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No, You’re Not Mature

by Donaelle Benoit

I spent much of my weekend obsessing over the short film by Taylor Swift for her song “All Too Well.” I could not help but notice that Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink, who star in the short film, have amazing chemistry as costars.

The opening minute unfolds as O’Brien’s character gives Sink a piggyback ride through the forest. It is beautiful and romantic but haunting.

Sink is 19 while O’Brien is 30, and both look their age. Her babyface contrasts his scruffy neckbeard and weariness. The casting was very fitting for a song about Swift’s doomed relationship with an older man when she was around Sink’s age.

May through December romances are not inherently wrong when the people involved are of a certain age. For example, I do not have a problem with someone in their 30s marrying or dating someone in their 40s.

However, I do not believe people know what they are getting themselves into when they are 18, 19 or 20 years old and dating someone at least 10 years older.

I do not buy the excuse that a teenager should have the equivalent life experience and maturity to match an older partner. The same idea applies to a person who has gone through childhood trauma and seeks out role models in their relationships.

These teenagers need therapy and support from professionals, not an older person looking for an easy target.

What does a 30-year-old find attractive about someone who just graduated high school? Is it all out of lust? Is it the lack of wrinkles and stretch marks associated with youth that they want?

Lauren Bacall, the classic Hollywood actress, began dating fellow actor Humphrey Bogart when she was 19 and he was 44. She revealed in her memoir how she received threatening phone calls from his estranged wife and how his alcoholism led to her frequently picking him up at mysterious locations in the middle of the night during inclement weather.

No 19-year-old should have to deal with that kind of stress in their life. An older woman should not either, but I would expect her to have the emotional capacity and coping skills to manage.

When you are a teenager, your feelings amplify. Any moment could be the end of your world.

I think Bogart loved the idea of Bacall as his student whom he could mold into a big star. He took advantage of her curiosity and admiration.

When we turn 18, we do not become adults. We enter limbo. We are not young enough to get away with blissful ignorance but we are not old enough to be taken seriously. We are still impressionable molds who do not know everything.

Maybe we will never know everything, but at 18, we know less about ourselves and our wants than we will in the future.

But limbo is not a bad or scary place. It is where you develop, and you should develop with like-minded people who are in the same stages of life as you.

It is not a badge of honor when the person who wants to sleep with you says, “Wow. You’re so mature for your age.” It is weird, creepy and a little condescending.

It is easy to let an older individual influence you into doing things you may not be comfortable with because of this familiar idea in society that equates old age with wisdom. Being the younger partner would make one insecure, feeling as if the older partner knows what is best for them.

This level of control and power could potentially lead to domestic violence. When I was 18, I did not have a car, I still lived with my parents and I was trying to gain work experience. Dating an older man would have been like having a second father.

If you are reading this, and you happen to be in this situation right now, just make sure that you are not isolated. Isolation is the first step in fostering an abusive environment.

Maintain friendships with people your age and see your family regularly. Make sure you have your interests, hobbies and identity outside of your relationship. If you are a college student, getting involved with campus activities will make it harder for your partner to control you and make decisions for you.

Remember to set boundaries. Do not commit to anything you are not ready for or unsure about.

Finally, pay attention to the language your partner uses toward you. If your partner is always scolding you and making you feel unintelligent, then maybe it is time to let them go.

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