Older man-younger woman bonds influenced by biology

Comment: (You recently wrote a column) discussing the fact that men should date women their own age. I have yet to see it in reality, and neither have my wide circle of accomplished women friends! We’d like to know where these “enlightened” men are. Men our age (40 to 60) or even 20 years older than us still want to date women in their 20s. We are a group of enlightened, intelligent, self-sufficient, fun-loving and, yes, stunning and sexy women, yet many of us are sitting home every Saturday night. It has been our collective experience that men are intimidated by strong, self-sufficient women who know what they want in and outside the bedroom. — M., Las Vegas

Response: You reference a column in which I said that relationships with significant age differences have common, observable complications that must be managed if the relationship is to thrive.

I did not say that men (or women) should date in their own age group; I said that reaching well beyond your age group adds layers of complication.

Your inquiry is different. Why do such a disproportion of men “date downward,” as it were? Why do those men grow older, yet their dates and mates stay perpetually the same age?

There is a vestigial biological thread of not so much explanation as prediction of these events. The only reason for male primates to court female primates is to make babies. Post-menopausal females don’t make babies.

I’m not saying it’s conscious. I’m saying that, by design, male sexuality is never an independent variable from virility.

I’ll never forget sitting in the parking lot of my urologist, about 15 minutes post-vasectomy. It was a good decision. No regrets.

But still, I felt a disturbing sadness. I called a buddy, who listened to me say “goodbye” to a precious chapter of my life, and a beautiful part of what it means to be a guy.

The only reasons for female primates to welcome male courtship (again, biologically speaking) are to make babies and to garner the benefits of protection, safety and security. When the leopard stalks the troop, the male can be counted on to beat his chest, bare his teeth, alert the troop and chase the bad guys away.

I know this doesn’t play well in a post-feminist world, but I swear to you the feminine need for safety, protection and security is an archetypal reality in female courtship patterns, regardless of what feminism ultimately had in mind.

Today, that safety and security is not about baring teeth but more often about social competence, fierce intellect and a solid checkbook. (Surely Hugh Hefner must know that, if he were an octogenarian retired plumber living in a duplex, it would be unlikely that three platinum blond hotties would be willing to take turns sharing his bed.)

I’m saying there are biological predictors for the tendency of women to “date up,” and for men to “date down.”

However, the greater issue, I think, is cultural and developmental. Want straight talk?

The male ego tends to be, well, different from the female ego. At minimum, I tend to see the male ego as a little less resilient, a little more brittle. See, we have this need to be your hero. Nothing wrong with that, unless the hero archetype becomes distorted, which it often does.

When a modern woman is already smart, competent, confident, beautiful, has her economic/professional self in order, and, God help us, is assertive in bed … well, many men are left wondering what they could ever contribute. They end up feeling diminished.

It rarely occurs to us to consider being a peer as a terrific contribution.

Female sexuality is big medicine. Very powerful. And, historically, men are afraid of it on some not-always-conscious level. Boys-disguised-as-men will distance themselves from that power, or try to control it. Or attack it. (I think it explains witch-burning by Christians and genital mutilation by Muslims.)

M., I think you’re observing what I’ve said for a long time: This culture does a lousy job at turning boys into men. Takes a maddeningly long time these days to grow a man up.

Mature men know that nothing on earth is more attractive than The Big Three: intelligence, confidence and vitality.

A 51-year-old friend of mine is, for the first time in his life, dating a like-level professional his own age. I asked him how it was going. He smiled and said: “Sex is wasted on the young.”

You gotta kiss a lot of frogs, M.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling and Wellness Center in Las Vegas. His columns appear on Tuesdays and Sundays. Questions for the Asking Human Matters column or comments can be e-mailed to skalas@reviewjournal .com.

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