I’m 21 and recently graduated from university. My best friend Sam is 23. Sam struck up a very close friendship with a 43 year old married man named Chris. I’m concerned because:
1. They spend 3-4 days/week together in a larger social group setting and alone.
2. They often stay out for hours and hours till 4-5am while Chris’s wife Judy sleeps at home. Sam says Judy doesn’t want to go with them.
3. Sam says her name has come up in un-related fights between Chris and Judy.
4. Chris said his mother thought their friendship was odd in the context of an, “older people just don’t understand me” conversation.
5. Within the first HOUR of meeting Chris, he made two separate slights toward his wife (who was not present) in the form of, “Oh, Judy would never come out to something like this” (swing dancing) and, “Oh, Judy isn’t one to try new foods”.
6. Chris commented to a different mutual friend once that sometimes he “thinks he married the wrong woman”.
7. Chris goes to Sam for emotional support, especially when he has a fight with his wife.
Sam doesn’t see anything uncomfortable or inappropriate with this dynamic but I have foreboding feelings. It feels weird and I can’t seem to separate their age discrepancy as a factor that’s magnifying the weirdness. When I talked about this with Sam, she told me I’m acting ageist.
Flash forward several weeks to the person I was dating recently, Mike. Mike and I met online and hit it off right away. He was kind, funny, feminist, and WONDERFUL. We discussed problematic masculinity on our first date (THE ACTUAL DREAM!). Sleeping with him was a pretty big deal for me because it was my first time and I had been waiting to have sex with someone I felt “all in” about. Mike’s profile said he was 27, which was fine because I’ve dated a lot of guys my age who are so nervous that I feel like I’m babysitting. Things with Mike were going well until, unexpected plot twist, I found out he was actually THIRTY SEVEN. He claimed 27 was a typo online but that he looks and feels like he’s a twentysomething (he’s in university), and that he thinks I act very “maternal”, so it shouldn’t be a problem. When I talked to Sam about my misgivings, she said I’m acting ageist again.
Can you help sort out my feelings about all this? Am I really being old-fashioned and ageist in these situations? How much is too much of an age difference to date someone? Do the rules and dynamics of friendship change if there’s a big age difference between friends?
The Adults Are Not All Right