By Rachael Shearer
I’ll never forget having my fragile 15 year old heart broken by an older boy, and my mother’s consoling words, “He’ll be better when he’s finished.” Finished what? “Finished growing up” she explained. Baffled by how an 18 year old boy could possibly need to grow any further, she assured me that girls are inherently more mature than boys, and that they will always be a few years behind us. Now, age 24, I still hear those words ringing in my ears. When will they actually be “finished”? How old do we have to go to find some level playing field of maturity? Must they be greying and wrinkled before they can fully comprehend the complexities of the female mind? With several friends venturing towards men in their late 30s and early 40s, I began to wonder about these dating age limits and what they really say about the difference between boys and men.
Firstly, how old are you willing to go?
We can thank the media for beacons of masculinity like Tom Selleck whose sheer size and moustache during “friends” awakened a craving in us for the embrace of such a beastly virile creature. However, he was Monica’s Dad’s best friend, and from that comes the question of “daddy issues”. Should you be dating someone who could have hypothetically conceived you? What if he has a daughter the same age or older than you? Perhaps there is a certain level of risk involved that’s appealing, but realistically, you want to be with someone that you’re not going to outlive by 30 years. So how old is too old? Celine Dion’s husband is 20 years her senior and she seems pretty happy about it. We’ll cap it at 20 for now, seeing as Celine Dion is basically perfect.
Secondly, and more awkwardly, how young are you willing to go?
Here’s where things get tricky. By my mother’s decree, they’re always three or four years behind, so why push it any further? Leo in Romeo and Juliet still makes me faint, but if I take it back five or six years I’m dating a teenager… in high-school. However, for the older woman or “cougar” there is an undeniable attraction to younger men. Their energetic, youthful, carefree attitude is an escape from the woes of middle-aged life and a brief reminder of what it was like to have adventurous, inconsequential fun. Bleak? We’ll decide when we’re 40 and Tom Selleck’s hairy chest no longer does it for us. They don’t all age like Hugh Hefner. For now, a twenty-something girl dating anywhere below the twenty-something line is bringing a whole lot of unnecessary nonsense into her life.
Isn’t age just a number?
While I would say that my maturity peaked at 17 and I have shown no signs of further emotional development since, there are other elements of age that must be taken into consideration – interests, common ground, career path? What will a 24 year old woman and a 42 year old man really have in common? She’s working as a freelance, can’t wait to go travelling all summer with the girls, and still hasn’t learned how to drive, while he’s picking up his kids (from a previous marriage) and will have meetings with his lawyer all afternoon. Forgive the sweeping generalization. Even the disparity between a 22 year old guy and a 28 year old girl can be huge. Fresh out of college versus 6 years deep in the real world can set you leagues apart. While it is always interesting to talk to people at different points in their life and exchange experiences – opposites do attract – it is often difficult to fully understand a person’s situation if they are significantly older than you. The younger ones we get – we’ve been there – but life experience trumps inexperience, and someone can feel left behind.
The rule is there are no rules
The laws of attraction are vague, confusing, and often down to a base, human instinct that we cannot explain. Maturity is a grey are that truly varies among individuals within the same age group. It would be highly unfair to constantly abide by my mother’s advice and expect the worst from every man I meet, and so we must give the benefit of the doubt. While anyone more than two years younger than me would give me the creeps because they’d be the same age as my baby brother, and anyone over 30 would scare me off with their (presumably) car, career & condo, staying within the twenty-something bracket is just my cup of tea – it might not be everyone else’s. Be adventurous and try things out, but stay within a zone that is comfortable for you, and away from high-school kids and grandpas.