The guy I'm dating is lying about his age, what do I do?

Am I overreacting? Should I just ask him how old he is, and see if he tells me the truth?

Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly beg people to either stop dating someone or to ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency. 


AN ANGEL:

I started seeing someone about six weeks ago who I met on Tinder. We have a lot in common, I find him really attractive, and we’re on the same page about covid safety. He’s super vocal about how much he’s into me, he’s smart, cares about the environment, and is generally a kind and empathetic person, from what I can tell. Our sexual compatibility is pretty great too.

From the start I’ve known he was a little bit older than me. I’m almost 24 and according to his profile, he’s 35. However, things got weird when I told a friend of mine about him. Immediately she recognized him from the picture I showed her. She talked to him on Hinge a week ago (totally fine, it’s too early for us to be exclusive,) but his age on there is listed as 33. This led to us looking him up in a database where it has his correct address, phone number, employment history and everything… and it says he is actually 41.

To be honest, I don’t really care about his age. Yeah, he’s closer to my dad’s age than mine. Yeah, by the time I was born, he could probably drive a car. My age range goes up to 40 and he’s one year older than that. Not a huge deal. I’m attracted to him, and most of the time it doesn’t feel like there’s a huge difference between us, other than the fact that he makes a lot more money than I do and has a bit more life experience. 

The thing that I can’t shake is the deception. I feel like he doesn't respect me enough to tell me the truth. It makes me wonder if there are other things he’s lying to me about. I also wonder why he seems to be purposely trying to be shown to younger women, after he told me that at first he was worried that I might be too young for him. 

Am I overreacting? Should I just ask him how old he is, and see if he tells me the truth? Or is this my sign to run? I feel like it’s possible that he’s just insecure about his age, and he’ll eventually tell me. I also feel like maybe I’m the weirdo for finding out about all of this, even though I kind of just stumbled upon the lie. I have no idea where to go from here, and any advice would be appreciated.

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SOPHIA:

Ok, this is the plot of a 90s sitcom! Who is lying about their age in the year of our lord 2021?!!? Who has the time!!!! Who doesn’t assume that the internet will out them!!!! Also, who has the time to create separate profiles with separate lies?!!! WILD! BRAVE! BOLD! (But not in a good way). I mean what if you had seen him on Hinge and seen the age discrepancy? Does he think you wouldn’t recognize him? I… I kind of have no words for this.

On the one hand, it does seem very shitty to have to sever a connection with someone who seems very compatible with you. (And covid safe!!!) People are often quick to jump to “LEAVE THEM; THIS IS A DEAL-BREAKING RED FLAG,” as if leaving people is easy or unemotional. It’s not! Additionally, I hear that dating someone his age isn’t in and of itself a deal breaker for you (more on this in a second).

That said, I would like to linger a bit on just how fucking weird (and potentially creepy) this is of him. I think you are 100% correct in questioning if this is about him getting to date younger women, knowing—as he does, too!— that people set their dating parameters thoughtfully. The age parameters are a boundary that YOU set because that is what you’re comfortable with. He’s bulldozing that boundary with his lie. He KNOWS for a fact that his lie puts him in certain people’s dating pool that he would not normally be in— most likely that means he gets matched with a lot more young women. That is wrong. I mean, it’s just wrong. There’s no sugar coating that; you’re lying to people and you’re doing it in a way that has predatory implications, even if the intent was not that.

I think you are also correct in asking yourself, “Is this the only thing he’s lying about?” Setting aside situations where I felt unsafe, I cannot imagine lying to someone on a date about anything other than like “I’ve always wanted to try that hike!” It is WEIRD to lie about something so large. What does he think is going to happen? When does he plan to tell you? Never? How does he think that’s going to go? Does he think you’ll be fine with it? Does he think most people would be fine with this? And again: IS THERE MORE YOU DON’T KNOW? Was he married before? Does he have kids? There are about 6-8 extra years of past unaccounted for!

I’m not sure there’s any not-damning line of thinking from him, here. If he does for some reason think you won’t mind at all—which is, on its own, a banana pancakes belief of his—then why hasn’t he told you?? It frankly doesn’t look good. I would love to come up with a really generous explanation of what I think he could be thinking and I simply cannot get there. He not only lied on his profile, but he is perpetuating the lie day in and day out with you!

And the weirdest part of all of this is that if he just hadn’t lied he wouldn’t be having any problems!!! Obviously, on a very literal level, you two wouldn’t have matched on the app you’re currently on, but I’m imagining you two meeting in another setting or him meeting someone else with their age parameters in line with his real age. His age didn’t have to be a whole thing like this!

Although—and here is where I’m about to write some shit that might get me some flak; I’m going to try to do my thoughts justice via the written word, but bear with me, this is a thorny topic—I do think his real age taken outside of the lying factor is a bit…dicey.

I want to start by saying that I am dating someone older than I am. I also want to make it super super super clear that YOUR BOUNDARIES AND DECISIONS ARE YOURS. You are an adult. You know what you’re ok with and what you’re not. You are wise and free to do whatever you would like. Beyond that, if someone does harm you, it is not YOUR fault, but theirs. This next part is not at you and your behavior, but rather a short examination of a common pattern of older men’s behavior that I want you to hear so you can think about how it informs your current relationship.

