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Open Mike

In This Corner!

So, how old are you, anyway?
From the 08/02 - 05/03 Your Turn

The central question being, does age matter or not, and the possible answers being, Yes, No, or It Depends, herewith you will find a sampling (young and old, male and female, serious and frivolous) of opinion from our readers. Far more Yes answers than No answers, and the usual crop of wishy-washy in betweens—but the No answers have a ring of truth to them, a ring of having gone through the whole of it before rendering a verdict, whereas the Yeses sound on the whole more innocent, less tempered, less sad in the way that real life tends to be sad.

 

Yes

I've done this six times. I was 19 the first time and my husband was 29 with two children and divorced. He was a motorcycle racer. It lasted a year. My second husband was 50 and I was 20. He was a hard hat diver, traveled around the world, had been in movies. We lived in California, Mexico, New York, New Jersey and Florida and we changed names in each city. I ran away five years later. Three subsequent husbands were also ten years older. The last one ten years younger and he was the most dangerous of all. It's not the age that matters. It's the husbands.

***

On our first date, Tom revealed to me that he was 25 years old and living at home. At that time, I was a 31 year old divorcee who had been on my own since the age of 17. After his divulgence, our date lasted as long as it took me to drain my wineglass. I gave him a peck on the cheek and wished him good luck.

He called every night for a week until I agreed to a second date. In my mind, I saw it as a mission of mercy. A chance to explain to him that the glaring differences in our ages, lifestyles and experiences were too great to give us any chance of a successful relationship together. I would be kind and use my experience and maturity to break it to him gently.

I could not have been more wrong....or foolish. Since that second date, and for the past six years, Tom has taught me that age is irrelevant. The qualities that matter in a relationship are not defined by age. I've been involved with men ten years his senior that didn't possess half the maturity, integrity and sense of responsibility that my husband has.

That's right, my husband. We were married two years ago and our relationship has flourished. My experience and sense of responsibility keeps him grounded and his humor and sense of adventure keeps me youthful. It's a May/December match made in heaven.

***

I believe that the old... "having something in common" cliché istrue —here's why... Briefly: My mom and dad were married for 25 years. He died when he was fifty. Mom was devastated. She went to the cemetery a few times a week for about 6 months or so, emotionally "holding on to him". We began to worry about her... Until she met a man (at the cemetery—of all places). His spouse had also passed away quite recently. I saw her smile for the first time since dad died. Together they had something "in common". Here's how common: his wife died on the same day and year, of the same thing, and in the same hospital… within minutes... of my father's death. I really don't think that the 35-year age difference between them could hold a candle to the "fate" issue at hand! (Yep, she was 40 and he was 75.) The relationship had brought "life" back into her again—so, I guess you could say that for her, life really did begin at 40.

***

Age is chronology, simply put. A better gauge of a relationship's viability is maturity and the ability to relate to each other on even the most mundane of issues. I would never endorse a 30 year gap in age, but there may be those who can. I am under the impression that love is hard to come by. One should never turn their back upon it. Love presents itself in the strangest places, and at the most unusual of times. Love for love's sake, don't be prejudiced to what could come from a significant age gap. Maturity, stability and wisdom are gifts we receive with age. Someone younger may be drawn to these very same traits. An older person will be drawn to the youth and vigor of a younger person. There are definite and undeniable contributions from both parties.

***

I am in my early twenties and seem drawn to older men, at least six years older. In my current relationship my boyfriend is nine years older than me. For the most part there is no definite sign of the age difference, we get along great and enjoy the same activities. To me that is the most important part of a relationship. The pros: More experienced, in many areas, but especially the bedroom, he knows what you want. Financially stable, responsible, he has his partying out of his system. The Cons: Most definitely stuck in his ways. You aren't going to get him to conform to anything you want. Such as rearranging the furniture—it's how he likes it. Also, I find my boyfriend lecturing me about this or that. Which can be frustrating, I have to remind him he's my lover not my dad. But mostly it's what you make of it.

***

I was 20 years old when I met my husband Tom. He was 28. The story of how we met has been told so many times among our friends that it's almost like a folk tale. I was coming out of a relationship and was not looking to fall into another one. We just clicked. At first I had no idea that I would end up dating this man. He was just a guy in a bar. He was with a bunch of friends and so was I. I gave him my number but never really expected to hear from him. I do know that I never thought for a second about his age. I honestly don't remember if we exchanged ages that first night or some time later. After we ran into each other the second time, we began dating and have been together ever since. That was over 11 years ago. At 40 he is still just as sociable and entertaining as ever. We have had our ups and downs just like any couple but age has never been an issue. Of course I call him an old man from time to time just to get his goat, but I have never felt like I married someone older. When we were first dating we never stopped to consider how we would feel when he turned 40 and I 32. We don't spend any time now thinking about what it will be like when he is 60 and I am 52. If two people are really compatible age is not an issue.

There have been times, I will admit, when I have wondered what we will be like when we are old. Will he die before me and leave me alone? It is then that I worry about our age difference. Not that we will no longer have anything in common or that we will have talked about everything we have to talk about. I will wish when he is 80 and I am 72 that we were closer in age. Only because I wouldn't want to be left behind. Who knows, maybe he will live to be 100 and I will die at a younger age.

