“No, no, I still work from home, when I’m able to. He’s just started school. Graduate school,” I hasten to add. I haven’t talked to my grandfather in awhile, so what would be light smalltalk is now invested with deeper meaning. When we ask each other how we are, what we’ve been up to, and where we’re living now, we care about the answers.
He’d probably care to hear more about my significant other, too, but I’m not quite sure how it’d go when I got to the bit about my S.O. and I being nearly a decade apart.
Age gap romances aren’t anything new or strange, I know that much on a logical level. It still felt like a pretty huge impediment to us dating in the beginning, though. Regardless of our relative senses of maturity, emotional development, or life experience, that’s a chunk of time.
An entire fifth-grader-sized chunk of time.
I kind of hate the term May-December romance, mostly because it conjures up uncomfortable, quasi-exploitative images of an older man with a much younger woman. I care about my S.O. a lot, so the thought of people wondering what we’re each “getting out of” dating each other is really, really unpleasant. The idea that people will judge our relationship differently because it’s a younger man with an older woman is even worse. (This is probably a Thing for non-het or nonbinary couples, too, but it’s also likely to be differently nuanced– I’ve only ever dated ladies who were around my age, though, so I don’t really have much insight.)
Granted, I’m probably not old enough to qualify as a December, but, if you’re only as old as you feel, I should probably have checked into my local coroner’s office several years ago.
Ignoring the numbers, it’s super easy to see why he and I are together. We don’t look hugely different in age; our hobbies align enough to be interesting to each other while still being separate enough to give us plenty to talk about; we’re both curious enough to find all kinds of stories, art, music, and other things to share with each other; despite the gap, our upbringings were still similar enough to elicit empathy in each other; and our pet peeves, amount of patience, and levels of understanding mesh well.
We don’t have an enormous financial discrepancy, we stand nothing to gain from being together outside of just having a really good relationship, and there’s not a whole lot we wouldn’t do for each other.
Reality isn’t that simple. The fact is, I’m still nine years older than he is. I’m still chronically ill with a painful, debilitating illness that places a lot limits on what I can do. I don’t want children, and neither does he, but he’s young enough that there’s still plenty of time for him to change his mind. And, unfair as it might be, most people still just don’t look all that favorably on dude-lady relationships where the lady is appreciably older than the dude. (These people are jerks, but I digress.)
I’ve laughed off my share of other people’s jokes about it, too. “Three more years, and you’ll qualify as a cougar!” “You can’t find a good man, so you’re gonna raise one!”
An older man with a younger woman is seen as distinguished and successful, someone to be envied… Which totally makes sense when you’re looking at a culture that views attractive, nubile young women as Things One Should Aspire to Obtaining, akin to a gold watch or sports car.
An older woman with a younger man is seen as lonely and sex-hungry, someone to be pitied… Which totally makes sense when you’re looking at a culture that views older, unmarried women as somehow defective.
My S.O.’s never given me any reason to think of our ages as a problem, he’s said and done plenty to reassure me otherwise. I’m always the one secretly wondering if time, intracranial hypertension, or something else outside of our control is going to screw things up. Always. And, always, my reasoning ends up coming back to one question– even if I knew for a fact that we were going to split up somewhere down the line, would I break things off now?
Nah. Not for anything in the world. Even if it means we’re going to get looked at funny in another ten years.