Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Q [7] Does the age of a character's love interest matter to you?

Personally, the age of a character's love interest does not matter to me, as long as they're both consenting adults. Some books really toe the line of what an adult actually is, so I'm going to go with 18 for the purposes of this post. How do you feel when a character's love interest is significantly younger or older than they are? Does the character's gender matter? 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27177019-here-so-far-away
Last year I read Here So Far Away by Hadley Dyer, which I really enjoyed. The main character, George, was emotionally and somewhat physically involved with an older guy. In his defense, she mislead him at the start of the book, and made him think she was older than she was. They both struggled with their feelings, but couldn't deny that they were attracted to one another. I thought the relationship between the two felt very authentic and believable. George was just shy of 18, and I believe she was old enough to make her own decisions. However, if anyone had discovered them together, there would have been severe consequences for them both (more so for him, I think). 

I thought Hadley Dyer did a wonderful job managing the minefield of their relationship, and shedding light on their emotional turmoil. There was an honesty between the two characters that was beautiful to see, and George finally found someone that she could be herself with. They spent a lot of time together trying to figure out their feelings (was it a fleeting attracting, did it have the potential to be long-lasting, was it better to ignore each other, etc.), while also keeping everything a secret. It felt realistic, and I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that have dated someone much older than themselves. George is a character they can relate to, myself included. When I was in high school, I dated a guy that was six years older than me. Looking back on it now, I regret the relationship, but not because of the age difference. The guy was a douche canoe, and I stayed with him for all the wrong reasons. 

After reading and reviewing this book, I noticed a lot of people saying they liked concept for the overall story, but they were turned off by the age difference between the two characters. There were comments that said it set a bad example for teenagers today, and that the gap made them uncomfortable. There are so many people that will refuse to read books simply because they dislike how much older one person is than the other. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31450913-the-idea-of-youAnother book I read last year was The Idea of You by Robinne Lee. It was actually recommended to me by two of my friends, so I didn't hesitate to pick it up. Unfortunately, I didn't love it as much as they did, but the story did have some merit. Solรจne was intimately involved with someone much younger than herself, and his career made it hard for them to keep their relationship a secret. They try to sneak around for awhile, because she has daughter and he doesn't like to comment on his personal life, but a slip up was inevitable. 

Once their relationship was made public, people criticized her for her age and said she was too old to be with him. First of all, thirty isn't old. Secondly, it wasn't anyone's business. They were both adults, and not just barely, but fully into adulthood, so their decisions should have been personal and private. I hated how they were scrutinized, and that people made comments about her being old enough to be his mother. 

After reading and reviewing this book, I noticed fewer comments about their age, but people still seemed uninterested in a book that had such a large age difference between two of the characters. It's like the topic is taboo, even though it's something we see every day.

Why does age matter if they're both adults that agree on the relationship? Do you think it sets a bad example? Why? Is it okay for one gender to date an older person and not the other? Let me know what you think!

40 comments:

  1. If it's like 16 and 30, then yeah, it would bother me. But adults, both of them? Nah, well, as long as it wasn't like 20 and 90 or something LOL!

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    1. In Here So Far Away, George was nearly 18 and Francis was in his 20's. It wasn't a huge gap, but it was significant. Since she wasn't legally an adult, he could have gotten into a lot of trouble over their relationship. He's supposed to be more responsible because he's older, but George is capable of making her own decisions. She's still young, yes, but she knows the difference between right and wrong, and she knows her choices have consequences.

      Hah! A 70+ year age difference would be a little weird. ;)

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  2. Great discussion! Like you I think an age difference is fine as long as they're both consenting adults and one half of the relationship doesn't hold any kind of power over the other, such as a teacher/student relationship. I don't mind teacher/apprentice relationships in fantasy, I actually quite like them, but in a contemporary setting it's just not okay when that power dynamic is there. I'd also really like to read more stories with older women and younger men, because I feel like I've seen so many relationships where it's the other way around.

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    1. I think you make a really good point! In a relationship, one person doesn't need to hold any kind of power over the other. It makes you question the motives of the person with the power, regardless of what their intentions are. A teacher is also supposed to help guide students, and becoming intimately involved with them only adds confusion.

      Do you have any recs for a teacher/apprentice fantasy? I don't think I've read one of those! However, I do recall a wizard teaching someone how to use their skills, and they became intimately involved, but I cannot remember the book!

      Yes! I would love to read books about women in their 30's or 40's dating men in their 20's (or something like that). It's more difficult when children are involved, but not impossible.

