Recently, I was out with some female friends who range in age from 25 to 40, and we got onto the subject of dating and how difficult it is for older women to find men their age to date. Across the board, the complaint is that men seem to only want younger women, which means that for aging women it is harder and harder to date which leads to an insane quest to remain unchangingly youthful. This got me thinking about what I know of my gender and for the first time I put into words something I’ve always known about men but never consciously thought of: Women aging isn’t the problem, it’s men not able to cope with aging themselves that is at the root of the issue.
Despite all the advances in sexual equality we have made since the 1960′s, socially we still live in “a man’s world.” Women weren’t even allowed to be serious television journalists until the 70′s, when Barbara Walters broke the glass ceiling and even today most news shows still have a greater proportion of male anchors to female anchors. It is the year 2009 and men still get paid more than women to do the same jobs, men are not expected to give up their careers to raise families, and our media still objectifies women more than men.
While much has changed in the last 40+ years, we still live in a society that defines women and their value based on an archaic male perception of how things should be. Aging is one of the areas in which this is most evident. When an older man dates a younger woman society may disapprove, but ultimately it accepts the situation as a “natural progression”; i.e. older men want younger women and that’s “ok” because that’s just how men are. However, when an older woman dates a younger man society calls her a “cougar” and is very unaccepting of the relationship. Whether we like it or not, there is still a subconscious undercurrent of inequality that exists between society’s perception of male and female roles.
But, this is nothing new. The real question is “Why do older men want younger women?” The obvious answer is that younger women are better looking, and while that may be true in the majority of cases, the core reason has nothing to do with attractiveness and everything to do with age. Men fear the aging process because it is a visual reminder of their own mortality. The age a man feels in his head is often younger than his reflection in the mirror. Men want to be forever young which is why they are prone to having midlife crisises. The sports car, the motorcycle, the youthful clothes, and the young bimbo all provide an escape from their age reality. Having a youthful lifestyle and the ability to attract younger partners means defying the aging process and creates a situation where time stands still. The man, in his head, remains forever young because of his close proximity and attachment to youthful things, especially youthful sexual partners.
For a man to be with a woman his own age, regardless of how youthful or attractive she is, means to accept his OWN getting older. Truly secure men will enjoy the pleasures and company of a younger partner but also have no aversion to dating and being with someone their own age. Most men are highly insecure, and because our world still gives men advantages over women, they feel they have the power of greater options when it comes to dating. The thinking goes that if all the aging men want younger women this means that the older women are left without mates and are therefore “desperate” and should be happy to have the attention of any man. If an older man’s pursuit of a younger mate fails, he always has the women his age and older as a secondary option. And even when a man has to utilize his backup option, he still wants the youngest looking of the women his age. It’s a sick sort of supply and demand situation that partially works, but also runs on delusion.
This is why our male society hates “cougars”, because these women are representative of their like-aged male counterparts. If the older women turn to younger men, this means the older men lose their fallback option, because the older women are no longer harowitz for a selection of mates. If the aging women no longer need the aging men it means that the entire house of cards that is the male denial of aging begins to collapse, because the men stand a greater chance of being alone and without an age defying distraction.
Considering all of this, it makes me wonder about how the rules of dating and age would be if we lived in a woman’s world. With more women getting into positions of power in the media, we are beginning to see older women dating younger men on TV and in the movies, and this phenomenon is slowly gaining acceptance. If it were a “Woman’s World”, would the tables be turned or would a lot of these issues simply not exist? While everyone can be vain and nobody likes getting older, women seem to adjust to the change a lot better than men do. It took 40 years for our society to evolve to the place where gender equality is now. In 40 to 50 more years our media and culture will be at yet another state of evolution, and it will be interesting to see how different the plight of aging women in the dating scene will be.