I was debating whether this was even an interesting topic to write about. After all, 9 years isn’t 20 years. However, people still act just as appalled when you reveal that you have a 9 year age difference (maybe not just as appalled but there is definitely a look of shock). I think the biggest taboo about our age difference is that I, as the woman, am the older one. Maybe if I was Leo or Johnny (my references show my age), people would be less likely to assume I was Stella getting her groove back or a cougar. The hardest thing about our age difference was maintaining my confidence throughout it.
I met my husband when I was 30. He was 21. We were working in the same place but not at the same job. I remember thinking he was cute but I didn’t feel empowered enough to strut up to him with the confidence of Samantha Jones. I was just gonna leave it at that. I knew he was younger but I really didn’t know how much younger at the time. To my surprise, he mentioned he thought I was cute to some mutual friends on a social outing, that I didn’t attend. When this got back to me, I was very confused. I thought he was talking about the other Jamie, my friend Jamie, who was the same age as him. However, she was at the outing and assured me, he didn’t mean her. He would periodically come into my job and eventually ended up asking me out. I asked our mutual friend, how old he was. She replied, “I think he’s 25.” Spoiler alert, she was wrong.
Before our date, I remember being very nervous because he was younger than me. I didn’t know what to expect and I heard horror stories about dating guys from 20-25 from people that were that age. I worked with two guys around that age, so I decided to ask them for their advice. Their advice was so simple and spot on, I still give that advice out to this day. They said, “ Don’t offer to pay.” I really was shocked by this. I usually always offer to pay or chip in. Don’t guys love that? Don’t guys find that considerate? They really were adamant about me not paying. We went back and forth because I wanted to understand their reasoning but basically there were two reasons; a guy who will be willing to pay without question is the kind of guy you want to end up with and because he’s younger, you don’t want to make him feel inadequate by offering to pay.
On our first date, I found out he was 21. This was a little scary to find out because I didn’t know if we would be in the same point in our lives. I decided to just go with it and not over analyze, so basically go completely against my nature. However, the reason I felt at ease was because I always felt very safe with him. If it was never brought up, I rarely thought about our age difference. He was very mature if not more so than people I have dated that were my own age.
Our biggest obstacle wasn’t the age difference itself but in the beginning I had a lot of trouble dealing with people’s perceptions of me, because of our age difference. On his end, when he would mention me to any of his female “friends,” the would refer to me as a, ‘cougar.’ This really upset and confused me because the term cougar made me feel like I was the aggressor. I hate the term in general. It also usually refers to women in their forties of fifties and has the implication of a relationship being purely physical. I think perhaps, they were just trying to be funny or get a rise out of him.
Shortly after we started dating, I switched jobs. I had new coworkers. They were much more judgmental and upon finding out our age difference would act so disrespectful. The guys would act shocked and then make it seem like I was predator or that I would be attracted to them because they were younger than me. I only encountered one judge-y girl at work who expressed to me that our age difference was weird and I shouldn’t call my husband, (who was my boyfriend at the time) “cute” or refer to him as, “baby.” As time passed, I waited longer to let someone know our age difference.
Now that we are married, our age difference almost never comes up. He’s 26 now and I’m 35. Our closest friends never cared. Our families only cared a little at first before they got to know us individually. I guess throughout it all, I’ve become more confident in our relationship and not how people perceive it. I’ve learned how to block out all the misconceptions and not give that any energy.