It was a busy morning, and I had no time for a post.
I got a lengthy email from a woman named Scarlett today, and it revisits some of the issues from the first and second posts on "older men, younger women." Honestly, I get more e-mail about this topic than anything else I've posted on, save for men's rights. Here's part of what Scarlett had to say:
I'm 21. I have always been attracted to older men.
It seems that each time I start a new relationship with an older man, I am
looking for stability more than anything. A man who wants to settle down and is finished with his partying days. A highly intelligent, professional man that is financially secure. Someone who I could see myself raising children with.
Someone who would undoubtedly be able to provide for a family, both
emotionally and financially. Someone who has done a lot of living. I have
lived through a lot in my short life, and I have a very hard time relating (and this goes both ways) to ANY person (young OR old) that has had the perfect 'white picket fence' life. Naivety in a partner (or friend) is just not an option for me. Not to mention I'm simply just not physically attracted to men my own age. It's always been that way for as long as I can remember. In third grade, puberty hit - hard and fast. I wasn't afraid of cooties, I was too busy being attracted to my male teachers.
I'm not saying that I'm this extremely mature woman and I have nothing left to learn or that I'm more attractive or better than anyone else in any age group. I just want to have a family unlike the one that I knew while growing up.
I've tried dating younger guys and sex seemed to be the only thing that we
could productively do together. It just seems to be a fact in my life.
It's not as if I'm wandering around, saying to myself "oh, I like old rich guys, they are like soooo hot" and have no real basis for feeling the way I do. I know what I want from life...
Women like Scarlett and Kate are a chief reason why I modified my position between the first and the second posts on the subject of older men and younger women. Obviously, age discrepant relationships do have their merits (as long as we aren't talking about minors and adults), and Scarlett has made one of them clear right here: older men can offer a kind of stability and experience (financial, spiritual, emotional, sexual) that her peers generally cannot. We are quick to assume (armchair psychologists that we all are) that the Kates and Scarletts of the world are hungry for father figures. Surely that's true for many young women who are drawn to older men, but it would be a crude misrepresentation to say that some sort of Electra complex drives them all.
Part of the problem that Scarlett points out is the "maturity gap", in which we see young women developing far more rapidly than their brothers. Surely we all recognize that we live in a culture that encourages far too many young men to live in a state of prolonged adolescence well into their twenties and thirties! But this is hardly biologically inevitable. Indeed, just a couple of generations ago, we saw young men demonstrate responsibility and commitment on a massive scale. At the end of World War Two, men of 19, 20, and 21 came home from war, married, and had children. They did so by the millions. The classic example, of course, is that of George H.W. Bush. A combat-tested Navy pilot in his teens, he was but 22 -- and married -- when our current president was born in 1946. Compare him to his son, who didn't become a father until he was 35. I have no intention of disparaging our current president, but his "growth trajectory" (like my own, thanks) was slow indeed compared to that of an earlier generation of men! The relative affluence of our culture, and the widespread availability of sex outside of marriage have reduced the appeal of marriage and maturity for young men enormously.
(Parenthetical paragraph: whenever I talk about the baby boom in my gender classes,and talk about the readiness of so many millions of young veterans to marry and have children, the eyes of half the girls in the class light up. No wonder we all love World War Two movies; we love seeing a generation of very young men who were willing to make commitments - and keep them!)
Of course there are some fellows in their late teens and twenties today who very much want to get married. But a great many of them seem to be members of conservative religious groups. This might work out well for a young equally religious gal, but what about a Scarlett, who isn't (apparently) a devout Christian waiting for her wedding night to surrender her virginity? I recall the plight of a young woman I knew at Fuller Seminary, who complained that all the young secular men she dated just wanted sex without strings and the Christian guys she knew all seemed eager to have a "pastor's wife" who wouldn't have sex until after marriage. My friend wanted a committed, monogamous relationship open to marriage, but one that would be sexual beforehand. (Yes, Virginia, folks at Fuller Seminary have pre-marital sex.) As a liberal Christian, my friend didn't like the choices she had; neither libertines nor traditionalists had much appeal. (She was not attracted to older men, either, so she was in a bit of a pickle.)
Given this culture of young male immaturity (and to be fair, a great many young women today reject responsibility with enthusiasm), where else can a Scarlett look save to older men? I asked Kate to "wait" in my previous post on this subject, but Kate is 17. Scarlett is 21, and there's a world of difference in those four years. While some older men she will encounter may have a sexually predatory agenda, and others may be looking for someone who won't "call them on their crap", some may indeed be ready and willing to give her what she needs in every sense and receive from her what she has to offer. And what else can I do but wish her the best?