As the only straight woman within reach, I soon became the de facto dating consultant for my male friends, despite my waning expertise. But what I soon realized was that sometimes the best way to date is to go off script. We had more important things to worry about, like the alarming decay rate of our attractiveness. If we graduated without a future husband in tow, the men in our class would forgo us for younger, dumber women. She advised we start the search as early into college as possible.
Um, I thought, petting my two-years-younger boyfriend. I almost forgot about the Princeton Mom until last month, when international headlines went nuts over the new French president elect and his wife. Brigitte Trogneux met Emmanuel Macron when he was 15 and she was his year-old drama teacher, already married with three kids.
Not my ideal meet cute, but whatever — and it made me wonder: Men tend to message women significantly younger than they are. When women start conversations, they tend to message men closer to their own age.
It appears this age gap is largely driven by dudes. The older men get, the younger the women they message relative to their own age. Women, on the other hand, message and respond most often to men about their own age. Once they reach 35, women actually respond more often to younger guys.
But because men are usually the conversation starters, the older-man-younger-woman paradigm prevails. Alright, so maybe OkCupid en masse follows dating age conventions, but what about those women who want to flip the norm on its head? How difficult is it for them to date a younger man? What I found was kind of surprising. When men message women, women tend to respond most often to men around their own ages. A year-old woman will have better luck messaging a year-old man than a year-old one, according to the data.
And a year-old man is more likely to respond to a message from a year-old woman than a message from any other age group. When women make the first move, the age gap dating norm is reversed. I asked my friend Trevor, a year-old mathematician, what he made of it.
They have more interesting jobs and hobbies, and their profiles are just better… no stupid selfie-only profiles. Across all ages, straight women write shorter profiles than straight men. And then there are those year-old women who really clean up with the year-old dudes. Cindy has been dating men in their 20s for the past 15 years. Working in tech, she sometimes feels she has more in common with somethings than older men. I have no desire to have a man telling how I should be conducting my life.
But I have been on dates with guys some 10 years older, and my feelings are this: The odds are in your favor if you do.
Written and researched by Dale Markowitz. Graphics by Hanna Kim.