I have nine months to grapple with my disbelief over dating a 30-year-old before my boyfriend actually celebrates his third decade of life. At 21, I’m young enough to lack the proper shame for being broke, have neither a bachelor’s degree nor any discernible expertise, and occasionally cheat the public transportation system by paying youth fare. My boyfriend shares none of these qualities and certainly couldn’t pull off the latter, but we are remarkably compatible despite a seven-and-a-half-year age difference.
I could list a litany of reasons why we’re an amazing couple (and alienate a large portion of readers while I’m at it), but the ultimate factor in the success of our relationship is not communication, trust, or any other idealized attribute. What it comes down to is something quite practical: similar expectations. It might not seem romantic, but if you’re going to date a 30-year-old at 21, it matters a great deal if he wants to 1) get married, 2) have children, or 3) do anything requiring more than six-months commitment at a time. Communication goes out the window when he’s communicating his desire for you to bear his first child.
In my personal experience, I’ve also found that an age difference matters far less than a difference in lifestyle. Granted, my boyfriend and I share plenty of commonalities — similarly subversive viewpoints, a deep affection for his bulldog, a disdain for abstinence in any form — but our relationship is also aided by the fact that neither of us has 9-to-5 aspirations for the immediate future. The same can’t be said for other guys I’ve dated, plenty who were younger than my boyfriend and eager to complete 100-hour work weeks in the pursuit of corporate glory. It never would’ve worked with any of them — not just because I won’t stand for scheduling dates via personal assistants, but also because a man who interacts with Excel all day can’t possibly have anything interesting to say to me over dinner.
He may be over the hill, but my boyfriend got over cubicle ambitions a long time ago, and his current work-from-home schedule as a Ph.D student is quite compatible with mine as a freelance writer. That isn’t to say that flexible Gcals are the key to successful May-December matchups, but since it’s important for me to actually get face time with my significant other, my inappropriately old boyfriend is a far better partner than the younger guys I’ve encountered in the past.
Of course, to say that age is just a number would be naive, especially since the biological reality makes it a very pertinent consideration for those interested in children and the accompanying postpartum depression. Dating someone much older (or younger) can also be a mildly scandalous affair if you have close-minded friends or resemble a 17-year-old when not wearing makeup. But to not give a relationship a chance because of adherence to a general rule regarding age gaps is simplistic and frankly, childish. It’s as childish as my discomfort over my boyfriend’s impending 30th birthday, which — as much as I loathe to admit it — is probably just a reflection of my own attachment to my twenties.