Younger men carry far less of this bitter emotional baggage. (Maybe he's carrying a grudge about one woman who done him wrong, but it's probably his mother.) They see women as wonderful, exotic creatures with many treasures to offer. They're not so far past the years when they pined to hold a real, live, naked woman that they take for granted what a terrific thrill and holy privilege it really is.

When I was in my 20s, my first husband and I went to three weddings in ten years. The vast majority of couples we knew simply lived together. The serially cohabiting older man sees dodging the bullet of matrimony as a badge of honor. His condemnation of marriage as a bourgeois convention makes him more of a tired, sad cliché than the ones he's using to describe matrimony. Since I've been with Bronson, we've averaged three weddings a year. This rush to the altar in the under-30 set has been denigrated (mostly by the over-30 set) as a spate of "starter marriages." Ultimately, I think the divorce rate will probably be the same as the break-up rate of the "just living together" generation, but I must say that it's infinitely more pleasant to listen to men who don't consider commitment to be a dirty word.

As creepy as the done-it-all, Warren Beatty type of older man is the one who hasn't done anything. This is the guy who's missed so much in his years on the planet that being with him makes you feel embalmed. I stopped dating a 48-year-old television executive when he labeled me a "maniac" because I said I sunbathed topless. (In France.) Another guy old enough to have danced naked at Woodstock stared incredulously at my alternative rock CD collection ("I've never even heard of any of these guys," he said, waving around a Pearl Jam CD) and asked if I had any Kenny G or Jimmy Buffet. A guy who has spent the past 20 years in a well-insulated rut will make you tell his astounded buddies about the time you were in "a whaddya call it? A mosh pit?" You may have the feeling that your relationship now qualifies as his official Walk on the Wild Side. A younger man finds you fun rather than wild, interesting rather than threatening. He surprises you by showing up with a copy of that CD you liked at his place ("Queens of the Stone Age! Thanks!"), and he likes listening to your old Charlie Parker records. He offers to reorganize your computer's hard drive while you go out and get the wine. Sure, there are older men who can pull this off, but a 30-year-old guy was fooling around on a home computer (and programming the VCR and watching MTV) while he was still in grade school. The fact that you have three holes in one earlobe isn't even worth a comment from a younger man, whose last girlfriend may have had a pierced tongue.

Next: "If you've ever said you'd rather have fun than dinner, dating a younger man offers you the chance to go have it."


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