Monday, December 18, 2006

Dating Ageism

I've been guilty of dating ageism for some time. In the last couple of years, it has popped up in the context of me being mildly sickened by men my age (late 20s, early 30s) trying to get into the pants of early 20-somethings who are generally, but not always, far from their equals in life experience, education, and financial independence. Knowing the men, often it's abundantly clear that they are too intimidated or insecure to handle a relationship with a women their equal, and prefer trying to dive into girls they believe, sometimes amusingly in error, will be more easily managed and molded.

In the last week, I've come upon a new twist that pushes this scenario to new extremes, and I do not know what to make of it. My new flatmate, a 30-ish year old woman who is cute, fit, intelligent, well-traveled, and sophisticated, is dating a man who is more than twice her age. Her boyfriend of more than 2 years is, drum roll please, 70 years old. Before you make the obvious assumption, let me assure you, for what it's worth, that she does not strike me as the gold-digging type. There's no question that her boyfriend is insanely wealthy, and that she benefits in the form of trips, dinners, and being able to stay in his 5-bedroom townhouse, but she does not seem like she's in it for the money. She actually comes off quite strong and independent. I swear! I also really like her, and other than this minor blip, she seems completely normal.

When I heard about all of this, the two questions that popped immediately to mind where: (1) What about SEX???; and (2) Aren't you concerned that he might get sick and leave this earth long before you do? I didn't touch the sex issue, but asked as diplomatically as possible a few questions about her thoughts on the future prospects of the relationship. She told me that she hopes to one day marry her boyfriend, and added - perhaps in response to my thinly disguised look of incredulity - that people can not control who they fall in love with. She also said that she would rather have a short time with someone she really loved, than to have no time at all, which seems eminently reasonable.

But, when I envision getting married, I picture the excitement of building and sharing a life and family together with someone; not being attached to someone for 5 or 10 years with the expectation that they might soon become too frail to function or possibly die from old age. In this situation, her boyfriend, an incredibly accomplished, successful, and charming gentlemen has already built a life for himself. He's been married and divorced, he's made millions of dollars, he's traveled the world. I have to wonder, what is left for him to build with her?

It seems likely that he's looking for someone with whom to share a part of his already built life; perhaps even the remainder of it. Maybe all he wants and needs at this point in his life is an attractive companion, and if so, the deal is not a bad one for him. But what about for my flatmate? What about the hordes of attractive, intelligent, confident, kind, sophisticated, sexy men under the age of 70 (or say 38) that she could be dating and/or sleeping with? (Caveat: I have not actually seen these "hordes" of eligible men, but I choose to firmly believe that they exist). Can a 30-ish year old woman really be satisfied sexually with a 70 year old man? Even with viagra, and even if he's in excellent shape for a 70-year old, he's still 70. Maybe I appreciate my male eye candy, smooth skin, and muscles a little too much, or have a sexuality charged too much on superficial characteristics? Call me crazy, but I think a nice ass is hot, and I like my boy to be able to toss me around in bed. I don't want to feel like I might hurt him if things get a

I can not go any further down this mental path. Though I'm trying very hard not to be judgmental, I can not imagine being physically intimate with someone so much older than me. It would be one thing if I was 60 or 70 or 80; at any of those ages, I'm sure I would think my flatmate's distinguished boyfriend was hot. But, at the age of 31, 70 year old men remind me of my grandfather. The way I'm wired, that connection - to a grandfatherly image - results in every sexual circuit I have clenching up and collectively squealing "ewwh!"

I couldn't do it. Could you? Have you?


Bubbles said...

I couldn't do it. I do think sometimes non-traditional relationships happen because two people happen to fall in love, so I won't judge. But, even under the most “love-struck” circumstances, relationships where the two people are in totally different stages of live can be very incredibly difficult. I highly recommend reading or taking a class about human development (from a social perspective, not physiological). It is really interesting and makes you realize that there is a LOT of growth between 30 and 70. They are two life stages apart…

Also, I am with you on the ewwww factor. I would never date anyone my father’s age, let alone my grandpa’s. Of course, I wouldn't go waaay younger either, Buttercup.

sisterfriend said...

