In the early days of our relationship, I got a lot of a lot of exasperated eyerolls, "you go, girl"s, and questions about whether I was technically old enough to be a cougar.
I also had a lot of friends who couldn't believe how dumb I was — didn't I remember how difficult it was to get a guy to commit at age 24? Of course, I didn't "go through that again," and five years into our relationship, no one really gives a sh*t about how old either of us are.
I felt like I was racking up new life milestones every day, and couldn't imagine relating to anyone younger than me — and so I became fixated on dating older guys, because I thought it was the only way I could find someone who would be mature enough to make me happy.
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One of my closest friends recently married a guy five years her junior, after years of dating commitmentphobic dudes her own age and older; and Jesse was more open and interested in pursuing something serious with me than anyone I'd ever dated, despite being an age when he was supposed to be more interested in "playing the field." Some people are never interested in playing the field, and some people never tire of playing the field — and you can't tell who is who just by looking at their driver's licenses.
Jesse wasn't my first dip into the younger dude pool — we connected after I'd had a handful of casual things with guys four or five years younger than me.
You're supposedly an immature doofus who can't attract partners your own age, or maybe a delusional narcissist who can't cope with aging (I've heard both! Again, all these ideas are based on stereotypes — primarily, that youth is one of the only valuable traits a woman possesses when dating, and that to take a pass on using it as a bargaining chip to find a more desirable mate is insane. (But, of course, if calling yourself a "cougar" gets your rocks off, then more power to you, my friend.)There's another myth out there that dating young people means that you'll never get serious — that dating a younger guy or girl means that you're signing on for a relationship purgatory full of half-assed plans, a lack of emotional commitment, and being introduced as "this girl I'm kinda hanging out with" at parties.
In an interview in Shape, psychotherapist Robi Ludwig claimed that, “In some cases, a younger guy is developmentally in a different place...he’s not ready for all of the pressures and responsibilities that go along with a committed relationship because his emotional maturity is not fully developed yet.”Again, this is generalizing that conflates age with a specific set of romantic values — plenty of people of all ages aren't interested in serious relationships, and plenty of people of all ages are interested in serious relationships, too.
I'd just gotten out of a long-ish relationship with a guy who was fixated on achieving "appropriate life milestones" — marriage, kids, stable jobs — and the experience made me realize that I wasn't on the same page about that kind of thing as a lot of people my own age.
At 28, I was only just beginning to explore my true desires for my career and life — which made me have a lot more in common with a recent college grad than someone who'd had almost a decade since graduation to figure out what they wanted.But the experience has made me think about how women are discouraged from dating younger men — especially women in their twenties.Although the idea of a "cougar" who dates much younger men has a certain cultural cachet, being a woman in your twenties who simply chooses a partner who's a bit younger is often viewed as weird, desperate, or deluded — basically, anything besides what it is, which is totally normal.To date someone younger is to consciously reject a lot of this.For this reason, being a woman with a younger partner is often viewed in a negative light. We can fight this totally gross line of thinking by agreeing to view younger people that we have chemistry as real possible partners — and by not constantly "joking" about any woman we know who happens to have a younger partner.Lots of women who've dated around have similar stories that prove that there's no concrete relationship between being older and actually acting like an adult.