We’re brought up on fairy tales and later, romantic comedy depictions about finding your significant other. While tossing your split ends out the window in the vain hope that prince charming will roll up in his white Mustang to rescue you, you probably had the “Would You Ever Date a Guy That/Who’s _________” conversation with your besties.

“Would you ever date a guy that has kids?”

“Would you date a guy who’s bald? …What if it’s from a disease?”

“Would you ever date a guy who’s 10 years older than you?”

My answer to the last question was a fervent no. In my personal fantasy world, the acceptable age difference between a man and woman was rigidly set at five (maaaaybe seven) years. What could I possibly have in common with someone more than five years older than me? If he’s that much older, why isn’t he married yet? Any man who dates a much younger woman is a creepy cradle robber. It’s just gross. Imagine the subsequent hypocrisy of me dating someone who’s 17 years my senior.

I was born in 1990; he was born in 1973. I’m 23; he just turned 40. Ours is a whirlwind May-Mesozoic Era romance if ever there was one. I can write about it, and more importantly, laugh about it now, but that wasn’t always the case. In the beginning of our relationship I was insecure, embarrassed, and ashamed—not of my beau and his rapidly approaching senior citizen discount eligibility–but of myself, because I was worried that everyone we came across as a couple would be every bit as narrow-minded and judgmental about our significant age difference as I once was.

What if people think I’m a gold digger? What does it say about me that I’m not dating a fellow 20-something? What if my mom disowns me? Does this mean I have daddy issues? All these stereotypes, stigmas, and opinions we see and read in the media–perpetuated by pop culture—most of which are formed by people who have never once been in a relationship with someone particularly older or younger than they are. We internalize these assumptions and accusations as facts—at least I did.

Good, 'cause I'm totally not.Source
Good, ’cause I’m totally not.
Source

I know that I’m independent, so why, when I first started dating my boyfriend, did hearing “Gold Digger” on the radio make me squirm in the driver’s seat of my car? I know that quality men come in all different ages, so why did I initially question my boyfriend’s single status, especially when prior to us dating, I was one of those “single people” myself? Why did I assume a woman who has supported every decision I’ve made would suddenly turn her back on me because of who I’m in love with? Despite never feeling like I missed out on having a dad when I was growing up with a single parent, why did I fear this relationship was some latent expression of “issues” I didn’t even know I had?

When we first started dating, I was so overwhelmed by my fear of how people might perceive me that I was noncommittal, standoffish, and even mean. In the beginning, I didn’t even tell my friends I was seeing anyone after we had been on several dates. When he introduced me to his friends, I was shy; I’d keep to myself and imagine all the things running through their minds about me. When our relationship became Facebook official, I waited a long time before introducing him to any of my own friends and my mother. When I finally did let our relationship into my militantly guarded world, my friends and mom were surprised, but they accepted our relationship in a way I sincerely wish I had from the start. I may always feel guilty about how selfish I was then, putting my superficial concerns above what really mattered: how happy I was (and am) with him.

Source
Source

I let it get to me—this imaginary nonsense about how things ought to be when you’re in a serious relationship. We romanticize these happily ever afters, and in the process we perpetuate the notion that anything that deviates from the same old high school/college sweethearts bit is something that should be frowned upon. Sometimes the stereotypes ring true: there are women out there who have “earning potential” at the top of their must-have list; there are dishonorable men with bad intentions and those who treat their girlfriends and wives like trophies; there are women who manifest issues they had with their father (or lack thereof) into their romantic relationships—there’s plenty of truth to all of that, but sometimes, a couple with an age difference is just a couple.

Allow me to expose the lurid details of dating an older man. There are a lot of references to movies that go over my head. There are old photos that make my childhood 90s attire look like haute couture. When we tell stories about things that happened in high school, the other does the math, and we marvel at how old he was or how young I was then. When “Father Figure” by George Michael plays on the radio or at any business establishment, we have a good laugh. He introduces me to the classics old stuff that sucks, and I teach him how to use hashtags. We deal with each other’s quirks, watch TV, and have fun like any other “regular” couple.

Harrison Ford and Calista FlockhartSource
Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart
Source

At the risk of this sounding like a writing sample for Hallmark–we should be accepting relationships for what they are: a couple of people who are together because they like/love each other for whatever reason. Race, gender, age, religion—the way I see it, if you’re not one of the people in the relationship, you’re in no position to judge. I admit I still have my moments, usually at parties surrounded by married people his age with their kids. It’s not always easy, and by no means do I advocate giving up hanging out at bars for volunteering at the nursing home cafeteria to find Mr. Right, but if you do happen to find yourself interested in someone a little older or (legally) younger than you, it can work, and it can be every bit as loving, fulfilling, and life-changing as being with someone from your generation. Look at Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart (23 years difference) or Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (25 years difference).

