According to research, heterosexual couples usually entail an age-gap of about three years. And the male is normally older. But what about much larger age gaps? Say, 20 years?
In my early twenties I met a local restaurateur at the night club where I was working. We became good friends and, I recall vividly, sobbing on his lap during a shift having recently euthanized my childhood cat. He tipped me an exorbitant amount that evening.
But I was in college, so we fell out of touch once I graduated and started salaried work. Despite living in the same town, I didn’t ever stop by his restaurant until this past summer. Five years passed since we last saw each other. His aesthetic was still lumbersexual-esque and his gray hairs were much more prominent. But his smile was bright and he recognized me immediately. As he packaged up my vegan mushroom po’boy sandwich, we exchanged cell numbers and ended up texting all day. Shortly thereafter, he invited me to his house for drinks.
And in the several months that have followed, we have lounged in his hot tub, gone to shows, cocktail bars and restaurants. I occasionally grapple with what may be genuine feelings for him. And I think, at least part of what hinders me from giving myself permission to care for him is the age gap. He is more than 20 years older than I am. When we were out last week, someone recognized him from his restaurant, then looked to me and asked, “Is this your daughter?”
Perhaps surprisingly, I found that interaction insightful. It occurred to me that maybe relationships where the age gap is pronounced raise concerns regarding power. Indeed, it seems the stigma age-gapped couples face stems from a perceived inequity. I want to avoid making rudimentary umbrella statements but in my situation, I’ve never felt more respected or taken care of by a person I’m “dating.”
Which is both relevant and somewhat tangential, I suppose. Because I must also consider a) I may just be vulnerable due to being single for so long, and living alone during a pandemic. Or b) maybe I’m smitten by a successful man willing to compensate me for my time. During my past relationships I was always the stable and responsible one, emotionally and otherwise. Enjoying the company of a person who wants to pick up the tab is appealing in itself.
Or maybe both.
And while the above factors are definitely at play here, I can say for certain that, generally, relationships thrive when principals and interests are shared. When you occupy the company of someone who both validates your opinions and gently offers new perspective, folks can grow as individuals while fostering a bond. And in my experience, such bonds can transcend generational gaps.
Personally, I am trying to enjoy my life and live in the moment. For anyone out there who finds themselves in a similar age-gap-dating situation, I think it wise to ask these questions:
Do you have similar principals?
Do you have similar long-term goals?
And most importantly, do you enjoy each others company?
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Photo: Matthieu Huang via Unsplash