One of my friends recently initiated an interesting discussion on Facebook about the most suitable age gap between a woman and man involved in a relationship. And contrary to what I thought, a few women (Zimbabwean, by the way) said that they wouldn’t mind going out with a younger guy because as the late Aaliyah once sang, “Age ain’t nothing but a number.”
Now, if Hollywood is anything to go by, it would seem that the relationship trend these days is towards the younger man and the older woman. Remember how the Camberlakes, ie. Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz carried off a perfectly healthy relationship for a few years even though Cameron was nine years older than her beau?
And then there’s Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon, the proud parents of two new baby twins – Mariah is 41 and Nick is 31. Oh, and while we are at it, let’s not forget Demi Moore (49) and Ashton Kutcher (33), happily married for ages now. Halley Berry, Courtney Cox, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kylie Minogue – the list is almost endless! All of these women have been involved, fairly happily, with men sizeably younger than themselves.
So I have to ask the question – does age really matter?
Yes, yes, that’s Hollywod that I am speaking about. And yes, yes, the age stigma issue is much worse where I come from, Zimbabwe, where the norm is that women marry a man at least two years older. But if Zimbabwean women on Facebook are saying they don’t mind a younger man, could the times be a-changing?
I am trying to think if I know any Zimbabwean couples where the man is younger than the woman but I am drawing a complete blank. If anyone in my circle of contacts was involved with a younger man, I am 100% sure that I would know this because everyone would be talking about it behind their backs. Such would be the scandal!
But why is there so much scandal around such relationships anyway? Why is it trendy in Hollywood and so unthinkable in my part of the world? I suppose that this is because in many African societies, the man is thought of as the protector and defender of the family; the paternalistic god who provides all things. In one of Zimbabwe’s languages, Shona, we women have taken to even referring to boyfriends and husbands as ‘daddy’. The connotations that this evokes are very much ones of childlike deference of a woman to the authority of her man, the father figure in the home. And as Zimbabwe is a largely Christian nation, the Bible plays a significant role in the interpretation of women and men’s relational status – for example, the Bible calls for women to submit to their husbands. I am curious to know if the older woman-younger man dynamic in such an instance would be cause for challenges in submitting to younger male ‘authority’. Do let me know your thoughts.
But I can cast my net even wider as many cultures refer to the man of the house as ‘daddy’. Even Usher sang about this in Daddy’s Home – a song that states:
You know your daddy’s home
and it’s time to play
So you ain’t got to give my loving away
So all my ladies say hey hey hey daddy
Hey hey hey daddy
Now you know that Usher is not singing this song on behalf of all the little kids who wait excitedly for their daddies to materialise at the front door. This song is for the ladies who call their men ‘daddy’. In some instances, the use of the term ‘daddy’ is reciprocated with men referring to their women as ‘mommy’ – but that’s much rarer, methinks.
But back to the point I am trying to make.
Is it because we see our boyfriends and husbands as replacements for our fathers that we think they always have to be older than us? How did this unwritten law all begin? Is it necessary?
My high school biology teacher always told us that in life we should never accept a marriage proposal from a man younger than 25. We were only 16 years old and back then, 25 sounded ancient and unpalatable! Nonetheless, she claimed that her advice was based on some biological evidence that men only begin to mature emotionally from the age of 25 and that we therefore shouldn’t accept any marriage proposal until the guy had 25 candles on his birthday cake.
Well, she never said anything about age gaps but she did imply that women have a higher emotional IQ at a younger age than men. Various studies have shown this to be true and it is a somewhat accepted norm. But surely, it doesn’t mean that every man is immature until 25? And it also doesn’t guarantee that every woman is more mature than a man at a younger age.
Today I want to dare you to challenge this perception of age as the ultimate deal breaker in relationships. Does the guy being ten years older than you really mean that he is more responsible? I know a lot of irresponsible 50-year-olds so don’t be fooled. For some guys, bagging an older woman is the ultimate fantasy and for others, the thought of their friends teasing them about their ‘granny’ girlfriend if more than they can bear.
But I want to ask you one question: Will pleasing everyone else make you happier?
People will always have something to say when it comes to other people’s partners: he’s ugly, he dresses badly, he’s too skinny; she’s too talkative, she’s too fat, she’s too tall. And the truth is THEY WILL ALWAYS TALK!
A lot of what we base our decisions on is not even scientifically proven and anyway, when it comes to science, there are always exceptions to the rule! So whether it be that you have to overcome the age, height, weight, education, race, class barrier, all I am going to say is this: It’s your life and you know what you want.
But please be realistic and don’t think you can get some real emotional intelligence from an 18-year-old toyboy!!! Maybe you can, but that might be me stretching it! No one is mature at 18!