Back when George Clooney got married in September to Amal Alamuddin, there wasn’t much fuss made in the press over their 17 year age difference. The spotlight focused on the end to Clooney’s seemingly interminable bachelorhood, with media heralding it as the end of an era and the beginning of a shift in the collective male consciousness surrounding the issues of love and marriage.
Fast forward to earlier this month, when news of the wedding between Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden made waves because Benji is seven years his new bride’s junior. A week later, the tabloids were dishing about Robin Wright’s possible reunion with her former fiancé, a man 14 years younger than she.
Both of these women are talented, successful and beautiful, yet like others before them who have dared to pair with a younger guy, have been labeled by some media outlets as “cougars.”
Jennifer Lopez spoke with Ellen DeGeneres about the double-standard surrounding age differences between men and women, saying there are men who chase only younger women, yet no equivalent of the “cougar” label exists for them. She also defended herself against accusations that she pursues younger men, being sure to make clear that she’s “not after younger guys” but that if younger guys come after her, that’s a whole other story.
While JLo’s efforts to combat inequality between the sexes is laudable, the innate need she felt to let it be known that she does not hunt younger men speaks to the heart of the problem. The movie she is promoting, The Boy Next Door, (while I’ve not seen it) looks to reinforce the stereotype that May/December romances are, in one way or another, inherently wrong. Can we please put an end to this once and for all?
Speaking as a woman on the brink of middle-age who is seemingly plagued by an endless stream of younger would-be suitors, there is nothing wrong with an older woman being with a younger man. What is there not to love about younger guys? Most of them are fun, playful and full of life. Many young guys today are more mature than men twice their age, and better informed thanks to the digital savvy ways of their generation.
Of course, there is also the sex. If it is true that males peak at 18 and females peak at 35, how do you imagine the sex to be between a 37-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man? All I can say is that if the chemistry is there, it is sure to be transcendental, which enhances connection, if that is your next question. Besides, people connect across generations constantly, and have done so since the beginning of mankind.
So rather than pointing out the age gap and labeling these women as “cougars,” I say to the media, “Get with the times!” Start pointing out the age gap and painting it as what it is; just one more way, in a string of endless possibilities, to live a life.
By Serena Fill