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.