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Thursday, April 29, 2010

The hand that robs the cradle

When it comes to dating, age difference is often a factor. "How old is he?" is one of the first questions you hear from a friend when you tell them about someone you are going out with. The most scandalous situations are, of course, when someone dates someone much younger than them. Especially when that someone is a woman who's dating a younger man.

I can think of loads of celebrity women who are dating much younger men but I generally think it's best not to look at celebrities as examples of what's acceptable and normal. (That's a slippery slope.) So I'll just talk about you and me. Mostly me.

Now that I'm...well, 30 and some change (pennies, really), I've become very aware of age in relation to dating. Before, I never paid a ton of attention to how old the guys I met were - they were in their 20's, I was in my 20's, the end. But in the last year I've had a couple situations that forced me to think about age difference and what's appropriate.

At some point last year (I'm going to keep things vague to make it harder for anyone to figure out who this guy is), I was pursued by a much younger guy - 10 years younger to be precise. I was flattered at first because he was a great guy. But the age difference was just too much for me. Plus, my friends were teasing me like crazy about it. He disagreed and didn't think it was a big deal. He said, "you could be a cougar!" as if that would sweeten the deal for me. Part of me wondered if I was over thinking it but it just felt weird to me.

The interesting thing however, is that at the same time a guy friend of mine married a girl 10 years younger than him and no one said anything about it or found it strange. Why the hypocrisy? The guy who was pursuing me was an adult - he was in his 20's. So why is it socially acceptable for a guy to date a much younger woman but not the other way around?

I had a similar experience a couple months ago where I met a cool guy, we hit it off, exchanged numbers, etc... I assumed he was near my age but found out once again that he's about 10 years younger than me. When I found out, I told him that the age difference was an issue for me. He said it shouldn't be. But once again, I couldn't get past it. Ten years is just too much for me.

I think there are lots of factors that need to be looked at with age difference - maturity, experiences, backgrounds, common interests and so on. Sometimes physical age isn't as much of an issue as emotional age. Someone could be only two years younger than you but feel much younger than that.

I've heard silly mathematical rules used to figure out if someone is old enough for you, such as "half your age plus seven." But I'm pretty sure that rule was made up by someone who wanted to date someone who was half their age plus seven.

My point is, it has to be a personal decision. Here's how it works for me (this is based on how I feel, not on any facts I found online about what age range my dating pool should be):

28 to late 30's - totally comfortable
25 to 27 - mostly comfortable, with the tiniest bit of hesitation - mainly because I don't want to feel "old" when the guy doesn't get my Milli Vanilli jokes or Full House references.
under 25 - case by case basis but not preferred. Exceptions can be made for the likes of Zach Efron and that guy who played Jake in Twilight, of course. But that goes without saying.

But if you do decide to date someone much younger or older than you, how do you get past the stigma? Any insights? And what are your age "rules"?

27 comments:

brenda hatch said...

What if the guy was 40, would you date him? Don will be 40 this year and I just turned 32 :)

Heather said...

I am married, so obviously I don't date, but when my husband and I met I was 30 and he was 25. It did seem strange.
Recently he asked me if I was a fan of New Kids On the Block and I said, "No. I was in college when they were popular."
He replied, "No you weren't. I was in the 7th grade!"

I just waited for him to do the math himself. And indeed....when he was in junior high...I was in college.

But I will say it is more of an amusement than a hinderance. He is both mature and very energetic, even know that I am creeping toward my forties.

Good Luck!

Natalie said...

My husband is 4.5 years older than me, and we often have conversations like the one in the comment above. We joke about it, but it's not really a big difference. I think it really depends, but I would probably have a really hard time dating someone much younger back when I was single...there is something to the general rule that girls mature faster and I've been glad to have an older husband for that reason.

Kathy said...

When I was younger, I had a friend who's mom was about 13 or 14 years older than his dad. She used to be his babysitter!!!! We used to joke around about her changing her husband's diapers.......ick. I hope there isn't any truth to that.

Where to go from HERE said...

Let me ask you something. Say you were still 29 and the young man was 21, would you have dated him? Why or why not?
The double standard is usually placed by other women. Very rarely do they find an issue with an older man dating younger than he, but god forbid you reverse it. My thought is that age is no indication to maturity and if you truly connect with the guy you should focus on that. Lets face it to, you are a very pretty woman who has a good head on her shoulders. If a younger man, a same aged man, or an older man likes you and you like him in return, screw anything else. All that will matter in the long run is how do the two of you work together.

Where to go from HERE said...

Oh, and screw anything else was probably not the best choice of wording but you know what I mean.

Mark said...

My last date was 20 years younger than me. Why her and not some of her friends, who were closer to my age? Because she was the most mature of the entire group. I was interested in a nice time with good conversation and minimal drama. All the other women in the "pool" treated relationships like they were still in high school.

When I meet an interesting woman, I ask if she prefers the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. If I get a blank stare, I ask if she has any single aunts.

Not really - I ask if her window is on the first floor of the house and if her dad owns any guns.

アシュリー said...

