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Love Takes Its Poll

I'm a 44-year-old woman who's recently become single. Most of the men who ask me out are in their early-to-mid-30s, but I've gotten to know a really special guy who happens to be 22. He’s asked me out, and I’d like to accept, but I'm flat-out afraid. I know most men my age wouldn't hesitate to date a 22-year-old woman, but I'm still worried we will alienate our respective friends and families. Then again, this would just be a date like any other. So why am I so cautious?

--Mrs. Robinson

It isn't just Demi and Ashton. With a growing number of older women cruising frat houses for boyfriends, there's a whole new market for those wearable panic buttons hawked to the elderly on TV: "Help! I've fallen in love, and I can't get up!"

Think of all the money you'll save by collapsing under peer pressure before the first date! Invest it wisely. If, after you put The Kid out of your mind, you manage to land yourself a geezer, you might be inspired to chip in a few coins toward his portable defibrillator...or just the occasional oxygen tank. That said, one of the major pluses of dating a much older man is giving society the warm fuzzies that you’ve found a surrogate daddy with a lifetime of earnings to fill the traditional male “provider” role. Moreover, a guy twice your age is unlikely to have his mother lingering around, badgering him to find a woman whose eggs aren't past the "sell-by" date. There are side benefits as well, to collecting a human antique; for example, no need to bother hanging upside down in a latex catsuit in hopes of keeping the relationship alive, since the main concern will be keeping the boyfriend alive.

But, why force yourself into a vintage model when you really want the latest thing? Maybe you make all your decisions by taking a poll: at lunchtime, you get up on a restaurant table and ask people to vote on whether you should have chicken salad or ham. If so, by all means, toss the hot young thing and go old goat-hunting. Just be clear on why you’re doing it: because being happy matters less to you than being an accessory for other people’s comfort level. Regarding those who feel alienated because you’re doing what makes you happy; well, they aren’t friends, just acquaintances with frequency.

The truth is, most people really don’t care what you do, except for what it says about them: If others your age can’t get their minds (or their thighs) around somebody 22, well then, you shouldn’t either. According to H.L. Mencken, that’s the definition of puritanism: “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Sure, there will be issues related to the age difference -- just as there would be issues with an “age appropriate” (but perhaps otherwise inappropriate) boyfriend. Work out any sticking points between you -- long before you present yourself as an item to a volunteer jury of your peers.

Should you and 22 become boyfriend and girlfriend, squelch any naysayers by brazenly copping to all their suspicions. If somebody snipes that you two must have little to talk about, sigh in agreement, “Yeah, it’s pretty much limited to ‘don’t stop, don’t stop,’ night and day.” Refocus the conversation on all the things you have in common; for example, you’re both about the same distance from The Diaper Years; in his case, Pampers; in yours, Depends. The bottom line wisdom to convey? You shouldn’t date anybody you could have given birth to -- unless, of course, they ask.

Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.