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Which makes sense — in the course of 24 months, I transformed from a college senior who'd never lived on my own and subsisted primarily on bagels stolen from the school cafeteria to a financially independent adult who worked a serious job and subsisted primarily on bagels stolen from work.I felt like I was racking up new life milestones every day, and couldn't imagine relating to anyone younger than me — and so I became fixated on dating older guys, because I thought it was the only way I could find someone who would be mature enough to make me happy.But this kind of thinking conflates practical responsibility with emotional maturity — which isn't really accurate.We might think that certain concrete markers of adulthood — a prestigious job; a working knowledge of personal finance; properly assembled Ikea furniture —signify a related degree of emotional maturity.In our culture, dating an older partner is often seen as a status symbol for younger women — we're often told that older partners will be more financially and emotionally stable, which is why being courted by an older partner is often seen as a compliment, a confirmation that you, indeed, have your act together and are desirable.I also had a lot of friends who couldn't believe how dumb I was — didn't I remember how difficult it was to get a guy to commit at age 24? Of course, I didn't "go through that again," and five years into our relationship, no one really gives a sh*t about how old either of us are.But the experience has made me think about how women are discouraged from dating younger men — especially women in their twenties.

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Although the idea of a "cougar" who dates much younger men has a certain cultural cachet, being a woman in your twenties who simply chooses a partner who's a bit younger is often viewed as weird, desperate, or deluded — basically, anything besides what it is, which is totally normal.People have a much easier time, it seems, getting on board with the idea of a woman taking a younger partner for purely sexual reasons than they do with the idea of a woman in a serious relationship with a younger partner.

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