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Friday, February 23, 2007

Article repost - Older Women/Younger Men, What's so wrong with it?

I was browsing some of the old articles at my defunct ezine, Elan, and found this one I wrote under the pen name Lorne McDonald. Seems apropos to repost since the storyline of my new novel involves an older woman and younger man. I wrote this particular article several years ago when I was still in my thirties (a heck of a long time ago). Anyway, here it is, still relevant after all these years:

Women have long been subjected to double standards telling us how we should look, act, even whom we should love. And more often than not, these standards are inequitable, penalizing women far more than their male counterparts. That's why I find it ironic that an overweight rapper in a television interview some months ago criticized a female singer for not being svelte enough (never mind that the woman has more talent in her finger than the rapper has in that whole ponderous body of his, rolls and everything), or that many in the African-American community still censure black single young mothers for their mistakes while remaining almost mute about the irresponsible fly-by-night Johnny Appleseeds out there who feel it is their sole duty to fertilize the world. Yet we as women learn to live with these double standards, sometimes laughing them off, and at other times bitching to one another just how unfair life is. Then sometimes we rebel.

When Terry McMillan wrote How Stella Got Her Groove Back, it's storyline of an older woman finding romance with a youngblood seemed to resonate a chord with Black women everywhere. It was not so much that we all wanted to run out and grab us a 20-something brother and get down and nasty, but rather that we appreciated reading about a woman defying social dictates and doing what she wanted, society and naysayers be damned. And, trust me, when an older woman pairs off with someone over five years her junior, there are plenty of naysayers ready to tell her she's stepping out of her socially-defined place. Ask these naysayers to give you a good reason why you shouldn't go for it, and you're likely to hear all sorts of ambivalent rationales: " just doesn't look right" or "you two have nothing in common" or that even more grievous complaint..."you're old enough to be his mama!"

Reaching my 35th put me in a quandary; here I am over thirty and yet I have the soul of a teenager (or at least of someone in her early twenties). However, the world keeps telling me that my days of desirability are quickly coming to an end. I turn on television to find wrinkle cream commercials being targeted to my age group and I'm left wondering when did 35 become "old". Yet this same media that relegates me to the old mare brigade winks slyly at the graying man with the young nubile woman on his arm. It's not surprising; if anything, it's expected in this society that a man's sexual years are extended long past the time when his skin is not as taut, his body not as flexible.

My sense of rebellion at times emerges at the unfairness of it all. As I stubbornly hold on to my carefully erected self-image against the media-defined images of Black women (which are often unflattering), I reject the limitations that society seeks to place on me, including telling me who I should be with. Because love doesn't respect artificial boundaries like race and age (and thank goodness it doesn't), I don't see why I should. If a woman finds someone who is compatible, someone who respects her, who cares for her, who doesn't see the crows feet or the touch of gray in the hair, but rather sees a woman who is sophisticated and comfortable in her skin, confident in herself, then why should it matter if she's ten or more years older than her partner?

To be honest, as I approach 40, I find I have little in common with men over ten years my junior. Even a generation apart can seem like a large schism when priorities and values are different. Given that, I can't say that somewhere down the line I'll not find someone with whom I can have a stimulating conversation or a good laugh. And if this someone happens to be younger than I am, well so be it. I hope that I will have enough self-assurance to stand against my detractors and, as Stella did, tell them where to get off.

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