I believe that the age difference between Tom and I has gotten smaller over the past 11 years. I believe that it will continue to shrink more over time. And yes I believe that there may come a time when it will grow again. That, however, is something that only time will tell and I have no worries that we will still be together then.

***

Fourteen years ago, I was fortunate to meet Marilyn. Thirteen years ago we married. I was 57. She was 38. I have just celebrated my 70th birthday.

***

Richard is eight years younger than I am. I knew this when we met. There were no secrets, no lies, no bluffing, no embarrassment. Maybe that's because we were both married to other people at the time, and we were both attending college at night (a youthful activity at any age). It could also be because we had so much in common. We had both spent years being the responsible half in relationships with alcoholic spouses. No matter what the reasons, the age difference wasn't even a subject for discussion, at the time.

Two years later we have divorced our respective alcoholic spouses and are married to each other. Every day for two years we worked at rearranging our lives to accommodate the love that developed between us. Hours were spent discussing everything from our children to our finances… and ultimately our age difference. Richard has always claimed that it means nothing to him. He prefers older women, he says. Maturity is sexy. And I can honestly say that Richard is more stable and aware of his place in the world at 33 than my ex is at 49. His youth never crossed my mind, unless it was when I thought of how much older I was than him.

So why did I lie to his parents and co-workers about my age? It's simple. At 42 I can easily pass for 36, so why not? Yes, I am insecure about the age difference, or more precisely, about my age. No, I don't want other people to be concerned and judgmental about it. I don't want my insecurity complicated by other people's opinions. Maybe it isn't so wise for me to remind Richard that gravity won't hold out forever and that there are things happening in my mirror that he can never understand from his current chronological position. But I can't help wanting to make sure he knows what he's doing. Always covering my bases, that's me. That way no one can call 'foul' later.

In the meantime, I keep my mind on how fortunate I am to be with someone who is so full of life and so open to the world. I wish I had found him years ago, before I entered my 18-year sentence in hell...like when I was 21 and he was 13?

It Depends

Age is only an issue when it's the only thing that seems to slow a warm, growing relationship down. If one or the other is finding it difficult to commit because of "some" reason or another... it might be the age gap is too wide to cross. With the difference in age comes the likely fact that the younger will end up being a health caregiver sooner than they are emotionally ready. Real love shouldn't question the marital responsibilities, but in real life... when things go wrong... faithfulness is tested in ways unimaginable.

***

Between two consenting adults, I don't see where "too" many can happen. By adults, I do mean over twenty-one. You can't put time and space limit on chemistry. It either works or it doesn't. If it works then there's no reason why the people involved can't enjoy it. The furthest I've gone down Diaper Road is about 10 years. I'm 33. I lightly dated a 23 year old. Really, all I wanted from him was sex. And he didn't seem to mind that at all. Was it worth it? Sure it was. Gave me something to fantasize about for a few weeks. On the other hand, once morning came and I saw that his hair was really blonde and not brown like I'd thought the night before, there was barely anything to talk about. It also depends on the person's communication levels, if they're emotionally retarded, etc. This guy was not just an emotional wall, he gave the Hoover Dam wall a run for it's money.

***

Funny thing that this topic has come up at this point—this summer I had (and still have) an interest in a younger man. I am 29 he is 24. He and I had met a number of times through friends, and he called, but I just thought he was too young (he was 21 at the time). However, I always thought he was a gentleman. I bumped into him again early summer, and the chemistry was just amazing: I wanted to be friends, but it turned into more. At that point he got scared, and now we talk maybe once a month. So to sum this up—I don't thing age difference is the biggest deal, it is 1) Stage of life: One person is ready for marriage the other isn't for example. 2) Society norms: Going against the grain to date a older woman. 3) Peer Involvement: Some people are influenced by their peer's opinions, and 4) Confidence level: Taking the chance. So, for May-September romances (even though 5 years hardly qualifies), all the aspects have to be taken into account, they can work beautifully or bomb depending on the circumstances and personalities.

No

Anything over 5 years will most likely turn out to be too much. One of the other will be so set in their ways it will be like trying to chip away at a slab of granite. With a toothpick. How do I know? I married a man almost 16 years older than me. He's in his forties, I'm in my twenties and we couldn't be farther apart. Why did I marry him? Good question.

Now we've grown apart. Or rather I've grown and he remains the same and is adamant about staying that way. So, the incompatibilities are really glowing like phosphorescent light now. We don't enjoy any of the same events, activities, etc...

My opinion: Try to marry someone as close to your age and maturity level as you can. You'll most likely wind up regretting it later if you don't. There are exceptions to every rule, but I've found those exceptions are rare and exceptional indeed.

***

A May/December relationship is exactly what its name implies and therein lies the trouble. One of you is bound to be fresh and warm, while the other has graduated from that stage of life and is worn by seasons past. One wants to party the night away; the other would rather take a nap. Simply put, there are too many differences between the perspectives of the younger and older partner.

