What’s the Big Deal when Age is Just a Number?

By now, almost everyone has heard about the film Glorious, starring Angel Aquino and Tony Labrusca. The film follows the challenges and love story of Aquino’s character Glory, who is in her 50’s, and a man in his 20’s named Niko, played by Labrusca.

With the unconventional relationship caused by the age gap of the two characters, the film has garnered mass attention, especially online; the trailer itself has already reached more than a million views on Youtube in less than a span of one week.

Several entertainment personalities have also posted about their opinions on the movie, one of which is Broadway star and singer Ms. Lea Salonga. She posted on her Facebook page her support for the film and encouraged discussion on the taboo relationship of older women and younger men. Other netizens are also tweeting their support and excitement for the film and its cast, as this concept has not been done before in Philippine cinema, although it happens in reality. This leads me to question why this kind of relationship is a sensitive and taboo topic to talk about, then.

Why does it matter so much when an older woman gets into a relationship with a younger man? Why is this kind of relationship often connoted negatively and is something to be frowned upon by society when in reality such relationships exist? People have also negatively coined the term “cougar” for women who prefer younger men.

Judgment on this kind of relationship does not only occur in the Philippines, however. There are a lot of stigma when it comes to women dating men younger than them, often regarding it as a mid-life crisis causing a “boy toy” phase or the guy having “mommy issues”.
However, over the years, this kind of relationship has been normalized, most especially in Western countries. Back in 2005, Hollywood stars Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, who is 16 years older, announced their marriage. They were met with a lot of criticism from the public and were even given death sentences on their relationship, saying that it would not last. Other known personalities who are publicly showing their younger partners are singers Shakira, Madonna, and supermodel Heidi Klum.

Now back here in the Philippines, you will not see a lot of female personalities dating a significantly younger man although there are a number of them. Queen of All Media Kris Aquino’s marriage with basketball player James Yap was a big talk of the town, with their 11- year age gap, although their relationship ended soon after the latter’s infidelity.

Celebrity doctors Vicki Belo and Hayden Kho’s 23-year age gap has also been infamous, scandals aside. Despite the challenges though, they have created a happy family and introduced their child Scarlet Snow back in 2016.

With all of these, the public were so quick to consider it as scandalous and humiliating, creating negative speculations and snide remarks. But when you look at relationships in which the man is significantly older than their partner, people seem to let it slide. There would be a few

unsolicited remarks, however, aimed towards the woman but it would not be as scandalous as to when the relationship is the other way around.

We may blame—for lack of a better term—the stigma on the #ToxicFilipinoCulture, as millennial netizens say, or the country’s conservative roots. Although such relationship has already been normalized in other parts of the world, there are still a number of Filipinos who are uncomfortable with seeing a relationship with a significant age gap.

Thinking about this issue and the cause of this stigma, however, I can’t help but believe that perhaps it is because patriarchy was hugely instilled in our culture for the longest time.

Since the colonial era, women were taught to be submissive and dependent on their male partners for almost every aspect of their lives, especially when it comes to livelihood and finances; women were conditioned to be taken care of.

It is also naturally acceptable for a woman to end up marrying a much older man back then (this is also not unusual in Western culture). We even grew up with the notion that if women are past their prime, they’re deemed ineligible for marriage. And so, we were conditioned to get married and start a family while we are young or at least before we reach the age of 30.

However, times have changed and more people are open and supportive to the idea of an older woman getting together with a younger man, as witnessed through the movie trailer’s positive feedback on social media.
Furthermore, there are a lot of stories from couples with huge age difference, where men state that they appreciate older women more because of their emotional maturity and drive. Meanwhile, some women state that their preference for younger men are due to their youthful energy and they tend to have less baggage than older men. Another thing to note is that unlike older successful men who prefer to be in control, younger men are “more likely to treat women equally” which is more appealing to the ambitious, modern woman.

No matter what the case for this kind of relationship is though, it should not be a big deal and, most importantly, should not be seen negatively. Although in the Philippine setting, we cannot completely erase the stigma that comes with it, we can at least show that it is completely normal and age is not a barrier when it comes to love and choosing a partner.