I turned twenty-five not long before he turned forty. Fifteen years seems like a big gap; it might seem insurmountable if were we, say, eighteen and thirty-three, respectively. Gross, even. But, really, apart from people pointing it out, I hardly ever noticed the age gap. Should I have?
What perhaps made the age gap less of an issue was that it was also a long-distance relationship. I know, two ‘relationship barrier’ birds with one stone. He lived in Sydney, I in Melbourne. We met in Melbourne during the comedy festival and decided to have a go at the long-distance thing as best we could. That would become a far harder issue to deal with than our ages, by far. Only seeing your significant other once a month is even more heartrending than it sounds, and really serves to put other things in perspective.
Ignore The Haters
One night, we went to a gig at a music venue in the Sydney CBD. Security checked both our IDs and poked my partner, let’s call him Josh, in the ribs after checking mine: “Like ‘em young, eh?” the guard laughed. Josh was never a man of toxic masculinity or leering chauvinism, and he smiled politely (to avoid an argument with a hulking, presumably easily unhinged, guard) as we entered the venue and I vented my disgust to him.
The presumption was that there would be no good reason for a man of his age to be with a woman my age other than some fetishistic fantasy. The wish-fulfillment of every man, according to media and stereotype, who only ever wants a young, hard body and infantile mind. A bobble-headed babydoll. I worried sometimes that people might not take our relationship seriously. Did they judge us? Did they think he was a creep? Inevitably, these worries were quick to dissipate: ultimately, I didn’t care what people thought, if they indeed think those things, because as modern philosopher Lin-Manuel Miranda notes, “love is love is love”.
A Meeting Of Minds
His age also meant a greater expanse of relationship experience. He’d had more time to date, so he had more know-how on what makes a relationship work. He’d simply, in his longer time on the scene, collected more and useful skills in dating than I had. By then, I had only been in three long-term relationships (of two-plus years); his manner of dating was comparatively breezy, whereas I was still stuck in adolescent-era neuroses and need.
Below The Surface
Our ages didn’t inform the lives we ended up living. Some things are only surface-level: his full-time Government work, having his own flat and his years of global travel may have been a sign of a more typically “adult” life, but his silly sense of humour and love of toys and pop music may not have been an expected quality of a man entering his forties. But how wonderful these qualities were! I adored a man that could ‘have his shit together’ while also remaining fun, silly and relatively carefree.
Of all of my romantic relationships, I have never learnt so much as I did with Josh. It’s only in retrospect that I realise our brief time together (a year or so) genuinely made me a better person. Was it his age that made him- unlike me, at the time- so unaffected by snobbery, or rudderless frustration? He seemed to have been so comfortable and secure in himself and his personality; I, at that age, was still raging at minor annoyances, revelling in pop-cultural pretension (something I would rage against in the years to follow) and worrying about every tiny aspect of our relationship.
I am not chuffed, looking back, with the kind of person I was then, but I am glad that Josh’s general enthusiasm and jaunty outlook rubbed off on me. It was, unfortunately, something that only came into effect some years after we broke up, but better late than never.
Image Source: Unsplash.