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Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Younger Lovers

Millie Garfield, over at My Mom’s Blog, recently posted a story about a letter she read in the Boston Globe from a 70-year-old widow in a happy and satisfying relationship with a 40-year old man.

I was reminded that some years ago, there was a fad among the glitterati women of New York City of dating younger men. It got a lot of gossip ink wherein the young men were referred to as “boy toys,” suggesting that it was all just silliness and that perhaps the young men were “being kept” – gigolos. Older men, however, when they accompany gorgeous women young enough to be their daughters, get approving winks and nudges of the good-for-you-old-man variety. They have always had the privilege of dating and marrying younger women without the snickers older women sometimes get when the relative ages are reversed.

This snobbery undoubtedly relates to the fact that our obsession with the appearance of youth applies almost entirely to women. Men are allowed to age – and to be considered attractive - without resorting to toxins and surgery.

But because men tend to die younger than women and the ratio of men to women works out poorly in our later years, it would be useful for this tired prejudice to be overcome. There are signs that this is becoming so.

One hot summer day when I was about 41 or 42, I was slowly climbing up the subway stairs at evening rush hour, crunched up against the hundreds of others heading for the streets. Suddenly, a voice in my ear: “Would you go to the movies with me?”

When I looked back, I was surprised to see a young man of no more than 18 or 19, smiling nicely. I was flattered, but found his offer hard to believe and blurted, “I’m old enough to be your mother.” Without missing a beat, he answered, “Yeah, but I loves my mama.”

Obviously, this was a kid with a quick wit – in addition to good taste.

Some writers cite such Hollywood December/May relationships as Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Madonna and Guy Ritchie as hopeful indicators of changing cultural views and such a shift, led by actors, is certainly welcome. It’s not encouraging, however, to the rest of us when even human sexuality expert, Helen Fisher notes, “These actresses aren't just beautiful - they have money! And power!" A far cry from me, if not thee.

Carolyn Heilbrun, in her book, Writing a Woman’s Life, acknowledges the well-known invisibility that envelops most women at middle age, but she goes on in a manner I find encouraging:

“We will move invisibly for a time, to relearn seeing and to forget being seen. As we grow slowly visible, we will be heard more and seen less. Our voices will ramify, our bodies will become a house for our new spirit.”

And there are younger men who find that spirit more attractive than mere youth.

Eleven years ago at age 52, on my first day of jury duty, I went to lunch with a young man who had been seated next to me during a voir dire and joined me when we were sent back to the jury room. He was smart, funny, charming, a delight to be with, and we hung out together for the duration of our public service.

When we were dismissed on the final day, he invited me to dinner and over the next weeks, one thing led to another until we found ourselves to be a couple. Although he was 27, he had fewer qualms than I did about our 24-year age difference and in the end, it made no difference at all. Yes, I knew things he didn’t, but he was curious when they came up, and he was expert in areas where I had little or no knowledge, so it was a fair trade and our relationship lasted for nearly a year. It ended amicably for reasons that any relationship can end, having nothing to do with age.

Though they did not note if the number of years between the spouses was few or many, the 2000 U.S. census discovered that 12 percent of marriages then involved older women and younger men. That seems a fair percentage of the whole and suggests that December/May relationships are not as remarkable as is supposed.

Love is rare enough in these times and we should embrace it where we find it. Age should be the least of our considerations. And as Millie notes on her blog, younger men have an advantage for older women their contemporaries lack. Encouraging the letter writer to enjoy her relationship with her 40-year-old, Millie says: “…go for it. This guy drives! Men closer to her age, if they drive, they do not drive at night!”


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Ronnie--I suspect that the census finding of 12% of women married to younger men is skewed by the fact that a larger percentage of the men who were in younger woman/older man marriages, had died. It would be interesting to also know the percentage of marriages that involved older woman/younger man pairings.
I think that most of the modern guys are not all hung up on the age difference.

When I was in my mid 40s, I was surprised to learn that the birthday that I was helping my boyfriend celebrate was his 30th. When he learned of my surprise he asked, "Am I supposed to be out chasing 18-year-old muffins?" At about that time, a 20-something at work asked if he was old enough to take me to lunch.