This in no way implies that a May/December relationship cannot workout in the long term—there's too much anecdotal evidence that shows otherwise. It is my belief and opinion that love can conquer hardships, but aren't relationships hard enough without the added stress of a huge age gap?

Take for instance my mother, who faced her fiftieth birthday without a life companion. Like the infamous Stella, she vacationed in beautiful Jamaica where she met her May love, Kirk. He was younger than both of my older siblings, and this caused no small amount of drama in our family and in their relationship. Once the family realized the two of them were going to marry whether we supported them or not, we decided to stand by their side. As we all know, getting married is always the easy part.

My mother grew jealous and controlling, watching other women's eyes, certain they were directed at her man. She wondered if one day he would leave his aging wife for a younger woman. Kirk's choice of music and the decibel level he chose to play it at began as a minor irritation but soon became the source of their many arguments. Unfortunately, his CD collection wasn't the only difficulty between them. The imbalance of wealth and knowledge became an issue shortly after the wedding, when my mother started planning her retirement. She was looking forward to the end of her career while he was trying to find one. He bounced from one job to the other, unable to find a good job because of his lack of education and experience. Meanwhile, my mother supported him, the way one would with a child in college. Only he was her man, not her son. Age is more than just a number. It is a tool used to measure experience and maturity. There is a reason there are age requirements to drink, smoke, or sign a contract.

***

I am 44, she is 24. We have been married for 1 year and 4 months, together a total of 3 years. She calls me "grampa," and often says stuff about my age. Most of the stuff she says follows the general theme of: "You're 44 years old! Grow up!" I think I seem younger than 44, I look younger, and she seems older than 24. She basically agrees with that, but she still blames me for her unhappiness, blames grampa. She blames me for wasting her youth. She has wasted her youth on me, she says. I agree. I am too old for her. But I love her! She is a beautiful woman, truly. I honestly think she is the most beautiful woman I have ever met. Well, at least on the outside.

On the inside she is a disaster. Complex, convoluted, vain, and very troubled. Man-troubled. Her father left her mother before she was born and she had no contact with him until she was fourteen, and not much contact after that. She was abused as a child, too, by her mother, stepfather, aunt, sister, and god knows who else. There is more to tell, but I won't go on. Suffice it to say my heart aches for her. It aches with grief and with love. I would sacrifice nearly all for her! I already have.

We're having a baby. It, she, will arrive in about 6 weeks. Can you believe that? We're having a baby! I already have 2, though they're not exactly babies. My wife could be my baby! I am old enough to be her father.

We have so many problems in our relationship. Our relationship sucks! She is unhappy, unhappy with grampa, but the age difference is not the only problem we have. There are others, many others. But it certainly is one problem and I suspect that in time, probably within just a few years, it will come to outweigh all of our other problems. I am a young 44, and she is an old 24, but at 44 I am not really young and at 24 she is not really old. Will I be a young 50? Maybe "young at heart," but still old, very old. But at 30 she will still be young, or at least youngish, and beautiful, and then what? Trouble, that's what. She will be cheating on me, I know she will, and that will destroy me. To my knowledge she has not cheated on me yet, though she has come dangerously close, and I know that she is not opposed to it as a matter of principle. And she can be very cruel anyway, so when the time comes, she won't hesitate much. And where will I be then?

***

I am currently a 34 year old male and have been involved in several relationships where the woman I was dating was older than me. These age differences were as small as 1 year and as large as 28! In almost every case, the woman had a bigger problem with it than I did.

When I was 29, I met a woman who was 57. She had a Joan Collins like carriage about her; I thought she was at most 44. Of course, if she actually was 44, she'd still be 15 years older than I was, but I was used to dating women in their 40's. 57—that was a different story.

Things were going well for the first 3 or 4 encounters. It wasn't until I went to her place that the problem started. She was a successful business owner of a bed and breakfast, and she lived in the penthouse of the facility. the first time she brought me there, she made a point of sneaking me in the back door so her employees would not see her bringing home someone so much younger than her. I was okay with this, in fact, I found it a little amusing. It was what happened upstairs that didn't go over well.

In her apartment, she had pictures of her son and two daughters over the fireplace. I should note that both her daughters were older than me and she had an agreement with one of them that it was okay for her (mom) to date younger guys as long as they weren't younger than the daughter. When I saw the pictures, I made some jocular comments about how it would be funny for me to meet one of her daughters at a dance, hook up with her, and then have them discover that they have something more in common other than genetics. Hee haw, I thought I was just being a funny guy. She, unfortunately, didn't see it that way. She dumped me the next day.



The In This Corner! files:

February 2002 - July 2002: Helpless?

July 2001 - January 2002: Cheat Lie Cheat

April - June 2001: What Craziness, Marriage?

February/March 2001: Sex and Double Standards

November/December 2000 - January 2001: The Ouch of Breaking Up

September/October 2000: Is Ideal Unreal?

July/August 2000: Is the romantic proposal dead?

May/June 2000: Can men and women be just friends?

April 2000: The importance of physical appearance in relationships.


 

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