Admit It, Age Matters When It Comes to Dating

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Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas arrive at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood

E! News reported this week that Carmen Electra, 41, has taken a new boyfriend, designer Tal Cooperman. The “news” is that Cooperman, at a succulent 30, is 11 years younger than Electra. I wish them the best and there is nothing wrong with an older lady trying to liven up her life with a younger man.

But, as if read from a script, the E! source says, “the age difference doesn’t bother either of them, it doesn’t matter. Tal’s a mature guy.” I’m sorry, but age does matter. By all means, keep dating whomever you want to date and tell me to fuck off, but dating someone outside your peer group makes a difference and if you don’t know it, you’re about to learn real fast.

If age doesn’t matter then why the need to qualify it by saying Cooperman is mature? I’m not 40, so I don’t know what a mature 30 year old acts like, but I’d guess Cooperman’s “maturity” is heavily locked up in that he’s not interested in staying out until 5am chasing coeds. In other words, his maturity is fit to an adult with a job. However, in 10 years I’d bet he’s not at the same stage he is now.

Throughout much of high school and college, my best friend Caitlin Walker dated a man significantly older than herself. The relationship was loving but looking back, Walker says age played a huge role, “I was so desperate to prove to him and myself that age didn’t matter that I opted out of age appropriate experiences. He asserted that things like prom and dorm-life were overrated and typical.” It’s easy to follow the lead of someone who’s “been there, done that,” but it’s not always fair. “I realize now that I should never have felt ashamed for not being his age and for wanting to have life experiences that would bind me to my generation, but he should have felt ashamed for trying to steal that from me,” says Walker, now older than her ex-boyfriend was when they began dating.

It’s hard for me at 27 to imagine dating someone in their 40s. Impossible to conceive of dating an 18 year old. There are always outliers on both ends of a spectrum, but even the most nightlife averse twentysomething will want a bender every now and again and the most social 40 year-old is gonna want some Friday nights on the couch. These two can accomodate each other, sure but no will will know what it’s like to be older until they are older.

Just because age is a factor doesn’t mean it’s all wrapped in negativity. There are definitely some perspective benefits to dating someone older than yourself. A fellow ex “band girlfriend,” Danielle Morelli is 25 and her average relationship age gap stands consistently at eight years, “The benefit from dating older guys comes more from the intellectual and emotional maturity… I think men can mature emotionally with age. And that’s what matters to me when dating older men.”

I used to party until the sun came up and then head straight to work without a hangover. I think I’d be dead if I even attempted to do that now. I can’t hang with a 21-year-old guy anymore than he should find prepping my meals for the week a satisfying Sunday activity. Aaliyah was wrong when she sang, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,” which I can only assume was her way of rationalizing her icky R.Kelly romance (judgement intended). If you want to date someone older or younger I don’t think it’s intrinsically wrong or doomed to fail, but let’s be honest, age matters. It’s going to be a factor, both to the internal workings of the realtionship and how its perceived in public. I’m not saying that age should matter to those in the couple, but saying it isn’t a factor is just a lie, and pretending like it doesn’t means you’re headed for trouble.