There are so many avenues I can explore with the title of this article. But I will try to stay current. In the past couple of months, there have been stories posted on social media regarding couples who have gotten engaged and married where there is a significant gap in age between the two individuals. While many posted “Mazal tov,” many more posted, “It’s disgusting; one is old enough to be the parent of the other!” or “Who let this happen?” In one of these couplings, the male took to social media to explain that most of what was posted and said of him and his significant other were either half-truths or outright lies. He explained exactly how he and this other person came to realize that they are each other’s bashert and are doing all they can to build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.
I’m not here to argue one way or the other in the case of these two couples, but I would like to discuss the topic of age in general. While growing up, I envisioned marrying someone older, stronger, and taller than I was. I think most girls share that same fantasy. But when shidduchim started to be redt for me, I wouldn’t consider dating someone more than five years older than I was. Call me naïve or crazy, but I was 19 or 20 and this is what I was telling people. Fast forward many years and my husband fulfills two of the three requirements. He’s taller and stronger than I am, but I am older than he is. Truthfully, it doesn’t make a difference how much older I am because age isn’t an issue in our marriage. I never tell him to respect his elders and to offer me the chair he is sitting in when I enter a room. As I have been known to say and write, “When the baby cried at 2 a.m., I didn’t tell my husband, ‘You get her. I’m older and need more sleep.’” The (small) difference in age doesn’t bother me in the least. But I can’t say that is the same for all others.
I once wrote of someone who would not date me because, as he told the shadchan, “She’s older than I am.” Hey, buddy, we were both born in the same year, I just beat you to the finish line. It wasn’t as if I was ten years older than he was. But he held firm in his thinking that he must not date anyone older than he is. But then there are others who want to date someone significantly older or younger than they are. I know three people who only wanted to date someone at least seven or eight years older than they are. These people (a man and two women) feel that they can better relate to and have more in common with people almost a decade older than they are, than they can with those closer in age.
All I am asking is that we don’t write off someone
just because of his or her age
It seems to be socially acceptable for the husband to be older than the wife, but by how many years? There doesn’t seem to be a consensus if two or three years is more acceptable than eight or ten years. I have another question: Who is setting the rule or status quo for this? Why is it when we hear about a couple with an age gap of ten or more years that we are shocked? We are more shocked if it is a first marriage for one or both in the relationship than if it’s a second marriage for one or both. I know of a couple married for over 35 years. They are a cute couple and have a wonderful family. The husband and wife complement each other’s personalities perfectly in my opinion. So what’s the issue? About ten years ago I found out that the husband was 12 years older than his wife. This shocked me a bit (mostly because the husband does not look his age), but I got over my shock and was able to appreciate who these people were even more, because age was not a factor for them. Offhand, I know of three couples who have more than an eight-year age gap between the spouses. In one of the relationships, the wife is the elder of the two by more than five years. I say “kol ha’kavod” to these couples.
Now I look at what is happening with those in the shidduch parshah. Men and women in their 40s and 50s are feeling like old bachelors and maids. Shadchanim tell them, “He/she wants someone younger.” Then they get set up with those even older than they are and feel as if they have been tossed aside. Do we throw out aged cheese or wine? No! These delicacies are savored and sought after. I’m sorry that I can’t say the same about our older singles. They are mature, have had more experiences in life, and have a wealth of information to share with others; so why are we pairing them up with someone older than they are and not even considering someone their junior? I’m not speaking about redting a 45-year-old to a 25-year-old, but why not a 44-year-old and a 36-year-old?
I’m not saying singles should date someone ten or 12 years older than they are, but I ask that you not write someone off or not even consider them solely because of their age. I vividly remember my friend and me on a singles Shabbaton when we were in our late 20s. We ended up meeting and getting to know a fellow who is about 15 years my senior. He was good looking, easy to speak with, had an outgoing personality – he had all the qualities any girl would want. But I sadly say that age was his enemy in the shidduch world. I stayed friendly with him throughout the years. We emailed and became Facebook friends. He would try to redt me shidduchim and I would do the same with him. We truly never considered dating each other because of the differences in age and what society would think of us. Yes, I’m sorry to say that even I care about what people think of me in some situations! I think the world of him, and we are still in contact with each other, but I know we never considered dating each other only because of our ages. He now tells me of all he is going through in the parshah and my heart aches for him. I only wish he could find his bashert, but he still says that age is his issue, even though he does not look his age at all!
I am not going to stand on a soapbox and preach that you should consider dating only older people. All I am asking is that we don’t write off someone just because of his or her age. Unfortunately, a single 25-year-old can become a single 35- and then a single 40-year-old and then the situation is reversed. At that point, shadchanim and singles may be “writing them off” simply because of their age. I know this from personal experience. Their personality and looks may still be the same as when they were considered “a catch” at 25, but their age is what is having them put on the back of the shelf and only taken out when there is a sale! (You know what I mean.)
Hatzlachah to you all!
Goldy Krantz is an LMSW and a lifelong Queens resident, guest lecturer, and author of the shidduch dating book, The Best of My Worst and children’s book Where Has Zaidy Gone? She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.