Stephanie is a sophomore in high school residing in suburban New Jersey. She loves free-writing and dreams of traveling the world.Adult couples vary in age all the time. Look at Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher – the two are fifteen years apart and happily married. I bet your parents have an age gap, too, even if it’s just a small one. In fact, it’s usually just a coincidence when two adults date and happen to be the same age. People tend to choose their partners based on compatibility, not what year they were born in…unless of course, like me, you’re a teenager.
As if we had enough limitations. Dating takes on a whole new perspective when you’re a teen, especially if you’re going out with someone that’s older or younger than you. Ever seen a fifteen-year-old girl dating a senior in high school and wonder how that relationship could ever work? Is it weird, out of line? Politically incorrect? Or, on the contrary, is it completely normal? Can girls and guys in high school date even if they’re not in the same grade?
I’ve seen it happen all the time. My high school is full of gossip-hungry animals; everyone pretty much knows who’s dating who within an hour of the declaration of the relationship. I know eighteen-year olds that have taken freshmen to their senior prom, girls that have cheated on their boyfriends with older guys, and a tenth grader that spent his sophomore year dating and flirting with freshmen girls. A friend of mine in eighth grade went out with a seventh grader for a couple of months (why kids even bother to date in middle school is altogether baffling to me). In the adult world, all of this would be OK – a few years here and there is nothing when it comes to dating and differences in age. But it’s a whole other story when teens are brought into the picture! A difference in one year is all it takes to create tensions in high school relationships.
A sixteen year-old and a seventeen-year-old may have two totally different perspectives on where they are and want to be in life. The seventeen-year-old is one year away from being considered legal. Maybe she just got her driver’s license and can now fully commit to a part-time job. She’s probably excited to be driving around by herself, too – now she can drive to a friend’s house or a party without begging for a ride from mom. Now that she’s a junior, she’s probably interested in taking the SATs and is getting serious about looking for colleges that offer courses in business management, her dream job. In addition to all of that, she’s making plans for junior prom and is really excited to be approaching her last and most exciting year of high school: senior year! It’s great to feel so independent and ready to take on the world for all it has to offer.
The sixteen-year-old, on the other hand, is concerned with other things. After all, he was just a freshman last year – he’s just getting the hang of how things are done in high school. Now he’s planning on getting more involved with sports and clubs than he was last year, and is planning on taking driver’s ed to get his permit. Every now and then he still depends on mom and dad to buy him things and drive him where he needs to go. He may not be looking into different types of continuing education, and he’s not yet sure if he even wants to go to college. The strangest thing he’s getting used to at the moment is how his peers are maturing. He’s really a teenager now and is learning to take responsibility for his actions.
These two kids could be madly in love, but the relationship could still be awkward. Their lives are completely different. It’s hard to relate to someone who can’t yet fully understand what you’re going through.
Does this mean that these types of relationships can’t work? Not at all. Personally, I think that teenagers dating older/younger teens is fine. People do not mature with age – they mature with experience. If a younger girl and an older guy consider themselves to be equally mature, then I think their relationship has a chance of working out. In other words, don’t date an upperclassman just so you can get attention and be popular with your friends. (And if you do anyway, I wouldn’t expect that relationship to go very far.) And vice versa: don’t date an underclassman to look tough and show your friends that you can get whoever you want. That older guy may be the hottest stud since John Krasinski (Don’t laugh, girls, watch a few episodes of The Office. If you don’t fall in love with him, then schedule a check-up with your doctor because you may be crazy) but he may also be bad news for you. If he has a license and you don’t, will he be okay with always having to pick you up and drive you home to hang out? How often will you be able to spend time together if he has a job? Is he going away to college? Partying when you aren’t allowed to? What if you’ve made the decision to be sexually active? If he’s eighteen and you’re a minor, take into consideration that it may be illegal to have sex with this guy. Most of all, consider your parents. Would they even allow you to date someone who’s older than you?
I have plenty of older and younger friends. And hey, I’ll admit it, I’m guilty – I’ve been interested in guys that were one or two years older than me. Nothing ever happened, but it certainly got me thinking about the situation. If you’re a teen and feel you’re ready to date, take the time to think about your values and what you think is right in relationships before you jump into one. Teens: ask your parents how they feel about you dating someone a little older or younger. Parents: bring the topic up with your kids or simply mull over whether you’d allow your children to date guys or girls of a different age.
You don’t have to make any immediate decisions. You don’t have to rush into a relationship or rush to get out of one, and you certainly don’t have to rush to be mature. But after all the stress, sweat, tears, and heartaches, know there will be that one moment – that one surge, that one rush of feeling, whether it’s for just minutes or years – when you know where you are in your life, relationship or not. And that, my dears, is the best rush of all