The younger man…

One of my friends recently initiated an interesting discussion on Facebook about the most suitable age gap between a woman and man involved in a relationship. And contrary to what I thought, a  few women (Zimbabwean, by the way)  said that they wouldn’t mind going out with a younger guy because as the late Aaliyah once sang, “Age ain’t nothing but a number.”

Age ain't nothing but a number: Aaliyah told you!

Now, if Hollywood is anything to go by, it would seem that the relationship trend these days is towards the younger man and the older woman. Remember how the Camberlakes, ie.  Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz carried off a perfectly healthy relationship for a few years even though Cameron was nine years older than her beau?

And then there’s Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon, the proud parents of two new baby twins – Mariah is 41 and Nick is 31. Oh, and while we are at it, let’s not forget Demi Moore (49) and Ashton Kutcher (33), happily married for ages now. Halley Berry, Courtney Cox, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kylie Minogue – the list is almost endless! All of these women have been involved, fairly happily, with men sizeably younger than themselves.

So I have to ask the question – does age really matter?

Seal it with a kiss: Despite 10 years between them, Mariah and Nick still look happy!
The Graduate: The ultimate story of the younger man and the older woman.

Yes, yes, that’s Hollywod that I am speaking about. And yes, yes, the age stigma issue is much worse where I come from, Zimbabwe, where the norm is that women marry a man at least two years older. But if Zimbabwean women on Facebook are saying they don’t mind a younger man, could the times be a-changing?

I am trying to think if I know any Zimbabwean couples where the man is younger than the woman but I am drawing a complete blank. If anyone in my circle of contacts was involved with a younger man, I am 100% sure that I would know this because everyone would be talking about it behind their backs. Such would be the scandal!

But why is there so much scandal around such relationships anyway? Why is it trendy in Hollywood and so unthinkable in my part of the world? I suppose that this is because in many African societies, the man is thought of as the protector and defender of the family; the paternalistic god who provides all things. In one of Zimbabwe’s languages, Shona, we women have taken to even referring to boyfriends and husbands as ‘daddy’. The connotations that this evokes are very much ones of childlike deference of a woman to the authority of her man, the father figure in the home. And as Zimbabwe is a largely Christian nation, the Bible plays a significant role in the interpretation of women and men’s relational status – for example, the Bible calls for women to submit to their husbands. I am curious to know if the older woman-younger man dynamic in such an instance would be cause for challenges in submitting to younger male ‘authority’. Do let me know your thoughts.

But I can cast my net even wider as many cultures refer to the man of the house as ‘daddy’. Even Usher sang about this in Daddy’s Home – a song that states:

You know your daddy’s home
and it’s time to play
So you ain’t got to give my loving away
So all my ladies say hey hey hey daddy
Hey hey hey daddy

Now you know that Usher is not singing this song on behalf of all the little kids who wait excitedly for their daddies to materialise at the front door. This song is for the ladies who call their men ‘daddy’. In some instances, the use of the term ‘daddy’ is reciprocated with men referring to their women as ‘mommy’ – but that’s much rarer, methinks.

But back to the point I am trying to make.

Is it because we see our boyfriends and husbands as replacements for our fathers that we think they always have to be older than us? How did this unwritten law all begin? Is it necessary?

My high school biology teacher always told us that in life we should never accept a marriage proposal from a man younger than 25. We were only 16 years old and back then, 25 sounded ancient and unpalatable! Nonetheless, she claimed that her advice was based on some biological evidence that men only begin to mature emotionally from the age of 25 and that we therefore shouldn’t accept any marriage proposal until the guy had 25 candles on his birthday cake.

Well, she never said anything about age gaps but she did imply that women have a higher emotional IQ at a younger age than men. Various studies have shown this to be true and it is a somewhat accepted norm. But surely, it doesn’t mean that every man is immature until 25? And it also doesn’t guarantee that every woman is more mature than a man at a younger age.

Nigerian Sugar Mummy: According to, this 21-year-old Nigerian married a 52-year-old woman.

Today I want to dare you to challenge this perception of age as the ultimate deal breaker in relationships.  Does the guy being ten years older than you really mean that he is more responsible? I know a lot of irresponsible 50-year-olds so don’t be fooled. For some guys, bagging an older woman is the ultimate fantasy and for others, the thought of their friends teasing them about their ‘granny’ girlfriend if more than they can bear.

But I want to ask you one question: Will pleasing everyone else make you happier?

People will always have something to say when it comes to other people’s partners: he’s ugly, he dresses badly, he’s too skinny; she’s too talkative, she’s too fat, she’s too tall.  And the truth is THEY WILL ALWAYS TALK!

A lot of what we base our decisions on is not even scientifically proven and anyway, when it comes to science, there are always exceptions to the rule! So whether it be that you have to overcome the age, height, weight, education, race, class barrier, all I am going to say is this: It’s your life and you know what you want.

But please be realistic and don’t think you can get some real emotional intelligence from an 18-year-old toyboy!!!  Maybe you can, but that might be me stretching it! No one is mature at 18!

