Thursday, April 21, 2011

One for the ages?

When it comes to men lately, it seems I've been drinking from the Fountain of Youth: I, at the ripe old age of 28, have in the past month met up with guys ages 26, 25 and 23.


Up until now, with very few exceptions the men I've gone out with have all been older than me by at least a year or two. And there definitely have been several in their mid-to-late-30s, and two in their 40s.

But then came these 20-somethings, and my verbalized hesitance. That's when a friend passed along this fascinating analysis from OkCupid's blog: The Case for an Older Woman.

The point the writer tries to make is that the older a woman gets, the fewer men message her on dating sites. Men are dumbasses for doing that, he asserts, because women in their 30s are just as attractive as women in their 20s, more sexually active, and more confident/secure in themselves. Additionally, since fewer men are messaging the older women, there's less competition for them, so you're more likely to bag the first 30-something babe you contact.

While that all makes sense, that's not what really struck me about the piece: There's a chart in there that shows that the older a man gets, the relatively younger women he messages. So, for example, a man at age 30 might message a 25-year-old. But when he gets to 35, his choices haven't aged with him -- he's still going to message that 25-year-old.

What the fuck?!? My brain tried to wrap itself around this concept. Why do guys think it's OK to date women SO MUCH YOUNGER than them? What could they POSSIBLY have in common?

I was utterly flabbergasted -- and frankly, a little skeeved out -- by that phenomenon. But then I started examining my OWN dating history. I went through my archives. From a January 2010 post:

I am 26, almost 27. The optimal range is 27-33. Beyond that, what the fuck do we have to talk about? Our cultural references are totally different! Moreover, I can't get it up for someone who looks like my dad -- that's just gross.

Back then, just one year ago, I considered a seven-year gap the limit of acceptability.

However, to back up even further: When I started dating Ex-BF v. 2.0 in April 2008, one month to the day after ending my five-year relationship with Ex-BF v. 1.0, it felt nothing short of pure scandal. And not because I'd made a Tarzan-like leap from one serious relationship to the next, either (though I'm sure that caused a few eye rolls at my expense).

No, it was more because of his age -- 31 at the time, he was six years my senior.

Six years.

Ex-BF v. 1.0 was older, too, but the two-year age gap between us put us squarely in the could-have-gone-to-high-school-together range. And though he was my TA for a class I took my freshman year in college, Ex-BF v. 1.0 and I were ultimately college sweethearts, and in the same demographic.

Not so with Ex-BF v. 2.0. I remember when we were first learning about each other's previously uninterrupted lives, he would make references to graduating from high school in 1995 and I would teasingly say something along the lines of: "...and I was only twelve."

Like I said, it felt scandalous for some reason. And, frankly, kind of a turn-on.

So, I've realized that I'm the inverse of what that OkCupid blog post describes -- as I've aged, I've started dating relatively older and older men.

What the hell happened???

My original opinions about having things in common/having similar cultural references haven't changed. And I know that for a FACT because of how I reacted to a repeated interaction I had with the entrepreneur -- who, at one month shy of 38, is a full decade older than me:

You see, on occasion, the entrepreneur would make "Austin Powers" references -- i.e., "Yeah, BAYBEEEE" -- something that hasn't been culturally relevant since approximately 1999. And every time he would make that reference, on the surface I would surreptitiously furl my brow a bit, but inside I was thinking, Jesus, GRANDPA, what's next? Are you going to suggest we get giggle water and jitterbug with the hepcats from the other side of the tracks? UPDATE YOUR MATERIAL!!!

Even so, that gigantic gap upward didn't seem to bother me... but then I go on dates with guys like the DoE contractor, whose all-too-recent exodus from college left me freaking out. And it stands to reason that I'd have more in common with someone also in their 20s than a 38-year-old (another exchange I frequently had with the entrepreneur: "Remember back in the '80s when they [fill in the blank]?" "Seeing as I was a toddler in the '80s, no, I do not"), but instead I'm feeling more confused than ever.

So where does that leave me now with my stable of strapping young men? Still struggling with the concept, as evidenced by my behavior Monday night. I met Allison and the Non-Student for happy hour at Crystal City Sports Pub, and at one point my phone buzzed with a text message.

"Awww, it's my little 25-year-old," I cooed.

"You have GOT to stop calling him that," the Non-Student firmly admonished.

"Seriously," Al chimed in. "He's not THAT much younger than you."