Don’t get swept away by the fantasy. I may have never daydreamed about dating someone 17 years older than me, but I did daydream about what I have with him: a loving relationship filled with laughter with a respectful man who’s kind, thoughtful, and genuine. At the end of the day, I’m glad I realized there was a lot more potential for “happily ever after” in my relationship with him than with my preconceived notions.

57 thoughts on “You’re from the 70s, But I’m a 90s Chick

  1. Actually, my ex-bf was 16 years older than I am. Now I prefer older guys over younger ones, although the age gap between my boyfriend and me is not that big anymore – ‘only’ 7 years. Now, when he feels like he is way too old, I can tell him: hey, compared to ex you are a kid 😉

    1. Ha! Yeah, 7 years seems like nothing, now. I think it would be hard to go back to not making the age-related jokes. If nothing else, that definitely makes it worth it.

  2. I once dated a guy for a while that was 6 years my junior (Seriously… how was I supposed to know he was 19? I met him in a BAR, with a beer in his hand!) and followed that disaster by forming a relationship with a man 15 years my senior. Another disaster, but I learned different things from each relationship. I learned I can spot a novice liar a mile away, but that I had to work on my ‘lie-dar’ with those who have simply had more time to perfect the art.

    I am now happily in a relationship with a man who is 7 years older than I am (and is often mistaken for being younger than I am… bastard!) but who clicks with me perfectly, like no other has ever done and I love him dearly.

    I understand precisely where you’re coming from because I’ve sort-of been there… when you show a photo of your boyfriend to someone and they mistake him for your dad… or you rack your brain for a term other than ‘boyfriend’ because you feel like an idiot calling someone a ‘boy’ who has grey hair… yeah, it can create a few internal crises, lol.

    Glad to see you’re wrapping your head around it now, though, and I’m sure he is too!

    1. That’s wonderful about you and your man!

      The best is when I still get carded, and they card him too, and the waiter/waitress/bartender’s eyebrows shoot up when they see his year of birth. It’s priceless. It’s such a relief to just let it all go and just be happy, something that’s not easy for me to do all the time. I’m sure he’s glad, too. I was pretty bitchy in the beginning. I’m happy he put up with me anyway!

  3. Lovely post. Love comes in all shapes. People get these ideas in their heads of what that should look like, but when you do that, you limit your choices and can miss out on some great people. I think issues with May/December romances mostly exist when the younger person is very young (think 14 and 30), which is creepy, and yes, I think those people should be forced to take a time out for a few years; and when the older person is very old, and the younger person is forced into a caregiver position (say 70 and 85) which isn’t creepy, but can be really sad. That’s the couple’s business though.

    I’m happy that you’ve found peace with your relationship and have stopped worrying about what other people think. I think when you stop worrying about that in general, life just gets so much easier.

    1. You’re so right about all of that. There are definitely times where the age difference should raise some questions (Courtney Stodden and Doug Hutchison come to mind), and there’s the sad reality that being with someone older than you long term can potentially mean being a widow or a widower someday. But worrying about that stuff is much more important than worrying about someone’s opinions about my relationship.

      I’m happy, too! It’s a weight off my shoulders. It’s good to be able to fully enjoy the relationship.

  4. Great post. Before I met my guy when I was dating around (aka: the entire east coast), I dated several men that were 10+ years older than me. At the time, I was attracted to them for different reasons and didn’t even notice their age. It wasn’t until all the references started flying over my head and friends of his would snicker about him babysitting me that I started noticing… holy shit, we’re a lot of years apart. But in the end, it’s all about what makes you happy. Age is just a number… er, word — sorry Dwight — and happiness is where it’s at 🙂

  5. You’ve expanded my mind a little today. However, I still don’t think I can date a guy that is 17 years older than me. My wife and kids would probably give me weird stares.

  6. Dating is messy enough without a checklist, but most women fall victim to it and write someone off if they don’t match specific criteria. I’ve been guilty of it myself but am trying to be more open-minded and just let life happen.

    I’m so glad you found love in someone unexpected and can learn from each other — all the best to you and your man!

