Welcome to "What Guys Really Think...", our column devoted to polling real men about what's going on inside their noggins when women speak, act or even dress in various ways.
There's probably never been a time in your adult life where a potential partner has turned you away because you're too young — or too old. In a lot of ways, it makes the mystery of love all the more elusive: Does it really know no bounds? Is it really just a number?
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The answer is, according to the men in the room, a resounding Yes: Love, when it comes to dudes, really does know no limits — and it really is just a number. Except, of course, for one teensy, tiny exception (that you actually won't believe).
Why love (and lust) knows no age limit:
"I met this girl in a bar my senior year of college," admits Derek, 29, "and the next morning, she made mention of the fact that she had orientation and had to head back to campus — and then it hit me. She was a freshmen and it was move-in weekend. Looking back on it — would I have changed my mind about bringing her home if I knew her age? No. Absolutely not. We had fun; and knowing her age wouldn't have affected that."
So age doesn't triumph over fun — but can it hold its own when staring in the face of proposal? "Sorry, but are we still having the age conversation?," says Adam, 26. When I tell him it's just out of curiosity, he tells me that his fiancée is five years his senior — and he couldn't be happier about it. "I’m getting married to a woman who is both literally and figuratively wise beyond my years. I wouldn't have held back on asking her to marry me just because she'll be 40 before I'm 35." And when I pressed him a little further, he admitted that the age difference is a huge turn on — for both of them. "A lot of guys get a bad rap for being developmentally and emotionally delayed because girls are usually more mature for their age. But meeting a woman who actually wants to keep that lighthearted, carefree aspect of a relationship alive is really sexy. Plus, what guy doesn't want to take credit for the cougar at the end of the bar?"
"I have one rule," Jake, 33, tells me: "Never ask for age — unless she looks way too young to be at the bar. In that case, trust your instincts. But overall, I think that girls find it really tacky and tasteless when a guy wants to know their age, like it matters in the heat of the moment — because, well, it doesn't."
And Ryder, 25, says that if anything, he goes for women who look older than he does, just to play on the side of caution. "I'm not saying that age matters to me, because it really doesn't, but I'm not trying to take a girl too young home. I don't want or need that type of baggage in my life."
Why age really is just a number:
Joel, 27, likens the experience to buying an article of clothing (and oddly enough, it works — trust me, I had my doubts too). "Imagine you want a really expensive flannel. When it's overpriced, you covet it, thinking that it must be made that much better than all the other brands since only a few can afford it. So you want it more, right? Now, imagine that the same item is on sale. You only want it more because you know you're getting a better deal. In either instance, your immediate reaction isn't to shy away from it. You want it 'cause it looks good and you know you'll look good in it." I should also mention that Joel works in retail and deals with high and low consumer costs on a daily basis.
And now, for the rest of us who don't live in a world of on-sale and marked-up costs, a tip from a much, much older man who fell for a much, much younger woman. "Ready for this?," Josh, 39, asks. "I dated someone who was 11 years my junior — and it was one of the best relationships I'd ever had. We just got each other; there's no other way to explain it. We understood each other in every way possible. The space that we struggled with was understanding and absorbing each other physically. I think it's because of bodies were in different places and our physical needs had changed. But emotionally and mentally, I was sure there was no one out there who could complete me so fully. And I'd have been damned to let her walk away just because more than a decade separated us. In fact," he adds, after a moment's pause, "being further apart in age gave us more in common."
Why (and when) it's an issue:
There seemed to be only a minute selection of guys who actually admitted that dating someone younger, or older, than them was an issue. Phil, 28, said that for him, it comes down to friends — and if you're confused, allow him to explain. "I've dated girls that were both older and younger than I was — but none more than 5 years younger or older than me. We got along great, but in my circle of friends, I could tell that they didn't approve of the younger girls because they were 'needy' and 'attention-seeking.' With the older girls, it was a mix of intimidation and feeling responsible to be polite. I know it shouldn't come down to friends, because at the end of the day it's me who needs to be happy, but it always surprised me how it was the people outside a relationship that could affect what was happening on the inside."
"This is embarrassing to admit," says Jamison, 29, "but I called off an engagement with my fiancée because she was too young for me. I thought it could work out — and for years it did — but when push came to shove, we just didn't want the same things at the same time. I was ready to settle down and start a family, she was just peaking at the height of her twenties and wanted to be out and about with friends. She wanted to be everywhere and I was ready to be home. I think that's the only time age held me back in a relationship."
What do you think of age differences in relationships? Tell us in the comments below.
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