If mate seems ideal, does age really matter?


October 27, 2007|By MARYANN JAMES

I was in middle school when Aaliyah's "Age Ain't Nothin But a Number" was released. At 12, my mind was more preoccupied with who was wearing a bra before me or who kissed whom, rather than the issue of dating someone older. Who wanted to date a 16-year-old anyway? To me, they were practically in the grave.

But as I've grown, age has become alternately more of a big deal and less of one. Most people I know have an age range for their ideal mate -- mine is typically three years younger to five years older -- but rules are made to be broken.

Take, for example, the romance of Adelfa Volpes, an 82-year-old Argentine woman, and Reinaldo Waveqche, a man who was 58 years her junior. (That's right, he's 24.) According to news reports, they got together when he moved in with Volpes after his mother's death, were engaged for several years and were married last month. And then she died last week.

Their relationship seemed to work, as do those of the Demi Moores, Ashton Kutchers, Susan Sarandons and Tim Robbins of the world. But are those flukes? Can a relationship work when the age difference is great?

Audrey Chapman, a Washington-based therapist and host of The Audrey Chapman Show on WHUR-FM, says that age isn't the problem.

"Age doesn't make a difference," she says. "Maturity makes the difference.

It all comes down to experience, she says. You can meet someone who's 10 years younger who has experienced enough of life to be as mature as you are.

Ryan Palmer, 26, agrees. She says she tends toward older men and has even dated one who was much older than she. But Palmer says she has found that in these types of relationships, higher age doesn't necessarily reflect maturity.

"They tend to be a lot more immature," says the Seton Hill resident.

Her major May-December romance -- she was 22, he was 37 -- ended in disaster.

"Within two weeks, he wanted to move in and was asking me my ring size,"

He was even inviting her on trips with his mother.

She said she felt like it was a case where homeboy was older, amazed at finding a nice woman and immediately latched on. She says that a lot of times when you date an older guy and wonder why he's single, "you start to realize why."

Dating coach Toni Coleman of consum-mate.com says one of the main problems she's seen in couples with big age differences is their capacity to relate to each other. If you're at that stage in life where you want to party, more sedate evenings with your distinguished beau are eventually going to wear on you.

Mark Spencer, a 41-year-old East Baltimore man, can understand her concern.

"Someone who's 22, how can he understand someone who's 29?" he asks.

But, oddly enough, he says one of the best experiences he's had was with a woman who was in her 30s when he was in his late 20s.

"That was a great experience because I grew up, and I learned how to take responsibility," he says.

Another big hurdle is the prospect of having an aging partner, says Coleman. Like when your vivacious cougar gets a mom-pouch.

"Men are very visual," she said. "They're very into looks; they're worried they'll get married and [the woman will] gain weight."

But possibly the biggest wear on May-December relationships, Coleman says, are friends and family.

Adlean Washington, 29, of West Baltimore has been there. Family became an issue when she dated a 51-year-old at 23. They were on the same page, but others weren't.

"My family thought it was odd for me to be dating a guy like that," she says.

In cases like that, the couple has to provide a united front, says Coleman. "The key is for the couple to stand together," she says. "...If the couple is firm and together, this is what counts." Eventually others will see your happiness and accept it.

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