Due to the usually differing beliefs in cross-generational relationships, dating a person in a different age group could mean learning to consider multiple perspectives on an issue or an experience.
Sam is a 47-year-old divorcee who admits that he does not date any woman above the age of 24. He got divorced 10 years ago, after a five-year-old marriage that bore one child, and he categorically states that he is only attracted to females in their early 20s. Why?
“Women in their late 20s are a ticking time bomb. Every minute takes them closer to their 30s where everything goes downhill and they get closer to being alone for the rest of their lives,” says Sam.
He categorises women in their late 20s as being in the zone of anxiety and those above 30s in the zone of bitterness. He is unmoved as to what others think about his dating preferences and his attitudes toward older females.
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According to him, society pressures women in their late 20s to settle down and gets into the fun of dating. “They are looking for a husband. They have seen their friends getting married, and their families are starting to ask questions. So when they meet you, all they are thinking is: ‘Are you the one?’ ‘Are you committed?’ ‘Will my father like you?’ ‘When are you going to propose?’” Sam shares.
“It is a lot of pressure. Who wants that? The fun of just dating is gone,” Sam says.
The banker will also not date any woman above 30, because he says they have a compounded set of issues, a lot of baggage such as children and still have a secret desire to get hitched, while hating on all men.
“Each time they meet men they think: ‘Are you going to hurt me? Are you another loser? Are you another time waster? What are your issues? Why haven’t you settled down yet? Or why did you get divorced?’” Sam shares his stereotypes.
Sam, who says he prefers light-hearted fun adds that women above 30 are too competitive for his liking. “A number of single women in their 30s today are successful in their own right, thus I even have to prove my intellectual and business success. I want a woman, not a colleague. I get plenty of stress and competition at work,” he says.
It is the era of cross-generational relationships. Well, actually, they have always been there since the history of romantic relationships but now, they are being flaunted. The set-up today is men above their 40s dating women in their early 20s.
Research shows that, at all ages, women prefer men who are close to them in age, while for men, the ideal age for women remains a consistent 22 years old. This is according to a 2011 research by WhatsYourPrice.com, a dating site that lets singles buy and sell first dates, had conducted a five-month study in order to determine the ideal age gap between a man and a woman.
51-year-old Wycliffe Waga is a typical example. The regional manager of an international manufacturer admits to having a preference for women with whom he has startling age differences. He is currently in a come-we-stay relationship arrangement with a 24-year-old woman and they are raising a son together. Before this, he was in a five-year-long cohabiting relationship arrangement which ended when the woman was 26. Before that, he was briefly married to and had another son with a 22-year-old woman.
“My job is demanding and quite stressful so I like to date younger women because they are easygoing and easier to deal with. My relationships have been less confrontational and less stressful,” he explains.
For 46-year-old Nicholas Ngacha, dating a much younger woman is equivalent to having a serving of the sweet taste of youth. This lecturer is recently divorced. His ex-wife, who is now 30, was his student aged 22 when they started dating. That relationship lasted seven years before running its course. Now he is in a relationship with a 27-year-old woman.
“The age of my women is a personal preference. With my now girlfriend, I feel as if I am re-living my youth,” says Nicholas who shares that he has no plans of remarrying.
The days of our forefathers
The average age gap in consensual heterosexual relationships is two to three years. With polygamy cooling off for some time due to the Christian faith, especially among the enlightened, cross-generational relationships were frowned upon.
More recently though, polygamy and the ‘side-chick’ trend have seen the widespread acceptance of young women bedding much older men. Looking at it from an anthropological perspective, anthropologist Bernard Moseti is of the view that this trend may be as a result of humans conforming to traditional tendencies.
The caveman, the men who came before modernisation and education, selected their partners based on reproductive success. A man went for the woman he thought most likely to ensure the continuation of his lineage. The features associated with fertility and virility are wide hips and youthfulness and could explain why men are generally attracted to younger women.
Are we devaluing aging women?
Is this growing phenomenon of men dating women who are younger and younger just a case of simple personal preferences or is it a societal issue? Is the preference for men today a case of society devaluing aging women?
They say that works of art, music, and television shows are a true depiction of the things happening in the society. According to a recent report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University in the US, only six percent of major television characters in films and shows the world over, are women above the age of 60.
More research by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a non-profit organisation working with the entertainment industry the world over to create a gender balance, just a quarter of the female characters on TV the world over are above the age of 50. Even then, those above 50 are more likely to be depicted as frumpy, feeble, and senile and home bound a sharp contrast to their male counterparts. It is no wonder that out here, older men are unwilling to date their age mates.
So we have heard the men and their reasons for wanting to dive into the generation Z dating pool. But what do these younger women in their early 20s think? Are they keen on jumping into relationships with men in their 40s and 50s?
Naz Wanjiru, 23, a university student, is indifferent when it comes to the age of a prospective date.
“I do not care much for gender or age when it comes to dating. I date individuals and their personalities. So, yes, I would date a man in his 50s if our personality clicked,” she says.
For Natalia 24, a photographer, while she is not actively looking to date older men, if a much older man ticks all her boxes, she would date him. When asked the highest age she would be willing to date, she says, “That depends on the credit score. Financial stability is important for me,” she says.
Seleiyan Nosim, 24, who has dated both men her age and those significantly older says the choice depends on a woman’s needs.
“Dates with men my age are fun but there are also things that I have only been able to get in relationships with older men. For example a sense of security and the fact that they can also act as mentors. They are also more mature emotionally so there is not a lot of drama,” she says.
On whether this phenomenon is simply a matter of personal preferences or a societal problem, the jury is still out.
Nicholas Nasombi, a counselling psychologist, reckons that while cross-generational attraction can and does happen, it is worth looking into if it is a pattern. The way he sees it, a man dating younger and younger is a man keen on a power play in a relationship. He could be looking for a woman who will admire him and whom he can mold and make him feel wanted and important.
“ Naturally, an older man will have more life experiences, possibly more money in the bank and more influence while the woman is likely to be less aggressive. This means that he will not be called out for his bad behaviour or held accountable for the erring,” he says.