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Child-Man (noun): Younger male capable of maturity and self-reflective behavior, possessing both good qualities and potential yet to be actualized. (See Man-Child, antonym.)
I recently had an exciting meet-cute with a pretty woman. When I say woman, I mean someone 10+ years my senior, with a legitimate job and an impressive resume. Six hours, several crosswords, and many drinks later, I had her number -- and an eager but nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach.
To emphasize a few things right off the bat: First, I don't have an explicit thing for older women. The vast majority of ladies I've dated have been age-appropriate (within a year or two on either side). I have no interest in some absurd MILF/Cougar/Sugar Mama scenario. All I'm interested in (and I think there are at least a few other men who agree) is sophisticated, mature, respectful companionship with the opportunity for emotional depth. Second, I would never presume that dating someone younger, whether by three years or thirteen, is right for everyone. It's clearly dependent on the people involved and what they're looking for. Third, my motivation in writing this is to simply make the case for not dismissing younger male suitors outright, and if/when you do dismiss them, to do it in a manner that leaves both parties better off. Give us [me] a chance.
The Strengths of the “Child-Man”
The primary weakness of men in their low-to-mid twenties is also their greatest strength: age has not yet sunk its bony teeth into them. We have time, attention, and energy to spare. Clearly I could speak crassly about bedroom antics and stamina, but in terms of not being emotionally burnt-out/wary/busy/over-extended, it means a lot. Whether pursuing undergraduate education or as newly minted members of the underemployed, we are often excited and interested in pursuing all the living that we haven't yet experienced. The stereotype that all 22-year-olds sleep in, binge-drink, and party to excess is false.
Though our interests may still be taking shape, we are curious and driven to further develop them. We get excited about ideas, we'll listen to you, and we'll be impressed by your stories and life experience. The child-man is not desperate to get married or settle down (which some may see as a negative), but the lack of long-term expectations can be good for you too -- there's no obligation to keep the product if you decide you want to return it, and it is exceptionally unlikely that you'll be forced to lose friends or suffer any sort of social harm.
In this way, the child-man is perhaps the ultimate in consequence-free dating. You can be unafraid to take the lead, be yourself, and explore your own interests in tandem with them. The quality young gentleman wants to learn how to be a better man, a better boyfriend, a better lover and companion.
If one approaches you at a bar or an event, there's a reasonably high chance that he's interested in you for you, not because he thinks you're an oversexed Mrs. Robinson. The reason I asked the aforementioned older woman out was because I thought she was genuinely interesting and wanted to spend more time with her. I'm not the only younger guy who wants emotionally mature and respectful relationships, even when they're casual flings.
The Misnomer of the “Serious Relationship”
I concede that in many circumstances, a serious long-term relationship might not be the outcome with a younger man. But I would dispute the idea that if a relationship isn't "serious," it shouldn't be pursued. Who among us is capable of predicting with accuracy, from a single chance encounter, the proper partner for life? I empathize with wanting to settle down, have a companion, feel loved and supported. But we all also want someone to talk to, share a bed with, watch movies and bullshit and play cards and drink wine with. Young men like these things, too! And make no mistake: There are many men in their thirties and forties who have never outgrown their childish obsessions, foibles, and habits. Age ain't nothing but a number.
“Busy with friend in town, etc.”
The worst possible thing you can do when approached by a younger man is give him a vague excuse or blow-off. There's plenty of reasonable, justified complaining about the behavior of men of my generation (and younger men in general). One way to address this problem is by being forthcoming about the exact things that are a turnoff or a deal-breaker for you. I was ultimately turned down by the older lady I mentioned, and I wasn't given a reason. Be honest and open with your suitor; don't ignore his texts, just tell him you're not interested in dating a younger, more immature man. Even better, give him a real reason. No one likes feeling turned down for being who he is, and no one is in control of their age.
In my experience, the younger male has a desire to please. So older women have an ability to encourage and educate that can be very powerful in steering this generation towards a more positive, feminist, understanding future. One in which there are too many quality male companions instead of too few. I don't suggest “sleeping with the enemy” in all circumstances, but the campsite rule and the adage of “each one teach one” seems to apply strongly here. I don't mind being turned down, and I certainly don't blame a highly qualified and awesome lady for setting her sights higher, but I would at the very least like to be given a fair shake. There's certainly lots more ageism directed at women, but I think we would all be wise not to become what we hate. Appropriate, joyful companionship comes in all shapes, ages, and sizes.