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I’m 20 and my boyfriend is 32. Since we’re so far apart in age, our maturity levels could be vastly different. What are some “immature” things we could do together to help me see if we can make this relationship work?
–20AndInLove; Houston, TX
I had to re-read this question to make sure I understood it. Normally, either you’d be asking how you could be more mature, or your boyfriend would be asking if you were mature enough.
But I like this. I like that you don’t want to be anything but yourself. Too often the younger person in these relationships is set on changing her interests and conforming her behaviors to fit into their older partner’s world.
This is how youth gets wasted on the young. But it’s not being wasted on you. You’re 20, and you want to act 20, meaning you need to be with someone who can act 20 alongside you.
Luckily, women evolve much quicker than men, so it’s likely your respective maturity levels aren’t as far apart as your ages are.
Still, while there might not be a huge emotional difference, there could be a physical one.
I’ve been learning that over the last several years. Not only is Father Time undefeated, he’s sadistically patient, extracting your youth little by little until all that’s left are the memories of your glory days. And even those memories get harder to access over time.
I have little capacity for doing the things I did at 20. Which works well, because I have even less of a desire to do them.
But that can’t be the case for your boyfriend. If he wants to hold onto you, he’s got to be able to hold a 20-year-old’s pace. Here’s how you can challenge him to see if he’s up to the task.
1.- See if he can sleep past his workweek wake-up time on the weekend
From mobility and cognition to the necessity of diapers, the opening and closing stages of the aging process are remarkably similar. Call it the circle of life.
I don’t have kids, but I have friends who do, and some have told me their children get up at the same time every day, regardless of how late they were up the night before.
As I’ve made my way through my 30s, you can now say the same thing about me. It doesn’t matter how tired I am; the days of sleeping through “College GameDay” are gone.
At your age, this is not a problem. You can sleep for as long as you’re tired.
But if your boyfriend has reached my phase of evolution, given the inevitably late nights he’ll endure with you, it becomes a problem you have to deal with.
One way or another, your Saturday mornings are going to be ruined. Either he’s going to disturb you while making the Walk of Shame, or he’s going to wake you up to be one of those productive couples whose weekends are about more than eating Chipotle in pajama pants.
Meanwhile, the cumulative weight of his exhaustion is constantly increasing. Which makes the next challenge that much harder.
2.- Take him out on Thursday night
When I was your age, Thursday was the best night of the week to go out. It’s why, whenever possible, I structured my schedule so I’d have no classes on Friday.
My friends and I would eat dinner, put on our pleated khakis (all hail the 90s!) and take a cab downtown between 10 and 11 p.m.
These days, between 10 and 11 p.m., I’m in bed, either watching “House Hunters” or descending into my REM cycle. And I likely have been for some time.
Yes, I’m old. But this is an instance in which old people get a bad rap.
If you get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, that leaves 16 hours of consciousness. In college, I got up around 10 a.m. and went to sleep around 2 a.m.
But as an adult, I get up at 5:15 a.m. and go to sleep around 10:15 p.m. My window of waking hasn’t narrowed, it’s simply shifted. Actually, it’s expanded.
And your boyfriend’s will have to expand even more. He has to maintain the wake-up time of a working adult and the bedtime of a college-age kid. If he can do that, he’s worth holding onto.
3.- Take him to a club/bar where it’s too loud to talk
(But first wait until you turn 21.)
I’ve never understood the attraction of these places. I didn’t understand it when I was 20, and I don’t understand it now. I’m just happy I’ve reached the age at which it’s OK to admit this.
Who likes to listen to music that loud? You’re not at a concert. Even if you’re there to dance, do you really need the beat to reverberate inside you like a second pulse?
When I go out with friends, all I ask is that wherever we go there’s ample seating and that conversation isn’t dependent on my ability to read lips. Those are my requirements: to sit, and to hear. Spoken like a true old person.
I wouldn’t survive a relationship spent in spring break-esque establishments each weekend, but you need to find out if your boyfriend can. If he’s up for it, he’s into you. Besides, the music might help keep him awake.
4.- Tie him up in bed
Even as guys age, when it comes to the bedroom, our focus remains on getting up. How many times per night are you doing it? Once used to be the exception; now it’s a victory.
I am talking about, of course, using the restroom.
And even that one time is brutal. One second you’re warm beneath the comforter; the next you’re shivering on the tile floor, faced with a dilemma: If I turn on the light, will my aim improve enough to warrant how much harder it’ll be to fall back asleep?
I’m no doctor, but it’s my understanding that this is all due to the fact that, as you get older, your prostate can grow, forcing you to use the restroom more frequently. Some quick Googling indicates that it’s a condition that can eventually lead to infection, bladder stones and reduced kidney function.
It also can lead to sexual dysfunction.
Which is why you want to sling a little silk around your boyfriend’s wrists, secure him to the bedpost and see how he handles it. Not only do you not want to be disturbed throughout the night, the hope is that, when it comes to the central part of his body, it’s not his prostate that’s enlarging.
Of course, this test, as well as the others mentioned, are temporary at best. While it’s possible he can pass them now, at some point, he’ll no longer be able to. Because, like the rest of us, he’s going to keep getting older.
What do you think? What advice would you give this reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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