Ageism, Dating and More Ageism

Comments 58
No. Just... no.
No. Just… no.

I’m an ageist.

There, I said it. I didn’t know I was an ageist until last week because, outside of professional sports, I had never previously discriminated against the elderly.

But now I am.

And the real beauty is that almost EVERYONE qualifies, so basically, depending on the situation, I now potentially discriminate against every single person on Earth. Except babies. They’re cool.

One of my oldest friends (not in an age sense; in a friendship-length sense) is female. We talk about everything.

And I just found out recently that one of her best friends who is our age (35-ish) is married to a guy who is 50-plus.

And my gut reaction was: “That’s gross.”

Then she told me about how all her girlfriends will get together and sleep over at their house, where this wealthy older man “spoils” all these attractive women, 15 or more years younger than him.


“He’s yummy,” she said, just before explaining that he goes to bed before 9 p.m. every night, and spends all his mornings reading the paper in bathrobes that cut off mid-thigh.

My natural, instinctive reaction was revulsion. I don’t know that I can adequately explain or defend it. It’s simply how I feel.

When this wife was born, the husband was a sophomore in high school.

When the husband graduated college, the wife was in first grade.

Chew on that, outraged people who might feel like debating this.

It’s totally gross. Like this, but less awesome:


The Dating Math (Pre-Marriage Edition)

In school, your “dating” options are limited.

In grade school, you’re mostly stuck with boys and girls in your class and a few randoms you meet through other channels.

In high school, the girls’ options open up to all four grades (and later, college guys), while the boys generally are limited to just one grade up and back.

While our college years represent the closest thing to “real life” any of us experience throughout our schooling, the age thing tends to play about the same as in high school, though women tend to have more upward mobility—age-wise—than guys.

For example, it’s not unheard of for a 19-year-old sophomore girl to date a young professional man who is 23 or 24 (and I’d even recommend it for those looking for stability—more on that in a minute), but you almost never see a 19- or 20-year-old guy with a woman much older than he is.

In the Department of Overgeneralizations, you’ll discover a few laws of human nature (that I’m totally making up on the fly because I believe them to be generally true and the furthest thing from actual law.)

Boys and young men are constantly hoping to, or actively trying to, have sex with the girls in their life to whom they’re attracted. Which is often several.

Girls and young women are constantly hoping to find someone who will fall in love with and marry them, frequently misinterpreting sexual interest as potential love interest and ultimately spawning the “Boys are Mean™” and “Men are Pigs™” movements.

I don’t believe there to be many males who spot a female from across the room and say: “Ooooooohhhhh! I want to marry THAT one!”

It tends to be more like: “Oooooooohhhhhh! I want to nail that one!” and so the male tries to court the female hoping to get laid. And what sometimes happens in that courting process is that the male will decide the pain of losing that female is greater than the “benefit” of his independence and will eventually choose her to settle down with.

So you end up with a lot of girls who are obsessed with Disney princess movies and romantic comedies marrying men who know jack shit about what real love is. They just know they’ve agreed to stop having sex with other women and to give up most of the weekend keg parties and other bro-hobbies for the rest of their lives. Five to 10 years later, half of them divorce.

It’s a sad story.

Now, please allow me to slightly contradict myself.

The Older Guy Contradiction

So. Ladies. New rule. Unless you’re absolutely sure you have an exception to the rule (and there are always those, too), then you should never be dating anyone who isn’t about five years older than you if you’re between the ages of 20-30, because almost every under-30 male you know is still similar to a child from an emotional-maturity standpoint.

From about third grade on, girls have a five-year emotional maturity advantage over boys.

Many girls are so eager to “fall in love” and get married in their early 20s, so they accidentally con young men who don’t know how unprepared they are into agreeing to marriage.

The girl thinks she’s getting a husband just like her father or the men (who aren’t real) she sees on TV.

The guy thinks he’s signing up for a permanent girlfriend like he currently has. He thinks: “Life’s pretty good! We have fun with our friends and we hang out all the time, and the sex is great! Sure, I can do this forever!”

