Even today, here in the 21st century, there is still considerable stigma attached to being in an age gap relationship. Everybody is familiar with the stereotypes: Younger women who date older men are assumed to be either unstable harridans with unresolved “daddy issues,” or gold-diggers hoping to barter their youth and beauty for some fast cash. Meanwhile, older men are assumed to be lecherous old perverts taking advantage of barely legal naïfs. While these sorts of predatory, unbalanced relationships certainly exist; it’s silly to assume that such unhealthy extremes characterize all—or even most—age gap relationships. Strip away the offensive stereotypes, and you’ll find that age gap relationships are inherently no more exploitative than any other kind of relationship.
Still, the average Joe or Jane isn’t going to bother scratching the surface of your age gap relationship before forming a conclusion, and that can lead to some awkward, insulting, and straight-up embarrassing questions and comments about your partnership. To that end, here are some clever ways of shutting down busybodies who think they know more about your relationship than you do:
- The situation: You’re a younger woman dating an older man. You and your sweetie are having brunch at your favorite outdoor café, holding hands and feeding each other nibbles of French toast. You notice a pair of friends seated at a nearby table eyeballing you and snickering behind their hands. The woman turns to her companion and says, just loud enough for you to hear, “He’s old enough to be her father!”
- How you handle it: She gave you the perfect set-up, so you might as well take advantage of it. When the waitress comes around with the check, look your partner in the eye and deadpan, “Thanks for picking up the check, Dad. You’re the best father a girl could ask for.” Make it weird and uncomfortable for your critics. Leave them questioning their own judgment.
- The situation: It’s the office holiday party, and you’re bringing your new girlfriend as your plus-one. You’re paying a visit to the punch bowl when you overhear a couple of your coworkers whispering to each other. You don’t catch everything they’re saying, but you clearly hear the words, “What’s with them? Is this like a sugar daddy dating situation or what?”
- How you handle it: Tread carefully here, because this is a work environment and you can’t afford to alienate your colleagues unnecessarily. It’s okay to use a lighter touch here by simply turning the question around on them, giving them pause to reflect on their assumption. With a neutral, non-confrontational demeanor, ask, “It’s interesting that you see a younger woman with an older man and automatically think ‘sugar daddy dating.’ Why do you assume a grown woman is incapable or earning her own money?” and then wait to see what they say. Odds are they’ll look for a quick exit out of an increasingly uncomfortable conversation.
- The situation: You’re meeting your girlfriend’s family for the first time, and you can tell from the get-go that her parents are put off by the age difference. Dinner is tense and quiet. Conversation is forced. You feel more and more out of place until finally her father asks the question that’s been on everybody’s minds all night: “Why can’t you both date somebody your own age?”
- How you handle it: It’s her family, so let her take the lead with this one. Depending on the mood in the room, she can answer sincerely (“We both could date somebody our own age, but we’ve chosen to date each other instead,”) or like a smart ass (“Why can’t you and Mom make it through a single family dinner without asking inappropriate, invasive questions about my personal life?”). Don’t be afraid to make things awkward, because they made it awkward first.
- The situation: You’re having some brews with your buddies when a well-meaning friend cautions you, “You know women her age only want to date rich men. If you aren’t careful, she’s going to take you for a ride.”
- How you handle it: Look him dead in the eye and say, “Hey, thanks for implying that the only thing she sees in me is a fat wallet. Incidentally, what sort of shape is your bank account in these days?”
- The situation: You’re having a few drinks with your friends and filling them in on your new relationship. They all have the same pained looks on their faces after seeing his picture. “He’s like sixty,” one of them remarks. “Where did you two meet, anyway?”
- How you handle it: Use humor to your advantage here. “Oh, you know, I like to volunteer at the nursing home on the weekends, and he grabbed my ass while I was giving him his sponge bath.” Or, “He followed me home in his windowless van one day and asked me to help him find his lost puppy, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.” Using some edgy humor will help dissolve the tension while subtly reminding your friends that they’re crossing the line of politeness.
Sugar daddy dating is a real interest for many people, and sure, some young women really do only want to date rich men. But the same is true of some older women. Hell, it’s true of some men, too! And sure, some older men seeking younger women really are creeps. But there’s no reason why you or your partner should be lumped into either of these categories. Using tact, honest questions, and a little humor, you can stop insulting inquiries in their tracks and give people some food for thought.