When it comes to relationships that step slightly outside ‘the norm’, we’ve come pretty far. Gone are the days where monogamy is the only option. We’ve become more open to conversations around sexuality and we’ve grown more invested in what we want as individuals.
I think we’re lucky to live in a world that doesn’t financially segregate men and women as much as it used to, meaning that marriage isn’t a financial transaction and isn’t necessary for a woman to be secure.
Despite how far we’ve come, there’s one thing that still seems to trouble people: age gaps.
We see it in the media all the time, most recently with 25-year-old actress Florence Pugh and her boyfriend Zach Braff – who is 21 years her senior.
Pugh has been open about her relationship with Braff, as well as the bullying they both received when she shared a photo of him on her Instagram last year.
“About 70% of the comments were hurling abuse, being horrid, and basically bullying someone on my page,” Florence said in an Instagram video, addressing the comments. “I will not allow that behaviour on my page.
“I’m 24 years old,” she went on. “I do not need you to tell me who I should and should not love. It is not your place, and really, it has nothing to do with you.”
In an interview with the Times, Pugh said she doesn’t believe it’s unrealistic to expect people to keep their comments on her photos positive.
“It’s so weird to me to go on to someone’s page and sh*t on it,” Florence said. “That’s so not my nature — to go and bully for the sake of bullying. It’s such an odd thing that we’ve become OK with in the past 10 years of social media.
“I don’t mind you not liking me,” she added. “That’s absolutely fine. In which case, don’t follow me.”
She continued by saying that her relationship with Braff “bugs” people, because it’s “not who they expected,” agreeing when it’s suggested that fans would rather she dated someone like her Little Women co-star and love interest, Timothée Chalamet.
“But it’s my life,” Florence said, “and I’m not doing anything to please people or to make it a better headline or story.”
One part of fandom that I’ve never quite understood is the investment in who celebrities date. Feeling the need to get involved that deeply in someone’s life is usually expected from a very close friend or family member, but certainly not someone you’ve never met.
I’m sure one argument is that people feel much closer to celebrities with social media platforms such as Instagram, where we get a closer look into someone’s day-to-day life, which makes them seem more relatable and accessible.
But I would argue that people have been caring who celebrities date for ages. The Beatles weren’t at the height of fame in an era of social media and to say that their relationships were constantly under scrutiny is an understatement.
Although I’d say it’s pretty “normal” for fans to care about who celebrities date – I mean, we all lived through the Jelena era – but to scrutinise a relationship based on an age gap is an entirely different thing.
It seems to be a universal opinion that an older man dating a younger woman means a host of negative and unhealthy things. Things such as the woman is a “gold-digger”, the man is a creep or a misogynist that only ever want women to be young and beautiful, the relationship is a novelty, or just for show.
I guess these ideas surrounding relationships with age gaps have accumulated over time, through historical events that have proven some of these things to be true. But it’s a huge generalisation to apply it to everyone in a relationship with an age gap.
Prior to the relationship I’m currently in, I always dated people older than me. I left home at a young age and was super independent. I really didn’t feel my age and I always gravitated towards people older than me for a variety of reasons. I loved our conversations, they had more meaning and depth, they appreciated similar things to me; films, books, nice wine… and they more often had a more confident sense of self and direction.
I remember going into restaurants on dates and the waiters treating us strangely. It was as though they didn’t know our relationship to one another and that made them uncomfortable.
We’re slowly evolving into a world that respects the choices of individuals. We’re also becoming more comfortable with diversity in many forms, like size diversity in fashion and diverse relationship structures, so why shouldn’t this apply to age gaps?
They say “age is just a number”, but no one seems to truly grasp that concept.
People mature at different rates. The way you look on the outside may not match who you feel you are on the inside and that is 100% okay. Love is love and only you can know who you truly feel it for, that’s not for anyone else to decide.
Power to Florence Pugh, for standing strong in her relationship and telling people how it is.