Our columnist Miss P looks at misconceptions mature women face when they date younger men.
Where did it all start?
Remember the movie, How Stella Got Her Groove Back? It starred Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs and was based on the Terry McMillian book of the same name. The storyline: a mature woman fresh from a divorce meets a younger man in Jamaica and they start a relationship. Instead of this being a holiday fling, the woman Stella, takes her new love back home to the US and eventually marries him. The movie was a hit because it perpetuated the myth that younger men (Ben 10s) are the answers to mature women’s “problems”.
From our late 30s through to our 40s our main “problem” is that society (read men our own age) no longer see the value in us. As women, we are taught that we need to remain youthful to be relevant and attractive. God forbid we get older and our looks match our age. Just look at the beauty and fitness industry, both are heavily geared towards “anti-ageing”. We applaud women like Zodwa waBantu, Demi Moore and JLo for their bodies that supposedly defy their ages. We (mostly women) clap for them even harder when they date or even end-up marrying a Ben 10.
I get it, older men date younger women all the time especially when they are in the midlife crisis stage of their lives, so why can’t women do the same? I am not saying that women shouldn’t date younger men, I am just saying, why do we need a Ben 10 to be still seen as attractive and in tune with our sexual desires?
I have dated Ben 10s on four different occasions. In all the instances, they didn’t know until I told them that I was older. I do not look my age, which is 43 going onto 44. This is not a flex, it’s a fact. I look like I am in my mid-30s, as do many black women in their 40s and 50s. In my defense, I was not attracted to my ex’s because they were younger, but I fell into the trap of being flattered by having a younger man in my corner. It gave me a false sense of confidence that made me realize that how I see myself is still through the eyes of society.
But what is the reality of a Ben 10?
Well, let’s start with life experience. Maturity is not about age as much as it is about life experience and I have found that this is often the make-or-break factor. After the dust has settled around the attraction and the sex (there is too much hype around this) there comes the business of the relationship and that’s where the cracks begin to show.
With maturity comes perspective and goals. I know that I am generalizing here but in my experience men in their early 30s and late 20s are still building and chasing their career aspirations and have not made up their minds about commitment or marriage. So as an older woman you have to choose between whether you are going to wait him out and hope for the best or cut your losses. I know I am generalizing here because I have had this experience with older men too, but it’s more acute with younger men. I am at a stage where I want a long-term commitment, I don’t want to “date for your years” and this becomes contentious with a younger man because the urgency is not there. Men have been taught they have the gift of time, while women have a shelf life.
I recently spoke to one of my ex’s who ghosted me after a year of dating. His reason for his atrocious behaviour was fear. He claimed to be so in love that it scared him. Why I asked? Because he said it would mean that he would have to settle down and he wasn’t ready, he needed more time.
There is also the reality of melding lives together and this includes introducing family and friends, into the union, together with their judgement and perspective. As the mature person in the relationship, you are seen as desperate or the one who is wanting. More often than not, you (and this is another generalization) are not seen as partners and equals by those closest to you who bring the baggage of their opinions into the relationship.
I am not against having a Ben 10. What I am against is the perception of the union of mature women and younger men. An older woman isn’t desperate. She’s not happy to get whatever is given to her. And despite what society may say, you (the younger man) are not the best she can do.