Saturday, January 27, 2007

Age limits and dating...good idea or bad idea?

Should there be an age limit on guys (or girls, if that's your preference) with dating potential? Should we have a "floor" and "ceiling" age (to steal terms from the math world). In other words, should we assign a minimum and maximum age limit to whom we'd consider dating?

I know that the answer is rather complex, and rests a lot upon your own age. When you're an adult, there's a law about the minimum age, sure. But most adults would set their age-minimum higher than that law requires, so that's not an issue. But as an adult, the age range that's reasonable to date within grows a lot bigger on either side. When you're in school, the age range is generally +/- 1 or 2 years on either side of your own age/grade. But in your twenties, things spread out. All the sudden, people over 30 aren't THAT old any more...mainly because you're approaching that age with every passing year. [Yes, I know that last statement was an egregiously obvious one, just roll with me, I'm still warming up.]

I can only imagine that the age range grows even bigger when you're in your 30s, and above even.

But what is this "age range" I keep referring to? Is it self-imposed and/or self-defined? I feel like it's partially an individual thing. Everyone has their own tastes and comfort zones. But part of that age range assignment comes from society's rules. There is a society-approved "age range" for different ages of your life. In high school, college, your 20s, your 40s, your 80s. Do we feel a need to tweak these age ranges to our own liking because society has already placed them there?

I'm now going to start talking from my perspective, since I can't begin to think that I can speak for everyone on this one. I've always said that my age minimum should be cut off at my brother's age. Anyone younger than my little brother - who's 5.5 years younger than I am - is off-limits. Well, that made sense when he was in grade school. How weird would it be for me to date a 15-year-old at age 18/19? Ew. Or a high school kid after I'd graduated from undergrad? More ew.

But he and I have gotten older...meaning our ages aren't that vastly different anymore. He's reached his 20s. I'm still in my 20s, obviously. Is it still as important to keep that strict age limitation? I feel like the answer might have to be 'yes' given that he's in college and I'm not. Kids younger than him are barely out of high school. That's a little odd. But at the same time, it's not completely unheard of.

And, I've also recently looked at my age-maximum limit. I've kept it at 30 for some time now, simply because that was a round number. But, I'm much closer to 30 now than I was years earlier when I set that limit. 30 isn't old anymore (like it was when I was in college). 30 is livin' it. 35 is happenin'. 30 is no longer a good limit. And I find myself wondering if I should even bother setting a new maximum age limit. Is there really a point? Age doesn't define personality. It defines amount of experience with the world and one's surrounding environment. It gives a general sense of how much maturity a person can be expected to have (although, we all know that's not a set determination, but I won't get into that too much here).

The reasons for having a minimum age limit seem more plentiful than having a maximum age limit, I think. Especially from where I sit. Too young, and they're still in school, or can't come out for a drink. That just seems a bit young. But too old? I'm not sure what "too old" means anymore. I don't think it has a set meaning, because it would depend on the person, really.

I say this all, I think about it all, and it seems as though I'm convinced that I should keep my minimum age limit and nix the maximum one. But, I don't think I can do that, honestly. There are surprisingly mature "young'uns" and surprisingly immature older men. I feel like my age-range of old is melting like a snowman in April. Slowly, steadily, the surrounding environment makes it impossible for me to keep the firm shape of that age range, just as the snowman starts frowning and thinning and thawing - essentially blurring around the edges.

"...and in the end, it doesn't even matter."

Well said, Linkin Park. In the end, whatever happens will happen. Take it in stride, leave the rest alone until it comes. Cross the bridge when you reach it, but no point worrying about it sooner than that. You've still got to travel in the road leading up to it.

Man, I'm into metaphors and similes tonight, aren't I? Huh...

When I was single I used to have a rule of thumb I called "The Ten Percent Rule", which seems to work quite well from the time you're about 18 to the time you're about 40 or so.

Essentially the rule is that the difference in age of two people who are dating should be no more than 10% of the sum of their ages.

In other words if x is the older person's age and y is the younger person's age, than (x - y) < 0.1 * (x + y)

This may seem strange, and indeed I more or less pulled it out of thin air one day, but it works pretty well, providing you with an age range of about 20% of your age, biased towards the older side. If you are 25, then the rule says you should only date people between 20 and 30, give or take a bit. That seems about right to me. Where things break down is when you get closer to 40; the rule stipulates an age range of 32 - 48 or so. That seems a bit too restrictive.

But on the whole you're right - the tight age limits in high school make no sense in your 20's and 30's.
I live in Colorado and have been reaserching such things as this. I am drawn between two girls. I myself am 17. One of the girls is around 18/19, while the other is 15. I have talked to both of them many times, but find that the 15 year old is the main one in my thoughts. I am shy when it comes to women and find it hard to even think of asking this girl out. One of my biggest fears is losing the respect of people because of my choice. I know the girls family through my Martial Arts studio, and I am really known and respected as an instructor there. I have worked really hard to become a good instructor and a roll model for the kids. I realy don't want to lose the respect of my instructor who has become like a father to me. I also don't want my fellow students talking about me and this sweet girl, both behind our backs, and right to us. What should I do? You seem to have look into this much more than I have and feel that your opinion would be of better understanding on how age differences work more than other people. Please respond soon.
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