"This is nothing compared to the long lines during the oil crisis," I say to my husband, Bronson, as he pulls into a particularly crowded Mobil station near the Holland Tunnel. "Gas rationing! Remember that?"
"Actually, no," he says, smiling. I look at him, stunned that he could forget such a big part of 1973. People were siphoning fuel from their neighbors' cars in the dead of night! Then it hits me: He was born in 1971. I was born in 1958. Riiiight.
We've been together for seven years now, and I'm so used to considering Bronson my peer that I often forget about our 13½-year age difference. This wasn't always the case. In the beginning, if I wasn't thinking, Is he too young for me? Am I too old for him? someone else was thinking it for me—and blurting out, "Hey, have you seen How Stella Got Her Groove Back?
You'd really dig it." Or "Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins! She's older than he is, you know."
Does our culture's collective discomfort with a reversal of the usual younger woman–older man dynamic come, as scientists suggest, from a deep-rooted evolutionary instinct that drives women to choose the wiser, older, more powerful alpha male over the untested young buck? Or could it be caused by something as shallow and immediate as a woman's not wanting anyone to think her date is her younger brother or, God help us, her son? Maybe women feel that because girls have a head start on maturity back in the seventh grade, our emotional and spiritual equals must forever be at least five years older than we are. Whatever part of the conventional wisdom they buy into, American women find it easy to summarily reject younger men. Too bad. They could be denying themselves the most wonderful relationship of their lives.
I was married once before, to a man five years my senior. After 12 increasingly dreary years capped by a wrenching divorce, I couldn't imagine why women in my situation (childless divorcées) complained about the prospect of reentering single life. Wasn't that the good news? Wasn't finally having some laughs, romance, and excitement the way to take the "crisis" out of "midlife"? Parties, rock concerts, nightclubs—I dated the way I should have when I was younger: for fun, without an eye toward marriage. Next: The first benefit...