In general, it is acceptable if the age difference between partners is ten years or less; but where the difference is more than ten years, such a relationship is considered a May-December nest: the younger person being in the “spring” of his or her life (May), while the older person is in his or her “winter” (December). In most of these relationships, it is the men who are significantly older than the women.
Not too long ago — especially in agrarian and indigenous societies — husbands were expected to be older than their wives. In polygamous settings, the third, fourth or fifth wife may be 15-30 years younger than the husband. Cultural and societal expectations were different; the role and place of husbands and wives were mostly structured and unquestioned. Even in modern times, we still have a whiff of the olden days.
Now, unlike then, most women have the constitutional, the cultural and the economic strength to engage in whatever type of relationship that catches their fancy. They need not marry a grandfather; they need not be involved in multiple marriages; and they need not be tied down in a relationship that does not fulfill their emotional and mental needs.
If nothing else, international conventions, domestic laws, and modernization and economic power have enabled most women — at least in modernizing societies — easy entry and easy exit in any type of relationship. The concept, definition, and practice of marriage are changing. And so, in a world were anal sex is a feature of most heterosexual lifestyle, the line between bisexuality, homosexuality, heterosexuality, and everything in between is getting blurry.
To proposition a man or woman who is 15 or more years older or younger is no longer a big-deal. Even so, the norm and the preference is still older men-younger women. A few years ago Kenyans were shocked when Wambui Otieno-Mbugua, at 67, married Peter Mbugua, a man 42 years her junior. It was a scandal in Tom Mboya and Jomo Kenyatta’s country. If their ages were reversed, very few people would have wagged their tongues.
My neighbor is 52, her current boyfriend is 32. He is older than most men who have graced her bed. Once, over a bottle of Hennessy and with Robert Schumann in the air, I tendered my curiosity, to which she responded: “There is something about young and agile men: they go wild in the bedroom and in forbidden places…have no compunction about committing sexual sins…have the ability go on and on and on until the end of a frigid Minnesota winter.”
Some well known May-December unions include that of Tony Randal and Heather Harland (50 years); Chuck Norris and Gena O’Kelley (28 years); Warren Beatty and Annette Bening (21 years); Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (25 years); Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn (35 years); and Dennis Kucinich and Elizabeth Jane Harper (31 years).
And then there are Larry King and Shawn Southwick (26 years); Francesa Annis and Ralph Fiennes (19 years); Mary Tyler Moore and Robert Levine (18 years); Jerry Seinfeld and Jessica (18 years); Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher (27 years); and Geena Davis and Reza Jarrahy (15 years).
For several years now, romanticists, poets, and dreamers have been telling us that love is boundless and timeless. And in recent years, older men and women have been telling us and behaving as though age is indeed boundless and timeless. It could be so. There are empirical data showing that some older people actually feel and behave young and vibrant; while some young people feel and act old and sluggish, as if on their way to the grave.
Realistically however — sooner or later — age and the aging process will sneak up on us all. With age come different varieties of illnesses, i.e. diabetes, erectile dysfunction, shortness of breath, weak knees and weak back and weak muscles. For some people, some of these manifestations become apparent a few years before their 60th birthday; after that, it is a downward slope. Some men are lucky: they can go on and on and on without much problem until they waltz into their grave.
But what if it happens at 60 or earlier and you have a wife who is 20-25 years younger? Sex becomes a point of contention. Will a 60 year old man be able to keep up with a 30-40 year old woman — an age when most women are just nearing their sexual peak? It is true that mind-altering sex is not what determines most relationship, but my friends, sex — good, active and fiery sexual life — is very important. Because bad performance has a way of shattering a man’s ego; we thank the lord for Cialis, Viagra, and Levitra.
Aside from health difficulties, there are the issues surrounding children borne of such association: what happens if a 20-30 year old bore children for a much older man? The man may not be able to keep up with the children as outdoor activities may become a painful exercise.
With such unions, there are several questions one ought to contemplate: when the man dies or become infirm, will there be enough money for the children’s education and will there be a sizeable inheritance? At the simplest level, will the aging husband be able to spend quality and memorable time with his 3-16 year old children?
But long before age catches up, what about issues relating to generational gap? How does one bridge such gulf? In traditional and agrarian societies, such cleavages may not mean much; but in western and westernizing societies, the differences may be as conspicuous as night and day. At any rate, the speed at which a couple overcomes these differences may depend on the individual level of education, disposition, exposure, and worldview.
It may also depend on their individual and collective sense of self, and on their objective for entering into such partnership. Some men deliberately go in search of much younger women; they purposely seek May-December relationships. The same is also true of some women. But what if “it just happened”?
Love sometimes happen just as life sometimes happens unplanned: you look across the room, make eye contact, smile, and that’s it! You observe her walk across the hill, observe her in the information lab, observe her at Starbucks…boom, she inhabits your soul! Crazy things do happen.
Love is one of those crazy things that can sometimes happen when you least expect it. But then you wonder: is this love or is this infatuation? Is this love, or is it unadulterated lust — a fiery animal desire? After all, there are times when all a man or woman want is unattached-sex. You simply want to have sex. Simply-uncomplicated sex!
As an old or aging man, if all you wanted is sexual pleasure, then be upfront about it. There are things about young maidens that drive a man wild and crazy. Their young minds and young bodies and young souls can and do drive men to the brink of insanity. Heck, they possess your mind and possess your every waking moments.
In such moments, it is difficult to differentiate between love and lust and infatuation.
Assuming it is love then you must be careful not to take or play a fatherly role. She is not looking for a daddy. In you she found a lover, a husband, a partner. Something else; you cannot be overly jealous or overly suspicious when she wants to go play with her age-mates.
She just may need the time to catch the wind, smell the roses. If you are the older woman with the younger man, you too must not play or take the role of his mother. Whether you are a man or a woman, in this kind of relationship, you must be prepared for rough questions from people who don’t know you.
Also, if your lover or wife is too young, he/she may become other people’s object of desire and fantasy. Fornication and adultery then becomes part of the equation.