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MANILA, Philippines – Let’s be real, ladies – why is it that when it comes to dating, it feels like we’re 30 going on 60? Society is (extra) harsh to women who are still single or dating above 30: ‘Bat ‘di ka pa nagkaka-boyfriend? ‘Bat wala ka pang asawa? Paano ka magkaka-anak? Mahirap na maghanap ‘pag matanda ka na?
Why is it that a female’s “dating marketability” automatically dips once she hits the age of 30-35? Just because she’s no longer as fit, hip, and young as she was in her early 20s, the “older woman” label is already slapped on. So what more if you’re a single woman already in your 50s and 60s, and still want to put yourself out there and date around?
You definitely still can, but even this comes with a myriad of hesitations, doubts, and even shame for many, which begs an important question: why is there a stigma in the first place?
The stigma is real: A tale of two (older) women
“Age is just a number,” they say, so why is it such a big deal when it comes to dating?
Cherry Bayle, a single 58-year-old radio executive, told Rappler that it may have to do with the idea of “dating past your prime,” which was ingrained in her growing up. “When you hit 30, you begin to lose your marketability,” she said, and so your chances of dating, being wooed, or even finding a partner are much, much less.
“Society equates beauty with youth, and these young models become templates of what looks desirable,” Cherry added. Basically, if you don’t look like ~that~ at 30 (which, let’s be honest, many of us don’t) – then good luck. It also doesn’t help that society perceives unmarried or single women in their 30s as “way past their prime,” Cherry said, and on the road to becoming an old maid or spinster.
Sixty-year-old Monette agrees – she considers 36 as “past the dating prime” of women in the Philippines, since women are traditionally “expected” to bear children, and doing so at the age of 36 is biologically riskier.
This explains why the stigma prevails, psychologist and relationship therapist Lissy Ann Puno also told Rappler. She said that peak physical performance is usually between ages 19 to 26 years old – the “biological window” of when you’re at your healthiest. When you’re 37 onwards, you begin to feel a decline in your physical skills and youth.
“If physical attraction, sexual intimacy, and romance is associated with youthfulness, then there would also be a sense of overall decline during this period,” Lissy said, which is what makes many women conscious of the young-old polarity and question if they should even still be dating anymore.
A relationship therapist’s answer? Keep dating! Nowadays, age is just a construct – many men and women are able to “defer” the aging process and extend their “biological window” of peak health through lifestyle changes, diet, exercise, treatments, and healthy habits. What do 25-year-olds with back pain have to say to active 50-year-olds in way better shape?
“Age boundaries are not set in stone, and we should not be confined to age ranges. Dating and friendships, discovering love, and engaging in relationships is an option for everyone across the lifespan,” Lissy said. Preach!
Single with wrinkles and ready to mingle
How did Cherry know that she was ready to date again? She didn’t. She just made peace with her reality and accepted her fate. “When I hit 30 and marriage seemed far from my horizon, I stopped thinking about it or putting a ‘deadline’ on myself. I always believed that it will happen when it happens,” she said. “You’ll just know.”
At 39 Monette bravely started dating again, even with the full awareness that the number of men available at her age was much more limited than when she was in her 20s. She knew her chances were slimmer, but hey, she found a silver lining – there were also many other separated men who didn’t want to get married again yet either!
“You just go with the flow. I think the mindset should be to not think about it too much, but to keep an open mind and heart to what life has to offer and to what the universe and destiny has in store for you,” Cherry added.
How can you be so sure that you’re ready? According to relationship therapist Lissy, you’ll know – something within will push you to pursue all the positive aspects of dating. You no longer fear commitment, intimacy, rejection, change, vulnerability, abandonment, or getting hurt – you are now more confident and comfortable with the idea of needing someone, letting a new person into your life, and subsequently setting boundaries. When the idea starts to excite you, go for it!
Does it get easier as you get older? Not really
They say “it gets better with age” – but why doesn’t this seem to apply to dating when you’re older?
“Because our society favors youth over experience, innocence over confidence, and naïveté over wisdom,” Cherry said – because we’re taught that the younger a woman is, the more “desirable” she is.
As we age, the market just begins closing up a bit, and it doesn’t help that with greater age comes greater responsibilities – women are met with the pressures of staying youthful and fit while also taking care of children and maintaining a prominent position in her career. Young women don’t need to stress about wrinkles, cellulite, and extra pounds yet!
But at a certain age, you start to not care, Cherry said. When she was no longer bothered by what people said, this was both a downside as it was an upside. “Because you don’t care about what people say, you either let go of your looks or you become more attractive because you’re more natural and more comfortable in your own skin,” she said.
On the flip side, Monette says that it’s also harder to date an older woman because she is already set in her own ways, which isn’t always a bad thing – this just means that what you see is what you get. A man will be dealing with a confident, powerful force, so don’t expect her to change right away (or even at all). Some men (especially with children) may find this difficult to deal with.
“It is harder for an older woman to make adjustments at this stage. She is also more financially independent, and having herself to depend on makes her more discerning. She is no longer bound to biological timetable concerns. She has accepted the fact that she won’t have her own kids,” Monette said.