Neither side is being disingenuous. It’s just that no one teaches us how completely insane and outside reality that type of thinking is, and I’m not sure we would have listened even if they’d tried.

If you’re a 25-year-old female, you need a 30-year-old male to even have a chance to be on the same emotional-maturity level as you. It’s a gap that pretty much closes after age 30. Many guys figure out in their early to mid-30s (whether married or single), that the lifestyle we lived in our youth doesn’t bring sustainable happiness, and that “freedom” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I wish girls weren’t in such a hurry to get married. I wish young men were smart enough to communicate why it’s too soon. They simply don’t know they’re still apes, because we all lie to ourselves.

The Dating Math (Post-Divorce Edition)

I was online dating for a short time right after my wife left because I’m a stupid moron.

You can filter out online-dating profiles based on a variety of criteria. For example, every single woman with no children filters out guys my size (5’9”) and/or guys with children (I have a young son).

Whatever. People are allowed to date whoever they want. The moral of that story is simply that online dating is bullshit. Write that down.

I’m 35.

I’m at a funny age, even though I suspect there are literally millions of people just like me out there (thirtysomethings with kids who don’t like being single very much). We just have a hard time finding one another, so we online date and then wish we could set ourselves on fire afterward.

The dating math for guys my age and with circumstances similar to mine is sort of interesting.

Under the right circumstances, I could meet a 28-year-old who has never married and wants to have children. Whoa. Or I could meet someone with a couple kids who has two or three years on me.

If I decided I wanted more children, something would have to happen pretty damn fast for it to be mathematically feasible, considering I’m not dating anyone, nor do I even really know any single people.

I remember being 21 and thinking that 21 year olds would ALWAYS be attractive.

And I guess, physically, maybe they always will be.

But years have a way of morphing you on the inside. And now it just sounds wrong and unpleasant.

There isn’t a 21-year-old on the planet I can see myself wanting to talk to for any great length of time (and that’s just 14 years’ difference!), and even if there was, there aren’t any 21-year-olds trying to get with Graying, Thirtysomething Guy with Kid™. Just not happening.

Which is totally fine. I’m merely walking through the mental exercise of dating someone about 15 years younger than me.

I feel like we all need to agree to keep it within a 10-year window throughout our adult dating years. Seriously.

Can we agree on that? I feel certain we can’t.

I’m sorry, ladies. I don’t care that he buys you Porsches and unlimited spa days. At some point, this is just going to get awkward. I can’t quite put my finger on when, but I’m pretty sure I’ll know it when I see it.

58 thoughts on “Ageism, Dating and More Ageism”

  1. My rule has always been – closer to my age than my parents or my baby brother. I don’t want to date my dad or my baby brother. That’s just wrong! (there was a 10 year age gap between my brother and I, so it worked for me more than it will for others!)

    1. That seems like sound thinking to me, Kate.

      And let me just add–when I say “Dating,” I mean people who are thinking about having a long-term, possibly forever-relationship.

      There are people in this world more interested in physical flings.

      And for those people? All this age stuff mostly goes out the window, as far as I’m concerned.

      It’s still totally gross to me if we’re talking about really young people, but I think infinitely more understanding about than I am able to reconcile settling down with people who can relate relate on approximately zero subjects.

  2. completelyinthedark

    Hrm. Was going to disagree with you until I got to the end. “We all need to agree to keep it within a 10-year window” in adult dating. So, for me, my bottom range would be a 43-44 year-old woman. My ex will be 46 next month. Still, in the range (maybe moreso).

    Just had a date with a 41-year old and she skews up in age (and complained of feeling the “ageism” of millennials in her workplace—at 41!), so it’s weird. Probably could even date a really old-soul 39-year old, but I’d still feel a little weird about it.

    And what about my own age? Heck yes I’d date a 55-56-year old, but most of the people my age are complaining all the time about how much their lives suck. Man, it’s all about what you make it.

