I’ve never been more acutely aware of my age than on dating apps. As members of a society that somehow associates infancy with experience and inherent value (or at least, I assume that’s what all those 30 Under 30 lists are for, anyways), the continual upwards scroll of that second digit of my age is nothing more than a painful daily reminder that I’m no longer the youngest in my friend group, work circle, or most bars. And as someone who has long since subscribed to the Golden Ratio of Dating (my heteronormative assumption that for a ‘perfect’ relationship, the man should be three years older than his girlfriend — and, you know, the theory that women lose stock value after 25), I assumed that age was just as important to everyone else. That is, until I started sleeping with younger men.
I know that men have been on the ‘older woman’ tip for a minute, but if you’re a woman, until you’re actually a cougar taking midday zumba classes and trying to figure out if Medicaid covers boob jobs, being the “older woman” wasn’t exactly on your vision board when it came to leaning in. It was actually on a birthday of mine, one a few years past 25, that I slept with my first younger man — a co-worker I assumed was my age, or a few months younger at best. He turned out to be a whole five years younger than me — four, if you’re generously rounding, two when I talked to my friends about him — but in actuality, a full five years younger than I was at the time.
And though I spent far too much time while we were dating worrying about appearances despite my male friends assurances that “older women are hot!” (file that one under ‘not helpful advice to tell a woman on her birthday), dating Jake , young, young Jake, turned out to be the best thing I could do for my dating life, my sex life, and my self confidence. Younger men? They’re the new older women. And in talking to friends on all sides of the aisle, it looks like I’m not alone — dating young, even for all the jokes about MILFs and dirty old men, has some very compelling benefits.
You can try new things without feeling stupid.
In addition to being young, Jake was quiet. Very quiet. So quiet, in fact, that when he brought up trying light bondage in bed once, my best friend’s reply to hearing about his request was “He’s said five words to you total, and one of them was handcuffs?!” But Jake’s request to try out handcuffs brought something else starkly into focus: that until I was deeply, deeply in a committed relationship, I was often reticent to try anything new, mainly for fear of looking stupid. Handcuffs fell into that category; while I’d been lightly tied up before, never with any real efficacy that didn’t immediately dissolve into general rolling around.
After a quick trip to the Halloween store, I had procured a cheap pair of handcuffs; one Snapchat and two hours later, Jake and I were laughing our way through the fact that I thought kids’ metal handcuffs sure to lacerate my arteries were the best way to explore. What the handcuffs did lead to, though, was my own realization that the younger your partner, the more open they are to being Good, Giving, and Game — noted sex therapist Dan Savage’s theory that the best sex comes from partners being kind, generous, and up to try anything. Jake had less experience than I did, but instead of getting nervous and giggly like some other people in my bed, he was game to try things. And without having a performance bar set by ex-girlfriends of Jake’s past, I was able to let go and try new things with him without a fear of looking stupid.
There’s Less Pressure on Your Coupledom
I may be accidentally writing the book on Peter Pan syndrome here, but the older you get, the more pressure new relationships have right away to be “real” relationships — full of day dates to the farmer’s market, cooking dinners at home together, and picking out sheet sets at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Which is great! But it skips over one of my favorite parts of dating: doing a bunch of dirty, drunk shit together until you’re no longer embarrassed of each other.
While I respect people that enter into adult relationships with aplomb, there’s something to be said for being comfortable enough to make drunken mistakes and have whiskey soaked fights that I would say makes for stronger relationships. Who wants to worry about always being perfect and appropriately inhibited, you know? But having a relationship with a younger person gives you the plausible deniability to do multiple shots at a bar without getting the stink eye from your friends, which, in turn, puts less pressure on being a “couple” right away — and in every young relationship I’ve been in, the ones where I haven’t felt the need to present my best self 24/7 have been the ones that ended up stronger because of it.
The Respect You Get is Criminally Underrated
I don’t need the red carpet rolled out for me, but a common lament amongst my male and female friends is that the majority of the people we date tend to keep everyone they date on the backburner, constantly looking out for the next best thing. Which has led to dating being something more like a high school reenactment of Waiting for Godot rather than any sort of clarity on where you stand with the person who bought you drinks the week prior.
But date a younger guy or girl, and the respect just seems to follow. It’s not that the younger person feels grateful, but as someone who’s been the younger half of a relationship more often than the other way around, there is something to be said for freeing yourself from the fear of looking childish around them. Plus, it can filter out about 50% of the fights I see more age-matched couples tend to get into. That’s not to advocate for making your younger man or woman a doormat, but it is nice to know that a lot of the more immature fights that might head your way (especially on the whiskey-soaked fight nights) are staved off by the age difference. At least on your end.
This one goes without saying, but cliché or not, my god will dating a younger man keep you young. With all the hormones of a teenager, but all the shoulder muscles of a young Alec Baldwin, Jake and I ultimately did little else except watch sports and fuck.