“She Was Nearly Half My Age”

After a May-September romance, one man wonders: “Was I an old geezer having a midlife crisis—or just another guy in love?”

By Michael Kramer

ave you ever seen an older man dating a much younger woman and thought to yourself, “Oh, yeah. I know why they’re together”?

Well, maybe you don’t. Because I thought I knew,
The older I get, the more shocked I am to be my age.
too—until I became one of those older men.

Katie and I met last year, when I was 41 and she was… here goes… 22. As in, one year over the legal drinking age. Contrary to the jokes my friends made, I did not meet Katie while I was buying Girl Scout cookies or waiting outside a junior high. Katie and my friend Joel are co-workers, and we met at one of his parties. We hit it off right away.

Obviously, there was an age gap, but at first, neither of us realized how much. Thankfully, it’s still considered rude to ask someone’s age when you first meet. (The older I get, the more I appreciate that bit of social etiquette.)

Now, before you dismiss me as some old geezer trying to rationalize dating someone nearly half his age, let me just add that she asked me out. And, as luck would have it, I have this little policy that when fun, attractive women ask me out, I say yes.

What other people were saying about us…
The second we began dating, though, my friends started in with the jokes. They ranged from mild teasing (“Is she impressed that you have a car?” and “Are you sure she’s not just using you to buy her alcohol?” and “Which is her favorite Teletubby?”) to outright hostility (“What the @#?!&$ are you doing?!”).

The best was when they’d run the numbers. “When you were her age, she was in diapers!” and “Do you realize you’re closer in age to her mother than you are to her?” and “When she’s your age, you’ll be 61!” But despite what my friends were saying, Katie’s friends were saying worse. They had reduced her to a gold-digger and me to a drooling, aged sugar daddy. I repeatedly dismissed their comments, believing instead that given my genuine connection with Katie, our age difference didn’t really matter.

The difference a yearbook made
Until, that is, Katie showed me her high-school yearbook… from 2002! Her yearbook is dedicated
Was I going through a mid-life crisis?
to the victims of 9/11. (Did I mention she graduated in 2002?!) It was the first time I had ever looked through a yearbook and couldn’t mock the hair and clothes as being out of date.

In my high school yearbook, kids are wearing shirts from REO Speedwagon and the J. Geils Band concerts. Katie’s classmates are wearing shirts that said Eminem and The White Stripes. It made me wonder whether everyone was right and I did have issues. Was I going through a midlife crisis? Was it true that all men have creepy fantasies about dating women half their age?

“Am I having a midlife crisis?”
But the more I thought about it, the more I felt sure that age wasn’t a factor in my dating choices. I mean, it’s not like I have a pattern of dating much younger women. My previous girlfriends were all around my age.

It turns out Katie had been wracking her brain, too, trying to figure out whether she had daddy issues. But prior to me, she had only dated guys within her age range. Ultimately, we came to realize that what people were saying revealed more about them than about us. Our relationship had become a Rorschach test of their own prejudices and insecurities—and of our culture’s preconceptions about what my mom politely refers to as “May-December romances.”

The truth is, the older I get, the more shocked I am to be my age. It’s as though time kept moving forward, and I simply didn’t notice. When I hear an oldies station play “Start Me Up,” to me, that’s a new Rolling Stones’ song. But in other ways, I feel far surer of myself than I did at 21. And if age has taught me anything, it’s that life is too short to miss the opportunity of being with someone you like just because society makes assumptions about your relationship.

After six months of dating, Katie and I split up. While I’ll admit that age did play a part — some lack of compatibility had to do with being at different stages in our lives — it was less of a factor than the issues similar-aged couples face, like differences in personalities and religion. In the end, unlike the salacious explanations our friends gave, we started dating for the right reasons and ultimately broke up for the right reasons.

So the next time you see an older man with a younger woman or an older woman with a younger man walking by on the street and you’re trying to figure out why they’re together, remember: They might actually just like each other. (Or, of course, he might actually be her dad.)

Michael Kramer is an Emmy-nominated writer in Los Angeles.
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