    It’s likely I’ll never have children, and that kinda bothers me. But it is what it is. Adoption could be in the works, with the right partner (I’ll get a dog before I get a child on my own).


    1. I expect lots of people to disagree on this.

      And I think I could feel differently about this 20-30 years from now.

      I was just having fun with a subject that sort of struck me this week.

      I do generally believe what I wrote here. I do. But, there are always exceptions to everything, and for all I know, the couple that made me think about this are one of them.

      Hope you’re well, Michael. Really appreciate you reading and saying hi.

    1. The five year thing only applies from 20-30. AND. I totally made it up. So it might not even be true!

      I think most men who are 30+ catch up from an emotional-maturity standpoint. I believe strongly that most (not all) men would be better off waiting til 30 to marry.

      39? I say 29-49 are on the table!

  3. I have never been in a relationship with anyone less than 5 years older and my average is 7 years (including my ex husband). I am 37 now with a kid who is leaving home and I feel 47 some days, so I would go as far as 50, depending on the person.

    1. For sure, every person and situation should be evaluated on their own merit. I think these are loose generalizations. And I also believe I’m not always right.

  4. According to the lie I heard, the rule is never date anybody younger than half your age + 7 years. You’re 35, half your age is just shy of 18, add 7 years gives you– in this case– just shy of 25 years.

    Me— I’m an old coot these days. Well into my 59th year. Given the above, I have no business dating anybody younger than 36— and if I really want a chance to make it work, the closer we are in age the better.

    It always looks bad at any rate when a guy my age dates a seriously younger woman. The gold-digger and the sugar-daddy, except that I’m nowhere near rich enough to pull off the “sugar daddy” part of the deal. But, it would still look like that with all of the negative baggage that it entails. Assuming I ever do date again, I’ll be better off if I stick to maybe 5 years or less difference in age.

    1. I really believe people in a similar age range have the best chance because they understand one another on many more levels than when they are 15-20 years apart.

      I believe everyone is allowed to like whoever they want. I just thought I needed to admit I have this bias. Because I totally do.

  5. You should really see about turning your blog into a book or writing for a living(at least on the side). The blog is really great-helped realize that “no- my husband wasn’t just your average inattentive husband” but emotionally abusive. I feel better now that the light bulb went off and am contemplating the future with hope.

    1. I do write in my real job. Just a bunch of marketing messages instead of this sort of thing.

      Thank you so much for the encouragement. Because I would love to be able to write about all this real-life stuff for a living. It’s what stirs me on the inside.

      I’m so glad you used the word “hope.” Hopefully, you never lose it.

      Thank you for reading and leaving this note.

  6. Because I am a loser who has to learn hard lessons on her own, I went out on one date via online website…and the dude was 51. I am (a very young) 39. He had a three year old daughter which is why he was looking for a younger woman. Seemed somewhat reasonable.Most immature 51 year old ever. Like, downed three red-bulls before we went out.

    Then, a few weeks later, I was sincerely, full-on, hit-on by a 26 year old. He was nice, smart, charismatic and very nice looking but…no. I’m sorry. Just no. My friends seemed to think it would be OK. I guess I’m an ageist too.

    PS – I don’t think guys like girls who are 5 ft tall either. meh…. :-/

  7. I share your age bias. But, I tried online dating for a nanosecond and most men my age (40) either have little ones or want children ‘someday.’ Since I started way too young, all my kids are grown up already and I’m gearing up for grandchildren….not starting over!! So, I may have to wait a few years if I want to get someone in this stage of life without breaking the ‘no more than ten years’ rule 😉

    1. I’m rubbing a few people the wrong way with this. Wasn’t the plan. Oh well. Too many years in either direction makes me feel a little off. Maybe in several years, I won’t feel that way anymore.

      1. Matt, this post didn’t rub me the wrong way. Too many years in either direction makes me a feel a little off too. And, I am okay waiting until someone in my age range no longer has little children.

  8. I have a 20 year difference with the woman I love. I couldn’t be happier…and no…I don’t lavish gifts on her or any of that. We simply enjoy each other’s company and conversation.

