May-December romances can be difficult to understand from the outside. We may question where two people from different generations click, what are their motivations and how does it work in the bedroom with different levels of uh, endurance. However, Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, Celine Dion and Rene Angelil are all making their relationships work despite the age gap. While it can be incredibly romantic to be swept off your feet by a man with experience and wisdom, this kind of relationship is not without its hiccups and heartaches. Aside from the gossipy whispers and judgmental looks, people in these relationships have a lot to navigate.
Some men go into May-December’s based on their aging ego’s pulsing desire for something new and shiny like a trophy wife. Others may have been slow to develop their emotional maturity and then later in life are ready for real love. Still others just meet their soul mate, fall in love and live happily ever after despite drastically different life experiences. Interestingly, across all cultures, it is more common for men to marry younger women than for women to marry younger men. Perhaps it is because older men are often able to provide and protect in ways that younger men have yet to achieve.
I have a close friend named Willow, who throughout her adult life has consistently dated older men. Some of her boyfriends I have loved, some of them I thought were smarmy douche bags. She has worked through a lot of her own “daddy” issues and has come to the realization that in older men, she finds the maturity, wisdom and patience that she feels so often lacks in men her age. I can see where she is coming from. Older men generally have a presence and a lifetime of knowledge that lend itself to scintillating conversation, juicy sex and emotional (and material) maturity. A lot of younger men are still playing hours of X-box, smoking weed in their basements and sleeping with a slew of women just to avoid their hearts and deep commitment. And, let’s face it, when you are young, you have a lot more options with the ladies so there is less of an incentive to settle down.
Dating up (if you will) has its hosts of challenges. For my friend Willow, she fell deeply in love with a man who was 28 years older than her. He wanted desperately to start a life with her and was totally convinced that she was the one that he was waiting for his entire life. In truth, I believed him. They shared a really beautiful and sacred connection, that was evident to all those around them. She was eager to meet him in love and move into his life, except for the small but very significant point- children. My friend deeply wanted to be with this man but also deeply wanted children, and he did not. At the tender age of 32, she did not want to have to choose between a man and the potential to nourish new life as a mother. Having to make that choice just about broke her. Eventually, after months of torment, they separated.
When I was a rebellious and quite mature 19 year-old, I dated a 35 year old man. I remember being thrilled that this man, who was wealthy, handsome and very accomplished, was so interested in me. We dated for about 5 months. He took me to amazing restaurants, art gallery openings and whisked me away for play dates in his expensive foreign car. Looking back with a different, more mature perspective, I think it was pervy and gross that an adult man would want to date a near-child in university. I have no idea what his motivation was in courting me as aggressively as he did though it was fun and exciting while it lasted.
Another very significant and unpleasant aspect of the May-December romance is the inevitability of aging and decay. When we are starry-eyed in love with someone who is significantly older, we do not think about consistent doctor’s visits and bedpans, ailments and disease. It is too easy to think that true love will be the perfect panacea that will negate any failing health. The truth is age differences get more pronounced as time goes on. In these situations, it is always easier to be the one who leaves than the one who has to continue living without the companionship and consistency of love. In this case, it sucks to be the woman.
I have another friend who, at 42 moved to California to be with her 72 year old boyfriend (now husband). She is all-too aware that they have limited time together and with that, they relish each moment as though it was their last. She feels happy and fulfilled by him and knows that there will be a day when he is no longer there. Until that time, she is overjoyed to live in love. She knows she has met her soul mate, even if it is for a short time in her life. So who am I to judge love?
We don’t often get to choose with whom we fall in love. With the May-December romances, there may be are some repressed daddy issues or dirty old men wanting to show off their younger, hotter wife, or maybe it is just two souls coming together to deepen their connection with each other and to the divine. I know that all relationships have their ups and downs. Perhaps when mortality is hanging in the shadows, we are more willing to overlook the maddening annoyances that can happen when we live with someone day in and day out.
Maybe experiencing love, regardless of age and shelf-life, is far better than living in half -love with someone who “fits the bill”. Love is dumb and blind. The best we can hope to do is love honestly from our hearts, ignore the sagging skin and inappropriately placed facial hair, and love the plushness of each other’s mature bodies.