Historically, though, at least in rural areas, a man married late (thus married a much-younger woman), oulived his first wife (she died in child birth), and started the process over while at an even older age. I think that you're onto something, too, in mentioning the money/power part of the equation. I've had several (usually older, foreign-born) men tell me that they wished their wives had my education/earning power.

Something happened to my first attempt at correcting my above comment--and apologizing. It seems that you have cited the percentages at the time of marriage rather than what I mistakenly thought was given (the percentages in existing marriages). My apologies for not reading your words more closely the first time!

Hi Ronni

Another great post. I think another reason why there is a growing trend towards older women with younger men is the changing social position of women. Whereas in the past you needed to marry a man who could give you social standing and (most importantly) money, many more women now have both social standing and money in their own right. They can afford to move out of their parents' house and buy a home of their own rather than having to marry a man who already had a house (and was probably older) in order to leave the family home. So now, women can enter into relationships that might have been totally impractical before - they no longer expect to be shown the ways of the world by a wiser (read older) man, nor do they expect him to support them.

I am a great supporter of the younger man theory. I have not dated an older man in eleven years and it's been (mostly) great. When I first started dating younger men my friends thought I was insane - especially when I hooked up with a student at the university where I was teaching!! But now, 10 years later, most of them are also dating younger men. Admittedly, it does not always end in moonlight and roses. But heck, you have a lot of fun while it lasts! And for the record, I married someone younger than me too...

Maturity is a characteristic many men and women seek in the opposite sex. I think it's great, that age no longer poses a barrier for relationships. We have enough problems trying to find compatibility with somebody else without having to be overly concerned with an age gap.

I think it all comes down to the use of people in a relationship.

Too many times people in relationships are used as a status symbol, or as shock value, or a weapon towards promoting conflict in other relationships.

When the relationship is based on genuine feelings of love and respect, nothing should matter; age, race, religion, gender...

Take Care
Michael

PS
Does that mean that if I wasn't married that I would have a shot with you?

Ronni, I was in a relationship with someone half my age for four years. I was relieved when it finished, albeit devastated. No credit was given that I had lived for as long as I had and had learnt things along the way. It was like living with a child where I could never dampen her enthusiasm with my reality.

Hi, Ronni,
I think you are right, there is far less snickering done when older men go out with women young enough to be their daughters than when an older woman is spotted with a younger man, but it seems nevertheless that this is becoming more common than it used to be, and not only in Hollywood. Or becoming older ourselves, is it something we notice more?

I have a very good friend who celebrated her 61st birthday this month, while her boyfriend and life companion has just turned 41. They have been together for over ten years, and own a house together in the South of France, so it would seem that not all these relationships are always short lived ones. It is nice to know that some men are finally noticing the spirit in older women, and not only younger men, either. Because, as you say, love is rare enough in these times and we should embrace it where we find it. Age should be the least of our considerations.

As for men and their younger sweet-hearts, an older, and happily married, I thought, male friend of mine told me once when I was very young myself that to men, this was a remedy to aging, their own surgery and chemicals, so to speak, as, he said, to take a younger wife made them feel for ever young themselves. He called this the "Blue-beard" syndrome. So I suppose that with the castle, the hundreds of rooms, the chests of gold, the white steed in the backyard and so on, some of these young maiden aren't just there for the blue beard or the spirit either!

But it is definitely a good thing that we are slowly finding more freedom, and that spirit seems to finally prevail over matter at long last.

Oh, your post reminds me of a favorite movie of mine that I actually own--Harold and Maude. My ex has a thing for younger women, as many older men do, but haven't been drawn to younger men generally speaking as I find it uncomfortable to share no memories. Now I have so much shame about my aging body that I'm not anxious to show it off to a hard-bodied younger man.

I am 33, divorced, no children, "free spirited" and blessed with very youthful looks (I also take great care of myself, don't smoke)---
I have been dating a man 12 years younger than myself for the past year.

It has been a challenge. In fact, it has been the ONLY challenge to our otherwise amazingly compatible, kind, loving relationship. I often get the "are you nuts?" question with regard to my financial security in the future (which is understandable) and the, ever-ready brow-raising: "what about kids" commentary....
it's tiring.

