Has anyone ever noticed the stigma around dating people outside of your age range?
Why was the term “cougar” invented? It seems far more common and far more accepted for men to date younger women, but why is the reverse so frowned upon? In addition, when there is a dramatic age difference, and the woman is younger, why is it prevalent to call these women “gold diggers”?
High schoolers in particular seem to have rules about dating and age limits. Two to three years’ difference in a relationship is accepted, but somewhat rare and frowned upon in high school. Freshman dating seniors is “gross” and middle schoolers dating high schoolers is just horrifying. However, it appears that when people graduate from high school, it is far more common for people to date outside of their age range…unless of course you’re Kylie Jenner, 17, dating rapper Tyga, 25.
And so I wonder, where is the invisible tipping point? At what age is it acceptable to date people five, ten, even fifteen years older? Some of our very own CHS parents and teachers are happily married to a spouse substantially older or younger.
Perhaps the difference is that from elementary school to high school, there are very noticeable changes in development. Cognitively as well, this is a period when students are changing a lot, and trying to discover who they are. According to NPR and the BBC, the brain does not fully mature until about age 25. In addition, students generally don’t even stop growing until ages 18-21.
Physical and cognitive attributes aside, if you connect with someone who is “outside your age range,” why is it such a big deal? Age is just a number. In addition, age seems to be one of those common questions: How old are you? What do you do for a living? Where do you live? And the answers to these surface level questions are supposedly supposed to tell you something substantial about the other person? How does that really tell you anything important?
Often, especially when traveling, I have found that people treat me differently once they know how old I am. Conversation can be flowing, yet once the inevitable question, “How old are you?” arises, people appear shocked to find out my age. Countless times, I have seen shocked faces and have heard “I thought you were older.” From that moment forward it seems that I am viewed differently. But why does it change anything? Why can’t it just flow like before?
The stigma around age needs to be alleviated. I understand that certain things are illegal, and I think there should be limits, but otherwise, who cares? Love is love. Age is a number.
Brent Farmer / April 27, 2015
I agree with you that there are double-standards concerning people who are with someone substantially younger, or older. It seems that no matter what the circumstances are, the woman is always looked down upon. If she’s dating an older man: Gold Digger; if she’s dating a younger man: Weird. However, I must note, that in high school surroundings, there should be a line that is established by the students because dating someone who’s 14 when you’re 18 is just weird. After high school things change because, as you said, there is less of a noticeable difference between the people aside from their age.
Lindsay James / April 28, 2015
I think this is a great article. For me, it seems like the magic line for a significant age difference is 18. Even when someone is 17 or 16 and in a relationship with a person in their twenties, it just seems a bit weird. But looking at an 18-year-old with someone a few years older, it suddenly seems okay. I’m not completely sure why it may be this way, but there must be some psychological factor that makes one relationship pair okay and another not so much.