Ericka Alston Buck speaks on the “May-September” romances and their importance in an age-obsessed dating world. (AFRO file photo)

By Ericka Alston Buck,
Special to the AFRO

What’s a “May-September” romance, you ask? Well, it’s not a calendar thing, but rather a reference to romantic relationships where there’s a considerable age difference between partners. 

I don’t particularly like the term “cougar” but for the sake of this article, let’s roll with it! 

A cougar is the “September” in a “May-September” romance.

In a world where love knows no bounds, these relationships have become a celebrated phenomenon for men. Lately, however, I’ve decided to date younger–and I’m loving it.

I’ll be 53 in December– he’s 41.

Prior to my current May-September romance, there was the 31 year-old I met at the Teachers Union Holiday Party and the 37-year-old doctor that I dated for a few months. Both were fun, but the connection had no-real staying power.  

If you’re considering dipping your toes into the sea of romance with someone significantly younger, or if you’re an older woman contemplating becoming a fabulous cougar, I’m here to help push you to take the leap. 

But first, understand that May-September romances aren’t all rainbows and butterflies. They do come with their unique set of challenges, especially for the older woman in the romance.  Society might raise an eyebrow or two and you could be at different stages in your life, the notion that perhaps the relationship is financial in nature, leaving some to assume that there is some gain for the younger party in the relationship outside of authentic feelings and emotions. 

For me, since dating younger, I’ve found it challenging to return to dating guys my age, stuck in their ways and single for a reason. I believe that, with a little effort and a pinch of humor, you can make it work – maybe even better than couples without an age gap.

Right after a name and the city of residence or hometown, most online dating apps want users to put their age on full display. 

When men who are significantly younger than I “swipe right” on a device to show interest in my profile, they often immediately follow up with a message, asking if my age is correct?  I’ve never pursued a younger man, each has approached me, either in person, like “Teacher’s Union” or online, like both “Dr. 37” and the person that I am currently dating. 

My profile clearly reads that I am committed more than ever to finding my person, thus seeking a long-term relationship. 

When I began intentionally dating, I became brutally honest with myself about my non-negotiables, my likes and dislikes and what it is that I actually want. You should start by answering the same for yourself before inviting someone into your indecisiveness and unwillingness to commit. 

Embrace your inner cougar

For older women seeking companionship, a sexual relationship and a fun dating experience, the term “cougar” has taken on a whole new meaning. Being a cougar can be an exhilarating adventure. You get to explore the dating world with a fresh perspective and an air of confidence that only comes with age.

Why younger works for me

Marriage is not my absolute end game. I do not date men who are significantly younger than I am, with no children. Depending on how young that person is, they may ultimately want to marry and experience parenthood– and those days are over for me! 

I do however seek long-term, committed and monogamous relationships, but that doesn’t necessarily end at the altar for me. I want to grow and build and accomplish goals together, I want to have fun, I want to experience new things through a different lens and a different perspective and someone a decade younger sees the world differently than I do.

I also want everything to work in the bedroom– without medical interventions or assistance– younger is definitely good for this aspect of the relationship and most importantly companionship. I may very well be the one that is more established, cultured, with a broader network, more reach and capacity, more disposable income and capable of traveling, but most experiences are just more meaningful when shared with someone. That said, I seek my person to share life with and however we decide that looks for us. 

Cougar perks

Confidence. Cougars exude confidence and know what they want. There’s no time for silly games or beating around the bush.

Independence. Cougars often have their lives together, which can be a massive turn-on for their younger counterparts. We also enjoy our personal downtime, privacy and are less needy with time and attention. My new guy lives in Philadelphia, our time apart and away provides the right amount of space and time to miss him. Missing him is important to me. 

Energy. Contrary to the stereotype of older folks slowing down, cougars often have more energy and zest for life than their younger partners. My social life is extremely more active than his! 

Experience. Cougars bring a wealth of life experience to the table, making for engaging conversations and valuable insights. Every now and then, you meet an old soul capable of keeping you on the phone for hours and you’re not the smartest person in the room.  I love it. 

Adventure. Dating a younger partner can reignite the spirit of adventure. Whether it’s trying new cuisines, exploring an exotic destination, or spending time together to map out new dreams, goals and future aspirations– cougars are up for the ride.

When navigating the age gap, you can decide to embrace your inner cougar or embark on a May-September romance. How do you navigate the age gap with style and humor?

Communicate openly– every relationship thrives on good communication. Be honest about your expectations, concerns and dreams. Use humor to lighten the mood when discussing any challenges related to the age gap. 

Build your connection by finding common ground and exploring shared interests. 

Learn from each other. Age is just a number– but it can also be a source of valuable knowledge. Learn from each other’s life experiences, challenges and triumphs. It’s a fantastic way to grow together.

Stay true to your needs, whether you’re seeking companionship, love or a sizzling sexual relationship, be clear about your desires. 

Ignore the naysayers, don’t let societal judgments or stereotypes get under your skin. Be proud of your unique relationship and walk hand in hand with absolute confidence.

Stay young at heart. Aging is inevitable, but you can stay young at heart. Embrace new experiences, keep an open mind and enjoy the journey. 

I don’t remember the last person that I talked to 20 times a day and looked forward to every call. Having new dreams and goals to share, while being the first person that he speaks to in the morning and the last at night, is refreshing. 

In the world of May-September romances, and the joy of being a cougar, age is just a number. Love doesn’t care about the digits on your birth certificate; it cares about the connection you share. So, whether you’re a proud cougar or part of a thrilling age-gap duo, embrace the adventure with open hearts, humor, and a zest for life. After all, love is ageless, and every laugh is a testament to the beauty of your unique journey together. Roar like a cougar, and let love be your destination!  I’m excited.

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