For Young Girls Who Think That Older Men Are Mature And BetterThe Sweet Spot
Somewhere between puberty and Cialis is that perfect moment in a single man’s life when he can date the broadest age group, when he can sleep with 23-year-olds—and their mothers—without being called a creep. He just has to know the rules.
The Sweet Spot isn’t about love or even happiness. It’s just an observation of fact: For a presumably brief but glorious spell, the man in his late thirties can date more women of more fascinating types and circumstances than at any other time in his life. The discovery is like waking one day to read in the science section of the Times about the existence of a new planet made of salted caramel with rivers of flowing bourbon. For once, good news about getting older! In fact, it’s a fking miracle.
Young women write their names on napkins in bars, talk earnestly to you about Proust until 6 a.m., and demonstrate Cirque du Soleil–ish tricks with their legs. (At 22 everyone’s a contortionist.) Older women look at you like you’re a warm appetizing pretzel that they probably shouldn’t indulge in but what the hell. Then there are the women your own age. They’re the most suitable and almost always the most fraught. They kill you with their eyes, tell you flat out they’ve smelled your type before, even when they’re sliding next to you into the homeward-bound taxi.
A while ago, two women visited my apartment on successive nights. They sat in the same chair. They ate the same ragù I’d made and frozen for these impromptu dinners. The redhead stayed over. The blond did not. The redhead was talkative, never slept. The blond was skeptical but amused. The blond had a kid about the same age as the redhead. The fact that these two would find their way into my life at all still seems to me slightly surreal, part of the dizzying luck of the Sweet Spot.
A friend of mine is 42, a long-term bachelor who loves the company of women but who flees at the first hint of domesticity. (He’s been at this longer than I have.) I asked him where he saw the age range of the Sweet Spot. “I’ve been with women in their fifties, and as long as I find them attractive, age absolutely doesn’t matter,” he says. “Bodywise, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I appreciated them younger, but not too young. Below 23 or so seems dangerous. I mean, ‘Dude, I just fked a teenager!’—that is not a high five I want to be on either side of. And I’ve found that if you’re just looking for a fking buddy, the older-wiser gals are so much better in bed.”
The paradox of the Sweet Spot is that so much of your success depends on your being manifestly Mr. Wrong. Not, obviously, boyfriend material. A woman doesn’t have to think very hard before she jumps in bed with me, because she doesn’t take me that seriously. There’s no need for the standards she’d apply to more suitable mates: Is this person reliable? (I’m not.) Can I picture a future with this guy? (You can’t.) What will my friends think? (They’ll laugh.)
For the 22-to-28 set, I am the Novelty F@#k. What someone like me brings to the deal is an apartment without roommates, and what passes for experience—the kind of little life things (wine-list familiarity, better shoes, less-awkward oral sex) that accrue to someone during those extra 1.5 decades the way sea barnacles attach themselves to a rusty old pier. Maybe most important, the man in the Sweet Spot comes with the unspoken promise that he will not linger. When she’s ready for less novelty, he’s gone, no hard feelings.
For the older woman, he’s another kind of escape, a harmless indulgence, and wrong in a whole different way. For husband material or even a steady date, she’ll look to someone older and more stable—someone with a track record of an orderly life. There’s a woman who comes to see me now and then. She is divorced and lives in the suburbs with her young son. With girls in their twenties, there are endless nights out and 4 a.m. booty calls. By contrast, the divorcée calls the week before. In her large Goyard overnight bag she brings rib-eye steaks marinating in Ziploc bags, a bottle of red, something expensive to wear to bed. After dinner we sit around and talk about travel and divorce. Never once do we mention seeing each other in circumstances other than these infrequent house calls. “I remember this,” she says, looking around my small apartment. “I remember your life.” For her I am the Vacation Fk, a reminder of a time without so many adult responsibilities and a little fun with someone who isn’t offering or expecting anything more.