A recent conversation with a 26-year-old male buddy of mine is the inspiration for this article. I had referred to him and others about his age as "babies" and he took offense (I am in my early 30's). He insisted that age is just a number, and that he prefers dating older women. He lamented that younger women were silly and that he likes the maturity of older women.
He went on to inform me that his last two girlfriends were 31 and 33 respectively. My friend is not the first younger man to confess his preference for older women to me. I have other younger male friends say the same thing. But I had never really paid attention to their laments before. I used to dismiss them. But I have heard that lament for the last time, and I have decided, consequently, to look into it. I have always preferred older men, and I have always dated older men, so the prospect of dating a younger man is new to me. I worry that they are immature, un-established and still finding themselves. I, on the other hand, am mature, have a sense of self and a career. But am I and other women like myself, being too hard on younger men, and in doing so, shortchanging ourselves? Are we cheating ourselves?
Well, is age really just a number? Not always. My 57-year-old aunt is married to a much younger man who has done nothing but brought her grief and suffering from the day of their marriage (the marriage was a sham in all sorts of ways to begin with). At one point, he worked absolutely nowhere and spent his days liming and smoking marijuana. As if that was not sufficient, he acquired a criminal record in the form of unpaid speeding tickets (this all occurred in the US when I lived with my aunt while attending college. He also had a menacing charge brought against him under New York State law for threatening to hit me (he lifted up a dining chair while my aunt was at work to hit me and the NYPD was called in. He was arrested, booked and charged. Eventually, he started working, but that was an on again, off again process. The last that I have heard is that he now has steady employment, but he still makes less than my aunt who is an registered nurse at a New York hospital. Need I say more? In this case, a younger man seems like a really, (bad) idea.
On the flip side, I know of one woman who is married to a younger man, and who has been happily so for just over a year. Her husband is seven years younger than she is, and they presently have a brand new baby. He is a good father, good provider and loving husband. Unlike the young cross that my aunt married, this man is wise beyond his years. This case is evident that having a relationship with a younger man may not be that bad of an idea after all. I know of a couple of other females who have successful relationships with younger men (they have married these men as well; I guess it depends — on the woman and on the man; for as the old adage goes, "to each his own.")
Nonetheless, there is another side to this issue of older women dating younger men that concerns me, and it is this: how do those who choose to get involved with younger men keep up with younger women, and in doing so, keep one's partner's eyes from straying? Reality check: aging brings rickety bones and wrinkled skin. One of the young women mentioned above (the one who is seven years older than her husband, is more petite than myself, and takes excellent care of herself — gym and all — so to be quite honest, she looks as young as her husband does. And then generally, I have seen 40-something-year-old women look 30. Therefore, if one is going to get involved with a younger man, be prepared to be a gym buff and frequent the spa. I guess I am a good candidate for dating a younger man after all.
Maybe I have been looking at it all wrong. Maybe I have been too critical of younger men, when my perfect guy may actually be among them. Whatever the case, age can sometimes be just a number, and what is good for one woman, may not necessarily be good for another. But love comes in all sorts of ways. I guess the key is to keep an open mind and evaluate each relationship on its merit.
Author's note: Some may wonder why the slang term "cougar" is not even mentioned here, but it is not relevant here. The commonly accepted notion of a "cougar" is that of a woman around the age of 40 or more who actively pursues younger men 10 years or more her junior, according to womensissues.about.com. Younger men, as spoken of here, are about 5 to 7 years younger than their female partners. Furthermore, the idea here is not of an older woman actively pursuing a younger man, but of an unexpected relationship between an older woman and a younger man.
Author's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org