Register Monday | December 5 | 2022

Is Age But a Number?

Why the Years Can Matter When It Comes To Love

"Intelligent, kind and at least over thirty." That is my girlfriend's recipe for her dream guy-and she's not alone. I've noticed recently that for many women like her, in their mid-twenties, age has become an important factor in finding a mate. Apparently, guys younger than twenty-four are a writeoff because of their lack of experience and non-committal ways. My female peers want a man, thanks, and it appears that the relationship-ready guy is thirty at the very least. I'd say that hard-and-fast rules equating age and maturity should be regarded warily. Yes, I know some girls in their early twenties who are in fantastically supportive relationships with guys over thirty, but I also know guys over thirty who haven't figured out that watching skateboarding videos with a woman does not a "date night" make.

In other words, it's all circumstantial. My lovely cousin just married a man significantly older than her. He may have daughters who are in their twenties, but he also has youthful brio and is usually the funniest person at a party. He doesn't seem "old" just because he is older than her. As far as I can tell, they make each other very happy. On the other side of the spectrum are Anna-Nicole-Smith-type stories, like the one of a seventy-year-old family friend who lost his wife last year. I recently heard that he is suddenly moving to Nicaragua, marrying a twenty-five-year-old local and supporting her family. What can we do but wish him the best (with furrowed brow)?

When people my age say, "Age really doesn't matter," we are usually thinking of girls in their twenties who are dating guys in their thirties.
When people my age say, "Age really doesn't matter," we are usually thinking of girls in their twenties who are dating guys in their thirties. But what happens when both parties get older? My mum has a sixty-something friend-an ex-model that still has cool, choppy haircuts and an interesting career-who's had a boyfriend for a few years with whom she used to like to travel, go on hikes and share lovely meals. Their age difference isn't mathematically significant, but things are different now: the boyfriend is seventy-something; hiking is stymied when his hip gives out, tennis games get cancelled, and bad backs call for quiet nights in bed.

Perhaps these are all just elements of life. After all, a large aspect of partnership is taking care of your companion. We've all been hit over the head with the statistic that more than half of all marriages end in divorce. There are a lot of single seniors out there-individuals dating and looking for company-and so we shouldn't be naive about what older woman and men want to find in a partner. "Companionship," yes, but what does that mean? It could be romantic attention, intellectual stimulation or hot sex. Life, lust and love don't stop when you're fifty. Our lifespans are getting longer and now, for many people, fifty is only the halfway mark. I was rifling through my mum's closet the other day and found a hot pair of Juicy Couture jeans. I think that's proof enough.

I can only imagine that the dating scene is somewhat daunting for someone who finds themselves single after thirty years of marriage. How do you meet someone? Where? What's the protocol these days? What kind of person am I looking for and of what age? When it comes to questions like these, I've observed a gender gap: It seems pretty common that I see a couple in a restaurant and think that the man is the father of the girl, but then they exchange a loving gesture and I realize they are together-together. I am going to reserve passing judgment on this-it could be love, after all --but I can't help but think how this tableau might affect an older single woman. If the distinguished grey-haired gentlemen are taking out the twentysomethings, then who is dating the hip and happening middle-aged woman?

From what I hear, it's split down the middle. Some of my mum's friends are going through difficult times. Their boyfriends may be showing early signs of Alzheimer's. Do they have to stick around out of moral obligation? Is it selfish of them to think of their own vitality? Can one person outgrow another simply because of age?

Some women are avoiding it all by not accepting the tradition of dating the older guy. They don't want to play the role of mother or nurse. The parents of a good friend of mine separated recently. The husband has already found a new partner, a Chinese woman thirty years his junior who speaks little English. The wife, on the other hand, has found Lavalife pretty fruitful. She isn't looking for another husband, and in the end, she managed to find something completely different-a fun younger man who takes her dancing. Whether they speak the same language, I can't say.

Emma Appleby is a fabulous force on the Montreal scene. Read more recent columns by Emma Appleby.