Liz Rizzo is a BlogHer.com contributor who writes about love, sex and relationships.
For the record, the last time I was single I did make an honest effort to date in the high school bracket. That is, someone I could potentially have been in high school with - an eight-year age bracket of four years on each side. But then the guy who caught my eye on OKCupid was 28 at the time. Nine years younger than I was. I loved his profile and so I shot him an email. We were at dinner that Friday night and the rest is history.
And my history is
one of dating younger guys. Has been since undergrad. Certainly there's a floor. I'm not particularly interested in dating any 21-year-olds now that I'm 38. But dating younger guys -- be it by two years or 10 -- is just part of who I am. I'm open to any number of experiences; it's just more likely that whomever I date next will be younger than me.
Now, normally I don't like to link or even acknowledge drivel, but I find this piece by Spencer Morgan in the New York Observer has some fascinating aspects I keep thinking about: "Rrrowl! Beware Cougar's Young Niece, the Cheetah
." Amusingly, while trying to Google this article to re-find it, I found myself trying to remember which cat I'm supposed to be today. Lynx? Puma? Leopard? Cougar? Seriously, I can actually imagine a ridiculous pullout box in some stupid magazine, complete with representative cat pictures.
But OK, the "Cheetah." Two things really struck me as I read this man-fluff piece. And I'll tell you right now, I'm not going to address the obvious rape problem, nor the misogyny per se. I find those aspects disgusting, and a little sad, but not particularly interesting. No, what interests me is a male/female friendship issue, and also the truly odd perception of age and attraction dynamics between men and women.
First, friendship. I've come to realize that while I think of myself as a person and of my friends as my friends, some men (and maybe women) come from a completely different perspective. Reading the opening of Morgan's column, what first strikes me is that this poor woman probably thinks she's friends with these guys. And she actually thinks she's a whole person whom they regard as a person. But instead, Spencer Morgan doesn't see her that way. He sees a woman. An older woman. He sees her as an Other. Not a friend.
I'm reminded of comments I read once from in regards to a young woman who went into a house with five male friends and was gang-raped. The older women said the young woman should have known that would happen. The problem, of course, is that the young woman thought that these guys were her friends, and also, that she was a full person. She wasn't thinking of herself the way those guys were. I find it incredibly sad that anyone would judge this young woman for thinking of herself as a person and for thinking of her male friends as her friends. Judge instead men who don't first think of women as human beings just like them.
And then, of course, Morgan acts like there's something weird about a 29-year-old woman hooking up with a 24-year-old guy. She must be desperate. He must be drunk. Or maybe ... they're both just horny? Or attracted to each other? Or both? (Obviously, I'm taking the presented rape scenario off the table here.)
It's true that your 20s is when some people -- men and women -- begin to date younger. I certainly wasn't dating guys nine years younger while I was in high school. But, I have to wonder if Morgan would find a 29-year-old guy dating a 24-year-old woman quite so titillating. And if not, what the heck is the difference?
Seriously, in 2009 when people are so diverse in their wants and desires -- despite what advertising and entertainment and ridiculous trend pieces may try to tell you -- can't we just get over this ridiculous fascination with women dating younger men? It simply doesn't make any sense. It's just not that strange.
Here's something I'm embracing more and more as I get older: my age. There was a recent episode of "Accidentally on Purpose" where Billie (the 30-something woman) starts to talk to Zach (her 20-something love interest) and says, "When I was your age ..." She catches herself by admitting that she hates that she's saying that, but, well, "When I was your age ..."
I find myself going there sometimes, and you know what? There's nothing wrong with it, just like there's nothing wrong with or sordid about older-woman/younger-man relationships. I don't date younger guys to pretend I'm not the age I am. And with a nine-year age difference, the fact is sometimes I do have some life experience to share. I don't want to be in a relationship where I feel like being my age isn't OK. That's why I have my full birthday on my Facebook, and I don't hesitate to throw it out there. I'm 38. I don't have a problem with that. Neither do the men I date.
George Clooney gets to run around with gray hair and be sexy. You know what? So do I. BlogHer is the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online. Follow them at BlogHer.com, on Twitter (@Blogher) and on Facebook.