This piece was originally published in Moms Don’t Have Time to Write.
When I met Kyle, I was married. I was two weeks postpartum with my fourth child, a beautiful baby boy. I was 38 years old. My decade-long marriage was coming to an end. Kyle was filling in that morning for my older son’s tennis pro and soon, he became mine. In every way.
We started getting to know each other over hours of court time, as the seasons changed and the fuzzy yellow tennis balls flew back and forth, carrying our secrets with them.
Still, despite knowing about his family, his weekend antics, his other clients, I was afraid to ask him how old he was. In my head, I decided that if he said he was younger than 30, that would be it. No more lessons. No more flirting. Enough.
One morning in the indoor bubble, as we thwacked the ball across the net and traded stories about our lives, I decided I had to know.
“So, how old are you, anyway?” I asked, as I hit my powerful forehand cross court.
He ran to the ball, taking tiny, fast steps and swooshing across the clay before hitting it right back with top spin, his muscular forearm finishing about his head as he shuffled back to the baseline.
As the ball flew towards me, he relaxed.
“How old do you think I am?”
“I’m hoping 30,” I said, running to the ball and hitting a backhand.
Ping, thwack, shuffle.
Ping, thwack, shuffle.
I hit the ball into the net.
“Just old enough,” he said, grinning.
He was 32.
Which somehow felt respectable enough of an age gap for me to continue our text exchanges late at night, an age gap that, when we eventually got together, I barely noticed. He was so much wiser and more mature than me on so many topics, so experienced. I’d always been an old soul, so for someone to make that kind of impression was notable. And irresistible.
Kyle got the bigger picture of life. He gave fantastic advice. He had a unique perspective on things. And oh, he was so cute.
Fast forward to today. I’m 44 and he’s 38.
In the last six years, I’ve gotten divorced, moved, gotten remarried to Kyle, and watched my four little ones zoom through the years, shedding clothes that grew small on them so quickly they were like Superman in a phone booth. I started a podcast that somehow grew into a multimedia business. I sold five books. Kyle lost his mom and grandmother to Covid. I lost my grandmother to age. He lost an uncle, his grandfather. We adopted his mom’s dog. We weathered family illnesses, tragedies and societal breakdown. Tantrums. Touchdowns. Timeouts. Travel. Terrorism.
And here we are.
While I have aged, he really hasn’t. As we brush our teeth at night, side-by-side in the mirror, my wrinkles shine like they’re under a spotlight on a Broadway stage. I used to scan my reflection up close, concerned with how fat I looked. Now, it’s how old. My gray hairs are coming in fast and furious. I’ve “leaned in” to the blonde, cover-up, highlight routine. Veins have started jutting out of my calves in weird places.
Kyle? He looks amazing. Young. Vibrant. Ready to hit the tennis court and play three straight sets. Yes, his body has aged from being a retired professional athlete-turned-producer with accompanying aches and pains, but his looks? Still got ‘em.
One night earlier this week, we were leaning towards each other over the kitchen island, him sitting, me standing with my elbows on the stone counter, my chin in my hands, chatting. I told him that I’d been on the phone earlier with a mutual friend, a single guy we’d both known for ages, who was lamenting that a certain place he frequented only had “single women who were like 50.” I quickly retorted, “But aren’t you almost 50?”
Kyle laughed when I told him the story, his wrinkle-less eyes twinkling.
“I mean,” I said, “It’s true! I guess I’m almost 50, too.”
And with my flippant comment hanging heavy in the air between us, I could see a thousand thoughts quickly flash through Kyle’s mind like one of those flip books I’d played with as a child. Actions appearing on tiny little pages, flipping forward fast. Unstoppable.
I felt like I knew what he was thinking: It was one thing to be with an older woman in her thirties. There was something sexy and alluring about that. But a 50-year-old woman? That was old. Could middle age even be sexy?
He didn’t say any of that, but I could sense it.
“It’s okay,” I sighed, before he could open his mouth. “You should just leave me for some pretty young thing. Go ahead. I understand.”
I stood up straight, bracing for his departure. Although, of course, not really meaning any of it.
“Honey,” he said, reaching out to me. “Don’t be silly. You’re everything to me.”
That may be true, I thought, but that didn’t mean my stock wasn’t in a steep decline while his was still at the top of the market. I almost felt bad for him. This young, vibrant, charming, athletic guy was with some middle-aged chick dealing with emotional teenagers, wrinkles, a malfunctioning metabolism, and regular hair appointments? How could I do that to him? And what would come next?
His subsequent joke came later when we were discussing our summer plans and the custody schedule.
I said, “At this rate, we won’t be able to travel without the kids again until I’m like 70.”
He quipped, “That’s okay. I’ll only be 60.”
And we laughed.
But I could feel the balance shifting slightly, the ground moving invisibly beneath us.