Women face a lot of double standards. Dating younger men is one of them.
Age ain’t nothing but a number. Somebody famous said that. It’s true. We’re really only as young or old as we feel. And anyone can drop dead at any second, so it’s not like being a certain age guarantees you’ll live another day. So why is there always such ridiculous fanfare over women dating younger men? Are aging vaginas really that offensive? Do we have to call these women “cougars” and make it seem like some act of desperation when it may just be that two people fell in love?
Johnny Depp recently got engaged to 20-something Amber Heard. He is literally old enough to be her father, yet the media only comments to tell us how simply quaint and wonderful their romance is. (They met on set of their forthcoming film, stealing kisses in between takes. Aw.) There are countless—I mean, really countless—cases of rickety, old, saggy, stinky, gross men running off with women half their age. (Okay, probably not running because of recent hip replacements and what not.) Even the Dalai Lama chided Larry King about his wife looking young enough to be his daughter.
But when the stunning Jennifer Lopez or Madonna or Cher or Robin Wright or Mariah Carey shack up with younger guys…well it’s a different story. It’s national news. The media has a field day with offensive headlines and commentary that’s completely out of line. Women dating younger men are treated as if they’re having breakdowns and identity crises, whereas men doing the same thing have simply, finally found the love of their life. Pshaw. But come on. These women are HOT. (Even Cher, seriously.)
We know for a fact that women over age 30 (ahem, 40) are indeed quite sexy. This is not the 1940s when a woman in her 40s had practically one foot in the grave while the other one was wearing support hose. (And back then most men were close to dead if they even made it to their 40s, by the way.) Menopause may hit women hardest, but men go through a similar “shift” in their 50s too. In fact, sexually speaking, women hit their peak in their 30s while a man hits his around age 18—when he’s barely even technically a man. Which is maybe why older men seek out younger women in the first place. Because younger women are too inexperienced to know that the older man is past his prime. And it would definitely explain why smart women opt for dating younger men.
Esquire just praised the 42-year-old woman. Why? Because she’s damn sexy and confident and probably a much better lover and partner than she was in her 20s. Age makes us better. It gives us perspective and experience. These are traits to value, not shun.
Everyone gets to be young, but not everyone gets to grow old. Growing older is a luxury for any one of us—man or woman—and smart people know this. Besides, men don’t live as long as women. So if you want to be with the one you love “until death”, you might want to marry a younger man in the first place so that you two die with less of a gap.
Perhaps though the biggest double standard about women dating younger men is the confidence it implies. The media tells us women are supposed to be sexy, naive and submissive. How can a women 5, 7, 15 years older than her partner be that? Her years older than her partner imply her confidence no matter what her age. She’s clearly comfortable with her sexuality and sharing it with a younger man. Does that scare men who aren’t comfortable with sexy older women? If there’s one thing our culture has yet to embrace, it’s sexiness with wrinkles. And sags. And all those things that remind us just how fleeting and precious life is. That might just be the biggest double standard of all here–that we think we can outsmart time by who we choose love. We can’t. All we can do is find the people we love and who love us back and have as much fun as we can, no matter our age, no matter theirs. It’s only just a number after all.
Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
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image: eng-madonna-serbia, larry he’s so fine