What’s It Like Dating An Older Man?

lena dunham patrick wilson

Life is but a dream?

Last week the Girls-watching people of the world went crazy over the episode, appropriately title, “One Man’s Trash.” The issue that many took with the particular episode, both men and women, was how impossible a sexual union between Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, and Patrick Wilson’s, Joshua, would be in the real world. Although Wilson’s real-life partner came out in defense of what we saw, remarking that she was a size 10 and a “muffin-top,” some are still daring to call foul on the episode. Whatever helps you sleep at night, you guys. Let’s move on.

However, there was another aspect of the episode that caused less of a raucous – the age difference. While the age gap between the actors is 13 years, between the characters on the show it was 18 years. Not completely unheard of, but definitely not something one would characterize as conventional.

In response to that age difference, Hugo Schwyzer wrote a piece for Jezebel entitled, “Age Is Never Just A Number: How Girls Got Older Men/Younger Women Right.” The entire post is riddled with culture stereotype of the older man/younger woman relationship, and how both parties, as well as how the outside world, perceive the union:

Each gets to live out one of our most enduring cultural fantasies. Mercifully, each realizes just how implausible that fantasy is to sustain, and how awkward and eventually painful it would be to try. Hannah and Joshua figure out fast that age is never just a number. In real life, it often takes a good deal longer to come to that same wise conclusion.

I did not agree with his take at all, and as I watched the tweets and comments on Facebook regarding this (I’m friends with a lot of feminists, OK?), I realized I was not alone. Schwyzer may think Girls got that whole age difference thing right, and that’s his opinion, however a two-night fling with an older man is hardly the basis for discerning the “right” or “wrong” of a situation.

As one who has been in a relationship with an older man – I was 21 and he was 32 – I did not see any parallels in what Schwyzer was suggesting. I was not, in anyway, attracted to the age difference, and he, although younger than Wilson’s character, didn’t see my age as some sort of a prize he won at a carnival. He did not teach me some otherworldly aspects about sex, the stereotype that often comes with dating an older man, nor did I “school” him on my generation.

We bonded over music, drank too much coffee, wandered the streets of Boston and were equals. The reason for the demise was because I was moving from the area; nothing more, nothing less, and far from complicated. We’ve kept in touch, and he’s still someone I know and respect. But maybe that just means I got the older man/younger woman thing wrong; I tend to do that with lots of things.

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    • http://www.sarahcooksthebooks.com/ Sarah

      I’m 28, and I married my husband when he was 43 and I was 27. Yeah, there are gaps in knowledge on both of our sides of the fence, but we’re no more dysfunctional than any other married couple is.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/GYEXVXDBX4APIEKVP55YEPPQW4 X

        Doubt it!

    • MayDecember4Life

      I think I have all of you beat in the age gap department. My last long relationship had 14 years between us (me 23, him 37) and the last short term relationship was a 20 year difference (me 28 him 48).

      The best advice I can give young ladies dating older is to focus on the PRESENT. The last guy and I liked the same music, movies, shows, books, so we focused on talking about those. Don’t bring up the past too much and don’t ask him about his too much, esp. in regards to lost loves. Don’t keep mentioning the age difference. It will make him insecure.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

        That guy I’ve told you (Chatel) about is literally twice my age, as he’s 46, and it’s so far been surprisingly unweird. I thought it’d be so much weirder once we actually discussed that attraction and feelings and whatnot, but it’s been totally normal feeling. And I don’t get the feeling that I’m searching for anything besides some feed to my curiosity, and I don’t really get that feeling that he is just looking for some fantasy, either.

    • http://sarahhollowell.com/ Sarah Hollowell

      I’m 22 and my boyfriend is 36. My age actually made him avoid me initially. I was the one who started up the relationship, and it had nothing to do with his age. I just thought he seemed really cool. We’ve been together almost a year now and, yeah, there are life experiences he’s had and I haven’t, but it hasn’t had any sort of huge impact on our relationship. I guess it helps that I’m not interested in doing a lot of the typical 22-year-old party things? I don’t know.

      When I was 18, I had sex with a 40-year-old and a guy that was nearly 50. That was almost definitely about my age for them, and for me just wanting to explore my sexuality and things. (Okay, also kind of about age for me.) But they were both great guys and it was always clear that it was just a sex sort of thing. I still stay in touch with one of them, though we haven’t slept together in over a year.

    • http://helloalle.com/ Alle

      Here’s my thing about the age difference: it’s relative, because time is weird when you’re young. When you’re a teenager, an age gap of two years is a huge deal, because so much happens to you–personally, emotionally, biologically–in two years. It all changes so quickly! When you’re in your early twenties, things aren’t changing quite as quickly. So an age difference of two years isn’t as big as, say, an age gap of ten years. And when you’re approaching and in your thirties, ten years isn’t anything, really, because at that point you are (or should be) emotionally mature and experienced enough to both be on the same playing field.

      Like right now, my boyfriend is five years older than me, and it ain’t no thang. But when I was 18, I had a boyfriend who was 23–the same five year difference–and the age gap felt HUUUUUGE. I was just starting college; he had just graduated. I wasn’t a dumdum or anything, but there was this gigantic difference between where I was, experience and knowledge and maturity-wise, and where he was.

      So yeah, all relative.

    • TomiO

      I am 25 and my boyfriend is 39. We have been together for three years. The 14-year gap only seems significant based on the reactions of friends and family. At first, it overwhelmed me to think that he had already done so much living, but I just had to let that go. Like another reader said, whatever dysfunction we have is not a result of the age gap.

    • Brooke

      My boyfriend is 51 and I’m 36. Both of us have been divorced twice, and my dad said to me a few months ago, “He’s not like the guys you’ve usually dated…” WELL THANK GOD!!! I got married for the first time when I was nineteen (to someone five years older), and it lasted seven years, and again when I was 31 and it lasted five years (to someone 7 years older). I was miserable in both marriages, with guys who were incredibly immature and self-centered. One was an alcoholic with wandering pants and the other was addicted to computer games. My guy now is sweet, thoughtful, and works hard to be a partner in every sense of the word. Yes, we’ve both had different experiences and if anything, we like to tease each other about them. He’s actually worried about the age difference, but I have never been with anyone as amazing as he is in every way. When you have a connection, you have a connection. If I’d met someone 15 years older when I was my early to mid-twenties, that would have been a deal breaker, but now, I can’t imagine life without him!

    • http://www.facebook.com/julerie Valerie Roman

      My future husband (51) and me (29) are 22 years apart. Its the best, healthiest, balanced relationship I’ve ever had. My ex-husband and I were 15 years apart and although I spent 10 years with him, he still doesn’t have a clue on how to treat women. Relationships depend on the two individuals in it. Age doesnt not dictate wisdom nor ignorance.

    • Mike

      An obvious point hasn’t been made here. The difference in age matters less when the couple is older than the examples given. Nothing weird about a youthful guy in his 50′s dating a mature woman in her 30′s if they have a lot in common.

    • alina smith

      No age gap is too wide if you both feel so right. Love is ageless and pure. Hence, having a big age gap in a relationship should never pose a problem

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