I sipped a fruity cocktail and looked at the river of bodies. There were so many well-dressed people, having intimate conversations drowned out by the soft music. There were few stars in the sky, and the wind was blowing softly, rustling dresses. We were on the terrace of the 3rd floor of WINGS in Victoria Island, and we were there for the premiere of A Hotel Called Memory, a silent movie produced by Ego Boyo.
I noticed a young man walking towards me. His walk was purposeful, determined. I couldn’t recognize him. He was wearing a white shirt, tucked into a pair of black trousers accessorized with suspenders. He was about six feet, he had rich dark skin, and he was thoroughly handsome. He stopped about six inches in front of me.
“Hello. My name is Patrick,” he said, reaching out his hand.
“My name is Funke,” I replied as I shook him. From the softness of his hands and the boyish grin perched on his face, I knew he was young. Very young.
“I saw you when you walked in,” he said, still holding my hand, “and I just came over to tell you that I am very attracted to you.”
Warm surprise washed all over me. Normally I would have given a witty comeback – “Really?” or “Is that so?” or “I am attracted to you too” – but at that moment, my tongue couldn’t find any of these phrases. He looked too innocent, too fragile. I knew my venom would kill something in his spirit.
And so I laughed and pulled my hand away from his. “Wow…” I said, still laughing.
“Yes…” he said, as he stood beside me. “I just saw you standing here alone and I thought that I would come and say hi and tell you that I am attracted to you.”
I looked at his face, at his black framed glasses, at his white shiny teeth. I laughed again and took another sip of my cocktail.
“So what do you do?” I asked.
“I just finished my NYSC,” he said firmly, as though he already suspected that would discourage me. Then he added quickly, “But I am a fashion designer and I will be launching my fashion label next year.”
“How old are you?” I asked.
At that point, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted. For heaven’s sake, he was younger than my youngest brother!
“What’s funny?” he asked, smiling.
“Well… you are young,” I said, looking at his shiny black shoes.
“How old are you?” he asked.
I paused briefly, imagining how he would react when I told him my age. I took my eyes to his face. “I am 29.”
“Wow… I would never have guessed,” he said, sweeping his eyes all over my body with glaring admiration.
At that moment, I pulled down my skirt for a reason unknown to me.
“Have you ever dated a younger man?” he asked, as he took a sip of his drink.
I took my eyes to a bald light-skinned man ordering a cocktail from a makeshift bar and pondered on the question briefly. The answer was simple: No. And for good reason; at my age, I was already more mature than most of my male age mates (you know what they say – women mature faster than men). And so, I couldn’t imagine dating someone who was younger than me. I didn’t have the strength to change male diapers filled with smelly egos and temper tantrums.
At that moment, the wind brought a faint fragrance to my nostrils. It was earthy, woody. I wondered if it was from Patrick. I took my eyes back to his face. “No,” I said.
He leaned on the railing that separated us from a beautiful view of the lagoon. A small slice of yellow light rested on his left cheekbone, which made him look even younger.
“Well…” he said, “I have always been attracted to women who are older than me because I always feel that there is something they can teach me… you know what I mean, like I can learn from them.”
The last part of his statement – “like I can learn from them” – troubled me.
Why should a younger man want to learn from an older woman?
Shouldn’t it be the other way around, a younger woman learning from an older man?
Then the red lipstick and leather boot wearing feminist in me came to the surface of my consciousness.
Why is it that when a woman dates an older man, she is seen as wise and smart, but when a man dates an older woman, he is seen as lazy and slow?
I had dated older men in the past, and my present relationship is with an older man (he is four years older than me). So If I could do it, then what stopped Patrick from doing the same? Absolutely nothing.
“I understand,” I finally said.
We stood there for a while and talked about many things: my job, his plans for his fashion label, his childhood, my childhood, the economy. Then a wave hit the river of bodies: it was time to go inside and see the movie.
I placed my glass on the bar counter. As much as I enjoyed the conversation with Patrick, I knew it would not lead anywhere. And the funny thing was that he never asked me if I was dating someone, so I didn’t bother volunteering the information.
“I am going inside…” I said.
“Okay then…” he said, looking around. “Let me just catch up with my friend who I came with and I will see you inside.”
“Okay…” I said, already walking away.
When I settled down inside the hall, I noticed he was sitting in front of me. He looked back briefly and smiled. In a way, his face looked like a mash-up of both my brothers’ faces. I smiled back.
After the movie, I made a dash towards the exit, car keys firmly in my hand; I was almost 10 pm and I couldn’t wait to get home. Then I saw Patrick walking towards me, hands in his pockets, eyes pointed at my face.
“So you are running away?” he asked shyly when he got to me.
“I am tired,” I said, still walking.
He took the hint and started walking beside me. “I really like you Funke… Can I have your number?”
I knew I was about to break his fragile heart – oh well, maybe not to so fragile – and the earnest expression on his face didn’t make it any easier.
I stopped walking. “I am dating someone…” I said, with my eyes on the collar of his shirt. It looked crisp, well starched.
He bent his head down and adjusted his glasses. When his head came back up, his eyes were misty, like he was about to cry. I was so confused.
“Okay then,” he said, his shoulders stooped in defeat. “I wish you and your man well. Take care.”
He turned and started to walk away. Though he had long legs, he took small reluctant steps, as though he was wanted me to call him back.
Now over to you!
Have you ever been toasted by a younger man?
What do you think about young men dating older women?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.