35 thoughts on “The younger man…

  1. Interesting, particularly for women like me who seem to be jinxed and only attract younger men! Most guys I’ve dated were younger than me, ranging from 3 months to 9 years younger and we never had a problem with age. Coincidentally, one of my brothers also has a preference for older women. I don’t think its so much the age – I think it has more to do with other factors like compatibility etc. Anyways, I’m a Zimbabwean woman and much as I don’t have a problem with younger men, I think the in-laws tend to be the problem but if a guy is willing to stand by his woman and the couple is happy, then it shouldn’t be an issue. Also, I have a number of friends who are happily married to younger men and you’d never know it unless they told you. Indeed times have changed.

  2. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an older woman being with a younger men. Like you rightly point out we have been socialised to think it is a perversion of the norm . Another thing that makes them unpalatable to some is that it conjures up images of one being with their mother or grandmother. But I think if the feelings are mutual why not? I say yay to Cougars! Heck I would have no qualms about it…lol!

  3. “Suitable age, acceptable age gap, etc.” are pure social constructs! Growing up in Mzansi, I’ve seen a sizable amount of young men dating and married to older women and yes they looked happy and content relative to their “equally mature” counterparts.

    Let me share a story: as a tight circle of friends we literally vowed not to date younger guys, “he must be at least 2 years older” we insisted! Little did we know it was social construction whispering into our naive teenage ears😀. To cut a long story short, it turned out the happiest of us dated a guy four years her junior and it was kept a secret. When we (the other friends and I) discovered, the “suitable age gap” talks became extinct. They have since married and are a happy couple and family. So age really ain’t nothing but a number! People can call “us” cougars, sugar mamas, guinea fowls, ‘gogos’ (grannies), aunts, etc…let us be, at least we are happier! Thanks for this piece Fungi❤

  4. Ask most guys they will tell you that at one time they would have loved to have a cougar. Idea is they are less clingy probably richer and more secure…

  5. Dear Fungai,
    I know a married couple from Zimbabwe, where he is 4 years younger than her, and dont think it was a problem for any of them. Here, in Europe, indeed, my grandfather was 3 years younger than my grandmother.
    Myself lately, i have met fellows usually younger than me,and to me it is not a big issue, but, from my experience, if the gap is too wide ( 15 years or so ) there might me more problems, because, the life experience and circumstances ( studies – work ) might differ too much. Right now, me, being 39, have decided not to take seriously any man under 30. that is my limit as the age gap is concerning, taking in account my previous experiences.

  6. If you are petite like me, attracting younger men is almost like ‘the plague’ because they assume you are younger than what you actually are. I considered dating a young guy once, but alas he never asked me because he was in a committed relationship. But basic line is if he has the qualities you are looking for in a man, treats you the way you want to be treated and really loves you and the two of you connect in the ways that are important to make a relationship work…why not?

  7. I am a mother to a son and I don’t know Fuh…..I’d rather have him be with some one in his age group or a bit younger. The last thing I want is for my son to be marrying MY PEER!!!! But I’m looking at this as a mother and consequently my maternal instincts are in full “hell-no!!!” mode right now…. we are what we are!

  8. Yes. Only a number. I remember at first thinking, she should be my age. That didn’t fix things. Then she had to be younger. No fix. Older. No fix. Age has nothing to do with it. Just find someone you can’t live without, who can’t live without you either! Or work with what you’ve got!! I remember a research which concluded 6 years (must be FHM or better, Men’s Health!), with the man being older. There’s no formula, otherwise we’d all use it.

  9. Dear Fungai, there is another factor, which I read in a book of Osho, which is important to take in account from women´s point of view: the statistic living period of women. This Osho said, and I agree, that it is absolutely natural for a woman to feel atractted by a younger man , because, by statistic she will live longer than the man ( 10-15 years more , as an average), and, so, thinking of the future, this match it is understable and logical for a woman. The thing is, we live in a ” man´s chauvinistic” world and lot of times, women are not aware of these facts.

  10. My man is 27 and I am 35.. we have a happy and healthy relationship but there are times when I feel he behaves the way he does because he is younger than me..

  11. As your “non-friend” I am here to comment kuti, younger men ndizvo hehehe. age aint nothing but a number. I didnt always think so, till I met my hubby and well, turns out kuti whilst there are all these theories about maturity/immaturity of men yada yada, there is still that 1 special one who does not fall under any of them

  12. I have never intentionally sought out younger men, but you kinda bump into them. At the moment, there is this guy that likes me,but he is youger.. Its such a huge obsticle for me- I just can’t get over it-mind you the age difference is not that significant (2 years), but haibo as open minded as i am zvirikundinetsa!! But hey we shall see!

  13. I think these days the ‘age’ thing has become a factor because we all know each others ages. Back in the day our great-grandparents and gandparents didn’t refer to their birthdays or have anyone keeping a running tally on the candles on the cake. It’s only after I discussed the issue with some elder family members a couple of years ago that I found out that 2 of my great-aunts were married to men younger than them and 3 other sekurus in the hood had married slightly older women. So if we get back to basics the age question is a non-issue as long as the couple get along.

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