I often hear that, in a relationship across an age gap, the older partner is the more powerful. There are, of course, relationships in which this is true: between suave, wealthy Svengalis and naive ingenue mentees. But in my experience the power imbalance is more often the other way around.
As a young man, I was always attracted to older women. I sought a tutor in the bedroom and an ally in life. Not roles easily found in the young
"who teaches a coddled young man that there is joy in life, liberates him from the prison of his own emotional numbness..."
One thing that sticks out to me about this line (and, by extension, the rest of this piece) is the fact that we're always looking for someone to save our soul when we're seeking out a romantic partner.
For me, the tension right now is between how silly it is to assume that someone else can do that, and the bizarre awareness that this is precisely what I'm supposed to want. Yes, it's sophomoric to want someone to fix or "rescue" you are whatever. And yet, when we talk about people's complementary strengths, this is precisely what a good relationship looks like for someone in my position. Baffling.
There is precedent for this phenomenon in our genetic ancestors and cousins, "We show that despite their promiscuous mating system, chimpanzee males, like humans, prefer some females over others. However, in contrast to humans, chimpanzee males prefer older, not younger, females. These data robustly discriminate patterns of male mate choice between humans and chimpanzees.". https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17113387/#:~:text=We%20show%20that%20despite%20their,choice%20between%20humans%20and%20chimpanzees.
Really lovely read, thank you, Iona.
From what I hear from friends, the so called dating scene (assuming online) is mostly a huge disappointment if you are looking for a lasting, loving relationship, not "just" sex (regardless of how the website presents itself), with extremely few notable and envied exceptions. And yet, a very oldfashioned relying on serendipity is considered naïve to say the least, and highly unlikely to happen outside the daydream of the latest rom-com. I don't actually disagree, but have always found that messing with intent just doesn't work for me personally. Things can absolutely happen naturally, by which I mean in our regular lives, rather than in the artificial (as I see it) environment of purposeful, intentional, "down to business" dating and relying on algorithms that match wish lists and deal breaks. I may be extremely lucky, and I mean no judgement here; to each their own as long as it is adult, consensual and at least somewhat honest, "equal", and as free as possible from malevolent manipulation or outright scam. I was suddenly and unexpectedly widowed at 26. Who knows if it would have lasted, for life? for decades? not at all? Now 60, I have had a few relationships with considerably younger and older men, and find the latter far more exciting and satisfying, both in and out of the bedroom. I can usually discern a power imbalance in most relationships among friends and acquaintances (straight or gay/lesbian, fresh or decades long, whether close or far apart in age, maturity, traditional attractiveness, intellectual capabilities, financial level, etc) and I believe it has more to do with who "loves the most" regardless of anything else. I could be wrong of course. I have also found that many older men are not at all looking for much younger trophy girlfriends. I wonder how detrimental that stereotype is. Just my perspective. Wishing love to all. We deserve it just by being born.
So on the mark, Iona. I entered the so-called dating scene after my husband of 22 years said, Oh, so Greta Garbo, "I need to live alone." I learned what you so eloquently and with candid vulnerability explain here. You made my day with this piece. Not so by the way: I adored the flick Harold and Maude. xo for this and for finding you through the fab Eric Hoel.