    1. Dan, this totally works for people. You’re not the first, nor will you be the last. I am stating a (not-super-serious) personal opinion. And I knew it wasn’t going to be for everyone.

      I hope it didn’t offend. I was married to someone my age. And we all know how that worked out.

      Hope you’re well, Dan. I’m really happy to hear you met someone and that it’s going well. I am rooting for all of us.

        1. I’m not sure we can ever ask for more than the happiest we’ve ever been. I’m very happy to hear that, sir. Thank you for taking a minute to say hi.

  9. Hmm. I read this twice. And I find a lot of it filled with an immature view of adult relationships (sorry, not meaning to be critical, merely my opinion). I also take offense to the Disney Princess view of women. Not every girl or woman is looking to con a member of the oppposite sex. Nor to I think every young man or guy is out there trolling, looking to get laid. Perhaps, the view is too hetero – aren’t we all just people looking for someone to support, encourage and love? Of course, we want it in return too.

    My spouse is more than 5 years older than me. I never considered our age difference. He was the person I fell in love with. When I was 21 years old. And we began building a life together. A journey that continues much more than a decade later.

    Sure there are boundaries that should not be crossed. They go without saying. But relationships are based on a measure of respect and love. Not a math equation comprised using an age-based formula.

    Remember, this is all my opinion. What works for me will not for anyone but me. 🙂

    (Nice to see you back.)

    1. Let’s get two super-important things straight:

      1. I’ve never claimed to be, nor actually been, mature.
      2. This is totally me. I am ageist. (On this subject only.) it surprised me. I heard a story. I reacted as I did. And I thought it was worth discussing. I’m pretty P.C. about the vast majority of things.

      Not this, it turns out.

      Nice to hear from you. Thanks for stopping in. 🙂

  10. Men take a long time to mature…some never seem to. I’ve always been one to date older guys, but I agree that 10 years should be the limit. Because you’re right – at some point it’s just going to get weird. Plus, wouldn’t you want to enjoy life at the same physical level? I would. My husband is 10 years, 4 months older than me…so we’re right on the line.

  11. You know who hates this post the most, Matt? Your 52-year-old self! Prepare for the day when you’re going to have to delete this one.

    1. Rest assured I think it’s more than possible that you’re 100-percent right.

      I’ve never been 50 and had a 35 year old like me before! I HAVE been 35. And 20 year olds? We are not made for one another.

      I respect that through the years those dynamics change a great deal.

      I don’t know whether this was supposed to make me laugh. But it did. Appreciate you reading and firing off this note.

      1. My comment was tongue-in-cheek… But perspective is everything, Matt. I am as far from your age as you are from 20. What I know that you doubt is that those two age spreads are not equal. It’s not about time, but experience. “How old are you?” is a math problem. “Who are you?” is the question we should ask ourselves and others. I know more couples of ‘mixed age’ than of ‘mixed height’. And their relationships are successful in spite of what the rest of us might think of them. Why question happy?

    1. Couldn’t agree more.

      However, it tends to mean something from a maturation standpoint.

      By that, I mean. 15 year olds have things in common with other 15 year olds, as 60 year olds have things in common with other 60 year olds.

      Those differences between 60- and 15-year-olds illustrate the difference (in a ridiculous, overstatement sort of way) why I feel how I feel.

      Let’s just say I believe strongly that if no male married before the age of 30, our divorce rate would decrease dramatically.

      It has everything to do with maturity and unselfishness.

      All that said, I really am having more fun with this topic than I am trying to argue a particular point of view.

      Without question, there will always be exceptions that prove anything can work with the right people.

  12. LOL, men are a bit like cheese, sometimes the best ones need to age a bit before they can release their full flavor. I married somebody six years older than me, mostly because no matter how old I get, I’ll always have someone older around to pick on.

    I suppose about six years is my personal cut off, just because if you’re too far apart, you practically come from different genres and won’t have as much to talk about.