I've finally met someone who really loves and cares for me and, if you believe in soul mates, (I've begun to consider this as a possibility) he's the closest thing I've ever known. "Gets me" completely. I have no intention of walking away from him---even though it's difficult.

Love IS hard to find---and I believe it's worth keeping once you find it.

Thank you for this wonderful article. I'm 37 and have been dating someone 11 years younger for only 2 weeks. But in that first date I found someone so amazing and totally unlike any man I'd ever been with that I don't want to be without him. Of course the first comments I had from my mom were "aren't you concerned about the age difference?" To be honest with myself, no I'm not, but to placate my mom I told her I was. Perhaps once she meets him she'll change her mind. All I know is that he is the most wonderful man in the world, we can, and do, talk about anything and everything, and I can't imagine not being with him simply because he's younger than I am. Demi Moore, you're my hero! You go girl!!!

Hi Ronni. I've just spent about an hour reading a bunch of your posts. I'm 48. On my lunch hour today I drove by the house where I grew up, which I do about once a year, and shortly thereafter I found myself crying because it hit me that I was really getting old and I just didn't think I would be able to handle it. But your site is helpful. I think I could come to admire you. Thanks.

Hi Ronnie. I just recently started dating a guy that is 12 years younger than me. I am 34. His parents are cool about it. My mom on the other hand doesn't even know that I am dating him. She is so critical. My dad and my aunt tell me to follow my heart and not to listen to what others say. How could I get over what people might think? I feel like Mrs. Robinson.


Hi Ronnie. Great Post.
I came here because I am on this situation too, I am 27 and married but since a couple of months I meet a boy that has changed my life and he is only 18 (He's kind of soul mate) and i dont know what to do :( I'm so confused, i don't want to hurt no one of them. I would like to take the right decision.

I am 36 years old and I too dated a great guy that was 10 years younger than I was. His family did not have a problem with it at all. I actually became good friends with them. He past away from surgery complication at the begining of 2005. So like posted earlier, as you say, love is rare enough in these times and we should embrace it where we find it. Age should be the least of our concerns. I'm very thankful neither one of us let our age difference stop us. Now I have very precious memories of us forever. Everyone should live in the present and enjoy whats in front of them. Life is too short.

I accidently found this site. Just thought you would like to know that my companion/domestic partner and I have been together a little more than 17 years. I am 25 years older than him. I felt guilty at first that I was depriving him of a "normal" life and I tried to make him go away. He refused. He said he'd leave it up to God as to when our relationship should end. Every once in a while I ask him if he really wouldn't rather be with a younger woman he says he continually says no. We really do have fun together and think along the same lines about life in general. It's a little odd that my "kids" are just older than him... but they all get along and my grandkids have fun calling him Grandpa sometimes. About a year ago I got a face lift partly because it sometimes is bothersome when people think I'm his mother. We either ignore them or he will jump in and say I'm his wife. It depends on the situation. One thing I know for sure is that he didn't line up with me for money. I used to be his boss, but I sold the business and was broke for awhile. We just figured out what to do together and started a couple of new businesses. Now he supports be totally.

Hi
I'm origianly from Germany, I married a Man here in 1987, He was very abusive. However, a Young Man at that time 17, came by and helped me with the Horses and in lot of cases to rescue me from my Husband.
I always loved that Young Man a little, but he grew up got married and left the little Town.He married a girl who was 8 years older than him and pregnant with somebody ells child.My Husband died in 1992 and I left town in 1995.
whenever I came back to visit I ask for that Young Man, nobody seams to know whats happening to him.
Little did I knew that when he also came back to Town was asking about me.But he never could find me.
Well, I'm 48 now, and I date and live with a man who is 55. Fist everything was fine but after 2 years of being with him I noticed that even with 48 I'm to " Young" for him. There is no kissing and hugging and for sure no sex. I started to go to a bad depression and start having Anxiety attacks. I thought my Live is over.
However, my love to Horses kept me going and on the 4th of July this year I drove to TX to pick up a Horse.
I was already in GA when I received a call from home telling me that a Man is looking for me,,,it was the young Man I never thought I would see again. He called me imedialty on my Cell turned strait around and came to TX (where he lived the past 12 years) just to see me.
When I saw him after 12 years my heart dropped to the ground. He was so grown up , now 31, very mature, very serious and very happy to see me again.
He is now divorced there his Ex cheated on him and he takes care of his 11 year old son.
When I left TX to go back to NC I cried knew there was more.
He started e mailing me , chat with me and calling me every day. Soon we we fell in Love with each other and it seams like the love grows stronger every day. He wants me to move to TX with him eventually get married, but I just don't know. I'm just so much older than him. But I don't want to breake his heart, he loves me so much. Should I go for it?
I really want to, why can older guys date young womans, why older womans can not date younger man?
I just don't know what to do

