This post is likely to be somewhat controversial. I am merely providing advice from my own experience, as a person in my early twenties presenting female who dated mostly men; I recognize that other people’s experience is different. However, I think that experiences like mine tend to be underrepresented in these discussions, which leads to a lot of absolutely silly discourse like “all thirtysomethings who date people in their early twenties are exploitative and trying to take advantage.” In my experience, dating men who are five to ten years older than you is an excellent life decision with many benefits.

Many of the benefits were individual to me. For instance, I found that older people have social lives that are less monomaniacally consumed by drinking, which I have a phobia of. But some benefits were more general.

First, people who are older than me have more life experience. There are a lot of things you don’t necessarily learn until you’re out on your own: how to fix a toilet, how to dress for a job interview, how to lift weights, how to pay your taxes. Whenever I faced one of those life problems, I simply asked a couple of my boyfriends (to get a good spread of different opinions), who explained it to me. In addition, older people often have excellent life advice, such as “don’t go to grad school”. (Actually, in my experience, it was mostly “don’t go to grad school.”)

Second– and I know this may sound shallow– they have money. Like a lot of people in their early twenties, I was flat broke. It doesn’t require having a lot of money to have more money than a college student; in fact, I noticed this advantage when I was dating someone with a job at Publix, who could do things like “take me out to a nice meal to celebrate passing my classes” (!) and “buy me a book that I’d been wanting but couldn’t afford” (!!). I got several nice vacations out of having long-distance relationships with older men who could buy me plane tickets and put me up in their houses. Unfortunately, about half of them were to Livonia, Michigan, which is not a place that any reasonable human being would want to spend five minutes, but I suppose it’s the thought that counts.

Third, people who are older tend to be more likely to have their shit together. This isn’t a 100% thing– some people can survive being dysfunctional for decades, and it’s not exactly uncommon for people to have a traumatic experience or a nervous breakdown– and certainly younger people can have their shit together. But older people, in my experience, tend to be more self-aware and have more functional coping mechanisms for the ways that their brains don’t work. Personally, as a person with serious mental health issues, I found it a great comfort to be the biggest fuckup in my relationship. When I dated people who were are fucked up as I was, we tended to trigger each other and wind up in huge clusterfucks. When I dated people who had handled their shit, it was more like “hm, I notice I’m feeling triggered. I’m going to tap out and we can talk about this later.”

There is one caution I’d like to provide people in their early twenties looking to date older men. In addition to the ordinary red flags you screen for, be careful to avoid men with a pattern of dating significantly younger women; while one or two may be a coincidence, if he has dated five or six women and not one of them is his own age, tread with caution. The best-case scenario is that, like many men, he prefers the appearance of women in their early twenties; however, unlike most men, he has chosen to prioritize appearance in his dating life to the exclusion of all else, which says poor things about his maturity. The worst-case scenario is that he’s aware of younger women’s lack of relationship experience and he wishes to use that to take advantage of you. Polyamory is helpful for screening, because you can meet his other partners.