Why Don’t We Validate Women’s Opinions About Dating As Much As We Do Men’s?

The Twitter is abuzz about this Time article that simultaneously paints men’s attitudes about not dating women in their 30s as “caveman-era,” then goes on to uncritically give voice to a whole other set of stereotypes about women in their 30s by asking men why they do date tricenarians, as if the entire body of women aged 30 to 39 have had the same life experiences, look the same way, act the same way, are at the same level of emotional maturity, espouse the same attitudes, want the same things. As if women go from 29 one day to 30 the next and are magically POOF!ed into a whole new being, and these artificial lines we draw between one set of women and another are actually real. As if we aren’t all very different individuals who are given, in the very grand scheme of things, an arbitrary number to attach to ourselves that has to do with our planet’s relative position to the sun.

Call me bitter about it, but where are the 12,000-woman studies about why women choose to stereotype and date or not date broad swaths of men? Give “why women date younger men” a Google for me and see what turns up: Should you date younger men? What are the pros and cons? It’s doomed from the start! Women cannot discriminate about age in a non-traditional way – cannot intentionally date younger men – without it being framed as something for us to be anxious about. Men dating older women is framed as something they do (and possibly even something for which they should be congratulated), men dating younger women is framed as something they do, women dating older men is framed as something we do, but women dating younger men is framed as a problem to be worried over and resolved.

I know that the Time article addressed both men’s points of view who dated women who were younger and older than them, but that’s the point: We ask men for their opinions about dating women who are fill-in-the-blank and we worry about women’s dateability, as if we have expiration dates or need to meet up to mens’ standards. We don’t subject men to the same scrutiny.

Would doing so make for a more equal discourse about relationships, or just an angrier one? I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head why I hated dating men who were older than me in comparison to my boyfriend, who’s several years younger than me but also more open-minded and self-aware than most of the older men I dated. But it wouldn’t make much sense for me to say “All men who are older than me are [x]” or assume that, god forbid, were Michael and I to break up, it would be the correct choice for me to only bother dating men who are younger than me. Here’s the truth: Michael is an anomaly. He and I happen to be able to be around each other for big chunks of time without wanting to throw each other out the window. We get each other’s jokes, and it doesn’t feel like a burden to help each other. We admire each other personally and intellectually. I really don’t think that the 1,500 revolutions of the planet between my birthday and his had anything to do with that at all.

There’s a basic lack of respect for other human beings in the very fact of saying “Here’s a list of physical characteristics that I need a person to have for me to bestow my time and genitals upon them.” Or, not even saying – thinking. Assuming. Knowing that you’ll probably do better with someone who likes to hang out with friends a lot because having a social life is important to you is one thing. Knowing that dating someone who really, really does not want to have kids isn’t going to work for you because you really, really do is one thing. Knowing that you’ll get along with someone who tends to be quiet better than someone who talks all the time because you’re also a quiet person and you enjoy it — or maybe the other way around, because you’d rather listen to a conversation than lead it — is one thing. But saying “You’re black, so I will/won’t date you,” or “Your boobs aren’t gigantic, so I will/won’t date you,” or “You’re 30 so I will/won’t date you,” is another entirely, because none of those things give you a real, deep-down, core insight as to who that person is as a human being.

So two suggestions: First, let’s stop writing these fatuous articles about how some physical characteristic or another is actually important in determining who you’re romantically compatible with, because they validate and perpetuate that idea. Second, when we do write about dating, maybe let’s think about asking as many women as we do men about our experiences and opinions, and ask us the same questions with the same genuine curiosity, because we are, big duh, half of the conversation.

[Time]

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