I was around 12 years old when puberty had just hit me. For the first time, I felt something, something unusual and a little uncanny too. As if a current of very strong force had entered my body. I didn’t know how to name it. I don’t have words for feeling even now. She was the mother of a friend. Whenever she was around, I felt the same.
At age of 14 or something, I had that feeling again. This time it was one of my teachers in my all girl’s school. This time I had a word. I was attracted. But the uncanniness was more vividly present. A) I was getting attracted to women. B) To women double my age! At the age of 16, I met the love of my life. With a woman who was 17 years older than me. That teen love ended after a while and the experience called love kept on happening to me.
Whenever playfully anyone had asked me “What’s your type?” and I replied with my choice of relationship, the answers to which were common: “Oh! Is that your type, women of your mother’s age?” I felt weird. I questioned myself. People kept on questioning me.
“Don’t you like anyone of your age?”, “Have you ever tried?”, “Are your partners paedophiles?”, “Don’t you seem like a child to them?” Or on most occasions, people have tactfully chosen to remain silent (or maybe they preferred to laugh behind my back).
the idea of a suitable partner is profoundly wrapped with the concept of age.
Until the age of 23 (my current age), I have been attracted to women who have been older than me. Being a person of small stature (always infantilized for my physical appearance), people around me have never been glad at knowing about my preferences for romantic-erotic relationships.
Once, my mother (she is in her early 60s, is aware and quite accepting of my gender-sexual identity) showed her concern about my companionship, saying “Who will be there with me in my old age as X (my supposed partner of that time) is so much older than me“?
From matrimonial sites to dating apps, the search is meant for suitable partners. How does the suitable matching for partners work? Matrimonial sites have bars of caste, religion, region, education, salary and so much more of customized options with preferences.
Dating apps provide three major preference options for age, regional location and gender. But the idea of a suitable partner is profoundly wrapped with the concept of age – the age difference, to be more precise.
The man has always been older than the woman. Popular culture has played a part in this too. Farhan Akhter, after penning beautiful romantic dynamics between Tara (an older divorcee) and Siddharth (a young, unmarried artist) in the film Dil Chahta Hai, had to eventually kill Tara as this was a love of an impossible kind.
The possibilities of love, romance, attraction and desire have been religiously internalized with the state of being young (in biological age). To the point where we never try to think if our desires are also constructed. Even with my ability to navigate through different spaces with a non-normative gender-sexual preference, the ‘intergenerational’ kind of love has always been met with a frown (even in non-normative spaces).
There have been the occasions where I tried to ignore questions. But I even faced similar questions from women I have been attracted to – as to why I have fallen for them. Along with curiosity, their questions also had a layer of insecurity within. My being younger (the difference being an average of 20 years) somehow carried the notion that I have multiple options to move away and be less committed.
These incidents pushed me hard to think about my choices. On my ways of accomplishing desire. On my ideas of attraction. I never asked myself much about my gender-sexual preferences (with the virtue of being privileged enough to understand sex-gender-sexuality as three hyphenated words).
The possibilities of love, romance, attraction and desire have been religiously internalized with being young.
But then I tried to question my way of choice. How were my desires constructed and directed? While I really gave this some deep thought, I realized it was not necessarily about a particular age group, because there were many other things I could identify as sources of attraction. I actually did not need to think at all, on why I have been (or consciously chosen to be) in relationships with women “of my mother’s age” as long as that is not creating any discomfort to me or my partners.
I also remember a friend asking me (who was quite sensitive than others so far) that, “How do you handle such a dynamics of power hierarchy which is so prominent with age difference?” Considering their question was inclined to an academic interest, I still found it problematic.
I never asked any of my Hindu and/or straight and/or able-bodied friends why did they never fall for non-Hindu and/or queer and/or disabled persons. I never asked how the dynamics of power hierarchy work among my cis-trans friends who are couples. I believe that asking questions about people’s choices is never a good/sensitive practice.
Though I understand that it is the constructed nature of desire that has made people ask questions about other’s choices, but it hurts sometimes. It leads to doubting oneself at times. Which also makes me afraid of being uncomfortable in my own skin! But the recurrent questions have made me think time and again, how the graph of acceptability can shift even in the zones of breaking barriers.
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