We live in a society where women are not allowed to age. America seems to have a bias against women over fifty, and sometimes women who aren’t even quite forty are made to feel less than desirable. Ageism is pervasive in pop culture, and I won’t bore you with pointing out the ways, because if you’re a woman, you already know it to be true.
The good news is, if you happen to be a lesbian, you have a huge advantage when it comes to advancing in years. That’s because we lesbians don’t subscribe to the male purview, where women are frequently cast aside as soon as they blow out their fortieth birthday candles. Lesbians – in part because we are a minority and thus there are fewer of us, and in part because hey, we just really love women – date all over the age spectrum.
In our glorious world, women are appreciated and desired at all ages. What that means is that you will very likely, at some point in your life, date someone much older or younger than yourself. While age gaps can be exciting, they do come with their snafus.
As a 40-year-old who has dated women ten to twenty years younger, I’ve experienced the ups and downs of being the older person dating a millennial. So if you identify as a Gen X lady-loving lady, and you’re into someone younger right now, read on.
First, if you’re a Gen X-er, know that we belong to an amazing trail-blazing demographic of women, 90’s apathy chic aside (we look hot in our apathy grunge though). As someone on the younger end of the Gen X generation, and just at the cut-off point of millennialhood, I’m proud to be able to stake Gen X claim.
Ok, so maybe we don’t always know the latest trending social media app, and we didn’t have Facebook until after college, but you know what? We INVENTED social media. That’s right. And both baby boomers and millennials can just put all that in their pipes and smoke it cause us middle kids, we have been rocking this reality bites motif right up to the latest tech start-up near you. We are a generation of entrepreneurs, we grew up on MTV, and we wore flannel before it was cool. So, hashtag this. #40ISTheNewHOT.
All that being said, we are also the first generation to experience much, much less pressure to marry young, and lucky for us, putting off career choices for later was also perfectly acceptable. What this means is a number of us are currently single and ready to mingle.
Enter dating a millennial. I’ll highlight a few issues that are likely to arise, and share some of my personal coping strategies. The first one is what has triggered a few testy moments in some of my past – let’s call them June/September – relationships.
You probably came out later in life than she did.
Not to sound like a crotchety old man, but let me tell you about the goddamn kids these days. Just kidding…sort of. The reality is, if you’re in your late thirties or older, it’s more likely that you came out during your late twenties or even your thirties. That’s because for us, times were very different during the years we were coming into our sexuality.
Much of the progress and social acceptance of being openly gay happened fairly recently, and it took time for the Stonewall movement to catch up to gay and lesbian characters being represented in movies and on television. We didn’t grow up watching mainstream shows like Grey’s Anatomy depict regular lesbians just livin’ life. But SHE did. And sometimes it’s easy for millennials to forget a past they never knew, which is natural. And sometimes that will just irritate the hell out of you. Does she even appreciate your closeted past, possibly one in which you had numerous boyfriends, and/or worse, a hetero marriage?? The struggle was real.
How to Cope – Be patient. But also remind her of that shit. She needs to know about it. We must learn from history lest it repeat itself, right? It’s therefore your duty to impart your cultural history and wisdom. But also, delight in the fact that it was easier for her, because progress! And for those baby “Z” kids, it will probably be a cakewalk… the little shits.
You have different cultural references.
This one can be quite amusing, actually. I won’t lie, I LOVED re-watching every episode of My So-Called Life and Seinfeld with my ex. I got to see the nineties through new eyes. But if you’re going to be dating a millennial, just know that she will only stare at you blankly if you make a joke about Melrose Place being anything other than a West Hollywood address. Meanwhile, she is going to be playing all kinds of obscure music you’ve never heard of, she thinks stuff from the early 2000’s is legitimately “throwback,” and there’s a 75% chance she’s never heard of Ally Sheedy. For shame, for shame.
How to cope -You have a massive advantage here that no one can deny. Gen X was the generation of MTV’s glory days, with powerful female rock stars and the brave new genre dubbed “alternative” at your local CD store. Because we had CD’s, not Mp3’s, and therefore the cool artwork that came inside them. And we will never, ever forget finding the hidden track on that one Pearl Jam album. You know what I’m talkin’ about. You have serious street cred here. She will most certainly swoon over your 90’s female angst playlist. Those badass women never age, really, and besides, YOU were at their concerts when they were in their heyday. I mean, please. You grew up with Ani DiFranco, Melissa Etheridge, and Alanis Morrissette. She had Taylor Swift. You win.
You are in different phases of life.
I most recently very briefly dated someone who was twenty-two, giving us a nineteen year age gap and one gaping mass of separation over one tiny, HUGE issue. I was ready for a settled down life, as in, where’s my copy of Better Homes and Gardens, and she was still in school. We discussed the fact that after graduation, she had plans of applying to grad schools, many of which were across the country. And yes, school doesn’t last forever, but beyond college, someone much younger probably won’t be finding job stability for several years, meaning she may need to relocate. While moving to a new city can be a grand adventure, chances are you are already settled into your life and career right where you are. It doesn’t make your relationship impossible, but it can cause a strain. Turns out, I’m not into the strain. But if you’re in it to win it with someone younger, and you see a future there, go for it. But accept that you may live apart for a period of time.
How to Cope- Recognize that you are actually still quite young. I’m serious. Don’t get set in your ways. Go ahead and let her show you where the cool kids hang. You are not too old to go to the parties, even if your right knee sort of aches after dancing. Or walking for more than hour. No, she won’t truly be able to understand why your hangovers are so much worse than hers, or that 4 a.m. feels less like a fun night out and more like night of the living dead to you. But that’s ok.
You’re still in the prime of your life. You’ve done some awesome things, and now you are going to do many more awesome things – but as the boss this time around. In fact, you’ve probably had a fulfilling career of some kind, so maybe it’s time to enter phase two. I’m not suggesting you follow her across the country, but now is the perfect time to embrace the unknown again, and the two of you have that in common. Age may not be just a number, but it’s related to math, and math is boring – unlike you.