Lissy also agrees that as an older woman, one would have already established a level of independence and self-reliance, as well as a routine of solo living, which may make opening up and trusting another person even more difficult.
“‘Love involves being close to someone; it allows dependency, selflessness towards the other, and an absorption of the other,” Lissy said. “Having lived on your own for many of your adult years may not allow for these three things, since the focus has always been the care for the self.”
Like wine, dating also gets better with age
Of course, there are perks to dating later on in life, too. Cherry said that it does get easier and “more chill” in a sense; people-pleasing tendencies have left the building, which feels very empowering.
“Luckily, women have now built their self-worth and individuality through their careers and other relationships, and can already find fulfillment in who they have become,” Cherry said, which relates to Monette’s praise that an older woman is “financially and psychologically stronger,” too.
“She is definitely more confident and experienced at this stage,” Monette added.
Most older women won’t bother wasting time on mind games, guessing games, pabebe tampos, or blurred lines – they know what they want and don’t want, and find it fruitless to continue dating someone who does not pass the initial “vibe check.” Life is short, so why settle?
Plus, dating can reap many physical and emotional benefits for women, too! That first-day kilig high and finding genuine love can set off a natural, inner glow that radiates. After all, a woman’s best anti-aging serum is happiness, right?
From a therapist’s POV, other benefits you can get from a healthy adult relationship at any age includes a sense of acceptance and trust, happiness, mutual assistance, a shared life, companionship, passion, understanding, care, desire, and all the characteristics that make life “more fulfilling.”
“It can alleviate loneliness and isolation, if this is what you’re currently going through. At that age, a woman may feel that no one knows her intimately; that there is ‘no one there for them’ in times of need,” Lissy said. However, being single does not automatically mean that you are lonely! A partner can just help satisfy whatever needs you have at this given time and age – whether it’s companionship, sexual intimacy, recreation, socialization, or just simple wholesome fun.
Get back on that dating horse
So you want to start dating. Now what?
“Go out with friends,” said Cherry, who believes that you shouldn’t make a conscious effort to meet a guy. What’s important is to have fun and enjoy all your dates!
“Meet friends of friends, friends of officemates, or friends or acquaintances from way back. No use dating a stranger when you can go out with someone familiar or knows someone you know,” she said. To freely be yourself, always make sure you’re comfortable, so have your first dates in a “natural habitat” or a familiar place you frequent when you’re alone.
Cherry also recommends seeking “friends” and not suitors or lovers right away, and to always make a good impression by being genuine and kind. Monette also agrees, and personally finds that being match-made by friends is better than finding potential partners through dating apps.
“Guys may tend to date younger girls, but at the end of the day, guys date girls their age, and form a lasting friendship – if not a lasting relationship – with a woman who shares the same experiences growing up, finds the same things funny, speaks the same language, listens to the same music, or laughs at the same jokes,” Cherry said. Of course, don’t forget to be yourself.
“Whether at 16 or 60, the girl who stays true to herself always gains respect and a new friend, if not a boyfriend!” Cherry cheekily said.
Most importantly, don’t hesitate to put yourself out there. There are never any guarantees when dating, but what matters is that you’re having a good time. “It’s the moments that matter anyway,” Cherry said.
Embracing the bumps
When dating at any age, of course, there will always be some bumps along the road. Some age-specific roadblocks that older women may experience, according to Cherry, are the physical realities like weight gain, unwanted body changes, work demands, burnout, mood swings, and insecurities. These signs of “getting old” can get in the way of one’s self-esteem, but with extra effort to fight them, it can work!
To cope, Cherry priortizies exercise, eating healthy, staying fit and busy, taking up a hobby, listening to music, finding a source of inspiration, having a life outside of work and family, and keeping friends close.
“Just live with the roadblocks. They will be cleared when the right guy comes along,” she said.
It may be ironic, but don’t think about dating too much, either. It will happen when it does, and the one for you may show up when you least expect it, because “nothing ever happens before its right time,” Cherry said. Just focus on being the best version of yourself – happy, fun, outgoing, secure, positive, and confident – and the right guy will come and appreciate all you have to offer at the best time.
Therapist Lissy also advises to know yourself and your values – to be “discriminating” in choosing dates that are consistent with your values and beliefs, as to not waste time. Don’t be shy to discuss your dealbreakers right away – politics, religion, children, finances, and other important matters.
“Understand your motivation for dating – is it friendship, recreational, companionship, marriage – so as not to confuse yourself. Depending on the motivation for dating, be aware of what you can expect realistically to gain,” Lissy said.
When dating, it’s best to adopt an attitude of “curiosity and fascination,” Lissy said. Be interested when meeting other people, and also stay interesting! It’s a given, but don’t forget to take care of yourself physically, mentally, intellectually, socially, and emotionally, too. This means finding a solid support system of like-minded individuals to spend time with – let them know that you are open to dating and being introduced to their friends.
Of course, stay positive about yourself throughout – it is a journey of self-discovery after all, with the hopeful added bonus of a jowa or partner in life! What matters is staying true to yourself, prioritizing your peace and happiness, and being open and happy, whatever path the universe has in store for you. Whether or not a partner comes into your life, at least you know you’ve got yourself! – Rappler.com