My boyfriend is full of surprises. He’s equal parts rock star, Prince Charming and a ridiculous nerd. He treats me like a queen, even though I repeatedly insist otherwise, and makes me laugh until my sides hurt. He’s also 16 years older than me, and black.
I’m well aware of the assumptions being made. I have daddy issues, he has money, or there must be some other shallow fetish at play. If not, then I must be settling, because clearly the only older men worth dating are George Clooney clones. The really negative stuff doesn’t reach my ears, but I’ve overheard enough nasty conversations about similar relationships to know what some people are really thinking.
I couldn’t care less.
Nothing about this pairing was deliberate, in fact it developed about as naturally as it could. Ron was my singing teacher, and one of my closest friends. Once I started falling for him, I realized I didn’t know how old he was, and I couldn’t seem to find the right moment to ask.
On one of our first dates, as we were carded for our beers, he asked to see my license photo. We traded, and my eyes went straight to his birth year: 1970. I was mortified when I did the math. He looked great for his age, but he was a lot older than I had guessed. Was this a deal breaker?
As the night went on, I decided that it was not. On the surface we were opposites, but at the core we were such a perfect match that I had to see it through. I will never regret throwing that stigma out the window.
My family adores Ron. The color of his skin was never an issue, despite his being the first black person anyone in my patently caucasian family has dated. For Ron, the warm welcome was unfamiliar territory. His last two relationships both ended because the girlfriend’s family refused to accept him. They never even met, but they knew he was black and that was enough. Their loss was our gain.
There has been some talk of marriage, and when the time comes, there is no one I would rather take that step with. I’m grateful that we have the option. Interracial marriage was illegal in many states until 1967, when the Supreme Court finally declared the bans to be unconstitutional. Mixed-race marriages have been on the rise ever since.
Fortunately we won’t have to fly to another state just to walk down the aisle, but many couples still don’t have that luxury. Nearly 50 years after that court ruling, same-sex couples are still fighting for the right to marry who they love.
We’ve come a long way since the civil rights movement, but prejudice is far from extinct. It may have departed from most of our laws, but it still lingers in the silent judgements we all make about people we don’t even know.
If you wouldn’t date or marry someone of the same gender, or outside your own race, ethnicity, generation, religion, political party or income bracket, that’s perfectly fine. What you can’t do is expect everyone else to do the same. Some people are bored by the idea of being in a relationship with someone so similar they could be siblings.
Dating someone who differs greatly from yourself is an opportunity to learn from each other and grow together. We live in a brilliantly diverse society, and allowing others the freedom to live and love as they choose is just the kind of liberty we should be known for.