Sex and the biddy
I'm an attractive, 42-year-old single mom with a 13-year-old son. I've been widowed for three years, and I'm finally ready to date. I've found myself increasingly attracted to this man (actually, I'm yearning to jump his bones), but he's only 32. I sense the attraction may be mutual. The problem is, I'm the queen of mixed signals. If a good-looking guy checks me out in the grocery store, I scurry to another aisle and kick myself later. After this guy went out of his way to call to say he wished our conversation hadn't been interrupted at a party the night before, I told him, "I'm just needy; I'll talk to anyone who'll listen." Please don't tell me to find a man my age. They don't give me the time of day except for the ones who creep me out. What I can say or do to let this man know I'm interested without coming off as a desperate older woman? Own Worst Enemy
You're right to worry about coming off as a desperate older woman. You probably do sound desperate desperate to get rid of the guy: "I'm just needy; I'll talk to anyone who'll listen." Should he call back, maybe add, "You'll do, since the suicide hotline guys started hanging up on me when they realized I don't want to kill myself, just bore them to death."
Your signals to the guy might be mixed, but they're coming through loud and clear to me: You want a relationship; you're just too terrified to have one. You're probably scared of both success and failure: What if Stud Boy likes you? What if he likes you, then leaves you?! And you're sure the grocery store guy, upon closer appraisal, will realize he's made a terrible mistake, so you scurry away like a bug after the lights come on: "Yes, yes, I look like a woman, but I'm really a giant cockroach wearing a lot of Better Separates."
There's something in you that doesn't think all that highly of you the part that suspects this guy'll see you as some ridiculous old bag. Wowee, a whole 10-year age difference. (Any excuse'll do!) The truth is, some guys go for older women, often because they're drawn to their self-assurance and sexual confidence. After all, they can get insecure and self-defeating from a hot 20-year-old with breasts that haven't lost all their elastic.
Your problem is thinking you determine your hotitude by polling a bunch of other people, not simply by deciding you have hotitude and seeing who notices. (It's called "self-esteem," not "what-other-people-think-of-me-esteem.")
You can't just run to the corner and pick up a little self-acceptance, but you can start working toward it, starting by reading about it in Albert Ellis' A Guide to Rational Living. In the meantime, fake it: Act the part, and maybe the part will become part of you. Train by watching some of those hot-older-women-getting-it-on movies (the ones with Susan Sarandon and Rene Russo, not Susie Funbags and Renee Threeway). When you do meet a guy who creeps you out, your old insecure-speak should come in handy. Nothing usually makes a man on the make want to bolt like the words "I'm needy," except maybe for the announcement "I'm off my meds, I've got a loaded gun in my purse, and what a cool coincidence that the back of your shirt looks so much like a bull's-eye."
Straight eye for the queer-ish guy
I'm straight, but women sometimes think I'm gay. I'm 24, and have what some describe as "pretty boy" features. Apparently, I also have "gay mannerisms." Is there something I can do to become more masculine? Are there masculine traits or hobbies I could adopt? Straight But Misunderstood
Um ... having sex with women. Then cutting out at 3 a.m., and saying "I'll call you." And then not calling. You could also burp a lot and scratch your groin. Of course, then you'll probably just seem like a gay guy with indigestion and crabs. OK, so maybe if you start hanging with a bunch of stereotypically straight guys, and really practice walking the walk and talking the talk (keeping hand gestures to a minimum, especially those involving a lot of wrist), you might seem a notch or two butchier.
But, ultimately, some bit of swishy business is going to slip through, and you'll be mistaken for, well, you. Your best bet is just accepting that, and hitting on women you find attractive lots of them, since you need to find those few who like their men less masculine, and because you're bound to attract more than a few who'd like a gay best friend.
Before long, you should be sashaying off on dates with gayish pride: "We're here, we're straight but a little femmy, get used to it!"