Last week, I met a friend for coffee and, as we sipped our cappuccinos, I pumped her for details on the date she’d been on the the night before. “It was alright,” she said, sounding unenthused. “He was just really … young.”
“How young?” I asked, worried we might be talking about a guy with a fake ID.
“Twenty-six,” she said, wincing ever-so-slightly as she pushed out the words.
“That’s not that young,” I said, rushing to the defense of this guy I’d never met. But as I pointed out that there was five years between them—not the biggest age differential ever—I could tell by the look on her face that it wasn’t going to change her mind. When you’re not feeling it, you’re just not feeling it—and I respect that.
Still, I can’t help but notice that my female friends—especially the ones in their early 30s, like myself—tend to rule out guys because they are just a touch on the young side. To many women I know, a guy admitting that he is under 30 is the equivalent of saying, “I committed a white collar crime” or “I live with my ex.” It’s a piece of information that seems to shut down the conversation. I find this reaction especially fascinating given that, at least outwardly, we applaud Demi Moore for snatching up Ashton and mentally high five Sam Taylor, the female director of “Kick-Ass,” for putting a ring on 19-year-old star Aaron Johnson. While we seem to think that, for women over 40, dating guys drastically younger is desirable, there’s some sort of mental block against guys born in that five years space after us.
Part of me wonders if it’s not some kind of residual memory we have of guys this age. Someone who is single at 30 was very likely single at 25 and remembers the churn of guys who wooed them and then never called. We seem to have it stuck in our minds that guys in their mid 20s are busily working out math equations to help them maximize the amount of sex they can have with the greatest number of women. And while that might be true for many guys in this age bracket, it’s certainly the case for many older guys, too. The truth is that there is a good percentage of men in their mid 20s who feel ready for a relationship.
Honestly, there was a point in time when my knee-jerk response to someone just a few years younger than me was, “Next!” When I was a junior in high school, I remember turning down a date with a sophomore because, well, ewww. At the time, I felt like it was a sign of my maturity that I dated seniors and the occasional college freshman. I kept the aversion to dating someone younger until very recently. (And yes, it comes up a lot for me because I look young. If you want to get carded, come to a bar with me.)
These things actually have nothing to do with age.
Of course, there is a reason I’m thinking about all this now. Last Thursday, while seeing one of my favorite bands at one of my favorite clubs in New York City, I started talking to the adorable guy standing next to me. From the first laugh we shared, there was that instant click and that sense of extreme comfort you feel so rarely with another person. We’ve spent virtually every evening together since then. He is, as you probably guessed, 25—six years younger than me.
On New Year’s, I pledged to stop treating my green zebra search like a hunt and start thinking of it more like a meandering stroll. And that’s exactly the way I thought of meeting people and dating when I was his age. Back then, it didn’t feel like time was slipping through the hourglass and I needed to find my person, stat, in order to have the life I allays imagined for myself. When I was 25, I could feel giddy about someone without qualifiers like, “Who knows where’s it’s going,” because the destination wasn’t even on the radar.
And really, does it need to be when you’re first getting to know someone?
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