Aug. 24 2011 12:00 AM

Spring, chicken!


Q: A co-worker seems interested in me. This is flattering since he’s 48 and I’m 57. He’s asked me out on dates a few times —
rather last minute, unfortunately, and I had conflicting plans. He also
invited me to join his volleyball club that plays in the park during
lunch breaks. The group is all men except for one 30-something woman,
who banters a lot with this guy and is grudgingly nice, if not cool, to
me. My intuition’s sending up caution flags! I don’t want to trample
over a girl who has feelings for this man. I want nothing to do with
causing pain for another woman! Should I just come out and tell this man
what my intuition’s telling me? Ask him what’s up between him and the
young woman? 


A: Self-interest is at its most presentable when
dressed up in a Florence Nightingale outfit. (You’re only worried about
causing another woman pain, not whether your crow’s-feet are starting to
look more like pterodactyl claws.)

The average guy is more likely to be attracted to “Barely
Legal!” than “Almost Of Age To Retire To The Home.” This particular guy
doesn’t seem to be average. Sure, he might have invited you to
volleyball to be inclusive, but dates — which he’s asked you on —
are very rarely a form of philanthropy. Chances are, the guy’s into
you, and apparently not for a lack of options. This has to be irritating
to the younger woman, who probably thought she’d have the “hot young
thing” advantage. Okay, at 30-something, at least the “hot younger
thing” advantage. What’s a girl in her position to say but “Shoo,

You should worry about causing pain for another woman if
you’re about to break up her happy home, but you’re just breaking up the
all-boy/one-girl ratio of the volleyball league and maybe getting the
guy. If you’re like many women, you not only are uncomfortable with
competing, you feel it’s mean to try to win —
even if your tactic is just wearing a really good bra, not going after
your rival with a medieval battle ax. Probably because women evolved to
be the nurturers and cooperators of the species, they tend to feel
guilty about going for what they want and resentful if another woman
gets it. Although it’s nice to be compassionate, deferring to everyone
else’s desires is no way to go through life. It’s good and right to act
in your self-interest, assuming you aren’t poisoning the rivers or
parboiling small children.

Puking your feelings all over this guy’s shoes won’t
settle anything; it’s just an impulsive way to relieve pent-up anxiety.
(If things weren’t awkward between you before, not to worry; they will
be.) If you need stress relief, get a squeeze ball or one of those
desktop sand gardens with a tiny wooden rake. Because things are always
bigger and scarier in the abstract, if you’re afraid of being hurt,
consider how, exactly, that would play out and whether you can deal.
Getting emotionally trampled is painful, but not like being crushed by
falling space debris. You go through some miserable-time, and then you
lick your wounds and move on. If that’s too much for you, retire from
relationships to the porch swing at The Home and train for the sort of
competition that, at 57, you’ll be a shoo-in to win — the chair yoga/walker push/sponge bath triathlon.