Dating turns adults into nervous teens

November 29, 1993|By Martin F. Kohn | Martin F. Kohn,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Here comes Friday evening, the traditional night to mingle. Here you are in the general vicinity of middle age, still dealing with dating, which is fine except that here you also are still reading Mad magazine, still avidly following the careers of Shaun and David Cassidy, still sneaking snacks like you did when you were 14.

And if that weren't bad enough, you knock over your water glass at dinner and you wake up and there's a zit on your nose about where the treeline would end if your nose were a range in the Rockies.

So you say, "I thought I was too old for this," but the truth is you are not.

Onward and awkward?

Hey, some things you never outgrow. But take heart. At least you've got company.

"I'm a 60-year-old feeling like a 16-year-old. How do I act?" That was the question posed by a widower at a "gender excursion," a group discussion held by the group Selective Singles, recalls Ramona Martell. A teacher in Eastpointe, Mich., Ms. Martell, who was widowed six years ago, coordinates Selective Singles' Grosse Pointe-St. Clair Shores, Mich. chapter.

People shouldn't feel "too old for dating," says Ms. Martell, 59, but "the fear of rejection" is the same whether you're 16 or 60. "You may want to ask somebody out, but you're scared." These days, she adds, women are as likely to do the asking as men are. "In my generation, a girl didn't call a boy. That certainly isn't true today."

Mike Casey, 33, a Walled Lake, Mich. computer specialist, says he "felt like a kid again, calling up for a date" after his divorce. Single for four years now, Casey says he didn't feel much more mature when he got dates. "Dating is dumb," he says, "because all you do is sit there and talk about the food. We go back to the things we did in high school. We all do it wrong. You go into a bar and the stupid button goes on."

Mr. Casey was prompted to found the Activities Group, which plans sports and cultural activities at which like-minded single people can get together.

"Friday is our biggest night," Casey says. "Saturday's not as big. I think there's a lot of stigma -- that Saturday night is date night. People have it in their mind that 'If I don't have a date I'm not leaving this house.' "

Something else that may make you feel like not leaving the house is acne. You had it in high school. Now you're 30 or 40 and you have it again. This time it's different, isn't it?

"In a nutshell, I think it isn't," says Dr. Peter Aronson, assistant professor of dermatology at Wayne State University's School of Medicine in Detroit. Studies done in the 1950s and 1960s suggested that acne was solely an adolescent condition. "Ninety-five percent of teenagers get it," Aronson says, and now it's known that people old enough to have teenagers get it. "Some people get it in their 40s. I've seen it as late as the early 50s."

So why do we get it again? We come into contact with chemicals that irritate the skin, such as certain oils (mechanics and auto workers may be vulnerable). We use certain cosmetics. As we get older and require more prescription drugs, some can cause acne as a side effect.

How do you treat it? There's always what Dr. Aronson calls "tincture of time," which means that some forms of acne will just go away. For more severe cases and quicker fixes there are prescription drugs and the over-the-counter medications teenagers use.

Dr. David Harold has never shaken off another adolescent affliction: a fondness for Mad magazine. Actually the Pontiac, Mich. urologist doesn't consider it an affliction. "It's a blessing. There's something in every issue that gets me laughing uncontrollably," says Dr. Harold, 47. Plus, it makes him feel like a kid again.

As a youngster, "I noticed that no adults read Mad," Dr. Harold says, but he never thought about whether he'd still like Mad when he grew up. Whenever he mentions his Mad subscription to fellow adults, "They look at me with envy and say 'I wish I could do that, but how am I going to explain it to the neighbors?'"

Dr. Harold just smiles.

How you feel about not outgrowing something depends on whether it's your own idea. "Choice is a huge issue," says Jeffrey W. Dwyer, director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University.

Gerontology? Isn't that about old people?

Correct. Gray hair won't necessarily ward off things you thought you were finished with. "More and more," says Mr. Dwyer, grandparents are involved in raising their grandchildren. "They're revisiting a whole series of roles that they thought they were done with in their 20s and 30s."

If that involvement is voluntary, the grandparents feel good. If it's necessary, the degree of happiness may not be as high, Mr. Dwyer says.

Cheryl Corwin of Columbus, Ohio, chooses at age 36 to still head the organization she founded when she was 19: the Friends of the Cassidys, a fan club for singer-actor half-brothers Shaun and David Cassidy.

"I've always been a very loyal person," she says. "You don't just drop them for the next overnight sensation." Where others may have outgrown their enthusiasm for the one-time heartthrobs, Ms. Corwin feels her faith has been vindicated.

"To a lot of fans, once 'The Partridge Family' (David's big TV series) or 'The Hardy Boys' (Shaun's big TV series) were canceled, it's as if they dropped out of sight." Not so. Shaun and David are starring in a serious Broadway musical, "Blood Brothers," and have received glowing reviews and a lot of media attention.

"You mean you still like them?" Ms. Corwin's friends ask.

She just smiles.

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