    1. Me too, slowly but surely. Thanks! I’ll keep that in mind if we’re still together a few years from now, and I’m stuck sorting his medication.

  7. Lovely post. The funny thing about age is that is becomes less and less important the older you get. A 17 year difference would be insane (and illegal) if your guy was in his 20’s, but now it is only of mild interest. As more years pass, it won’t even be as issue.

    1. Very true. It does get a little weird sometimes when you start counting back. Like, “When I was 10, you were…”

      It’s just weird to think he was a real, adult person when I was in grade school, but hey, everyone has a past. His just happens to be a bit lengthier than mine!

  8. My dad is 13 years older than my mom. She was 19 when they got married. They’re still together. Because of that, I have never really considered age a qualifier. Male is 5 years younger than me so I’m automatically a cougar.

    1. Oooh! Good for you, girl.

      My grandparents were actually 13 years apart, too. I forget about that sometimes. I’ve heard it wasn’t easy for them, but I don’t think it ever really is.

  9. You know, I think the last time I really gave a crap about age differences was when I was in high school…and then it was more of a safety precaution. While I was a teenager I wouldn’t date more than 2 years younger or 4 years older. Younger rule was so that I wouldn’t inadvertently corrupt anyone. Older was so that the wily, savvier older guys couldn’t take advantage of me…until I was ready. Ha!

    There’s something to be said for both sides of the spectrum, but the most important aspect is how the person you’re with makes you feel….and it’s obvious, this guy is good for you. Everyone deserves to feel loved, appreciated and cherished the way he obviously does for you.

    1. HA! When you’re younger and someone (or you) can be at risk for a felony, it’s a little different!

      You’re absolutely right. Older or younger, as long as you’re with someone you love and who loves you, that should be the most important consideration.

  10. I’ve always thought age was just a number, but haven’t had that experience of dating much older than me. I’d probably feel odd about it at first too.

    My boyfriend teases me all the time about how he’s such an old man, but we’re only 3 years apart. *shakes head* Silly.

  11. I think that we put a lot of rules on ourselves with what we think is and isn’t acceptable. I recently got divorced and had all these rules for what kind of guy I was looking for and while all those guys look great on paper, there’s been no connection. So maybe it’s time for me to set my rules aside as well!!

    1. Try it! You might be surprised by who you find. It’s good when circumstances force you out of your comfort zone every once in awhile.

  12. I have tried really hard to not put any boundaries on age, kids or hair coverage in my foray into dating. I recently dated someone 10 years my junior. . . Which made him 20 years old. And needless to say that was very strange. I can go older but I don’t think younger works for me.

    It’s lovely that you have love and there are no boundaries on your happiness

    1. Yeah, I think older would probably work better for me than younger. I mean, I can’t really date anyone that much younger than me yet, but I think it would just be annoying. But who knows–I never thought I’d be interested in/have a relationship with someone this much older, either. Never say never, I guess!

      He’s pretty wonderful.

  13. “Ours is a whirlwind May-Mesozoic Era romance if ever there was one.” That is so funny I wish I had written that.

    I love me some older men, at least ten years older, preferably older than that. There’s something about a foxy 50-something that just drives me crazy. I’ve often wondered how people would react if I found myself a silver fox, but then I think about how hard it is to find someone who is good and funny and loyal and smart and who thinks my love of The Golden Girls is cute. Why put limits on happiness?

    1. Thanks! I’ll admit, I was proud of that one.

      The older gents can be so dapper! Now that I’ve gone down this mid-life crisis prone rabbit hole, it doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore. It would definitely feel weird to go back to dating just another millennial.

      I totally agree (now)–why limit your happiness?

  14. Go for it, Katie. My middle sister got married last year for the third time – to a guy who’s 12 years (I think) younger than her!
    My sister is in her early 50s but acts like she’s at least 20 years younger. Her and her new hubby have actually been together for over 10 years after meeting on a motorbike trip.
    My sister is one of those irritating over-achievers – she has been in charge of multi-million pound budgets for major research organisations, makes wedding dresses in her spare time, rides huge motorbikes, skis down black runs and – at the age of 49 – went back to university to retain as a doctor and is now working in A&E (ER to some of you).
    Age is a state of mind. Or, as Groucho Marx said, ‘you’re as young as the woman you feel!’

