If you had talked to me a year ago as I sat in what I would be generous in describing as half a cubicle, you would have found me gradually growing paler, more cynical, and increasingly in despair of my professional and romantic future under blinding fluorescent lights and asbestos-filled ceiling tiles. If you had told me that in a year’s time, I would be getting paid to travel around Europe for months at a time while eating amazing food, drinking in wonderful culture (and a shit ton of wine), and having a fling with a 21-year-old, I would have burst out laughing in your face.
And yet, here I am, turning 28 this week, traveling around cities I’ve only read and dreamed about, attending symphonies and operas until my heart’s content, with no real responsibilities outside of work, and sexting the 21-year-old who guards my office building. When I started telling my friends about “BB Brad” as I call him (because he’s just a lil’ bb), I could see the confusion on their faces across the ocean via the miracle of FaceTime as they quickly tried to recover and sound like they weren’t shocked.
I came into this temporary Europe assignment knowing that all of my new coworkers were married with newborns or young children so I would have to make my own entertainment. After dinners for one started getting old, I began to notice the squad of extremely attractive American security guys who badged me in and out of the office every day. I guessed they were mayyyyyybe 24 or 25, but decided that was close enough and made my move by approaching the two friendliest/cutest ones as I came back from coffee.
“Hey, guys,” I offered my brightest smile and leaned in conspiratorially. They both looked up from their little window and immediately beamed when they recognized me. I’m the only single American female in the entire building, so they were just as happy to see me as I was to see them. “Do you guys ever… go out?” I asked, batting my eyelashes.
Fast forward 24 hours later to me trying not to splutter into my Jack and Coke as the more flirtatious and cocky of the two told me that they had all just turned 21. American Quinn would have said, “Jesus Christ,” downed her drink, and gotten the hell out of there. I don’t know if it was his admittedly chiseled jawline, the fact that he has almost 0% body fat, or his incredibly brilliant smile, but European Quinn said, “Fuck it, I’m doing it.” We bar hopped with his security friends and eventually I found myself making out with this 21-year-old in a salsa bar until 4 a.m.
Since then, we’ve seen each other every day at work, gone out to dinner a few times a week, made out in public places, and he’s slept over every night that he’s not on duty. This guy and I have nothing in common AT ALL other than the building we work in, but we’ve found ourselves enjoying each other’s company immensely.
Do we have the most intellectual of conversations? I mean… no… but I’m helping him figure out his plans for college, teaching him about wine and charcuterie, keeping him away from his favorite McDonalds (*quiet sobs*), and taking him to museums and symphonies, and he’s helping me break out of my jaded cynical shell, making me laugh, and teaching me how to do flaming shots off the bar… and yes, being just generally super attractive.
He’s still young enough to get excited by the fact that he’s “doing adult stuff” like going to wine tastings and getting laid on the reg with someone he can actually talk to, and I feel like I’ve shed a burden of cynicism and jadedness that I didn’t know I was carrying. It’s so nice to “date” someone that doesn’t want anything from you and who doesn’t want to play that game of chicken to see who can care the least.
In the past, I’ve bought into the whole DC dating mantra (not specific to DC, but I feel it’s especially bad there) of wanting to find someone equally successful/high potential who has time to support your career, is well-educated and cultured, ambitious, not too young (so they’re looking for something serious), but not too old (so they don’t try to wife you up ASAP) and actually has a personality that doesn’t make you want to gouge your eyes out. My dating apps were set to 28+ and I was CONVINCED this perfect person didn’t exist. You know what I’ve figured out over these last few weeks? That person probably DOESN’T exist, and even if they did, I don’t think I would want to date them.
I’ve been thinking about why I’m having so much fun with this guy whose life path has so clearly followed a different trajectory than mine and I think it’s because it’s so completely free of any expectations. There was absolutely 0 of the typical tentativeness that usually characterizes the first few dates. He’s still young and optimistic enough that he’s not cautiously sizing me up, wondering if he’ll have to ghost me in case (god forbid) it turns out that I’m looking for a serious relationship, and I’m not already wondering if he’ll be more like typical arrogant asshole #1 or typical boring oatmeal asshole #2. No wonder I and everyone else I know think dating is fucking EXHAUSTING. When you approach it that way, it is.
What I’m trying to say is… WE’RE IN LOVE AND GETTING MARRIED, YOU GUYS. Lol, jk jk jk. Nah, we both know this is just an extended vacation fling. To quote the Bible (possibly a first for me): “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Yeah, I’m using the Bible to justify my sordid cougar affair with a 21-year-old, what of it?
What I’m really trying to say is that this kid who had a difficult upbringing and no higher education or “culturing” to speak of has been more fun, refreshing, and rewarding to date in just a few weeks than the 8 billion “accomplished” and “educated” cookie cutter Brads I’ve dated in my over a decade of dating. There are already some things I don’t think I can go back to in the US in a few weeks, like paying more than $3 a glass for amazing wine, seeing world-class operas for more than $5, and having a transportation system that doesn’t smell like vomit or catch on fire… but I think I may have to add dating guys my own age to that list.
Ladies, get yo’self a 21 year old. It’ll do wonders for your dating fatigue, sex life, and general happiness. Trust me, you’ll thank me later! Gentlemen… yeah, I already know you’re all going to hate this column, but if I wrote something you actually liked that wouldn’t be very on-brand for me, now would it? *kisses from Europe* Love, Quinn. .