About a week ago, a bunch of the Ladies were on our private loop, deconstructing from web searches, interviews, and other disparate sources, exactly which agents are looking for what. Some of us were concerned about doing pitches rather than sending out queries, because agents might be dissuaded by the age of the writer from making long-term commitments to her. Michaeline suggested that we participate in NaNoWriMo and choose as our central topic the older protagonist. Where are the romances of women re-inventing themselves in their 40s and 50s? she asked.
I must confess that I’m not much interested in writing about a heroine that’s my age. With time, I’ve narrowed my circle of friends. I have less patience for foolishness. I’m happy to stay home. I’ve made a lot of my life decisions. Somebody could write good fiction—maybe even romantic fiction—about a person at my stage of life. But for me, I need a heroine who still has those decisions ahead of her, because that’s often where I find conflict. I need a heroine who’s in her twenties or thirties.
So age was on my mind when I ran into an article about Tinder, a popular dating app, and what might be construed as ageism. Tinder has launched a paid version of the app, and how old you are determines what you pay for it. If you’re younger than 30, you pay $9.99 per month. If you’re older than 30, you pay twice as much. (In the UK, the differential is greater: UK users 18–27 will be charged 3.99 pounds per month; users 28 and older will be charged 14.99 pounds per month.)
Tinder claims that younger people are “more budget constrained,” but this tiered pricing system has infuriated some. Critics point to the implied ageism and say the implication is that old people are desperate.
In fact, dating for the over-30 isn’t exactly a cakewalk. As people age, their dating pools shrink. In one study of unmarried men and women aged 40–59, both genders had fewer sexual partners, although women had far fewer, the result of both ageism and sexism.
Moreover, University of California-Santa Barbara psychologist Bella DePaulo says that there’s a social stigma of being alone. “[People] just assume you’re not as happy, you’re lonely, you’re self-centered, you’re not fully adult.” But DePaulo says that for people who like being single, the older they get, the more of a “complete, secure, happy person” they become.
And for those over-30s who are not content to be alone, there are more people to date than ever. For the first time in the country’s history, there are more single American adults than married ones. And especially for those over 30, finding a mate online is a safe and attractive way to meet people.
What do you think? If you’re older than 30 and single and unhappy about it, is finding a mate worth paying Tinder twice as much? Should the Ladies write the older protagonist? What’s love got to do with it—age, that is—anyway?