“What will they whisper, though?” I asked my long-term makeup artist (and confidant), who was getting me glammed up for a charity event in Toronto. I was covering said event on the party/society beat for the city’s most-read publication.
“He’s cute. He’s charismatic. He’ll be fine. You'll be fine!” she exclaimed in a self-help therapist/coaching kind of way after I told her all about my plus-one for the event, a baby-faced boy eight years my junior.
But while sitting in her chair and listening to her usually calming voice, I had doubts about his debut, if you will. In the mix of the attraction, electricity, and awe, I'd asked him the night prior if he’d be my plus-one for the event. I was all confident and bold inviting him under the haze of a couple vodka sodas, but the next day I worried what people would think about the 24-year-old on the arm of a 32-year-old relationship columnist. A handful of the women set to be at the event are married to men in their later 40s who are on their second marriages, with a few kids in the bag. How would this pretty young thing fit into this scene in the reel that is my life?
I spent the duration of my makeup sesh analyzing, doubting, and questioning, but as soon as my (now) boyfriend walked up clad in a Prada tux, a smile, and a confident aura, I knew not only that I made the right call in including him, but I didn’t want him not by my side.
Now, six months later, I can’t help but be flattered when I get carded when we’re out at bars or buying wine. Or when women (and men, so many men) in my age bracket raise their eyebrows with an impressed look in their eyes, because my 6-foot-2 boyfriend may be young, but he’s also a head turner. He’s fun, flirty, and easy on the eyes, he brings out the innocence and youth in me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Don’t get me wrong; I make my fair share of cougar jokes. I likely acknowledge and discuss our age difference way more than necessary, but after writing and doing on-air segments about dating and relationships for years, I know one needs to just own their situation, no matter what it may be. My bringing it up on my own sort of cuts off the questions everyone wants to ask anyway. Yes, he’s much younger; eight years in fact. Yes, his stamina is exactly what you’d expect from a 20-something male, and yes, it works. At least for me. At least for now.
So what’s it like dating a guy who’s eight years my junior? Well, for one, it keeps me on my toes. Since I freelance, I used to spend endless hours, seven days a week, sitting in front of my laptop, pitching and writing articles and reading tons of online articles to keep up. Now, I’ve learned to balance my work life and my personal life. Past partners of mine have had careers they worked years at, so it was easy to continue to put work first. But my younger boyfriend isn’t at that place yet. Thanks to all the free time he has, I now schedule more free time for myself to enjoy with him.
It’s refreshing going to nightly events having him by my side. He isn’t jaded and doesn’t walk into a party with preconceived notions or judgments or expectations on anyone in my industry, so I get to see people I’ve known for years anew. When he chats with people at these events, it isn’t a means to an end or out of obligation; he does so because he’s genuinely interested. This allows me to see things with fresh eyes.
That said, I do find he has the tendency to be a bit naïve, because he doesn’t have the baggage that comes from years of lessons learned. And it’s not a criticism; it’s just the truth. I was talking to a girlfriend of mine who said something that really stuck with me. She said, “It’s not that you’re smarter than him; it’s just that you’ve lived more years.” With living longer — eight years longer at that — I’ve had past long-term relationships. I’ve learned what works, what doesn’t, how to create healthy boundaries, how not to get lost in a relationship, and am very aware of what I want in life. And though I love this man, and I enjoy his company more than anyone’s, I sometimes doubt if he’s had enough experience to know that I’m the right one for him.
Your 20s are such a crucial time in your life where you really learn a lot about yourself: your wants, your needs, and who you are as a person. I wouldn’t take back all that messy stuff and heartache and sh*t experiences that came with those 10 years, because they’ve made me into who I am today.
And so, I do question whether this relationship will ultimately work out, because I think he needs to spread his wings and date others, and be alone and figure out his life, as I did in the extra eight years of life I’ve had. And I’ve voiced this to him. But time will tell, as it always does. For now, I’m so happy to have found a playful partner who continues to surprise me, adores me, and is into being a partner-in-crime on the wild ride that is my life.
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