As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to pay a lot more attention to every damn pore on my face. What retinol product should I use? Who is the best dermatologist in the city? Do those drinks that say they have collagen in them really help reduce wrinkles if you pay $60 for a week’s supply and drink them daily?
All this in an effort to maintain a youthful appearance. But what if my desirability wasn’t about how I looked at all? What if it was all in someone’s perception of age? Perhaps beauty isn’t in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps it’s in the number on your driver’s license. We decided to find out.
But, let’s face it: We must entertain the notion that some are perhaps not as enlightened on the subject as others. Are they fixated on the notion of age? Specifically, 29 versus 31? The Lindsay-Bot was deployed to find out. Cheng and Paul Mestemaker pushed the exact same profile of a woman – of me – out to thousands of men in New York and San Francisco to see who would bite. The only difference? In one profile she was listed as 29; in the other, 31.
Here are the photos they chose for our finished Lindsay-Bot. They reflect a variety of activites to make our bot well-rounded and more like a real human: Silly, musical, refined, adventurous, professional.
In general, the bot faired well – 83.5% swiped right on the 31-year-old version, and 83.2% chose the 29- year-old version. Granted, the data is skewed by the fact that people have the ability to self-select; meaning, men that didn’t want a 29-year-old could simply have set their age preferences to filter out any women 29 and younger. Conversely, a man who thinks 30 is too old for him can set his filter to a lower age.
But, I noticed an interesting pattern when I dove into the age distribution of the men swiping right on the 31-year old bot. In general, the closer the man’s own age was to 30, the less he liked the Lindsay-Bot. 25-and 35 year-olds had higher acceptance rates than those aged closer to 30.
Is there some mysterious force surrounding one’s 30th birthday that turns a woman – in the course of one birthday – from the stereotype of a fun-loving and fertile sex machine to the even worse stereotype of a bitter, past her prime hag?
The pattern is almost a perfect hyperbolic curve, with one outlying data “jump” at 31 (the bot still performed pretty poorly with 31 year-olds, however) and the average low point right at the big 3–ongst 25 to 27-year olds, and then around 36 she becomes popular again.
The pattern of the dip around 30 is not present when the Lindsay-Bot is 29, which strengthens the premise that seeing the number “3” in front of another digit for age makes a difference. She performs fairly consistently across all age groups.
So I’ve never been on a dating app and thus have far fewer dating stories than most to draw from, but I do have the following anecdote to share that backs up the general premise.
A man I had been dating for several years dumped me on his 30th birthday because he “didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life and wasn’t sure he could be in a relationship.” It was a big milestone birthday, so I tried to understand. But then I REALLY understood a week later when he had a new girlfriend…who was 25. Much as I would’ve liked to judge that choice (“he’s dating a baby!”), I didn’t really have a leg to stand on for no less than two months later, I got a new boyfriend, too. He was 24.
And that made me realize something. There is something about the age of 30, but it’s not what you think. It’s not that a woman suddenly loses her mojo. It’s that when someone reaches 30, they feel their own mortality and look for someone who makes them feel younger – a 25-year-old can certainly do that, but so can someone older.
I’ve felt the weight of time and mortality more now that I’m north of 30. “Tomorrow” has a whole new meaning. I no longer feel like I can take a day off because I only have a finite amount of tomorrows. I feel a new pressure to achieve the things I told myself I’d do – life only gets harder as we get older.
When it comes to dating, I’m even more exclusive than ever. Many tell me I should be more open and willing to date, but I think perhaps I have it right. I’ve learned from past mistakes that your gut is always right. I also know how short life is and wasting a second of it with the wrong people (romantic or otherwise) just doesn’t seem like a good use of time. And this is one place where I’m happy to say I’m waaaayyy too old to put up with bullshit.
By scraping Tinder’s API, researchers Karen X
But then I have those unguarded moments where I look in the mirror and wonder if I’m right after all. If I’m running out of time to attract the right partner. And then I think…”maybe it’s time I order a new batch of those collagen drinks.”