James Franco has been making headlines lately for his flirtatious relationships with younger women. First, he was caught pursuing a 17 year-old girl on Instagram. Then came the now-infamous Lindsay Lohan sex list and James’ admission that, while he didn’t have sex with LiLo, the two did make out a few years back. He was 26 at the time, she was 17. And now — how appropriately — James’ movie Palo Alto will be premiering in select theaters this Friday.
In the flick, Emma Roberts plays April, a high school soccer player who sometimes babysits for her single-dad coach, Mr. B (played by Franco). While recent half-naked selfies would lead you to believe otherwise, I probably would have had the hots for James Franco if he was my high school soccer coach. So, that said, I find it totally believable when April develops a crush on sexy Mr. B. The two definitely take their relationship into some iffy territory as April navigates high school social constructs as well as her own sexuality.
Obviously I can’t tell you what ultimately happens between them — you’ll have to go see the movie for yourself — but James’ recent real-life dating…err…activities and the upcoming release of Palo Alto both have people discussing the dos and don’ts of dating outside your “appropriate” age range. And while some pros might warn you to not even think about going after your friend’s older brother, your TA or the 32 year-old bartender you’ve fallen in love with this semester, we’d rather tell you how to successfully navigate this potentially tricky scenario.
1. Go after what you want. Don’t let something like age stand in the way of a mutual attraction. If you’re both consenting adults who want to explore a relationship — in any form — proceed with caution, but definitely proceed. Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. After all, Beyonce is 11 years younger than Jay-Z.
2. Know what you both want out of the relationship. By getting it out there right from the start, you can avoid awkward moments down the road. And while this is good to do in any relationship, when you’re hooking up with an older guy, the chances of him wanting to keep things casual are a bit higher. After all, how many 35 year-old guys do you know who date 19 year-olds for their awesome personalities?
3. Just because he’s older, it doesn’t mean he gets to pull rank. It might be intimidating at first, but you’ve got to be vocal about your wants and needs (yes, even sexually) when you’re involved with an older man. It’s all too easy to let him call the shots when you tell yourself that he’s older, therefore he knows more/has more experience/knows what’s best.
4. On a similar note, don’t let him boss you around. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but he’s not your dad. He is not the boss of you. If you want to go somewhere, see someone, or do something, you’re allowed. Just like in any other relationship you would have, it’s important to take your partner’s feelings into consideration before acting, but at the end of the day you should be the only person calling the shots in your life.
5. There’s no guarantee he’s going to be good in bed. If you’re looking to date an older guy simply because you think he’s going to bring your sex life to a whole ‘nother level, think again. Unfortunately there’s not always a correlation between age and skill, so don’t hook up with an older guy just because you want to have crazy awesome sex.
6. Cut back on social media. Depending on how old your older man is, he might not be as connected to social media as you are. If you’re constantly posting selfies, texting him around the clock or updating your FB status to “#blessed” anytime you two are together, he might realize you’re a liiiittle too young for him.
7. Keep an eye out for red flags. Is he trying to keep your relationship a secret from friends because “it’s easier that way”? Is he uncomfortable being seen in public with you? Does he have a daughter who’s your age…or older? While all relationships come with red flags to look out for, dating an older guy comes with it’s own unique set of warning signs.
8. Don’t be afraid to call things off. If things take a turn you weren’t expecting, if the situation gets more complicated than you were ready for, or even if you’re simply not feelin’ this guy anymore — never be afraid to tell him you want out.
To see what happens when a high school girl goes after her hot soccer coach, and for more dos and don’ts when dating an older man, be sure to check out Palo Alto when it comes to a theater near you.