  13. I married my childrens father. He is 11 years older than me. We never had any problems at all. We are divorced but he is one of my best friends and I still don’t notice the 11 years difference.

    I also had a relationship once with a man who was 17 years older. And the people who had problems with that wasn’t him or me. It was the environment around us. BUT there was a problem because I had young kids…and if a man doesn’t agree with me having kids it’s a huge goodbuy no matter what age.

    Nice post Matt!

  14. Pingback: Ageism, Dating and More Ageism, Vol. 2 | Must Be This Tall To Ride

  15. Well, this is one of the first posts of yours that just didn’t ring true.

    See, I love older men. The love of my life, outside of my husband, was in fact 15 years older than me. I wish I’d married him! And while a 20 and a 35 year old just don’t work, a 35 and 50 year old DO. 15 years is not created equal. The older you get, the less difference 15 years makes.

    Matt, how this really comes off? Is that you have some sour grapes against older, more successful men who are able to obtain women in your age range. That’s what really reads.

    The truth is, women ARE attracted to successful men. It gives us a feeling of safety and stability.

    So get out there and create that kind of wealth for yourself! If anyone can do it, you can! Once you’re able to compete in that arena, you won’t be griping about the older men who date younger women.

    Wow. I stopped in for a doozy!

    1. Hi 😉

      Firstly, OF COURSE age matters less as we get older. And of course there’s a huge difference between, say, a 15- and 30-year-old, and a 30- and 45-year-old.

      But that doesn’t bother me about what you said. Age really comes down to personal taste and people are allowed to like whoever they want. Always have. Always will.

      What DOES bother me is that you think I’m whining about older guys with more money.

      You can either believe me when I tell you the thought never entered my mind, or not. (I have not had any experiences like that, personally.) And I also believe more strongly than ever that wealth (while nice!) is not particularly relevant in our quest for happiness.

      On a very personal level? I like to be liked. And thus far, have never found myself in a situation where I was trying really hard to date someone and they chose someone else for any reason, let alone older-man wealth.

      Of course, I also don’t date much!


      1. Hi yourself! 🙂

        I suppose I zeroed in on that because you made several sarcastic references to these men in relation to what they have to offer. I’m just saying, it read that way, to me. But I stand corrected.

        I suppose I can’t figure out why this particular scenario really grosses you out. Older men have been dating younger women since the beginning of time. And for me, it just seems normal. Because I like the security of an older man.

        Of course, I also have raging daddy issues…

        1. Speaking of not tucking people into neat little boxes, you’re the last person to whom the world can do that.

          You’re the poster child for breaking stereotypes.

          Brilliant badass from a harsh, semi-impoverished upbringing (Brooklyn or the Bronx?).

          Most of the things I write I predicated on the generalizations I make about the human condition.

          You are a lovely exception to most rules.

  16. Sorry you’ve had such a crappy time with online dating. It was fantastic for me. I met an amazing man who I plan to spend the rest of my life with on OkCupid. May I ask why you only want single women with no children? It seems like a double standard to exclude women with children while complaining that you’re excluded by women because you have a child.

    1. 🙂

      I don’t think you and I communicate very well.

      I’m VERY sorry if I gave you the impression I only want to date single women without children. I assure you, that’s not the case.

      It would be INCREDIBLY hypocritical, and I think it’s okay for you to use words like “asshole.”

      Statistically speaking? I suspect my best dating match would be a single mom. Parents understand one another in ways that non-parents sometimes can’t.

      I mentioned meeting a younger, single woman only while thinking about the scenario in which I might meet someone who wants to marry and have children.

      It dawned on me (because I’m 35), that if that were to happen, it would have to happen pretty darn fast.

      I really need to work on my clarity when writing.

      And I’m very happy you had good luck online dating. You’re not the first. I have good friends who have met their spouses that way.

      It’s just not for me, I don’t think.

      I’m sorry you thought I was being a mega-douche about who I date.

      Single moms are wonderful. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise.