  15. Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes – 16 Years
    Jennifer Lopez & Casper Smart – 18 Years
    Nicolas Cage & Alice Kim – 20 Years
    Bruce Willis & Emma Willis – 23 Years
    Warren Beatty & Annette Bening – 21 Years
    Kevin Costner & Christine Baumgartner – 21 Years
    David Schwimmer & Zoe Buckman 19 Years
    Evan Rachel Wood & Marilyn Manson – 19 Years
    Sean Penn & Scarlett Johansson – 24 Years
    Ryan Seacrest and Julianne Hough – 14 Years (PLUS he’s gay, so there’s that)

    Mick Jagger & L’Wren Scott – 23 Years (This, by the way is one OOgly broad. Makes sense as Jagger MUST be blind at this point. Taking into account HIS age, being 23 years younger than him, I’m going to assume that she’s around 114 years old…you ole’ cradle robber Mick)

    I could go on and on with this list, People be dating and much like I say to religious zealots who would love to stop people from falling in love and being happy because of something as trivial as gender, I say MIND YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS to anyone who would have the fucking nerve to impede Michael Douglas’ wrinkled white hairy ass from pumping awkwardly up and down on top of Catherine Zeta Jones.

    GREAT post. D.A.D. (dating age differently) til I die! Peace OUT! 🙂

    1. Ryan Seacrest and Julianne Hough broke up ages ago. This is why you need me to keep you up to date on the pop culture. 😉

      And Mick Jagger is Mick Jagger. He can do no wrong.

      But you’re so right, especially about Michael Douglas. Even though he made that weird comment about cunnilingus.

  16. I had to break up with him but my ex was 30 years older than me. I am 24 and he was 54. While, reading your post I was reminded of how B and I were together. In fact, I got along with him way better than my younger friends. I wish my past relationship was a little like yours, I wish that B would actually made the commitments that he needed to make to be with me but he didn’t (also he was very jealous) and so that’s why I had to break up with him.

    Age difference don’t mean anything. As long as you are both happy and have love (he is not a dick like B)-happy trails 🙂

    1. 30, wow! It amazes me how much I have in common with my boyfriend. I’m thinking that means I’m either pretty mature or he’s considerably immature (I’m going with the latter). What we have is pretty awesome. He’s a stand-up soon-to-be octogenarian.

      I agree! Happiness and love are much more important than any age difference.

      1. Yep, 30 years. I felt the same way. I am more mature for my age and he was too immature for his age. But, we had tons in common. I hope next time I will find someone I can get along with and is willing to actually be with me ><

  17. Great post, Katie! Obviously women mature sooner than men so the attraction “can” make sense when dating an older guy. It is totally all about the personalities involved. My ex-wife and I were quite a few years apart in age but ultimately even further apart in every other way, lol. My current relationship is my first with such a wide age span, though. I’m 44 and my GF just turned 32 but the age factor has proven to be totally non-existent as far as problems go. We actually have very similar world views and attitudes, probably more so than with anybody else that I’ve been with. Her wit is downright diabolical and more importantly she truly enjoys my own sick sense of humor. As diverse and eclectic as my interests are, hers are equally so. We’ve both equally enjoyed going to Ballet performances and Bad Religion concerts together. The age jokes are there for sure, though! I will mention seeing a concert back in the mid-nineties and she’ll exclaim “Oh my god! Really? I was there too!” followed by a pause and she’ll add “I was only 15. You fucking pervert!” Lol, I love it. Lookin’ forward to some gourmet foods, fine wine and Belgian ales together tonight:)

  18. Girl, you know that if anyone says something mean about your relationship, they are clearly jealous. I’m glad you found someone who makes you happy! Life is too short to miss out on someone amazing because society talks about things that it shouldn’t. I’m of the opinion that if two people are in a relationship, only those people should have anything to say about it. Great post!

  19. I love you for this!
    My friends have never understood my thing for older men. They’re just so….wow. One even threatened (it was joke, I think) that she would drag me down the aisle by my hair on our wedding day if I married a guy more than 10 years older than me. Then she met an older guy, so I guess I’m off the hook now.

    1. Thank you!

      Wow! I’ll have to check it out. We all get these preconceived notions about who “the one” should be. I guess it just works out that the more judgmental ones tend to end up being hypocrites! (Like us.)

  20. Hey there, I have more than a few questions for you because I’ve found myself in a situation similar to yours, and I’m honestly not quite sure what to make of it. Your article is the first thing I’ve found online that’s made any bit of sense, and I’d love to talk to you if possible. I included my email when I posted this comment, please feel free to shoot me an email if you can. I would appreciate any and all advice. Thanks so much.

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