Too Young to date?
“He’s got a great job, he’s a good kisser and he has a great personality. Too bad he’s 23.”
This comment came from a 35 year old friend of mine explaining why he couldn’t seriously date the guy he had recently hooked up with. Why was he too young, I asked? Differences in their interests or tastes in music?
No, my friend told me, they seemed mostly compatible that way. Did the guy strike you as immature, then? Not at all: in fact, he is on the fast track at work and he is saving up to buy a condo.
What was it then? “I don’t know…. He’s just too young, that’s all.”
There are lots of reasons why a significant age difference can make a relationship or friendship problematic. Sometimes there is a lack of the shared life experience that comes with someone close to our own age. Sometimes we’re at different places in life – different challenges or interests. Sometimes someone just falls outside of the age range we’ve learned to think of as attractive and available.
And sometimes there’s no reason at all why any of these things should be a problem, other than our anxiety about what people will say or think. Men who fear dating guys younger than they are may worry their friends will disapprove. No one wants to be the target of jokes because of the guy he’s dating.
If there’s a conversation about age in our community, it’s usually about how unfair the gay world is to older men. That’s a problem sometimes, but hey – the way we treat younger men isn’t often any better. Calling someone a twink” is a way of dismissing them as unsubstantial and shallow. The comments may come from a place of envy about the attractiveness, energy and innocence some younger men possess, but “twink” is a put-down, not a compliment. It’s a way we keep ourselves separated from one another.
Some men are unable to find anyone their own age truly attractive. They develop a fetish towards younger guys. This is both unappealing and unfair; it lumps younger guys together as a group and denies the uniqueness of each individual. And since youth is a temporary state, it hardly makes a sound foundation for building a lasting relationship.
More often, the gay community practices a sort of self-segregation regarding age. We hang out with others similar to us. We go to clubs or organizations full of people who look about like we do.
Our community’s rhetoric about coming out probably leads some straight folks to imagine that when one of us does claim his identity as a gay man, the gay community throws a big “Welcome, New Brother!” party. The reality is often very different. The gay community’s ambivalence towards younger men leaves young guys on their own to fend for themselves.
The solution is for each of us to…grow up. Treat people as individuals, not stereotypes. Learn to appreciate people who are younger or older than you. Cultivate an appreciation for other differences around race, gender, social class, etc., too. It’s a big world out there. Let’s enjoy it together.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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