I’m thirty-four years old, and over the past two years, I’ve dated about six men. Because I’ve managed to stay friendly with each of them, I know what’s going on in each of their romantic lives, and all of them are now in serious relationships with women in their early twenties. (The men’s ages range from thirty-five to forty-one.) I’ve become very good friends with one of my exes in particular, and I asked him about it. He was brutally honest and told me that all men want to date young women—the younger, the better. Period. He says it doesn’t mean they won’t or can’t fall in love with someone their own age, but if they have a choice, most men would prefer to be with a younger woman. I’m floored—I don’t think thirty-four is old. I would love to hear your opinions about why some men (all men?) prefer this. How can a woman over thirty compete? —BH, Brooklyn, New York
The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
First off, men like attractive women of all ages. But yes, women in their early twenties are typically in good shape, with good skin, good energy, and good hair. It makes men feel virile to have young women still attracted to them when they’re aging, losing hair, and gaining a gut. Plus, women in their early twenties aren’t pushing men to get married, and they don’t have ticking biological clocks like women in their thirties do. So the types of men who don’t want to be challenged and are noncommittal seem to prefer younger women.
Which brings us to your main question: how do you compete? Look to a song for inspiration. There’s an old, classic tune that goes, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”
“Older” women are typically more self-assured, more fulfilled in their careers, more faithful, and less scatterbrained than younger women are. These are the positives you can accentuate. Be fit, secure, and upbeat. Eliminate the negatives. You can do this, BH; thirty-four is not too old for men to desire you. Latch on to the affirmative. And lastly, and most important, don’t mess with the Mr. In-Betweens. Let the younger women have them. You want men who are ready for something more … advanced.
The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
You do realize you’re asking a single, forty-year-old woman why men like younger women … really, BH? Sigh.
I’ll be interested in what the other 4-Wayers have to say, but I have a couple of theories. The first is that men in the age range you described may be interested in having a family and may assume (rightly so, in some situations) that women their own age will have a difficult time getting pregnant, so they start trolling the twentysomethings for fertile alternatives. (Clearly, these men did not get the Jane Seymour–pregnant-with-twins-at-forty-four memo.) The second theory comes after conversations I’ve had with a few older men (fifties) who told me they dated younger women (twenties) because it made their fellow fiftysomething friends crazy with jealousy that they could get someone so young. They liked that feeling of “I’ve still got it, but my buddy doesn’t,” but all of them eventually ended things with the younger women because they had nothing to talk about and nothing in common. Go figure.
But take heart. For every man who just has to chase the twenty-three-year-old hottie, there’s another man who will be attracted to you for who you are and for the experience and wisdom you’ve gained because of your age. (By the way, you’re right: thirty-four is not old.) I just saw It’s Complicated, and one of my favorite moments was when Meryl Streep worries out loud to Steve Martin that she’s “too old” for him (even though they appear to be roughly the same age). I love his response: “Your age is one of my favorite things about you.” Find your Steve Martin, BH, and don’t worry so much about the ones who need to pursue the human fountains of youth. What goes around comes around, and in a few years, those young girls will indeed be coming around … on a hunt for younger, harder asses.
The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
First of all, congratulations on maintaining a friendship with the men you’ve dated. I think we learn a great deal about ourselves when we have the opportunity to stay in touch with someone we’ve dated and can see that person in a relationship with someone else. Too many of us have clear-cut images of how a partner may fit into our lives, and when the images fail to become reality, we let the entire relationship go. Sometimes realizing that life moves on and you have to move on with it is worth more than the relationship ever was.
With that said, I assure you that all men do not want to date younger women and you should kick your friend’s ass for making you think that’s a true statement. Sure, there are men who want to date someone young enough to be their daughter, and the bigger cities seem to be full of those guys, but there are also a fair number who date in their own age bracket. It’s a harsh reality that a biological clock does scare away some men, but not all are so shallow. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been at dinner with a gaggle of twenty-year-olds perched at a table near me, spewing out “OMG!” and “Noooooo!” and screeching like hawks at an uncomfortable decibel level. Perhaps you should drag your friend into a setting like that and remind him that this is his dating pool.
The Gay Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
I really have no idea what all men prefer, but you’ve given me some clues as to what the men you’ve dated prefer: younger women.
Perhaps you just have a youthful energy about you when men first meet you. Does that younger outlook fade as you get deeper into the relationship? Personally, I feel like as we get closer to someone, a stronger and more real connection replaces the superficial attractions that come along with a first glance. My guess is that as you delve deeper and show more of the fully mature woman you are, the guys you choose, for whatever reason, don’t want to meet you there. BH, take a look at the qualities that first draw you to a man. Are you attracted to his maturity, looks, and spirit? Look beyond what you see and ask yourself what this man is attracted to in you. You might even want to ask some of your exes, since you’re so close. See if you spot patterns.
As for women over thirty being too old to compete, do you really want to be in a game where the prize is a man who wants immature, superficial young women? Create a new game and make your own rules. Find men who are ready for the real deal. I think they’re out there.