Ask Jono: I Keep Liking Younger Guys!
I adapted the rap I made up in fourth grade for you:
Yo, yo, yo, my name's Jono.
I live in (insert place) where there is some (isn't any?) snow.
I'm so cool. I already know.
You have a question and I'll answer below.
See what I did there? (By the way, you're welcome for that beautiful work of art. Haha!)
Anyway, I have an issue. I always end up liking guys that are younger than me. I've liked two guys who were 2 years younger than me and then there was that unfortunate circumstance where I liked a guy 3 years younger. Ugh! The judgement that come from liking a freshman when you're a senior! So everyone always says that age doesn't matter and people get married when they are 10 years apart, but in high school it totally does. I feel like guys get scared off by older girls. I also feel like they don't consider me a potential girlfriend candidate. Are these assumptions true? Additionally, people at my school think badly of couples with large age gaps. How should I deal with that if I ever happened to date someone younger than me?
Thank you so much!
I can't claim I know exactly what you're dealing with, Sparkler. And I'm partially to blame for never having this problem. Well, not me specifically, but dudes at large. Guys simply aren't judged the same way for this type of thing. I don't want go on a gender politics tangent here and blame all of your woes on the Boyful Manocracy, but it's obviously unfair that you feel judged for dating someone slightly younger while I can basically date a gorilla without anyone batting an eye (this is obviously just a fanciful example because we both know I could probably not get a gorilla to return my calls).
You're right about the age gap mattering more in high school than it does afterward, simply because it's a more meaningful gap at this point in your life; girls hit adolescence sooner than guys, and a lot of freshman dudes are about as adult as two children wearing a trenchcoat so they can sneak into a movie. I doubt that's where this stigma comes from, but the fact that you're comparatively more mature is a point to consider (if you ask a freshman guy about his plans for the future, he'll say something like "Ummm... doctor?" but he will secretly be picturing an anime man wielding a katana). I'm not saying that people at your school are right to look down on couples with disparate ages—there's nothing categorically wrong with dating people slightly older or younger than yourself—I'm just warning you that younger guys still have a buttload of things to figure out about the world. Heck, most of them don't even develop an adult sense of empathy until two years after you do.
Things change so rapidly when you're young that you might lack common ground if you veer too far outside your age range; it can feel weird dating someone who's looking ahead to college and thinking about her future career when you're still acclimating to high school and can't even drive yet.
One thing I can tell you is that it’s unlikely a high school dude is scared off by your age. Guys are scared of lots of things—rejection, approaching girls, pterodactyls—but the actual number that represents your age is irrelevant. Now, some of the that comes with your age can be intimidating; being a senior amongst freshmen gives you a confidence and maturity that could easily make a dorky freshdude unlikely to approach you. Not that there's anything wrong with confidence itself (on the contrary, all of the things are right with it), but if you feel like you're scaring off younger guys, a confidence gap might be the problem. But this is the easy half of your issue; all you have to do make it abundantly clear that you like the dude. Most of the time, if a guy reciprocates your interest, he just needs some painfully obvious signs that you'll entertain his bumbling advances instead of laughing in his face.
As for the other half of your problem—people judging you for dating someone younger—that's a bit tougher. I wish I could offer you some creative solution here, like having the guy read the Wall Street Journal and complain loudly about cell phones until people assume he's old, but I don't see any easy way around this. All I can tell you is that people's criticism is more likely to bother you if you partially agree with it; if you're confident that you and some dude are right for each other despite the fact that you're a couple years apart, then commit to that and don't let anyone dissuade you. I know this sounds like very generic, boilerplate advice, and that next I'm going to tell you to shoot for yourself and believe in the moon, but it's the only real answer when your question is about how other people perceive you (especially when the thing they're perceiving is this inconsequential). If you were dating a literal baby, we'd have something to talk about, but if you're a few years apart and you're both equally mature, it's nobody else's concern.