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  3. Great topic. I don't really mind age differences in romances, as long as they are both adults as you say. I read a lot of m/m romance and this doesn't really seem to bother a lot of readers, the age gap romance. I can see why it might bother some people, but I think it's something you just have to try and see what you think. Just because YOU might not date someone way older or way younger than you doesn't mean it doesn't work for others.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Truth. I try to be objective when I read, because books can be enjoyable even if I don't agree with a character's decisions. No two people are the same, and we shouldn't expect fictional characters to make the same choices we would. Books give us an opportunity to experience things we might not on our own, and view the world through a different lens. I love all the experiences I've had through other people's stories!

      I think readers should be more open-minded and accepting of the choices others make (especially in books). However, there are a lot of people that will refuse to acknowledge books that discuss topics they don't agree with, or that make them uncomfortable. It's sad. I might not date a rockstar that's ten years younger than me, but it's fun to read about! ;)

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  4. 30 is old????? Uh oh, I'm in trouble then. Like you, as long as they are consenting adults. I don't mind age gaps too much because I think age is more about how you act and feel rather than a number.

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    1. Haha! I'll be 30 this year, so I definitely don't think that's old. ;) And I totally agree! My in-laws are two of the happiest people I know, and they have a significant age difference between them. They're such a wonderful example of love! <3

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  5. I tried the Lee one but it so did not work for me. It was the audiobook and she narrated it herself, big fail.
    The age difference I could have lived with cos why shouldn't it work that way too. Two adults can do what they want

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    1. The Idea of You was okay at first, but I started to hate what the characters were doing. Adults are allowed to make mistakes, but she should have done more to keep her daughter from being blindsided. I read a copy from the library, because I'd heard mixed things about the audio. The age difference didn't bother me at all, because they were both old enough to make their own decisions. I did hate how the world saw their relationship, and that they thought it was wrong because of her age. Why couldn't he like her despite the difference?

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  6. This is such a hard question to answer. If they're both adults, at the end of the day, they're both old enough to decide things on their own. I personally don't mind it because honestly, it is their life not mine lol. I do think it is odd if someone is dating someone that is old enough to be your parent. Age is just a number, but I think it is weird to date someone 2 decades older than you. For example, I'd be dating someone that is in their 40's. I don't remember much of 9/11 but the other person would be well out of college in a career by now. By the time I'm out of high school, the other person probably has toddlers. I think people normally date around their age is because they have things in common. Then again, an 18 year old with a 38 year old is MUCH different than a 38 year old with a 58 year old. Idk. I can't explain it well haha. I just think the 18 year old would have so much to explore and discover in life, but the 38 year old has already lived the "exciting" years of his life. I hope that makes sense LOL

    Elle Inked @ Keep on Reading

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    1. It's different today, because a lot of women are choosing to focus on their careers before getting married and having children. They're already into their 30's before decided they want to look for love and a life with someone else. What if someone else already has their life figured out at a young age, and the two of them are compatible? Also, why wouldn't the younger person be able to live the "exciting" years of their life with someone else? Are you saying that the older you are, the less excitement you have in your life? I'll be 30 this year, and I've had more excitement in the last 5 years than I've had in my entire life. My husband and I have three kids, but we still make time to go to concerts and go on adventures. I think it's all about perspective and the induvial. We're all unique and want different things at different times, and a person's age shouldn't limit who they're allowed to love (as long as they're both adults).

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  7. As long as they're both over 18 then I really don't mind what age they are.

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  8. Lindsi, did your site get a makeover? It looks so good. (This could also be a testament to how infrequent my visits are. Dang it). As for the topic of discussion here, I tend to read young adult fiction. Most of the books I read involve younger adults--usually sixteen. For me, I like stories where the physicality of things is downplayed a bit.So, like, one of my favorites is The Raven Boys because...the main couple can't make out because of a curse. But, you know, some romances are sweet and the author doesn't go over board: those are my favorites, too. Hm. Aside from Twilight, I don't think I have read all that many romances with huge age gaps.

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    1. No makeover! It's the same theme/layout I've always had. :) I read a lot of YA, too. I've noticed a lot of authors are starting to be more sex positive, which I think it's great. Teens have sex (there are exceptions), and I like for books to present realistic characters. I can also understand wanting to read books that fade-to-black whenever it's more than kissing, because not everyone is comfortable with touchy-feely moments.

      I loved The Raven Boys! It's one of my favorite series. Blue's curse was the worse! She had to live her entire life wondering which person she'd kill with her kiss. Maggie wrote an amazing story! Did you know there's going to be a spinoff series? I think I saw something like that!

