Last week, fellow Clutch writer Thembi Ford’s story “Six Problems with Dating Older Men” sent the comment section helter-skelter over her personal list for why she has chosen to refrain from dating older men.
“Although dating a “grown and sexy” man may seem appealing, I found that it just wasn’t for me,” she wrote. “Having to deal with inappropriate wardrobes, brothas who mamas still washed their clothes, and men perpetually stuck in 1992 just wasn’t for me.”
The comment section was just as entertaining and revealing as the humorous article as men and women alike provided their own positive and negative anecdotes of dating up [Sidenote: “Older” wasn’t really defined in the article, so we had anecdotes of five to forty (!!!) year age differences.]
The article obviously pushed some buttons.
“Superficial reasons not to date someone,” Blue commented. “No wonder you’re [sic] single.”
Harsh, but many still found Ford’s story humorous and her choice of men hilarious.
“WTF kind of cornball dude were you [sic] rocking with?” commenter BlackCTzar wrote. “All the issues you went through sounds like you was just dealing with straight lame, LOL.”
But I couldn’t figure out exactly what to take from the story as I saw that everyone has had their own ups and downs in choosing to drink from the cup of aged wine. So I explored the subject with relationship expert Demetria Lucas, author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life.”
Lucas, who has interviewed thousands of men, women and experts as the former relationship editor at Essence magazine does NOT recommend dating older men and gives reasons that could explain some of the many personal stories we saw in the comment section.
“Once you get passed five or six years, you stop having similar cultural markers,” she explained. “You weren’t at high school at the same time, you weren’t at college at the same time and that sort of gap puts you in a different place from the things you tend to want in life.”
Instead she recommends that five or six years (in both directions—this is also for the cougars) is a reasonable age difference. But going above that is a difference that is especially vast for women who are in their twenties to early thirties.
“If you are 21 and he is 25, we have someone who is still in college versus someone who has been out in the workforce for sometimes, who has been able to travel more, date around and have their own apartment,” she said. “The same thing happens at 25 to 30 and again 30 to 35.”
The differences in dating up though, begin to eliminate as you hit your mid to late thirties because you have crossed many life and career markers that one doesn’t have when younger (i.e. house, car) and we saw some commenters agree to that fact in Ford’s article.
“My boyfriend is seven [sic] years older than I am, but I don’t really feel that is much of a gap.” Angie said. “He’s in his 40′s, me 30′s.”
But let’s not lie. It’s not all doom-doom-ba-doom in dating older men and many of us have or will end up having relations with a much older fella. And of course, there are benefits: likely more money; he could be over his “love every girl in the world” stage, better conversations based on life experiences; and frankly (or hopefully) the sex is better and he is willing to teach.
What’s not to like?
“Women have always been taught to date a guy who is older than them,” Lucas said. “Women are really looking for a sense of security and maturity that they don’t think they’ll find with guys their own age. Sometimes it exists and sometimes it does not. But I find when it does exist, it comes with a premium that most women aren’t expecting.”
The premium is dating someone who has “been there and done that” when you are still trying to figure out what those words even mean in your own life: growing up.
“It seems like a good idea to have someone who could be a good guide and steer you around things but that’s what a dad is supposed to be for or an uncle. Not really a husband or a boyfriend,” she said. “It’s like watching a movie and someone comes in and tells you what the ending is. It becomes an unequal relationship. “
Kkay, a commenter agreed: “I know everyone has different paths but you in your late 30s/early 40s should not be relating to me in my mid 20s; at that age I’m thinking you could actually give me some guidance, sheesh! “
But women will be women, and if you are like me, sipping some aged wine is exciting and different. For those in the throes or about to start seeing a much older man, Lucas leaves tips.
Know who you are: “This is for a woman of any stage. Especially if you are a younger woman, 20s and 30s, because when you are dating someone much older, it is easy you to follow someone else’s plan. You need to make sure you don’t put yourself in a position, for a lack of a better word, to be exploited and manipulated.
Keep your eyes open: “If you are with a guy in his 30s, [and you’re in your 20s] you are really not playing the same game. There are things that he can do that you have no clue whatsoever just because you haven’t been around long enough to see a lot of stuff.
“Don’t allow that older guy to define you,” she finishes. “You define yourself.”
I can get with that.
How does your own personal story fit with Lucas’ advice?
*A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to-Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria Books) is available in all bookstores and amazon.com