mandate; rather, I am accelerating its adaptation.”
Weiss “learned” (key word) to think differently. What would it take for other men to follow suit, in significant numbers?
I have a suggestion: dating sites should omit age and age range.
My friend – smart writer and online dating expert Virginia Vitzhum – respectfully disagreed with this brilliant idea when I posted it on Facebook. “I think hiding your age feeds ageism (like “passing” feeds racism),” she commented. “People want to know, and at some point, it’s weird not to tell the person you’re dating how old you are.” Virginia’s with my sister on “guys whose own age isn’t in their target range. F*** ’em. (Or don’t, actually.)”
Hiding or lying about your age is one thing, and misguided in too many ways to count. But if all profiles on the site deliberately omit age and age range, that question becomes moot. After they connect, people can ask via chat or in person. Age is not secret. It simply ceases to be a data point for first-order screening. Unless you’re into numerology, why make a person’s birth date the prime indicator of compatibility? It’s illegal to ask for age on a job application because it fosters discrimination. It has the same effect in the world of online matchmaking. Why should it be any more acceptable?
Should dating sites stop asking for age and age range? Please share your opinion in the comments box below.