Alrighty – here we are. Day 2!

Brandon and I spent our last night in NYC at Tavern62 and a close friend introduced us to David Burke. Apparently he’s working on a ketchup right now that will blow our minds – I love that idea because Heinz could use a little competition. Now I wouldn’t say I’m a foodie but I certainly can appreciate amazing food from a talented chef. We had the most AMAZING bacon. It came out hanging on a wire connected by clothes pins. It reminded me of the clotheslines that filled my grandmother’s backyard. Only instead of the pins holding crisp white sheets, they held thick, savory cuts of bacon. It was fabulous. I’ll get the photos from B and share them on my Insta Stories – prepare for your mouth to water.

Most nights are similar to last night– we might not be sharing appetizers with a famous chef but we are always out to dinner and meeting new people. Since I was a little girl, the dinner table has been my favorite place to get to know someone. Most nights, my parents either had people over or we were out to dinner. From a young age, my parents stressed the importance of talking to adults and asking good questions. I’m thankful for this now as I’ve found that asking people questions instantly creates connection and I inevitably learn something new. Thanks to my parents, I’ve always been able to hold my own in conversations and am never shy when it comes to truly getting to know people.

However, my confidence came to a screeching halt when Brandon and I first started dating.

I found it difficult to connect with people because there was a big, fat elephant sitting in front of us that I didn’t know how to address. My friends and family watched me become a shadow of myself early on because I didn’t know how to overcome the appearance of our relationship.

Let’s get real:

You would have to be blind not to see our age difference. Although Brandon has the sweetest baby face and I might pass for 30, I’m not naive enough to believe that our age difference isn’t the first thing people see when they meet us. I’m also privy the assumptions that come along with that: I must be a gold digger, or nicely put, an “opportunist” while he is clearly going through a midlife crisis.

Honestly, before this relationship, I would have thought the exact same thing. I mean, there’s no way it could be love, could it?

Well I’m here to say it can. And if overcoming people’s opinions of you is not your thing – don’t date an older, successful guy. Seriously – don’t do it. People will assume you’re not intelligent. You’re taking the easy way out. You want someone to take care of you. You need a man. You aren’t independent. The list goes on. These are all things to consider before you commit yourself to a relationship but once you’re committed – you need to learn to let them go. You’re naïve to think that it’s not going to be hard. But with every new encounter, you get the opportunity to overcome someone’s preconceived notions and maybe even teach them to be a little more open minded.  Early on, it was imperative for me to get over my nervousness and create a process that put me at ease because we were constantly meeting new people.

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5 Ways to Be More Confident When Meeting New People

1. Own It

The more uncomfortable you feel, the more uncomfortable you make other people. So shake your nerves and just own it. This goes for anything new: a haircut, those trendy bellbottoms (are they seriously a thing now?), or strolling into a new group of people you don’t know. So choose to feel comfortable. Comfort is a choice. It won’t be fun at first but lean into it anyway. Take control of the things in your power that help you feel comfortable and at ease. Walk into every room and each conversation with your shoulders back, your chin up, and a smile on your face. If people judge you, stand up even taller. For me, nothing makes me feel more confident than a great pair of heels and pink lipstick. I can win just about anyone over if I’m coming from a place of confidence.

2. Address the age gap early

Like early early. In the first 5 minutes is best. You know it’s on people’s minds – we’re all curious. How did they meet? Is it the real thing? Is she his daughter’s age? Are they actually together? The sooner you address the baseline questions people have about you, the faster you’ll be able to connect about the important things. We all know what age gap relationships look like from the outside, so do your best to address the questions you know they’re wondering as quickly as possible

I love the saying “the best defense is a great offense.” Be on the offensive and use a little self-disclosure to warm people up to you. It builds trust which is critically important early on in any new friendship or business relationship. If you don’t address it, it can feel like you’re hiding something. And no one likes untrustworthy people. So address it early on.

3. Don’t wait for someone else to bring it up

Take the initiative. Never leave it to other people to bring it up. I’ve found that most people would rather talk about the weather or what’s on the menu than ask probing questions about the big, fat elephants in the room. So if you’re in an age gap relationship: it’s your job to own it, help people understand, and let them get to know you. My advice is to do it on your terms. It’s much more comfortable when you’re in control of the message.

Another reason to be the first to say something: depending on the age gap, it’s not out of the question for someone to assume you’re his daughter. Unless you’re hanging all over each other (which I don’t recommend), new people obviously don’t know you’re together. 

Ah. If I had a nickel for every time someone confused me for Brandon’s daughter… I’d be about 2 bucks richer. It doesn’t happen often but try to avoid that conversation at all costs. It’s uncomfortable for everyone.

4. Don’t assume you know what someone else is thinking

People can surprise you. You never know where people are coming from until they tell you. And in order for them to tell you, you usually have to ask. So get yourself in a curious space when meeting new people and start firing questions their way. You just never know – sometimes the most unlikely people will pour out acceptance while people you guessed would have no issue see it as a problem. In order for people to give you the benefit of the doubt, you need to give them a chance too.

This happened to me recently. I was finalizing the site’s logo in the clubhouse of a stuffy country club and the waitress asked me what I was working on. I took a long pause and debated whether or not to talk to her about the blog. Why would she care? But I figured, “what the heck -why not?” I went on to tell her my idea and she was PUMPED. Little did I know, she was dating a man 14 years older than her and in the throws of navigating some of the inherent challenges. We spent the next 2 hours sharing our experiences and had so much in common. Brandon even chimed in and gave her some advice. I’m glad she didn’t get fired that night because she definitely wasn’t doing her job but as soon as the site launched, I reached out to her to share it and she’s just as excited now as she was then.

Always give people a chance.

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously

Listen up: spinning yourself into a tizzy because you’re obsessing over what other people think about you and your relationship choices won’t get you anywhere in life. I still have my moments where I get anxious before meeting new people. It’s not as often but it still happens. So whenever I get worked up, Brandon calmly reminds me, “you’re happy so cares what anyone thinks?” Truer words have never been spoken. Take a deep breath and remember that: you’re happy. Taking yourself and your choices too seriously will only prevent you from being happy. You look like an idiot? So what. People underestimate you? Boo hoo. Someone disagrees with your choices? Oh well. Take all of your wasted time worrying about it and channel it into creating a life that you’re trilled to live with the people you love who choose to love you back.

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Alright – enough for today. It’s time to board my flight and say bye to Brandon – he’s heading to Dallas and I’m off to Phoenix but before he leaves, I need to go  give him a big hug and kiss goodbye.

Xoxo Natalie

 

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