The lyrics of the classic 90s Aaliyah song, released around the time she was thought to be dating a much older R Kelly. In fact he’s the one who wrote the lyrics, go figure. But the sentiment is something I’ve been pondering over the last few days.
At what point does age become irrelevant?
I’ll admit it, up until this point when it comes to romance, I have been ageist. All my relationships, have been with men, close to my own digits, give or take a couple of years. From teen romance to twenty-something passion, those partnerships felt well matched. We were in similar places in our lives and so we gravitated towards each other. And the truth is, those were the men I fancied.
But as I re-enter dating in my mid-thirties, it seems all bets are off. In the last month I’ve had interest from a very good-looking 23-year-old and on the other end a successful and charming 47-year-old. For these men – the fact there is more than a decade between us doesn’t seem to matter. And yet for me, it feels weird. WHY?
The Older Man
From the beginning of time we’ve been sold images of older, often rich men, pairing up with younger women. Michael Douglas, George Clooney, and I hate to add him to the list, as he’s clearly not human, Donald Trump. These are often seen as superficial, trading off looks with a bank balance. Clearly like any stereotype, they hold true for a small percentage but for the majority are much deeper partnerships. I have two close friends who are in very fulfilling relationships with men who are a decade older.
Yet when I recently became friends with Scott, 47, my initial reaction was to dismiss any romantic possibility. When you do the maths, Scott started university, when I was 5 years old. That’s right, I was in the first year of education as he entered the final stages. There is almost the same age gap between Scott and me and Scott and my parents. Surely dating a man, who was almost 50, would be like dating an old person? Gross. And yet as I spent time with him, I felt an overwhelming sense of youthfulness, one that some of my thirty-something friends had lost. He was a single man, with no children, who had devoted much of his life to his career and with great success. It was a career that had helped society for the better, and in his words he had never met a woman that had ‘pulled him’ in the same way. He had loved, and had relationships, but the reality of his career, meant he was married to his job.
Now some might say he was the classic ‘Peter Pan’ man, unable to commit, always finding an excuse and not really relationship material. Perhaps there is some truth in that. But apart from the odd childhood or cultural reference, spending time with him felt no different to spending time with someone my own age. The fact that he had reached many of his professional milestones, was inspiring and it seemed now at the age of 47, he felt ready to meet someone. Despite the 13-year age difference, in many ways we were in the same stage of life. And when it comes to physicality, Scott is healthy, and clearly takes care of his body. No two-ways about it – nothing old and gross there.
The Younger Man
Now whilst Scott and me pairing up, would be socially acceptable, an older woman/younger man combo still comes with an underlying stigma. Just think of the differing language we use for men and women. While Scott would be considered an ‘eligible bachelor’, ‘playboy’ or ‘silver fox’, the older woman is often referred to as a ‘cougar’or a ‘milf’. The first is almost predatory and the later, taping into some kind of Oedipus complex.
So when a cute looking 23-year-old, called Andy, messaged me online recently, I instinctively felt a bit embarrassed. In my mind I couldn’t understand why a young twenty-something would want to hang out with a woman so much older. I wouldn’t have wanted that when I was his age.
‘She’s flirty turned thirty, Ain’t that the age a girl gets really dirty.’
If the lyrics of the Scouting for Girls song are accurate, then some would point to sex as the reason. The chance to be with someone more experienced in the sack. But just like the rich older man/beautiful woman stereotype, surely it’s ridiculous to think it is just about sex. At the end of the day, if that was the case a trawl of the internet would find a bevvy of twenty-something women also up for it.
On a practical note, at 34, I’m now open to the idea of having children, but at the age of 23, I would have run a mile if my partner suggested that. Of course, the truth is every person is different. And ultimately the reason I didn’t date Andy, was because we had very little in common.
So I guess after a certain point, age IS nothing but a number. Instead finding love is about two human beings who share a connection and are in the same place in their lives . You could be a 45 year-old woman who is only looking for casual sex, and a 60-year-old could fit the bill. Or you could be a 35-year-old woman who falls in love with a 25 year-old man, who is ready to settle down. Basically there is no right or wrong. Of course society gives you a rough guideline, but it’s rough for a reason.
So going forward I’m going to be more open about seeing through age, looking instead at what we share as two people and if that shared connection and attraction could grow into something special.
Ps Only fly in the ointment – when I asked Scott if he would date an older woman, he didn’t seem as enamoured. Double-standards!