Question from TPF reader:

I personally am attracted to older men, but would never dream of dating someone more than, say, 15 years older than me. Which a lot of my friends would say is still quite a stretch, as I am only in my late twenties. I have this rule: if I could absolutely never bring this person home to my dad, I can’t date them. My question is, is there such a thing as “too old”? Does it differ depending on which gender is older, or for same sex couples? If I, at 28 would date a 40 year old without a second thought, am I hypocritical for unconsciously judging that attractive 25 year old out for brunch with her 50 year old mate?

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There is just no denying it:  there is an unfair double standard when it comes to age in our society.   Men grow more distinguished with age, while apparently women just grow old.  A younger woman dating an older man is either looking for a father figure or a sugar daddy, while the reverse barely turns heads. God forbid a woman goes out with a man a few years younger than her as that’s just cougar bait.   I say to hell with it all, society does not have to live our life and is certainly not in charge of it.   It may be a trite saying but it rings true to me: age is just a number.  There are a countless number of more interesting and important things that we should care about when it comes to the men we date.

Age is not synonymous with maturity, values, ambition, or even general interests.  Sure there may be a higher chance of relating with a man who grew up watching the same cartoons as you did when you were a kid, but there is more than one way to build common ground.   An age gap requires a concerted effort to overcome.   But what successful relationships don’t require effort?  If anything, coming from different generations will provide an early push to work harder as a couple to communicate differences and develop joint interests.

I’m not speaking without some authority in these matters:  I have over a decade on my boyfriend and had a similar span with my ex-husband.   I used to struggle a lot with why I was attracted to younger men and wonder what dysfunction made them interested in me.   But I have mostly made peace with it.   I say mostly because it’s a never-ending struggle to shrug off the tacit, and not so tacit, judgement of society.   I have only just recently stopped cringing every time one of my friends labels me a ‘daddy’ – affectionately I trust.    What I have come to realize is that age has never really been a factor in my relationships but rather my own misconceptions or mishandling of it.    It is far too easy to chalk up any or all of the problems in your relationship to age – especially when you are angry, hurt, or tired.   When I dig a little deeper, I have always found out that there is something more meaningful at play:  an inability or unwillingness to communicate, mis-matched values, or just a very different perspective on life.

So to the reader who wonders whether there is such a thing as ‘too old’, I say an emphatic NO!   I would say the same thing to men or women, whether they are straight, gay, or somewhere in between.   Society may not always agree with me as it seems to like to apply uneven standards but, if you’ve read this far, you already know what I think about society’s judgement.   Instead of worrying about them, I suggest you spend your valuable energy figuring out what attracts you to older men and make sure that you are willing to work to bridge your differences with them.  If you end up finding Mr. Right along the way, I’m also pretty sure that your dad will want to meet him no matter how old he is.   One of the best parts of being an adult is your ability to reject judgement of all kind – including from your parents.  They may not show it all the time but excluding them from your life is a much graver sin that dating someone they may not approve of.

Finally, I will say that rejecting other people’s judgement becomes infinitely easier when you stop judging others.  Every time you look and scoff at some other inter-generational couple, you are really just projecting your own insecurities about liking older men.  You have as much insight into what makes their relationship work as others have in your own.  There is no age limit to happiness.