I am not egotistical enough to think that you don’t know this shit, that I am the first person to come up with this and share this information with you. I am sure you’ve heard it before, but I think it bears repeating. (I’m also not trying to be condescending in any way since I’m only 5 years older than you are!!!!)

Ok, disclaimers over! Here are my thoughts:

I think it’s frankly weird for a 41 year old to want to be hanging around a 23 year old—not because 23 year olds aren’t phenomenal. One of my best friends just recently turned 24! Women in their early twenties are extremely delightful as a group; they are all “my big sweeties.” But I am not a 41 year old man who is trying to date these women.

I am 28 and I often feel the gap between myself and my 21 year old sister as a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon. When she and her friends tell me about the people they’re into romantically/sexually I’m like… that person is a baby! Not that you need me to do the math but this guy is 18 years older than you. Do you want to date 18 year olds? Does it not feel like that era of your life is behind you? Obviously, we are all socialized to find younger women more attractive than we are younger men (for gross, creepy reasons) but I have questions as to why he isn’t feeling that weird-out factor; even if a 41 year old guy dating a 23 year old woman is relatively common and socially acceptable, that doesn’t make it not…wonky.

As we all age, the gaps between ages become less important. For example, the difference between a new born and a five year old is FUCKING MASSIVE but the difference between someone who is forty and someone who is forty five is quite literally nothing. That age gap doesn’t matter because both people have relatively similar amounts of power and experience in their lives. (Obviously, there are individual examples where a forty year old or forty five year old might have huge gaps in experience or power. But let’s just imagine the average scenario). Additionally, he is lying by a lot. 33 instead of 41 is egregious. That’s not just trimming a year or two off your age—that’s pretending you’re in another stage of life! And I suspect that is intentional.

The answer to the question of why men in their 40s want to date women in their EARLY 20s (and again this is a very common dynamic. Very, very common to the point of cliche!!) is to me very obvious: they want to get away with being mild-to-moderately shitty to you. They are hoping that you have not yet learned boundary setting, how to advocate for yourself. They are hoping that the opportunities they offer with things like money and housing and sometimes job connections/status will be enough for you to overlook the not-so-great shit they do.

They may not do it all the time or even often, but the idea is that young women have been socialized to go along with people, especially men, to smooth things over, to look the other way, to be a team player, to be chill.

!Massive generalization alert! As women age, we tend to get less chill. We tend to have learned lessons from the last five men that treated us Kind of Shitty / Fully Like Shit and we put our foot down sooner. We don't tolerate as much and we ask for more. We get tired of partners who won’t introduce us to their families or who don’t text back for days. We start having Reasonable Expectations. And a lot of men chafe at Reasonable Expectations. This is not some biological thing, it’s another generalization, but it’s a generalization based on how we tend to socialize men and women. (Certainly, how we are socialized depends a lot on other intersectional factors as well like race, class, and sexuality. For the purposes of this article, I’m focusing more on the dynamic that I’m guessing at between you and the guy you’re dating).

I don’t know if this guy is actively cognizant of any of this. He might just be thinking “younger perkier tits!!!!!!!!!!!!” (which is also gross) and not “younger perkier tits PLUS she won’t ask too much of me emotionally so I can get away with shit!!!!!!” AGAIN BOTH ARE GROSS!!! But one is more nefarious in my opinion.

He also might totally be the exception and you two have a great connection and the relative power dynamic between the two of you is very equal and stable and he’s emotionally intelligent enough to be able to navigate the dynamics of an age gap relationship with you. I have my doubts, however, because that requires honesty and he isn’t even giving you that. Which frankly is kind of the bare minimum.

Ok, now for what to do about all of this:

I don’t think it’s wrong to bring his age up and see what he says about lying. (I would not try to lay out a trap for him or see if he tells you the truth this time; he has already lied to you, so that’s moot). You can literally just say, “I saw your age on another app and it doesn’t match what you told me. I’d like to know what your actual age is, but also I’m concerned about you lying.” You don’t need to tell him anything more elaborate than that. It’s not weird of you to have found this information out, and he doesn’t need to know how you know. Obviously, if he lies STILL, oooooof you gotta get out of there. If you are super satisfied with his answer—I’m not sure how that would occur; for me, this is a creepy deal breaker, but I am not the one in the relationship—great! If you aren’t, end things.

Alternatively, I do not think you need to have any conversation where you give him a chance to redeem himself/save the relationship. You can simply say, “I found out that you were lying about your age, which makes me very uncomfortable. Lying is a deal breaker to me, even if you had no ill intentions. I’m sorry but we shouldn’t see each other anymore.” Lying to you is a very reasonable hard boundary!

Frankly, I’m very sorry to you that his lie has put you in this position. You should not be having to do the work to untangle whether this guy is a good guy who told a stupid lie or if he’s being a real creep. Unfortunately, good relationships are almost never ever built on a lie (possible exception: Mr. & Mrs. Smith—but they almost killed each other a bunch of times). Even if the relationship stays casual, I don’t think you want to deal with constantly obsessing over whether what he tells you is true or not. I would not want to put energy into something like that.

But again, you decide your deal breakers! You decide what you are willing to put up with and what you want to spend your energy on! You do not need to offer him the floor to explain himself, but if you feel like that helps you, go for it. Do what works best for you.


You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at 1followernodad@substack.com