I thought things were going smoothly. We were chatting about cricket, he was buying me drinks, he was way too young and nothing was ever going to happen, but the flirting was good fun. Young men like to be flattered, indeed all men like to be flattered, but sometimes it’s more fun because, in the most part, young men aren't as jaded (and are out past 9pm).
Don’t get me wrong. I always do this with the right intentions. Everyone knows that the rules of decency are in place. That no harm will be done. What's wrong with a night of making someone feel nice about themselves? And that's part of it too, when my single middle-aged gal pals head out (very) occasionally. To see if we still have the power to attract and interact with men. Sometimes it can be the worst thing in the world, when it’s obvious you’re in no position, anymore, to compete with all the other women out on the town doing exactly the same thing.
There’s only so far a knowledge of the Big Bash, the love of a cocktail, and witty repartee can get you ... but that night it got me a little bit further than it usually does.
Until … he leaned in close (it was getting harder to hear over the music - but maybe that’s an age thing too) and whispered in my ear, “You know, you would really get along with my mum”.
I got mum zoned.
In the past few years where I’ve extricated myself from the couch to try my luck in the big wide world, not once have I been mum zoned.
In fact, there appears to be a rather long line of young men who are looking for an older woman if my online dating experiences are anything to go by*. They’re all looking for a woman who is sure of herself, who isn’t caught up in worrying about what other people think of her, a lot of them probably just have mummy issues but, when the mood strikes, I'm not going to apologise for the fact I like interacting with younger men.
But I’ve never been mum zoned.
And I didn’t like it. Sure I want to be the cool mum, like Gillian Flynn’s cool girl. That mum the friends of my children all like to hang out with because she’s not strict like their mum, letting the occasional swear word slip, able to talk to them about stuff that concerns them, not nag them about chores and homework and the state of their bedrooms (I do that to my own children.)
I don’t want to be the cool mum to young men almost old enough for me to contemplate what they might look like with their clothes off.
It’s not the first time I’ve been zoned since I’ve been middle-age single.
I’ve been smart zoned. Told I’ll never get a man to hang around for too long because I’m too smart. Didn’t know what to make of that one. I’ll never dumb myself down for anyone. I was smart enough to never see him again.
I’ve been friend zoned. Funnily enough by a few men who were actually friends. But that’s cool because we’re still friends.
I’ve been plain zoned too. I once had a man tell me it was lucky I wasn’t good looking because everything else about me was perfect, he just couldn’t date someone who looked like me.
I’ve also been zoned because I have kids, because I have pubic hair, because I believe in safe sex. It’s me, not them. Obviously.
But never mum zoned. Do women reach an age where that’s all we can be? Even if that’s what we are. Yes, I’m a mother but I’m also my own woman, something that has been a total joy to discover in recent years. Who I am without all the attachments, all of the time.
The weirdest thing about it all is that I probably would like his mother. A woman who’s raised a son, polite, confident, able to bowl leg spin. A woman who reminded him of me. Maybe I should have asked for her number.
* and by online dating experiences, I mean four actual dates and too many wasted hours online.