Why I refuse to date an older man

If I could prolong my time as a young adult by, say, 2.3 years, here is a list of things I would like to do.

Go to more parties. Preferably wild parties that I can think about, years later, at mild parties.

Have more romantic partners.

Get a bit higher up the career ladder a bit earlier on. That would probably boost my earnings, giving me more financial security.

I could use that money to go to more parties, get a membership to a fancy gym and maybe even meet a romantic partner on the ab machines.

Most men who date women do not fantasise about what they would do if they had these bonus years - they simply get them.

We are socialised into thinking that men are like wine - they get better with time. Women are like cheese - they get blue veins and start to stink.

Do I sound angry? Maybe, but I am also scared.

In two-thirds of heterosexual couples, the man is at least a year older than his partner. The average age difference is 2.3 years, according to the Census Bureau.

I know what you are thinking: "What's dating got to do with your weird list?"

You are right, in theory. Life does not stop once you settle down, so you could complete your own 2.3-year list regardless of your relationship status.

But in reality, most couples who commit long-term end up having children, so the age gap carries over into parenthood.

The average age of a new dad in the United States is 31, compared with 26 for a new mum.

Typically, becoming a parent has an enormous impact on your health, career and ability to party.

It is already bad enough that those burdens are more likely to be shouldered by mothers.

The fact that women end the childless part of their lives earlier than their male partners is just salt in the wound.

And looking even further down the line, the bigger the age difference, the more likely it will be women who take care of their male partners in old age.

Outraged at these numbers, I send my mum a text outlining my plans to find a much younger man.

But then I change tactics and organise a date with a fellow 30-year-old.

He waits in the garden of a Brooklyn bar while I get us two spicy margaritas. When I come back, I ask him what he is looking for.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, do you want something serious?"

Leaning back in the sunlight, he smiles and says: "Oh, no, I don't think so. I'm not in a rush."

My eyes fall on his sleeveless T-shirt. I imagine pouring my drink on it.

I know I am not a fun first date.

I want to ask prospective partners whether they want to become parents and when - and excuse me? You have not given it much thought? A shrug from a man who already has a couple of grey hairs strikes me as wild arrogance.

This arrogance has, as I see it, two main causes - one, a belief that their spermatozoa are good for a very long time; and, two, a belief that they could get a younger woman.

Your sperm is not immortal. A study that tracked 8,559 pregnancies found that "conception during a 12-month period was 30 per cent less likely for men over age 40 as compared with men younger than age 30".

Men are much more fooled when it comes to that second belief - that they could get a younger woman if they wanted to.

Dating site OkCupid's researchers found that most conversations take place between an older man and a younger woman and, in almost half of them, the age gap is at least five years.

That same OkCupid data shows that even when men are in their late 40s, they carry on looking at the profiles of women aged 20 to 24.

Women, by contrast, look at older men's profiles as they get older.

Where do 50-year-old men get this strange impression that they could date a 23-year-old? Perhaps it is their TV screens.

When New York magazine looked at the careers of 10 leading men, it found that as they aged, their onscreen love interests did not.

Take, for instance, Liam Neeson. In 1990, he appeared alongside Frances McDormand, who was five years younger than him.

By the time he starred in Third Person in 2013, the 61-year-old's lover was played by 29-year-old Olivia Wilde.

We are socialised into thinking that men are like wine - they get better with time. Women are like cheese - they get blue veins and start to stink.

Do I sound angry?

Maybe, but I am also scared. I inspect my body when I step out of the shower and I can see the skin loosening above my knees.

I do not want to choose between being single and dating a much older man with much older knees.

I think, maybe, I could deal with dying if the person I love is creaking along at the same rate I am.

So, this is where I ask for help from other single women seeking men.

Sign a pledge with me - let's end this scourge once and for all by committing to contemporaries.

I understand your reluctance.

Perhaps we have dipped a toe in the younger male waters and been burnt by the sleeveless shirts, the sheetless beds, the unbridled selfishness.

But we must persevere. If not for ourselves, then for one another.

I hereby swear that I will not take an eligible older man out of the dating pool - to do so would be to slap future-me in the face, but it would also signal to men my age that it is okay, you have time.

Time is too precious to donate - so do not give away 2.3 years of it.


• Mona Chalabi is an illustrator.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 22, 2017, with the headline 'Why I refuse to date an older man'. Print Edition | Subscribe