You're pacing nervously from room to room, pausing at every mirror to reassess your hair, your make-up, your earrings, your outfit. It feels like prom night all over again, except there's no corsage tonight. Your prom was many years ago, and somehow the stakes tonight seem higher.
Tonight, your new boyfriend is picking you up for a big family dinner -- his family, including aunts, uncles and cousins, and you're meeting them all for the first time since you started dating.
You hear a heavy base line booming from the street and look out the window. It’s him pulling up the driveway in a used Jeep. You notice for the first time it could really use a wash. And a paint job.
You go for your coat, then reconsider and opt for a leather jacket. You think to yourself (and hate yourself for the thought), "It makes me look younger."
Age is a number representing time served on the planet. Our culture snickers about older men dating young women, but because it's so common we generally give that dynamic a pass. Unconsciously, it's assumed the man is 'providing' and that the woman is biologically capable of reproducing, which is the way Nature choreographed the mating dance.
An older woman on the arm of a younger man, however, appears fundamentally unnatural, almost immoral. It is only marginally acceptible if the mature woman is smokin' hot -- like Demi Moore -- or if the guy's clearly an escort (and then the snickers become full-on guffaws).
Yet attraction between a man and a woman is not predicted by physical preference alone. Like the elephant that befriended the dog, or the deer that moved into a house and shared his bed with a house pet, romance among humans can defy category. Perhaps this is true love?
And when love is present between two people, at least at the beginning of a relationship, differences like age are overlooked, similarities are maximized, and physical attraction rules. As time passes, what two people find in common to share and what differences they will accept about each other is largely influenced by desire and the power of unexplained chemistry.
So, ladies, if you’re looking for a one night fling, no biggie. By now you are familiar with the emotional hazards of sport sex. But if you want something more than a bounce, then personality, not sexual attraction, will be the final factor in determining whether your relationship with a younger man will last.
A forty-something woman is likely to find more longevity with a younger man in his late 30s than 20s, as the guy has been out in the world already. By now he has experienced plenty of one-night stands and gotten his ya-ya's out. The intrigue of something deeper and lasting may be more appealing, and that’s always a better fit for most mature women.
When a younger man makes you giggle, feel desirable, playful, needed, free, important, spontaneous and (most essentially) valued, go for it! His age is not the point. Neither is yours. You’ve got the ingredients for a fine romance, and perhaps one that will last.
Susan drennan Gabriel bunn is a writer, songstress, and veteran TV & print journalist (CNN,CBS affiliate). She has performed her original one woman musical adventure from Los Angeles to New York.