How Dating A Commitment-Phobe 12 Years My Junior Healed Me

Photo: Getty 
How Dating A Man With A Fear Of Commitment Healed Me
Love, Self

He didn’t treat me like a MILF or cougar or an object and he talked to me like a normal person.

On paper he was a cliche. In reality he was one of the best matches for me that I have ever encountered. Our age difference (I’m 12 years his senior) and different stages of life ultimately torpedoed any long-term potential. But I will always be grateful to him.

Unintentionally he healed some long-standing wounds — today’s story. And provided me with some clarity about dating and chemistry — to be featured in a future story.

Although I’m attracted to guys a bit younger than me or right around my age*, I’m NO cougar. I had blown off or politely declined every guy under 36 that approached me online.

He was one of the first guys I “met” on Match when I was barely 42 and newly single. His photos were blurry, he was 30 (!), and I had no intention of interacting with him.

What can I say? He talked to me like a normal person. He didn’t treat me like a MILF or cougar or an object. It was refreshing. He stood out immediately.

I was immensely amused to learn he was a tennis instructor! Tall, super tan, athletic and lean, occasional surfer, hair to his shoulders. There are a handful of dating cliches that exist for the middle-aged woman to “conquer.” He checked all the boxes!

RELATED: 5 Mature Things Young Guys Find Totally SEXY About Older Women

On the outside we looked completely mismatched, but it turned out his family was from one of the North Florida beach towns near my hometown. He had been a semi-pro tennis player in Europe for awhile. (I had studied in London and have spent a bit of time abroad.) His unique upbringing translated into a captivating joie de vivre.

He was chill but passionate. He had a Southern California vibe with an SAT vocabulary. We flirted about Bond babes, Sade, and mermaids.

I have written about what my type is NOT. Much to my surprise, the more I got to know this walking cliche, the more I found myself intrigued by him. The hot, one-time semi-pro tennis instructor was QUITE my type.

Alright, I dubbed him “Spicoli,” as in Sean Penn’s character from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He was smarter and better looking than Spicoli. And his voice was intoxicatingly rich and deep. But his vibe? Spicoli-ish.

It took us over a year and a half to meet. I’m still not sure why. I did have an on-and-off again beau during much of that time.

But Spicoli earned his name by being REALLY non-committal in meeting me. I would hear from him. He’d occasionally send a photo of the beach when he would return to North Florida. (He never sent me anything risque!)

But he never asked me out. He would hint around. He would vaguely suggest. He would flirt unabashedly. But he never took me out.

On a steamy August night we finally met almost a year and a half after that first message from him. He worked late and I’m nocturnal. We met at my favorite tucked away viewing spot of Austin around midnight. I reckon you could call it a make-out spot.

It had been 18 months of texting, talking on the phone, and this was our first meeting. I was nervous but it also felt very relaxed. There were no expectations on his part or mine.

I was in a green halter dress. He walked up, immediately hugging me. It was instant chemistry. Immediate ease. I’m not sure he ever took his hand off of me the entire time we were together.

He wasn’t gropey or creepy. To this day sitting next to him admiring the bright lights of downtown from afar while laughing and smiling was one of the most natural first dates I have ever had.

That kind of chemistry is mostly elusive for me. If you’ve had it, you know it. If you’re a middle-aged divorced chick…well, if you’re me…you don’t question it. You simply thank the dating gods for it.

We made out like high schoolers, but kept it clean. I had established some boundaries before we met. He honored them and all was good.

If you are looking for a more salacious story, I’m not your writer. But there are plenty of ’em out there in Mediumland.

I can’t remember when I saw Spicoli again. It was at least a year. But it might have been longer.

He would text me. Flirt with me. Loosely make dates with me that he invariably forgot about. He would disappear for months and then reappear as if nothing had happened. He had at least one girlfriend during that time.

RELATED: 7 Harsh Truths About Dating Younger Guys

I dated. But mostly I got cancelled on, forgotten, ditched, and ignored during that window of time. 2016, which included this dating story and lesson, was particularly cruel, dating-wise.

And then we finally saw each other again.

Although much time had passed our chemistry was as strong as it had been our first meeting. We made loose plans to hang out again.

But we didn’t.

He disappeared again.

I was disappointed, but he had shared something with me during our time together that changed my life.

We talked about his previous girlfriend. It turns out she was about my age.

He was very frank with me. Although this woman was attractive, he confided: “She wasn’t like you. She didn’t turn me on. Something was missing. I tried to throw myself into the relationship. I even gave it a second chance, but she didn’t make me feel the way you did.”

I was floored! Without going into a ton of my history, I have some deep-rooted insecurities that Spicoli was unaware of.

He had no idea that by sharing this brief tale about his failed relationship and his attraction to me, he was providing me some much-needed healing.

To be perceived as attractive, desirable, and sexy by this young, hot (but shockingly grounded) tennis stud was an incredible gift for my shattered ego.

Some time later Spicoli re-entered my life one last time. He wrote to me declaring that he was ready for a real relationship with me. I communicated my skepticism given how many times he had told me similar things before and never followed through.

We spoke on the phone on a Sunday night and he made his case. He surprised me with his realizations and intentions. I agreed to an official date with him the following Saturday night. I did not hear from him for 5 days. I received one text that Friday.

3 years, 2 sort-of-dates, a dozen broken ones, endless texting, a handful of phone calls, several damn good kisses, the promise of making some sort of commitment to making me a priority. And I got blown off for 5 days.

RELATED: 5 Amazing Perks Of Dating Younger Men (Plus, 5 Reasons It Sucks)

So I explained to Spicoli that his idea of a relationship did not align with mine. I thanked him for all he had done (without going into the specifics of my history). And I wished him the best.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Spicoli. I could choose to be resentful or angry or frustrated. But those emotions seem all wrong when I think of him.

I’m not always so generous with guys from my past, but I am with him. He wasn’t malicious. He was mostly clueless and at a completely different point in his life.

In the end, though, he made me feel beautiful and desired. For me. He got hit on all the time. If he wanted to be with someone just for a physical connection, he had plenty of other options.

So many dating experiences have wounded me. Crushed my soul. Devastated me.

I can sincerely say that my interaction with Spicoli has helped me.

Who knew that the much younger, really good looking, surfer/tennis instructor would so profoundly impact me?

Healing can happen in likely places (therapy, reading, courses, talking with friends and family). And sometimes healing materializes in unexpected ways. Thanks, Spicoli, wherever you are!

*(Humblebrag or not: in real life NO ONE ever thinks I’m in my 40s much less 46. Just the past couple of months 3 different people thought I was in my 20s. That is absurd and I’m sure they need glasses, but nonetheless, I look about 8–10 years younger than I am.

This is mostly a blessing, but online it’s a curse. My age shines like a beacon and cuts like a knife. Most dudes that I would be interested in won’t even consider me due to my age. Ironically if they met me in person, they would never suspect I was in my mid-40s. Yes, yes: #firstworldproblems.)

RELATED: 3 Surprising Benefits Of Dating A Man Your Own Age

Bonnie Barton shares authentic tales about life lessons and dating foibles. Find more of her work, including her music/fashion/travel blog Bonnie's Mixed Tape, on Medium.

This article was originally published at P.S. I Love You. Reprinted with permission from the author.