Ewwh, indeed!

I don't even want to imagine what a 70 year old pee-pee looks like until I am at least in my 60s.

Here's to a firm, hot ass that is well within my "10-year window", and honestly, there is only one that I'm interested man's!

Baraka said...

Great question.

Hmmm...although my initial reaction, for myself, is one of "No way!" I also have a deeply entrenched "to each their own" mentality.

I do want to spend my natural life with my partner so the thought of possibly losing someone so quickly would dissuade me from developing serious feelings from them.

It's not for me, but I'm willing to accept it as a source of real happiness for others. Wide age gaps are rare but they can work.

We can look at a person's relationship from the outside and psychoanalyze it, but really, every relationship is a mystery at heart known only to those two people (and their therapist perhaps!).

We can't see the inner and day-today functioning that gives each partner joy and a sense of being cared for, so we're sometimes confused as to why seeming opposites are together or left to focus on surface matters like looks, sex, or age.

As long as partners seem happy and healthy and have thought out the implications of differences (whether cultural, racial, age-related, religion-related, etc), then good luck to them.

There's little enough happiness in the world as it is - more power to them in whatever time they've been given together to love, honor, and to care for each other.


Gypsy said...

If that 70-year-old man is Sean Connery, hell yeah I'd be able to fall for him (I don't want to talk about the whole slapping debacle Sir Connery has gotten himself into).

That said, I find it hard to imagine such a relationship lasting the test of time, for obvious reasons.

It reminds me of that episode of Sex in the City where Samantha dates a much older man, only to turn tail and run when she saw his wobbly, saggy butt.

Pas said...

I'd like to say heck, live and let live, and who's to judge and all that. But I also think the power dynamic is awfully troubling, especially when one considers that by and large, mulitgenerational relationships are the rich and powerful old dude and the hottie young female. It's hard for me not to be judgemental ... plus I think it's yucky.

InterstellarLass said...

I don't think I could. My step-dad actually married a woman that is two months younger than me. It grosses me out to think about them, much less think about myself with a man that much older. I just wonder how they met up in the first place. I can't imagine what they would have in common.

Anonymous said...

I have been guilty of the younger girl thing, though alot of that had more to do with the fact that the girls I was meeting were just younger then me as opposed to trying to mold them. Heck, I can barely mold myself!

Women can get away with dating a guy twice there age, I know Mrs Duck still likes to peek at Sean Connery (Hey, the 70 year old mystery man could be Sean Connery) but a man could not get away with that without being thought of as a gold digger for sure. Though, some famous women just dont age well. Liz Taylor is an excellent case in point.

Vic said...

Icky, is all I have to say.

Anonymous said...

Pas's comment sums it up for me. And I can't help but think: Sure, she may not be a "gold-digger," but would she really be with him if he weren't insanely wealthy? Even if he was like an 80k/year professional?

No judgements here...people are just excited by different things. I don't think your flatmate would go for a man unless he represented a certain kind of security (which manifests itself in trips and a 5-br townhouse). Other women wouldn't date a man who couldn't go out on the town and rage with her once in a while, or toss her around in bed, or throw around a football with her in the park. Who knows, maybe your flatmate's "boy"friend can do all of these things. But anyway, priorities.

interstellarlass: Your mother is two months younger than you?


Anonymous said...

I once dated someone exactly double my age ....I was 22 and he was 44....we were both blissfully unaware assuming the other was younger/older...for well over a month.

The *second* we found one another out....(keeping in mind that it had been about 6 weeks) EVERYTHING changed....It was strange....there were so many things about him that I just didn't GET....(and I'm sure it was mutual)....I chalked it up to lifestyle differences (he lived on a boat in the Caymans)....but the more I thought about was perhaps generational differences....

