Think a younger woman is your ticket to marital contentment? Think again.
(originally published in the Atlanta Jewish Times, in 1991)
WHEN WE WERE BOYS, Kiddush found us gulping grape juice from Dixie cups. By our bar mitzvahs, we had advanced to sweet concord wines. Today, our mature palates prefer a sipped glass of dry sherry. As we continue to mature, so does our taste in wines.
But when it comes to our taste in wives, many of us never weaned ourselves from the purple-stained Dixie cup.
As I write, my heart sings from the afterglow of an evening getting to know an eminently eligible woman. I’ll call her Rebecca. Like many contemporary Jewish women, Rebecca seeks to balance modern life with tradition. Selective and independent, she has always sought a partner whom she could regard as her peer. Now, at 34, she’d like a husband for whom Judaism is a living presence. A self-employed creative professional, Rebecca is balanced and bright, sensitive and clear. And, oh yes: she’s beautiful.
For all her charms, Rebecca claims she has a difficulty meeting eligible Jewish men her age. “They all seem to be chasing girls who played with my kid sister,” she says.
Hers is an all-too-common plight. In my five years in Atlanta as a re-singled man, I came to know several Rebeccas—polished gems on the far side of 30 or 40, whose increasingly urgent wish to marry runs smack against two stark facts of life:
Men prefer younger women; and
The more a man ages, the more junior a trophy he seeks. Once he turns 30, he expects his future wife to have aged 0.7 year to his one.
Consider Rachel, the most eligible woman I know. I’m using eligible to mean possessing the Right Stuff, the inner qualities that, according to marriage experts, and Torah teachings alike, promote a marriage that’s vital and thriving. In Rachel’s case, the inner beauty is matched by a figure and face that turn heads.
At 40, weary of the chase, Rachel visited a matchmaker. At interview’s end, the matchmaker offered her two prospects. Bachelor Number One was dangerously obese. Bachelor Number Two was every day of 55.
The matchmaker minced no words. “My dear,” she intoned, “Men at your age don’t want women your age. You can’t afford to be picky.”
When a woman is 30 or 40, her anxiety is not relieved by the laughable contradictions that shout from men’s personal ads: “SJM teddy bear, 38, emotionally secure, seeks toothsome SJF, 23 to 28.” Please.
At a national Torah singles encounter held in Atlanta, a comely Manhattanite could not hide her bitterness. “When I reply to an ad from a man in his 30s,” she fumed, “I have to say I’m 29. If I admit I’m 35, he’ll reject me out of hand.”
In their defense, aging bachelors righteously invoke the Wish to Have a Family. “I can’t marry someone in her 30s,” they explain; “I want children.” This, from men who want two kids, max. Educated men, they know that most women remain fertile in their 40s. Literate men, they’re aware that older pregnancy isn’t the risk that was long believed.
As a divorced man of 35, I’ve long recognized the blessings of women my own age and beyond. If you’re still looking for Lolita, gentlemen, here’s what you’re missing:
- An older woman knows what it takes. When the two of you are not strolling barefoot along a moonlit beach, you’ll be negotiating the give-and-take of a shared life. Your commitment and love will be strained by children, time, and endless differences. If you’ve chosen well, your companion will understand that maintaining a relationship is hard work. Older women understand.
- An older women is more financially secure. Faced with “what’s out there” (us), she’s abandoned the Cinderella fantasy that one of us will give up his toys to take care of her. In our place, she’s built a measure of financial independence. If she decides she wants you, it’s not for what you’re worth, but for who you are. Can you handle that?
- An older woman will help you feel young. Perhaps you believe bedding a Lolita is what you need to make you feel young. Get real. A young, nubile bride is hardly an elixir when you’re packing a middle-aged paunch.
- An older woman is more realistic. Yes, she’s known failed relationships. Who of us that has risked, has not? But in failure’s wake comes wisdom. A woman who has taken her lumps has shed her Great Expectations.
- An older women can better appreciate a good man, especially if her clock will soon strike 30, 40, or 50. These life markers inspire her to reflect on the qualities that truly matter: decency and intimacy.
With these points in mind, you may find it instructive to learn how single women feel about older men:
Women want mates they won’t have to bury. As Sally told Harry, you do the arithmetic.
Quality women want peers, not father figures. When they see a man habitually dating down, words like “immature” come to mind.
Women disdain older men who are still single. “I’ll date a bachelor over 40,” says an attractive divorcee, 44, “but I can’t imagine marrying one.”
Her concerns are well-founded. According to research presented in August 1991 at the American Psychological Association, many bachelors over 40 are at risk for serious psychological problems. Two-thirds say they intend to tie the knot someday. Yet fewer than one in eight will. The bachelors studied tended to have “distorted views of the world,” supporting the adage, “Good men marry early; good women marry late.”
Finally, ponder the revolution in women’s choice that’s quietly shifting the odds in their favor: More than one in four women age 25 and older will marry younger men. If you can stomach the details, read Loving a Younger Man: How Women are Finding and Enjoying a Better Relationship. In the 1987 bombshell, Victoria Houston explained why many prize women are forsaking tradition in favor of an ever-growing pool of younger men who are caring and refreshingly open.
Open your eyes; you’ll find hundreds of Rebeccas and Rachels in mid-life prime, waiting to share their experience, their love, and their lives with mature men their own age.
So grow up. Toss that Dixie cup and explore the seasoned charms of a woman of your own vintage, or even riper. Should you prove husband enough for her, she’ll be all the wife you need.
© 1991 Paul Franklin Stregevsky