Post 3.14 - The Numbers Game

I'm 38, I have to rush at this point! I mean, really, I'm playing 'beat the clock' nowadays. :/
Rushing is not necessary. I promise you will have the same ability to get pregnant after 40 that you do now. :-)
This was a recent exchange I had with a friend on Facebook. A discussion took place later with a different group of friends regarding ageism. The issue has many facets.


First, you have the conversation with my friend above. Despite all of the press about "40 is the new 30" and so forth, people living longer and somewhat healthier lives, and the trend toward establishing stability in one's life before marriage, the belief persists that if you reach 40 and you're not married or otherwise partnered, you're somehow doomed. There is the further psychological implication that you are somehow defective and undesirable for being unable to close the permanent deal by 40. Women are worried about their biological clocks, which is certainly relevant, but my friend in this case above is a gay male. The gay community is as obsessed with youth and beauty as the mainstream, if not moreso.


Which brings us to the second point -- prejudging someone on the basis of age is common, and happens both to the old and the young. Young people are generalized as inexperienced, impulsive, and lacking identity, while older people tend to be generalized as just... old. You can make the argument that at least young people are being judged on substance and not appearance, but the young are still pursued for their arm candy benefits, even if their older partner ignores most of what comes out of their mouth. The late Anna Nicole Smith and Hugh Hefner's latest drama do not help these perceptions.


I know men who will only date people within a certain age range, irrespective of their own advancing years. I know others, men and women, who are so desperate to partner and are so hung up about age that they settle for whatever they can get, especially if they want children. It's sad and it's unnecessary.


There is an equation that is sometimes used to express the compatibility between partners of differing ages, in describing the possible discrepancy in the life experience and perceptions.


D = (A1-A2) / A2, where


D = Discrepancy,
A1 = Age of the elder partner, and
A2 = Age of the younger partner.


The higher the value, the greater the discrepancy. The greater the discrepancy, the more difficult the relationship might be. But this is only theory, and can dismiss out of hand the possibilities a partner of a different age could offer. If we plug in the values for Hefner and his ex-fiancee, we get (85-25)/25, for a value of 2.4; Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, at the time of their marriage, give us (43-27)/27, for a value of  0.59. The value decreases as the couple age together, suggesting their compatibility increases, albeit slowly.


But I think what bothers me most about all of this is the continuing sense that a partner is required for happiness. This isn't to diminish those who want partnership, but there is a certain level of social programming that we have all experienced that ties our self-worth to our ability to secure a life partner -- and this is unfortunate.


There are some people who will never find a life partner, yet still have enormously rewarding and fulfilling lives. They can even have children on their own at this point in history, via adoption or biological means. There are others who will have a series of long-term relationships, never find "the One", and also feel just as happy and well-loved. These alternatives are treated as less, for some reason.


And 40 is just a number. It carries no more significance that 35 or 45 in the grand scheme of things -- except that our society treats it as some sort of cosmic road marker. With heterosexuals, it is related to female fertility, and among homosexual males, it represents the end of youth and beauty. I'll admit that I don't know how lesbians feel about it, so if you fall into that group, please comment. I'd love to know.


We can debate the relative stability, maturity, and relationship skills of people of any age group, but we can only do so in the most prejudiced of ways. The bottom line, however, is that the judgment needs to be made based on the individual, not the year they were born. The challenge with any relationship, irrespective of ages, is finding the common ground where attraction, love and affection can grow, and whether we feel we can be happy with this person over the long-term, or even the short-term.


Don't discount well-timed passionate flings.


I gave this some thought as it relates to my own history. My romantic partners have been in an age range of 5-6 years older or younger. Usually, the age difference is 2-3 years. My first question was never "how old are you?" That isn't to say that I don't think about it, too, because I do. At this point, I want to raise a child, not date one. But there are 40-year-old children, too.


But I also turned a corner when I was 23 or 24 to decide that it didn't matter if I was partnered or not. I wanted the life I wanted, and anyone who wanted to be with me wanted this life, too. So, if I just went about my business, those partners would make their presence known. It hasn't been perfect, and I'm single now, but I have no regrets. I've loved and been loved, and that's all that matters.


Do I think about getting married? Sometimes, but not really. My father was married three times, my mother was married twice -- and it didn't make them any happier. I've been engaged three times, and since I am no longer with these people, I see that as three divorces that I successfully avoided. Again, no regrets. My self-worth is about me and the rules I live by, not whether or not I get married.


And if you're partnered, I think that's great. I am not anti-marriage or anti-coupling or any of that. I am just saying that if you're single, it is absolutely not the end of the world. And if you stop worrying about it so much, you never know who might come along just when the time is really right.


Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

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