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During that time, when I was in my late 30s, I made an important sociological discovery: Men over 40 are profoundly different from those under 35, and it's not just their hairlines.

As much as we're loath to admit it, we base most of our expectations about a relationship on the one we observed, for better or worse, growing up at home. A man who came of age in the 1960s, before the women's movement exploded, when his (more likely than not) stay-at-home mom did the cooking and cleaning, might have to work hard at accepting the fact that his life won't be just like his dad's. A man who came of age in the 1970s or '80s doesn't think twice about being married to a woman with her own career, or splitting the household chores with her. He probably grew up having to pitch in and help with dinner (if only to defrost it); he knows his way around a washing machine, and maybe even had to change a diaper or two. When it comes to gender roles and the division of labor, you're better off with a man whose mother has already fought the big battles for you.

The fact that a younger man's very busy mom probably didn't have time to whip up many culinary delights for the family can also work to your advantage. Anything you serve, however clumsily, is going to be greeted with unbelievable enthusiasm. Home cooking was something Bronson always hoped to experience, not The Way Things Used to Be. He'd walk a mile for my chocolate Kahlúa cheesecake, and he immediately bragged about my spaghetti sauce to his friends, who were envious of anything that didn't arrive by delivery boy. Staying over at a younger man's place may mean a breakfast of cold pizza and Mountain Dew, but at least you won't be offered Mylanta and Metamucil with your OJ. The reason for this is that he's Scarily Healthy. Open up a younger man's medicine cabinet, and you will see shaving gear, hair gel, a toothbrush, perhaps a squeezed-out tube of pimple cream, and, if he's something of a sophisticate, moisturizer. Of course, he probably won't have any first-aid supplies such as aspirin or Band-Aids, but before you curse his lack of preparedness, consider what else you won't see in his medicine cabinet: Di-Gel, minoxidil, Preparation H, Grecian Formula, Sominex, or Doan's pills for back pain. An empty medicine cabinet can actually be a beautiful thing.

An older man, you may point out, has learned much from life and benefited from years of accumulated experience. What he may also have accumulated is an ex-wife (or two), and perhaps a child (or two), which means you get to be Daddy's New Friend. Or perhaps he never married but has in his past a nightmare of a long-term girlfriend who cheated on him with his former best friend. While years of relationships may teach a man to be a better partner, there's also the danger that he's learned to view women as gold-digging, untrustworthy sluts, parasitic leeches, or nagging harpies.

Next: A man without baggage!

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