We decided together that it couldn't work....He couldn't date someone he was old enough to have fathered and I couldn't date someone old enough to actually BE my father. The ick factor was too strong.

I'm not saying this is representative of what it is for everyone (because it obviously isn't)...I'm just relaying an illustrative story. Once we *knew*....we just couldn't do it.....I wonder however if we had both continued in our ignorance...or (in the alternative) if we had lied....if the relationship would have worked....

Strange to think about...I'd be dating someone well over 50 now.....not sure I like to think about that in those terms...but then again, am I just being ageist? He was HOT.

Buttercup said...

Bubbles - Any recommendations for books?

Sisterfriend - I'm with you on the 10-year window going up the scale. Down the scale, I have about a 4 year window.

Baraka - I get the sense that you see the good in everything, which I respect. As long as both parties feel cared for, I won't judge them either.

Pas - Exactly! Even though they might be happy (and if so, fine), the power dynamic makes you wonder. For examample, a few times I noticed a certain deference from her to him, that didn't go the other way.

Lass - How did your stepdad meet his new wife? What creeps me out about that is the idea that someone I see as a father figure could be checking out me and my friends. Ewwwh.

Sparky Duck - Interesting point. I guess I tend to think that all of them (men and women), when dating people twice their age, would come off looking - at least on the surface - like gold diggers. The difference I think is how we look at the older person in the relationship. When it's older men dating younger women, the reaction tends to be favorable towards the man (e.g. Men have said, in response to this story: I want know how he does it). When the woman is substantially older, the view tends to be (with the exception of Demi Moore and Ashton) that the woman is getting taken advantage of. What do you think?

Vic - Thanks for commenting!

Ben - I think you're right with your comment regarding "security." I get the sense that that is what my flatmate is seeking, and that's what she gets (in part b/c of the financial comfort) from dating her boyfriend. Something she thinks she wouldn't find with younger, more immature men.

Wordnerd - I recently met a guy who I also thought was quite striking and then found out (to my disappointment) that he was 46!!! Immediately, my perception of him changed, so I can totally understand how that would happen. For 6 weeks though??? Maybe that shows how significant the cultural meaning that we attach to age is?

kelly bean said...

I have to say that I would agree with you; and I hadn't realized it until you wrote it out but a lot of it is how I'm 'hard wired'. I too automatically think Grandfather, etc. if I see a man in his 60s or above. Needless to say not everyone feels this way and of course I understand that people are free to feel the way they will about their love life.

Some could call it ageism I suppose, but I think for me it has more to do with my personal cultural background and how I was raised in my family to see the world when it comes to my choices.

And amen to being tossed around the room a bit!

Bubbles said...

I don't know of any books off the top of my head that aren't more text-book no-good-for-weekend reading variety, but I know I can find a good reccomendation. I will let you know.

Buttercup said...

Kelly Bean - I meant "ageism" in more of a tongue-in-cheek kind of way, and don't actually think that I or you or anyone else who wouldn't want to date someone double their age is ageist. Also... I second that "amen." :)

Bubbles - Thanks. I look forward to your suggestions.

InterstellarLass said...

My step-dad is a doctor, and his wife is a radiologist. They met at the hospital they both work at. I think she really played to his ego. She was a single mom, and so was looking for a protector. They live far away, and I actually haven't spoken to him in over a year. I think he was mad that I didn't go to the wedding, and only sent a card, not a gift. So, I have no idea how their marriage really works or not.

Buttercup said...

Lass - That would be tough for me to handle. Perhaps it's different when it's your stepdad instead of your dad (unless of course you grew up very close to your dad which is very possible). My flatmate met her bf at a party in the Hamptons. I think she was looking for a protector too, which is what many women look for. I wouldn't mind a protector. I just want him to have a hard body. Is that so wrong?

Anonymous said...

No way. As a teenager I worked as a CNA. I have seen enough Geriatric balls in my life time to know for sure, I couldn't sleep with a 70 year old. At least not at my current age!