Catherine Townsend: When it comes to love, older is not always wiser
A friend recently suggested that I try Cosmic Ordering, which involves writing down your wishes on a piece of paper and waiting for the cosmos to come through.
I was sceptical, but aided by two bottles of wine at dinner, I began my list with, "6ft-plus, emotionally mature, supportive of my job, kind, generous, loving, intelligent, 10-15 years older, massive penis!" (After all, this was a wish list!)
I crumpled the note in a drawer, passed out on my bed in my clothes, and forgot all about it. Exactly two days later, the universe delivered Charles, who ticked all of my boxes. He really is the perfect man on paper.
I was actually feeling at peace for the first time in ages, until my friend Victoria asked me how old he is, and I replied, "44".
"Wow, all of your boyfriends are nearly 15 years older. Have you ever considered why that is a critical item on your list?"
I'm used to my friends teasing me that my last name should be "Zeta-Jones", because I often date men at least at decade older than me.
I've told myself over the past few years that my attraction to older men was because they had more life experience. Besides, they were the ones who tended to ask me out!
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More recently, I've realised that it may be a bit more complicated than that. I hate to admit it, but one of the reasons that I date men who are older is because I somehow think that, eventually, they will be less likely to leave me for someone younger.
Some of my first memories are of my dad leaving my stunning, university-educated mum, who adored him, for a younger model, his secretary. The kicker was that she wasn't even a more attractive model. It really was the equivalent of trading in a vintage Aston Martin for a used Fiat Punto.
I have never admitted this to anyone, but every time I see a friend marry a man his or her own age, a part of me is terrified for them. No matter how lovingly the young man looks into their eyes, I can't help but think: "They are happy now, but how will she feel in 10 years when he starts eyeing up the teenage Russian nanny?"
Of course, I know that my logic is flawed, and I don't judge all men this way. I should know better than anyone that when it comes to love, older doesn't always equal wiser.
Case in point: my ex-boyfriend was a decade older than me, and he broke my heart anyway. I've met 25-year-old men were ready to start families, and 40-plus Peter Pan clones who were still wearing trainers and hanging out at nightclubs.
My friend Michael is more brutal. When he found out I'd been getting texts from a 53-year-old, he said: "A man can be a cad at any age. If you think that dating a guy with one foot in the grave will insulate you against pain, you're crazy."
On our next date, I told Charles the story of my dad. He gave me a hug, reminded me that people are attracted to other people for all sorts of complicated reasons, and encouraged me not to overthink things as he carried me to the bedroom.
I'm not sure if my cosmic order will equal ultimate happiness in the end. But either way, the universe definitely delivered in the trouser department!