Indeed -- a little Facebook stalking indicates that he's about to turn 26 anyhow, ever narrowing the margin between us. I shouldn't have a problem with this.

And in a way, spending time with the young guys is refreshing -- noticeably different than times I've spent with late-30-somethings. It's like the 20-somethings haven't had their hearts stomped on by a woman yet, and so they're sweeter, more affectionate, and less likely to keep me at arm's length.

I think I could get used to that.

(And their 20-something libidos probably won't hurt, either. Just sayin'.)


  1. LOL - the bf and I are 3 years apart. He's younger. It's not all about the cultural references, if you know what I mean. :P

  2. Bahaha, I legitimately laughed out loud at that.

  3. This should explain everything, thanks to Ben Franklin:

    The highlight: "And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement."

  4. Sam and I are 3 years and 4 months apart. He can't wait to tell people that he's dating a woman in her 30s.
    The age difference bothered me at first and made me feel scandalous, but the scandalous nature of our relationship might be because I started dating him the day I moved out of my ex-boyfriend's house (but six weeks after we broke up). Oh, that sounds terrible.
    Seriously, this is the healthiest, most satisfying relationship I've ever had.

  5. ahhh, a 20-something libido would be nice. just sayin'.

  6. I just hope that your 25 year old never reads this. I would be rather annoyed if someone TWO YEARS older than I am ever called me a little anything. "Little" is condescending, if you ask me.

    You were toddling around when he was born. Give the guy a mother fucking break.

    Just enjoy yourself, if it feels weird get out, and know that maturity isn't strictly defined by age, and that's true whether you are 40, 30, 28 or 25.

  7. Katie,

    You are forgetting the one obvious difference between dating older men and dating older women - babies. You can date a 38 year old man and still plan to have a family. But if I am dating a 38 year old woman, it is something you have to think about. (Yes, I know women can have children in their late 30s and 40s, but it is harder). And, despite cultural sterotypes to the contrary, most guys want to have families.

  8. Interesting. I just posted about fearing that I was going to crush the spirit out of these relatively unexperienced boys ;)

  9. @RoxanneandLorraine: Oh yeah, I fully acknowledge I'm an asshole for saying that.

  10. Why do guys think it's OK to date women SO MUCH YOUNGER than them? What could they POSSIBLY have in common?

    For the same reason women are attracted to guys much taller than them.

  11. I turned 30 recently, and I've started thinking that guys who are 24 and 25 are too young for me; I've started messaging guys who are in their mid-to-late thirties instead. I've been doing the online dating thing on, and one thing I've noticed about the guys in their thirties is that most of them want to date younger women, as in a LOT younger. For example, a guy who is 39 will write in his profile that his "ideal match" is between the ages of 18-30, or even 18-25.

  12. I loved that OkCupid post, actually all their posts are great.
    Statistically speaking, yes messaging a thirty something will more likely yield results, but man what if...what if, I could bang a 25 year old! And at 32! Huzzah!

    Seriously, I don't think I'd go over 34/35- at that point I kinda think "what the hell do you need me for?"
    Regarding your young streak- 2-3 years younger is not significantly younger, 5 perhaps in your situation. I think it's your position in life as well. 23 having just graduated is different than 28 especially with work and living on your own (paying many many bills). While someone who is 28 going out with a 35 year old will have been more established, and understand a little more about who they are and what they want.

    I went to see it IN THE MOVIE THEATER
    Yeah, BAYBEEEE

  13. I'm a 31-year-old woman dating a 23-year-old. We've been together for almost a year, have so much fun, and are really happy.

    I admit that the cultural stigma is painful sometimes. But the truth is that most people aren't even aware that the age difference is 8 years.

  14. Age ain't nothing but a number. As long as the couple is happy and its not illegal, I say go for it!

  15. KT,

    I do find it mildly hysterical that you freak out about the 25-yr old. As you know, I'm 36 and I dated a 29-yr old who was far more mature than the 36-yr old guy who ended up being a douchebag. It really IS about the maturity level. All around.

  16. My current rule is that I wont date anyone older than my oldest brother (we are 6 yrs apart) and I wont date anyone younger that my younger brother (we are 7yrs apart). But really every guy I have dated have been older, even if only by a few months. This for me more than anything probably has to do with wanting to be protected and provided for. I dont even really think about if we will have things to relate about since I have a wide range of interests and knowledge. As far as why I wouldnt date older than my brother I guess it comes down to still thinking he could beat someone's ass if needed. And of course dating younger than my youngest brother would make me feel like a pedo.

