As I waited to pick up lunch, I caught part of an NFL game. It’s the first I’ve seen of my team in years, and as I watched I realized something that wasn’t true all those years ago. Now, some of these kids are my age! (Some of them may be even younger!)
That observation is just further evidence of my age hang-up. This hyper-awareness probably stems from my college graduation; I was 20 when I received my bachelor’s, and have been noticing age demographics ever since.
I’m not sure it was a big deal to anyone else, but I was always aware of my place as the youngest in my grad program at Florida State.(I have a cushion at Alabama; three of us were born within a month’s time, so I’m not alone at 23.) I’m never quite sure where I fit.
I complicate things further through the men I date. My ex is three and a half years older than me. It rarely came up in conversation, but it hovered as insecurity in the back of my mind.
I’ve also had several crushes on younger men, both before and since that relationship. (In fact, the only date I’ve been on in the past five years was with a younger man!) None of those guys was anything more than a friend, and so the age difference wasn’t important. (It was also much smaller than the difference between my ex and I in both of these instances.) But it still crossed my mind.
Call me old fashioned, but I’m always careful to avoid “emasculating” the men in my life. I let them open doors for me. (It’s part of being southern, you know.) I try to let them defend themselves in debates (a strange example, but it did come up once in the past). I prefer to date men who are smarter than me—partially because that attracts me, partially because I don’t want to dominate a relationship, and I fear that could become the case if I were intellectually superior.
Now I’m approaching another graduation, and my mental age barriers are slowly fading. I don’t think it’s nearly as strange to be 23 with a master’s as to be 20 with a bachelor’s. Maybe (maybe?) I’m coming into my own.