Wow – I really struck a nerve!
I’ve received a lot of
feedback – all positive – about last month’s article. Apparently
childlessness is the “elephant in the room” of the singles’ world. We
fear it, we struggle with it, but we don’t talk about it.
So I’m going to talk about it some more.
I want to expand on something that I mentioned in passing last time.
That would be the issue of older men – on this site and elsewhere –
who are seeking much younger women, with no openness at all to the
possibility of meeting and marrying someone their own age.
connection to childlessness is obvious. Women have to face the issue
head-on at a certain age. Men can remain in denial for a really, really
Let me say from the outset that I realize we are
talking about a very small minority here. I hope I’ve made it clear by
this time that I am a big fan of men. And the vast, vast majority of
single men I’ve known are looking for women reasonably near their own
age. They may not be closed to the idea of meeting and falling in love
with someone much younger, but that isn’t their exclusive dating goal,
I also tread carefully here, knowing this is a very
“hot” and sensitive topic. I’ve been single long enough to have
witnessed many, many debates (arguments, fights, blow-outs) between
single men and single women over this subject. It always looks pretty
much the same – the women are almost irrationally angry, while the men
spout sham theology and calmly toss verbal grenades intended to incite
the women even more.
I understand both sides. From the men’s
perspective, it’s simple enough. They want kids. They figure they’re
still biologically capable of fathering children (as far as they know),
so why not? Eric Clapton did it. Frank Gifford did it.
female side is a little more complicated. It’s hard enough for a woman
to face the winding down of her biological clock. Then to have men her
own age dismiss her on that basis – well, I can see where that would be
a little annoying. They’re taking it personally, even though it’s not
really about them at all.
Personally, it has never really
bothered me that some men are looking for much younger women. I’ve
always seen it as more of a convenient “early warning” device. These
men are unwittingly tipping their hand, revealing a very unattractive
character trait that I’d want to know about sooner rather than later
Their attitude towards women is more about “using” than “loving.”
just a minute!“ these men will object. “Our attitude is actually very
Catholic! The Church has always taught that marriage is about children.
We’re just following that teaching.”
First problem: the Church
does not teach that marriage is “about” children. Marriage is about
giving ourselves totally to each other, in openness to children.
There’s a very big difference here. Our job is to unselfishly love each
other, in every area of life, and not doing anything to deliberately
block conception. Deciding whether or not that love will result in a
new human life is God’s domain, not ours. Couples of all ages find that
He doesn’t necessarily bless them in that way. And their infertility
doesn’t make their marriages any less real or valid.
A man who
deliberately excludes from marital consideration any woman near his own
age, with whom he likely to be most compatible and have the most in
common, does not come across as someone who is looking primary to give
himself to a wife for better or worse. He comes across as someone who
sees a woman primarily as means to an end – his children.
I’ll love the woman I marry. I’ll give myself to her. I just want her
to be younger so we’ll be more likely to have kids.” Really? And what
if she can’t bear children? No woman – even if she already has children
– knows for certain that she will be able to conceive in the future.
Worse yet, what if he can’t? Infertility is the “worse” in “for better
or worse.” And it’s made that much worse yet when you’ve got a couple
20 years apart in age, in completely different stages of life, brought
together largely because he was relying on her fertility to accomplish
a goal. He thought he had stacked the deck in his favor, but he played
Don’t think, incidentally, that
this fact is lost on younger women, most of whom are “creeped out” by
older men incessantly chasing them. I know I was. I wanted to be loved
for myself, not just my fertility. Most women feel the same way – as do
men. I know that women are just as capable, in their own way, of using
men as means to children instead of loving them as persons for their
own sake. Either way, it’s wrong.
Marriage is about two people
looking at each other and saying “I give myself to you, just as you
are, for the rest of my life.” It’s about the giving. Most often, it
happens between people who are roughly the same age, or at least of the
same basic generation. People have the most in common, the broadest
basis on which to build a life together, when they grew up around the
same time and are at the same stage of life. I can’t speak for men, but
in my own case I can certainly say that I am more attracted to men my
own age than to those who are much older or younger than I am. Younger
guys don’t understand my music. They don’t know who Groucho Marx is.
They don’t remember TVs without remotes, or mood rings, or Atari. I
Certainly it doesn’t always work this way. Some
people, in the course of dating, meet and fall in love with someone
considerably older or younger. I have no problem with that. The problem
is the “using” mentality inherent in limiting one’s dating pool
exclusively to a younger and presumably more fertile generation.
sorry, guys. I really am. I understand wanting to hold on to the
possibility of having children. It’s just that, when you do it this
way, you wind up succumbing to an attitude toward women that is
unflattering at best, and profoundly un-Christian at worst.
And that doesn’t make you attractive to women of any age.