  17. Dude, I totally know what you mean. I met a 23 year old last year or so, when I was 25, and I just couldn't do it. He was tall, cute, sweet, innocent, I would probably hurt him before he hurt me, etc. I don't think the number difference itself is a problem, but in your 20s things change so fast that I think there is a big difference between 25 and 23, and 28 and 25. It's not about a number necessarily, it's about where you are at in your life.

  18. I'm 20 and dating a girl who's 22 and she seems to think it's a big deal even though we're in the same year of college.

    She has to justify it with stuff like "age is just a number" blah blah

    I thought there was the typical rule of divide your age by half and add 7.

  19. I tend to think that with the right guy, you won't even recognise the age. I've been with guys a year younger than me, and now I'm with one 5 years older than me.

    I think when you have that chemistry, you don't even think about an age gap, and maybe dating some younger guys will help you get more comfortable with it, which would lead to forgetting ages and only concentrating on the person ;-)

  20. As a twenty-something male, I've admittedly found that I'm more attracted to women slightly my senior. I honestly have no qualms about this at all. As everyone here has stated and probably will state, age is just a number and just one of many factors that shape your attraction.

  21. So when you are 88 and the guy is 86 will it matter?

    When my grandparents died I found out that my grandmother had been less than forthcoming about her age, and that she was really about 4 years older than my grandfather! Then again, they were both in their 90s and had been married for almost 70 years. They said the secret was to keep each other laughing all this time.

    So ask yourself: Do you share the same values with your significant other, and can you keep each other laughing for 60+ years? That's what counts.

  22. I'm in my 40's, and I've dated younger men several times in my life. When I was in my 20's, my boyfriend of 4 years was 3 years younger than me. I also dated someone for almost 3 years that was 12 years younger than me. Finally, I had a very brief whirlwind relationship with someone who was 19 years younger than me, which was very fun, but, honestly, I didn't take it seriously. Nor did he. It was fun, for sure, but, really? I wouldn't have married him or moved in with him or any of that. Not that I think it would be "wrong" if someone did. When it all boils down, the bottom line is that it's about the chemistry. If I have chemistry with a younger man, so be it. If you have chemistry with an older man, so be it. Although I certainly see plenty of younger men that I find attractive, I don't want to go out with them all. That was a special person and a special situation. On the whole, I am just not interested in someone that much younger than me. But a few years? No big deal. Especially when you're still in your 20's yourself! I say go for whatever interests you, because you never know. You could meet someone that is 5 years younger than you and end up marrying that person.

  23. I'm going to offer a dude's perspective on the whole younger-woman thing, but I realize I am going to sound like a complete dick.
    I've dated women younger than me, the same age as me, and older than me, but ended up marrying a woman who is 9 years younger. I was 32, she was 23 when we met. She was just so uncomplicated. Women who were my age tended to be so frantic about getting married, having children, etc. They seemed so desperate (for lack of a better word) that I was able to get what I wanted from them, when I wanted it. (Asshole, I know. I promise I'm a decent-enough guy but if you're not demanding I treat you better, why should I?) When I met my wife, she was confident and vibrant and it changed everything. One minute she acted like I was the center of her world, the next night she would be out with someone else. It drove me nuts. And when we did establish ourselves as exclusive, she never hesitated to ask for exactly what she wanted which was also really sexy.
    As for older women, their confidence was really sexy too. Women in the over-35 range seem to have this confidence that comes from being really established. So I guess what I'm saying is that just like you described a zone where guys have weird quirks and stuff (peter pan I think you called it), there is definitely an age range of women in which they are lacking the confidence and vibrance of a younger woman, and the confidence and establishment of an older woman.

  24. Guy in my mid 30s here. I tned to date alittle younger -- typically women in the late 20s. Most thirty-something women who might interest me are, alas, married or otherwise already taken. I also have to take into consideration the kid question. I don't automatically say, "She had a kid. Yuck! Not going to date her!!" But at the same time, I recognize that if I'm going to date somebody for the long term, the kid is part of the picture, too. Not to mention the kid's father. So it's a harder decision to make.

    But women in their early 20s ... I can barely call them "women," honestly. They're more like "girls." And too many of them prattle on and on about minutiae. Annoys the hell of me.