      Hahaha -- I wasn't even thinking about Twilight! There's definitely an age gap there. ;)

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  9. People seem to have a lot of thoughts about age gap. I'm with you though. I don't mind it at all if the characters (or people in real life) are consenting adults. Regardless of gender. If people wanna talk about what sets a bad example in books, I can think of plenty of more concerning things lol.

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    1. Right?! People complain about age differences all the time, but there are sooo many more things to be concerned with. Awesome point, Kristen! <3

      Side note: It's been ages since we've spoken! How are you? Still staying up too late? ;)

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  10. This is a great discussion, Lindsi! I mostly don't have issues with age difference when both are consenting adults. I think your first example, where George is just shy of 18 should't make a difference. Close enough, IMO. I hate to admit this, because it's not fair, but I have just a niggle when the woman is older, and not older by like 5 years, because who cares about that? But I'm talking 10 or more. I think I put myself in the position, like I think about a guy 10-15 years younger than me and I just don't see it working out long-term. I think about Demi and Ashton Kutcher and I think yeah, it's fine for a while until the woman starts showing her age, and then most guys (not all) are out of there. Am I being unfair? Probably. My grandmother married a man 17 years younger, had three kids with him and he left her and the kids for another woman. So maybe that colors my view. If they can make it work and they're happy I'm thrilled! I want everyone to find love, which is of course why I'm a romance junkie. :)

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    1. Ack! If someone left my grandmother after being married and having three kids, I think I would be a little biased as well. What a dick move! Did he leave because she was older? Regardless, that stinks. I have noticed that more relationships seem to work when the male is significantly older, but not the other way around. Maybe younger guys like the idea of an older woman, until she's an OLDER woman. Hmm -- nice observations, Rachel!

      Like with George, just shy of 18 should be fine. She's nearly an adult, and can clearly think for herself. Also, adults make bad decisions, too. It's not like the world suddenly becomes clear once you've crossed a certain threshold. A day before 18, or a day after 18, doesn't really make a big difference.

      Romance junkies unite! <3 I want my HEAs!

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    2. He would work for months on end in Japan, working for Flying Tigers, which was the airline company that turned into PanAm. He found a Japanese woman that he fell for, a woman his age and then decided he was done with my grandmother. Needless to say that really hurt the family. My dad was 12 and he had two older siblings. He didn't just leave my grandmother, he left his kids, too. He didn't have much to do with his kids until much later. I hardly knew him, but never liked him since he hurt my favorite grandmother so much.

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    3. That's awful! I feel angry on your grandmother's behalf. It's one thing to leave a spouse, but something else entirely when children are involved. They're young, impressionable, and need their parents. The parents don't have to stay together, but they should both be invested in the lives of their children. Aargh -- I'm so sorry that happened to your family.

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  11. It is something that enters my mind, when I read YA. It doesn't bug me in adult books, but I often find myself wondering about the age of consent, when they have a high school aged character romantically involved with a college aged character.

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    1. I can see your point! I'm okay if the character is a senior and about to graduate, because they're basically "adults" and will soon be on their own out in the world. People in college aren't THAT much older, but I do wonder why someone in college would want to date someone in high school. Dating up I understand, but dating down gets iffy.

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  12. Well my preferred choice of genre is paranormal romance so quite frequently the age gaps are centuries rather than mere years. It's emotional age gaps that I don't understand in my fictional stories. I am a grumpy old woman in my late forties who can't abide YA/teen fiction because of the character qualities of that age. So personally I don't understand relationships with kids who are that young; I realise I was like that myself when I was in my teens and early twenties. Perhaps "adult" is a relative idea rather than something universal that we become at a certain age.

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    1. Ha! I wasn't even thinking about paranormal romances, although you're totally right! More often than not, those relationships have huuuge age gaps! ;) I know I made horrible relationship decisions as a teenager, and can look back now and see where I messed up, but I think those mistakes helped shape and define the person I am today. When I read YA, I try to look at their choices and see the bigger picture. This or that needed to happen for them to grow and move forward in their lives. Sometimes the characters are too annoying though, and I just give up. ;)

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  13. I think it really depends for me. For a book that I recently read and wrote a review for earlier this month, the character ages were 12 and 19 and um... while 7 isn't a HORRIBLE age gap, the 19-year-old had really perverted thoughts and thought the 12-year-old as a breeder rather than a person and it just bothered me and made me SUPER uncomfortable to read about. But if they were two consenting adults, on the other hand, I wouldn't be as bothered as much. Personally I wouldn't like a huge age gap, but that's just me. ๐Ÿ˜…

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    1. That age difference would make me really uncomfortable, too. Seven years isn't a huge gap when it's two adults, but no one should be having romantic or sexual thoughts about a twelve-year-old. I don't even know how someone would write about that in a fictional way.

