How Going Out With An Older Man Changed My Perspective On Dating

"How much older would you date?"

"How much younger is cougar-ish?"

I've heard these questions thrown around my different groups of girlfriends. In committed relationships or not, age seems to play an important role in determining if someone can come to Grandma's for Thanksgiving, or if they're just going to buy you tequila shots at the bar every weekend.

I used to think that dating older was the only way to go. While I have not ever seriously dated someone younger, I recently found myself on a date with someone who was almost 10 years my senior.

Kyle* and I met out on St. Patrick's Day. We were both a reasonable amount of tipsy, but we had a lot in common, so I felt confident giving him my number.

A few days later, he texted me, and we made plans to grab drinks over the next week. On the one date that I had with him (and several bits of texting before and after), Kyle showed me a few things that I had never experienced.

1. He really listened to what I was saying.

While we were having drinks, we both shared bits of our lives — anecdotes, interests, jobs, etc. He asked me very attentive questions, and days later when we were texting, he followed up on things that I told him.

Needless to say that this both surprised and delighted me to know that he listened to me. I feel like this is pathetic that I was THIS surprised by this. Guys and gals, freaking listen to what your dates are saying when they talk.

2. He didn't text me 24/7.

When I gave him my number, he waited a couple days before texting me, and when he did, he didn't text me nonstop. He asked about my day and wanted to make plans to see each other. Once those plans were made, I didn't hear from him until the day of the date when he was confirming the particulars. He saved the conversations for the actual date.

Why is this such a strange concept to me? If you text someone new nonstop before even meeting up, what will you have to talk about if you already know his sister is getting married this summer, that "Catch 22" changed his life or that he lives for March Madness? Save these things for the date because hearing a story in person is 1,000 times better than via text, and you actually get to know them better.

3. He was respectful.

I don't know if "Law and Order: SVU" or Tinder horror stories are to blame for my paranoia over going out with someone new, but I have this weird thing about getting into a car with someone or letting someone know where I live when I don't even know their middle name. Therefore, I always insist on meeting a new dude somewhere so a) I feel safe and b) I can escape if he starts talking about his love of setting mouse traps (this actually happened to me once).

Other guys that I have gone out with fought me on meeting me out. I'm sure they were probably trying to be chivalrous or something, but Kyle just accepted it and didn't push me on it.

4. He was attentive.

While we were out, he arrived at the bar first. So when I got there, he had already had time to peruse the menu and decide on a drink and assess the tapas. But when the waitress came to ask us what we wanted, I hadn't even so much as opened mine. Instead of ordering and making me rush to find something that I liked, he simply asked me if I needed a minute to decide. Small gesture, yes, but to a girl who is used to dating arrogant, selfish dudes, I found this to be lovely.

5. He didn't force anything.

Even though the date was fine and I genuinely think Kyle is a nice person, I just didn't feel any chemistry between us. I don't know if it's the age or if I just am not attracted to him, but I don't foresee anything beyond a friendship.

He did text me to ensure I made it home safely after our date but then waited a few days to ask me out again. When I said that I was busy he replied with an apology for being presumptuous to ask for another date. This absolutely floored me. Sensing romantic rejection, rather than being a dick and blowing me off he apologized for making me feel awkward in having to use the word "friends" to turn down his offer.

Turns out his close friend is my neighbor, and we made plans to grab drinks with our friends another time and it was the least awkward conversation involving rejection that I've ever had.

Even though Kyle and I are not headed for wedded bliss, I thoroughly enjoyed going out with him and getting to know him. Obviously, these things could just be because he is a nice guy, but I am chalking this up to going out with someone who is older than I and has dated much more than I have.

Dating an older guy has raised the bar for my expectations of people who want to spend time with me, and I think that all men and women should take note from how he approached and began to court me. Rather than act like I owed him a second date, he kindly asked to take me out to a restaurant that I had mentioned during our first date, and when I declined this lovely offer, he sincerely apologized for making me feel uncomfortable and having to turn down the date.

In those first stages of dating, it can be uncomfortable for everyone involved, but simply being kind and genuinely interested in the person sitting across from you will go so much further than texting them all day long for a week before having the guts to actually spend time with them in person.

*Names have been changed.