  25. That's funny that you kept going older because I kept going younger! My 5 year relationship from 20-25 was with a guy 7 years older. My 2.5 year relationship from 25-28 was with a guy 3 years older. And my current boyfriend is actually 2 days younger than I am!

  26. Oh, but I should add that both exes (currently ages 36 and 32 respectively) are now with women in their mid-20s. Hrmph.

  27. I didn't get married until I was 38 and, in addition, I was the mother of a 16 year old. My husband is 8 years younger than I am. (He turned 30 2 weeks before we got married.) In the past, I dated a guy that was 20 years older than I was (I was 23 and he was 43, acted like he was 12!) and I dated a guy that was 6 years younger than I was. I dated guys around my age also (1 -2 years difference, older/younger.) I dated guys that were in their 30's and acted like 21 year old frat boys and I dated guys in their 20's that acted like 50 year old men. Dating and finding "the one" is all about chemistry. Either you click or your don't. Sure, there is SOME work involved in maintaining a relationship but to get to that point and to have the stamina or foundation to make a relationship stick, you need chemistry. I've been married for almost 3 years and with him for almost 4. Sure, he gets on my nerves sometimes and I get on his but, in the end, we both know, we can do anything, as long as we have each other.

    I mean really, when your 85 and he's 75, is it really gonna matter how many years difference there is?

  28. kderosa said...
    Why do guys think it's OK to date women SO MUCH YOUNGER than them? What could they POSSIBLY have in common?

    For the same reason women are attracted to guys much taller than them.

    Am I the only one who's wondering how these two things are alike AT ALL? There is no apparent connection.

  29. I'm also a fellow DCer, single, and frustrated. It seems the men interested in me these days are already married (how exciting and not creepy) and between age 46-67. I'm 38. I've noticed that the guys in my age bracket are either married or suffering from Peter Pan syndrome and dating 20 year-olds.

    I'm a smart, funny, employed, attractive woman who has gigantic (natural) breasts and a brain. I feel like a freak of nature. I don't understand men AT ALL>

  30. wow.... my long ass comment crashed my browser. i'll give a TL;DR version

    these young men have yet to have their hearts broken by girls their age that date swageriffic douchebags and have not yet joined on the swageriffic douchebag path themselves. they actually like commitment, romance, and old shool ideals. Tread carefully - if you break their hearts - they will become douchabags and ruin it for many many women in the future

  31. Yeah, I think you need to get over the younger guy thing. As long as he's an adult and has his shit together, being younger or older doesn't matter. It doesn't make you a cougar. You'll realize it more as you get older too - age starts to blend together as everyone approaches 27-35. We all look about the same age, and at that point, we've all had the same life experiences.

    I have friends in their mid-thirties down to early-and mid-twenties. And I regard them as equals. A boyfriend is just throwing sex into the mix, so that's all equal too as far as I'm concerned.

  32. Also, with regards to kids: men's sperm gets old too. In fact this is just about as big a factor for having kids as women hitting menopause. If you're with an older guy and planning on kids, don't count on it. His swimmers may not be as fast or as fierce as someone younger, or he may just have a lower sperm count overall.

    Also, the risk of birth defects and such goes up with older men as well as older women. The focus, I suspect, has been more on women just because of the inherent sexism that still persists in our society. That and we are the ones who have the babies I guess. But the age issue definitely goes both ways on procreation.

  33. Libby your so full of it, there's plenty of scientific evidence that proves you should be focusing on child birth in your 20's not your 30's or 40's for that matter.

    Men just don't like older women because the majority of them are don't look like Stacey Dash (40), Angie Martinez (39) or Julianna Moore (50). Most women over 35 look 35 if not older and I don't look even 28 and I'm 40. Being Black helps, being a healthy, non-drinker, non-smoking Black Man helps.

    I don't believe in rewarding this entitlement attitude that seems to fester inside Professional Single Women circles.

    You've forgotten how to be women. Its become easy to blame men who see appalling divorce statistics and see little reward in marrying Professional Women in America if you admit to such things as "Starter Husbands".

    Men don't go into a relationship expecting a woman to bring them the lifestyle they want, men look for a woman that fits the lifestyle they want to lead.

    Seems some wive's don't care about their husbands having Xbox 360's and Playstation 3 as many of you seemed concerned with. Sounds like a cop-out to me actually.

    This blog cracks me up so I'm going to keep reading it.


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