Anna Pulley, @annapulley
RedEye's sex columnist
11:00 AM CDT, September 5, 2012
I'm 28 and a young man of 21 has been showing interest in me. I have known him for many years because he lives two blocks away and his parents are friends with mine. I also have a 19-year-old brother who looks up to him. I have been getting to know him, but we have yet to go on a date. I'm nervous about it. I am attracted to him and would like to give him a chance, but sometimes I think this could backfire. He is very focused on school and he works full-time, and from what I know is a really good person. He has always been very mature for his age, which is why I am even considering giving him a chance. He plans on working full-time after graduation and even said he would, "take care of me." He said he was tired of the way younger women act. I'm not sure if I should pursue this! I do have a friend who is 30 and engaged to a 23-year-old, so I'm thinking there may be some hope! Any good advice?
If he was a rando 21-year-old who you met at a bar, I'd have a different answer for you. But, you've known this fellow for years (and he's already met your parents!), so why not give him a shot? You find him attractive, mature, and he has his shit together, which is pretty damn rare for someone so young. For comparison, I'm almost 30 and have been using paper towels as toilet paper for the last three days because I've been too lazy to go to the store.
Sometimes we get too bogged down by what we "should" like and who we "should" date. Since women tend to mature faster than men do, "science" tells us to add five years to our current age to even things out in the dating field. But, honestly, when was the last time math did anything for your love life? We tend to have laundry lists of mate specifications, and often that list is based on previous people we've dated or relationships we witnessed growing up: Must fit this age range, must be over 5'11'', must have freckles, must love dogs, etc. And that's fine—we like what we like, but in this situation, I think you'd be remiss to close yourself off to something potentially awesome and fulfilling because of a number. Besides, seven years isn't THAT crazy. It's not like you'd be dating one of the Rugrats.
Let's table the whole "I'll take care of you foreva" business though. That puts an awful lot of pressure on both of you, and you haven't even had one date yet. Take things slow, be cautious, but be open too. Focus less on the "Ah, I'm dating a teenager!" mindset and more on finding out if he's your emotional and spiritual equal. That will serve you far better in the long run.
Our greatest vulnerability in life is when we risk nothing. Take a chance on this guy. You might be wrong, things might "backfire," but it's better to be wrong than sorry.
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