      1. I’m not a single mom, or a mom at all. I wasn’t intending to call you an asshole, either. I was jut confused by that statement. I understand now that you were speaking about a hypothetical situation that would not really be your ideal.

  17. Well Matt, I had to backtrack to read this one, glad I did. I will give you the other side since I think it is important to view it as it becomes more prevalent in today’s society. I was married to my ex for 15 years, we were together for 17 years. There was a 19 year gap in our ages. I was older. It was not the gap in our age that ultimately broke us up. It was the gap in our income, it was his ego and ultimately it was a gap in our cultures. But our age difference was never an issue between us.

    I think each relationship is different. Yes, some are certainly what you see on the surface. Others are something entirely different.

    Who are we to pass judgement?

    1. You’ll find no judgment from me!

      This was truly nothing more than one conversation with my friend where I surprised myself with my reaction and felt compelled to write about it.

      This isn’t a cause of mine, or anything!

      I think people should date and love whoever they want.

      I think–in general–that being close in age is probably the best idea.

      But I also think not drinking a crap-load of tequila on weeknights is a bad idea, and I still occasionally do that anyway. 😉


      1. Herradura is chilling in my freezer as I write this, Romeo and Julietta are in my humidor also. I am planning a nice sit down on my patio this evening, not an over indulgence, just an indulgence.

        Unlike you, I like being single. In fact I love being single and unencumbered by anyone’s expectations of me. I think maybe the idea of alone right now makes me happier than the idea of partnered does. But then, that is just me. If I could find someone who just wanted to play without the chains of partnering I would be overjoyed.

  18. Interesting post. I’ve dated almost exclusively older men. My first relationship was with my ex-husband who was only about 4 years older than me; however, at 18 (and in high school) and him being 22 (working full-time), it was a big deal. After him I was with a man 15 years my senior for years…and then everyone else after I ever went out with was more than five years older than me (at the very least).

    I am attracted to stability and alpha males who are successful. At my age (33), there aren’t a lot of guys who fit that bill like the older men (usually). However, the man I am with now is just four years older and he’s more mature and stable than a lot of the much older men I dated before him. I think you’re right that things can even out in your 30’s…but I think I may have gotten a bit lucky with him – the majority of my experiences with guys in their 30’s has not been positive, and I always feel like I’m on a date with a child. I want to be with a man.

  19. The context in which you seem to be using ageism is discrimination based on looks not age. I cannot date anyone close to my age because I look half my age and I’m unusually attractive. Even if I wanted to date someone my age, the ageist culture would be repulsed. There is a saying, “attraction is not a choice”. When I get complements on my looks and they show real interment in dating me until they find out my age: that my friends is ageism.

  20. Pingback: A Post About Nothing and Everything | Must Be This Tall To Ride


  22. You’re all ageist full of crap PC infected proselytizers. I am a 73 year old dating a 21 year old and we have a lot to talk about including business, politics, racism ( because we are biracial) the singularity , Helen Gurley Brown , Elon Musk, Corvettes; too much to list! It is fashionable today to embrace LGBTQ EVEN LGGBDTTTIQQAAPP to prove how enlightened we are and yet no matter how distasteful the foregoing is to you your objections are rooted in pure narrow-minded bigoted discrimination at its worst.

  23. This article is looking at dating from one point of view and doesn’t consider the spectrum of relationships that exist. Not everyone who dates does so with the intension to get married. Some of us do it simply for the experience. Some of us are not trying to possess other people, which is what marriage is all about. Some of us are just appreciating another person without expectations. I myself am 43 and my last 5 relationships have been with 20 somethings; which by the way, all of them but one persued me. There are a lot of women that like older men and it has little to do with money. Older men posses a lot of qualities that women are attracted to. It’s that simple.

    The one thing you are right about is the stigma. Most of the time I think it’s funny how people respond to the age gap but there are times it can be offensive.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top
Matt Fray

Get my latest writing!

Sign up for my free weekly email newsletter as I continue an on-going exploration of love and relationships.