I was one of THOSE girls.
I always had an older boyfriend.
When I was 13, my boyfriend was 18. In my 20s, I dated men in their 30s. In my 30s, I found myself with partners hitting 40 and beyond.
Wikipedia, that barometer of human interest, describes this phenomenon as “age disparity in sexual relationships.”
It’s reassuring to see I’m not alone. For half of all married American couples, the man is the older one, with an average 2½ to 3 year age difference.
I’ve always believed that the ability to date men from a different generation reflects something noble about a woman’s character. The ability to see beyond superficial matters like age. The ability to find common ground in the most unexpected of places.
But my mother wouldn’t agree. She’d just say I was setting myself up for trouble. (In that annoying I-told-you-so voice every child ignores.)
Wikipedia claims that age disparities in sexual relationships have to do with power. Women are attracted to older men because older men still pay the bill when you go out, buy better gifts, and look better in a suit.
Convenient, isn’t it, to characterize women as wanting to “get” something from men?
That explanation feeds into unhealthy stereotypes. That women are gold-diggers, they bleed men dry, or they’re more interested in what they can get than what they can give.
I can promise you: as a teenager, I wasn’t interested at all in my 18-year-old boyfriend’s money. (I was just interested in his car.)
There’s another explanation for the age gap in dating, and it’s an explanation that the powers-that-be have tried to hush up.
It has to do with a quiet little word we don’t hear often enough:
If men our own age were mature, we’d be dating them.
But it takes longer for boys to grow into men than it takes for girls to grow into women.
A tongue-in-cheek 2013 study conducted by the Nickelodeon channel found that most of us believe men finally grow up 11 years after women…
At the ripe old age of 43.
Women, on the other hand, reach “proper maturity” at 32.
The study added that women are more likely to say they feel like they’re the grown-up one in the relationship.
There you have it. There’s nothing unnatural or power hungry about dating an older man. He’s simply a better match for your maturity level.
You don’t want to live your life based on advice from a children’s TV channel, but you do have the right to seek a mate who feels like a good fit.
If you feel more mature than the men your age, then go ahead and date older. It’s not a sin.
But my mother was right in one regard:
There are some teeny tiny unimportant problems that can arise from a large age gap.
Issues surrounding different life stages. Power imbalances. Other people’s opinions.
Maybe he’s already had his kids and doesn’t want any more because he feels too old to start over again.
Maybe he’s more interested in staying home and fiddling around the house than going out on the town and meeting friends for drinks.
Maybe you feel out of place with his friends because they’re so much older, and he feels out of place with your friends because they’re so much younger.
Maybe his daughter is only a few years younger than you are. Maybe his mother makes her critical opinion clear.
Maybe he acts patronizing sometimes. Maybe he corrects you with his greater life experience. Maybe you let him take the lead when he really should be listening to you.
But, if you can see past the age gap, then maybe he can, too.
There is something noble about relating to another human being as an equal, even when he or she is drastically older or younger than you.
It proves your ability to see beneath superficial differences like age and find common ground in the most unexpected of places.
Dating a younger woman might challenge him, but his challenge is no greater than yours. If he’s a mature man, he’ll be up to it.
But then there’s that little word again:
Keep your money, guys. Keep your big house and fancy car.
Just give us emotional maturity, and we’ll be yours.
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