Dating and the age gap: When is older too old?

When dating, determining the maximum age gap is like trying to find out how tall a tree happens to be. Photo: TWTC

LOS ANGELES, July 7, 2013 - When dating, how big an age gap is too big? At what point does the age difference become scandalous?

Throw out the obvious examples as outliers. The late Anthony Quinn was 81 when he impregnated a 19-year-old. The late Tony Randall was 75 when he married his 24-year-old wife. They had children. Playboy founder Hugh Heffner has several girlfriends, most of them half a century his junior.

Playgirl exists as well, and Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, Martha Raye, and Cher all dated men decades younger than they were. 

So where is the line? 

Eliminate the touchy-feely stuff about age being “just a number.” That is what people say to justify behavior that they know is problematic. Age is what it is.

For every person saying “just go for it and be happy,” there are realistic considerations. For one thing, most people do not want their relationship to be the equivalent of gossip tabloid fodder among their own social circles.

A date I recently went on showed the woman to be intelligent, sweet, accomplished, and attractive. We both suspected the age difference might be significant, but avoided the topic for as long as possible. Yet denying reality serves no purpose. She thought I was 30. I am 41. I was hoping she was in her late twenties. She was 23.

Five years is one thing. Even ten years one can start rationalizing. Yet 18 years is a tough one to justify. Having said that, a guy at 41 squiring a woman of 23 is far more controversial than a 71-year-old man dating a 53-year-old woman.

So again, where is the line?

There is an unofficial rule that exists, even though nobody seems to know where it originated. The name of this guideline is “half plus seven,” Take the age of the person, divide it in half, and then add seven years.

This leads to some reasonable results. A 24-year-old should date somebody at least 19. A 40-year-old should stick with someone at least 27. For somebody aged 70, the bottom limit of respectability is 42. 

The problem with this is that unofficial guidelines are exactly that. So if 40 and 27 are acceptable, one could say that 41 and 26 are close enough. Yet soon after that, the slippery slope becomes 44 and 24, which can lead to Lolita situations and other felonies. 

Some may ask another question. If a man is 40, is dating a pair of 20-year-olds equivalent to dating one 40-year-old?

From a respectability standpoint, no. From a brag and go high-five your friends standpoint, yes. If the man is a billionaire, it comes with the territory. In fact, the entire point of becoming a billionaire is for men to be unbound by the rules of everyday life that constrain the rest of us. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi threw “bunga bunga” parties while in office. When one is a septuagenarian billionaire, what else is there to do?

Being a billionaire is not the real world, and even billionaires occasionally face consequences. Berlusconi has been accused of having sex with a woman under the legal age of consent. That is rape in any language and has nothing to do with dating.

In the real world of dating, there are few actual rules. Yet societal norms still exist. Half by seven may only be a guideline, but it is a useful one.

Besides, it offers more valuable insight than the alternative, which is to shrug the shoulders and ask, “Who the heck knows?”

Read more from Date, Set, Match: Jewish dating in North Dakota

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Eric Golub

Eric Golub is a politically conservative Jewish blogger, author, public speaker, and comedian. His book trilogy is “Ideological Bigotry,” “Ideological Violence,” and  “Ideological Idiocy.” 

He is Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and has lived in Los Angeles since 1990. He received his Bachelors degree from the University of Judaism, and his MBA from USC. A stockbrokerage professional since 1994, he began blogging on March 11th, 2007, the three year anniversary of the Madrid bombings and the midpoint of 9/11. He has been inflicting his world view on his unfortunate readers since then. He blogs about politics Monday through Friday, and about football and other human interest items on weekends.

 

 

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