I met a wonderful man he is 25 and I am 40. I never dreamed I could feel so much happiness and I know I have met my soul mate. I had tried to make him go I pushed him away because society didn't agree and it was just not acceptable. We are now married my four children love him my family loves him and his family is fine with it. I have never felt so close to any man, I have not been able to share my true self with any one and be as honest as I am and him with me. It seems most relationships are based on game playing and on lies and I dont feel you truly ever know a person, and with him my whole perspective is different. The age is only a number it isnt about the sex it is about the love the honesty the ability to be honest and not judged and he is the best thing in my. So if any one is confused dont let society rule you because you may just lose the best thing to ever come along. I almost let it go..

Wow, what interesting an inspiring stories about "intergenerational" love. I'm almost 43 and dating a man of 32. We get more odd looks because he’s white, I’m not, than an age thing. Nevertheless, the difference bothers me when I think about him wanting children. I’m not menopausal but I have gynecological problems that when they are taken care of could leave me menopausal and/or infertile. We’ve been seeing each other for nearly a year, and I feel as though I may be falling in love with this man. To have to possibly give him up tears me up inside. I wish we had met five or ten years earlier.

I am 52 and have 3 grown adult children, the oldest is 31, others are 26 and 25. I am currently about to live common-law with a handsome, muscular, fit, 24 year old man. I met him in a park a few blocks away from my divorce lawyers office. I approached him to ask a few questions and we have been together since! People notice the obvious chemistry between us and it is mean-eyed women who often say "Oh, and is this your son?" often with a jealous sneer in their tone. Recently my boyfriend's younger 20 year old brother, also quite handsome, recently grabbed me and kissed me at a party and I kissed him back! I am aware he is also attracted to me. What temptation! Of course, I won't cheat on my boyfriend but what is happening here!!!!!! I have been told by the 20 year old that I don't look old. I am still trying to deal with how to handle the young women who approach my boyfriend and flirt outrageously in their skimpy outfits. I see their jealousy when they find out he is my boyfriend! I love my boyfriend and I would never go back to my grossly obese, cheating husband even if he cried a river of tears, as usual, to get me back. Is there a support group for older women with much younger men out there? I don't understand fully what is happening! But I appreciate the solciological phenomena whatever it is! I just don't know how to handle the comments and ageism, mainly from other women both young and old. My boyfriend and I decided a few days ago that in order to avoid the hassle, scandle and comments etc. we seem to elicit, we would simply tell inquiring people we are 'just friends.' But we would only pretend to be 'just friends' and continue our relationship and love for one another. He isn't after my money because I don't have any, he isn't after me for sex because we sleep together without sex because of the discomfort of being in my older son's house temporarily. He hasn't taken life insurance on me!!! I can only safely conclude this young man loves me and wants to be with me. My old cheating dog of an ex-husband will just die from his foolishness when he finds out. That's o.k! This is just a small side benefit, I find myself falling more deeply in love with my boyfriend every day.

I am 51 and have been involved with a 35 yr old man for just about 1yr. Prior to that I was in a 28yr relationship and content about half of the time. Something was missing in my first relationship that I was not aware of until I met my lover. There is so much more communication, less baggage, more affection-lots more affection and respect. It's as though we are equals. He has a great sense of humor and is so considerate of my feelings. However, I find my self fighting the concept of love with him. I cant decide if I want to leave the relationship or scream from a mountain top that I love the man. It's insane, its exciting and it makes me incredibly happy most of the time. I am sure it has to do with the age difference and what others will think. The truth is I am in a different place in my life. I am active, creative, successful and so willing to live and try new things. Most men my age seem to lack the energy I am now experiencing. For now, I will enjoy this gift, follow this path and see where it leads me

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