After the age question, I usually get a battering of questions measuring his maturity and responsibility. Does he have a job, car, his own place? Of course these things don't measure emotional maturity, which is just as important...
Japan is definitely stuck in the older man/younger woman relationship preference. Although a lot of women are independent and career-oriented, I think most would prefer (and dream) of marrying early and to an older, established breadwinner husband so they can stay home with the kids. There's even a term used called 'Christmas cake.' Every year the sale of Christmas cakes is big in December until Dec 25th, so they say 25 is the age that women become 'unmarketable' to men and will become old maids. This is an old term but I think some women still take it to heart here. Woo I'm a Christmas cake!

Katherine said...

I definitely think it's a case-by-case deal. I've known a number of guys my age who are 12 emotionally, and guys in their early 20s who are very mature. I know our aunt always says her younger hubby helps keep her young, and I think that can sometimes be the case in an older girl/younger guy relationship. Unfortunately, some people do mock the age diff sometimes, but if you and the guy are happy, who cares?! Go for it!!!

Robin said...

I think it is case by case. If the guy is younger, but mature, than I wouldn't let it bother me. I think that age difference is becoming less of a stigma all of the time. If you find that the age difference is walking hand in hand with a lack of maturity or a difference in goals/values, well, then Houston, you have a problem.

Heather said...

My personal opinion is that age is just a number. If he is mature and fun and you like him and he get's our family's humor, go for it. Nobody in the fam will say anything, we'll all be to busy telling him sarcastic messed up jokes and giving him hi-larous birthday cards about hell.

Lady Baillio said...

People would rudely ask me and Adam that before we were married, but it doesn't come up after marriage.
However, I do agree that after 28 the 'bar scene' aka playing/partying tends to wane away in a lot of people, besides the brain stops growing at apprx age 25 and a slight change happens when it's finished. Anybody past 28, in my opinion is more likely to be mature and ready for a lifetime committment.

Robert said...

I think the question here is why you can confess to knowing the name of the "guy who played Jake in Twilight. ;) We won't think you are a cradle robber if you know it!

Anonymous said...

I am 32

will you go out on a date with me?

An admirer from the distance. ;)

Drake said...

Quick question:

Why is he always referred to as 'the guy who plays Jake in Twilight' and never as 'the guy who played Sharkboy in 'The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl'? I think we can all agree that was his pivotal role.

Christi said...

I think half your age plus 7 is the perfect lower limit for you. Perfect. And you know how I feel about guy number #1 in your post. You had nothing to lose!

Pollz said...

I'm in the age is just a number camp. What important is if you hit it off and you like each other. If your both adults and you want to date each other who care about your ages. I personally wouldn't brake off a relationship solely on age difference.Maturity level yes. But if they are immature at 30 or 21 it's all the same. You wouldn't want to be with him at any age. You shouldn't let what other people might or might not think get in the way of who you date.

Mostly Diane said...

I stop in here from time to time, but I have never commented. In this case, I would have to say, personally, I think like you do, more than five years younger would just be uncomfortable and I think it really has something to do with how other people would react. On the other hand, it makes better sense to take it on a case by case basis. If you are in love and match up well it won't matter in the long run.

Christi said...

Wait, I think half your age plus 5 is more appropriate.

Super Zero said...

the Elephant in the room.

Have you intentionally neglected a specific age group.. The age group that is older than you. Specifically 40+. Would you date some 10 years older than you? 15? How old is the oldest person you have ever been on a date with? What was the largest gap in age up and down?

mine is 2 up. 14 down. for reference.

Crystal said...

My husband is 7 years younger than me ... when we first met I was nervous about it - he was 24 and I was 31. The deciding factor for me was that he was out of college. I just think that if he had still been in college (full-time), he would be in a whole different world than me. We definitely have conversations where he'll mention something that was popular when he was young and I will realize that was popular when I was in high school or college, but it's just fun to laugh it. My theory is that he is a little mature for his age, I'm a little immature for mine, and so we meet in the middle :)

sterlingandbrandi said...

We didn't actually date, but Stephen from Laguna Beach on MTV in the first season was 17 and I was 27 watching it and I fell madly in love. Not weird at all for a grown woman to love an actual teenage boy on a reality show. That was a 10 years difference and I was married, so I think, date anyone you like!

Elizabeth Downie said...

I love these comments - you guys are too funny. Brandi, I can totally see you and Stephen together. lol!

Abe, I think I'd be uncomfortable dating anyone over 40. I can't remember the younger and older gaps of guys I've got out with though...

Sarah said...

Why does this post make me want to watch the movie "17 Again" ?? :)

Michelle Williams said...

If he is mature enough to hold down a decent job and smart enough to fall in love with you, what's stopping you?!!!

Melanie said...

I'm going boating with a 16 year old...that's a ten year difference. So, long as he isn't married, it's okay, right?

Liz said...

I have a firm 5 yr difference rule, no older no younger. But one of my nieces really thinks I should date one of the guys from one direction. He's about 12 yrs younger than me. I may have to break my own rule.