When Aaliyah released the album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number in 1994, I was 10 years old. I definitely didn’t appreciate what she was singing about at the time, but as I get older, I am starting to wonder whether I agree. At a high level, yes, I agree that (after a certain age) age is only a number, but to be honest I can’t say that I would feel comfortable dating someone significantly older (or younger – I don’t ever want to be a cougar). But, once you’re in the working world it’s much harder to know exactly how old people are, and, unless they’re wearing a wedding ring, there’s always potential.
In high school, I only dated people who were in my grade. Even then, I thought that freshmen were off-limits for seniors and had pretty rigid ideas about what was age appropriate and what was not. I distinctly remember the first time I dated someone who was three years older than I was (17 and 20). It was the summer after I graduated from high school, and we went out a few times, but I just thought that he was creepy for being interested in someone who was basically still in high school (psychologically, at least).
Throughout college, I only dated people who were in the same year as me until my senior year when I met a guy who was four months younger (YOUNGER!) than me, and a junior. I remember making a thing of it for a few months and then just being like, well I guess this is happening. It was really only annoying when I turned 21 and then had to wait for him to catch up so that we could go out together.
Everything went topsy-turvy when I got to law school though. There were a number of people who were younger than me (I worked for a year between undergrad and law school), and a small number of people who were a lot older than me. In general, though, everyone was between 22 and 30. I was 25 in my second year when I met my current boyfriend, who turned 29 shortly after we met. Writing that now, it seems quaint – like we were SO YOUNG! – but it was the largest age difference I’d ever had in a relationship before. He had a completely different experience with events and music that were part of my formative experience.
The easiest way to identify the differences is to look at our music collections. He used to DJ and has a lot of mid-to-late 90s jams. It’s hilarious to talk about the memories that the songs evoke: I’m usually like, “OMG – this reminds me of 7th grade homecoming!” and then he just looks down and shakes his head because it’s just too weird to think about how much a difference four years makes when you’re 12 and 16.
Since law school, though, I have found that almost all of my friends are slightly older than I am. I would like to think it is linked to some romantic idea, like I have an old soul, but I think I just tend to take life a little too seriously so I like to hang out with people who have slightly more serious lives – marriages, babies, etc. The downside of this serious life I’ve adopted is that my boyfriend complains sometimes that I’m not very spontaneous. I try to remind myself that I’m only 28 – shouldn’t I be out drinking and dancing and generally raising hell? Fortunately or unfortunately, I just don’t find being wildly irresponsible fun, even if I don’t actually need to be doing anything. True story – I was super excited this past Friday night when an order of books arrived in the mail and I could spend the night on my couch reading with a glass of wine. That’s heaven to me.
But, I do want to take more advantage of still being relatively young. I know a lot of changes are going to be happening in the next few years and it’s going to only get harder to ever be irresponsible. My boyfriend is much better than I am at just having fun for the sake of having fun, and I am actually hoping that will rub off on my a bit. When we’re old and gray, I want to have stories to tell our grandkids about when grandpa and grandma used to just not give a fuck.
Thanks Wikipedia for the image!
Valarie is from Georgia. No, she doesn't have an accent. No one in metro-Atlanta really does. You can read her thoughts, using non-regional diction, at thinkingaboutdoing.tumblr.com.
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