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  14. If a book is YA and the character is under 18 dating a much older person and the story points out how problematic it is, I think that's okay, but if it makes it look like a good thing... then no, I don't think it should be an element in a YA story. I8 plus and in Adult Fiction, anything goes for me. It think it's more plausible with girls because they are usually much more mature than boys and I think they look to older age boys/men to have more in common. Great discussion post! ๐Ÿ‘✨

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    1. When a character is in high school and dating a much older person, it makes me question the older person's intentions. Why are they interested in someone that's still in high school? Obviously, they're still kids and have a lot left to learn about life. An adult would look like they were taking advantage. However, if the character is 17 or 18, and dating someone in their 20s, I feel less weird about it. They're adults (or very nearly adults), and can make more rational decisions. It really depends on the situation!

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  15. I am with you on this. As long as they are consenting adults I don't mind about their ages or age difference. I love your post.

    Gayathri @ Elgee Writes

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    1. Thanks! As long as neither character feels forced or obligated to date an older person, I think it's fine. Someone else mentioned not dating an older person in a position of power (like a teacher), and I agree with that. Even when you're in college, dating a professor is problematic and a little weird. A professor might find their students attractive, but there needs to be a line in that situation.

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  16. I think as long as both parties are over the age of consent, it doesn't really matter to me.
    However, I do question relationships where one party is a teenager (say 18) and the other is 25/26 (or older), not because it's 'creepy' or 'weird' but because they're at such different places in life... If the story were to ignore the inevitable bumps the age gap would cause then I'd have issues with it. If it takes note and addresses them then it's cool.

    As for age gaps where both are teenagers... Those need to be MUCH smaller. Like a 13yo dating a 14 yo is cool. A 13yo dating a 16/17 yo? Not so much. A 16/17yo with an 18yo? I'm mostly fine (there has been exceptions).

    As stated above, I also think girls dating guys who are a bit older is easier to read mostly because girls do generally mature faster than guys.

    This was a good discussion topic! Nothing is clear cut with this and reactions will be almost always entirely dependant on the circumstances.

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    1. I like what you said about addressing the age difference! I prefer when books highlight the pros and cons of dating someone older/younger, because that makes the story feel more realistic. When two people have a significant age difference that's not addressed, I feel less inclined to believe in it. And you're right, a teenager dating someone in their 20s would be weird because they are in such drastically different places. One is newly out of high school and venturing out into the world, while the other has been living in it for a few years. I can understand a teenager wanting to date an older person, but the opposite has never made sense to me.

      Yes! All of this depends entirely on the circumstances.

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  17. Age is irrelevant to me. One of my best friends is married to my husband's Uncle and there's a 15+ age gap. My Great Aunt is 19 years older than my Great Uncle and they've been married over 45 years. And another one of my Great Uncles is 18 years older than my Great Aunt and they've been married forever too. They actually met when she was 18 and he was 36 and had two kids, she became such an important part of their family and a mother to the two kids....which they didn't have anymore. She was the most amazing person ever to come into all of their lives, even though they were at different stages of their lives. You never know who your forever will be with. So it's hard for me to have to issues with it when I've been surrounded by it my whole life.๐Ÿ’—
    Jen @ Star-Crossed Book Blog

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    1. I love this! My in-laws have a twelve-year age difference, and they are two of the happiest people I know. I love what you said: "You never know who your forever will be with." <3 Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! :)

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  18. I'm not a fan of huge age gaps more because of a mental health aspect rather than any hang up about it. I wouldn't trash a book because of an age gap but The Idea of You didn't sound like a fun read BECAUSE the couple were trashed about it in the story. To me its certainly a legitimate bit of angst for a story and a great added tension for a romance in particular.

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    1. I totally didn't think of the mental health aspect! Thanks for bringing that up, Dani. I wish more books addressed that facet of their relationships. Yeah, I hated how awful the media and people were being about her dating a younger man. Yes, he's famous, but he's allowed to date whomever he wants to date. People were sending her threatening mail, and leaving messages for her at her place of work. She had to delete all of her social media accounts -- it was terrible. And then it impacted her daughter's life, which made everything so much worse.

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  19. I agree that if the story is about two consenting adults, age doesn't matter all that much. I'm not too keen on high-schoolers dating someone much older, but that's mostly because I think that there's a pretty big gap in life experience at that age. A few years is no big deal, though.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. I try to look at it from a parental perspective, too. I wouldn't want my teenager dating someone in their 20s. Even a freshman in high school is severely different from a senior. The mental and physical maturity between a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old is significant. However, once people are in their 20s, those three years don't make too much of a difference. It really depends on the situation and the people involved.

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