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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Age is only a number

Rika Kayama

Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump have an unlikely thing in common -- both of them have a 24-year age gap with their wives. The only difference is that Trump is 24 years older, while Macron is 24 years younger than his spouse.

Many people were shocked at the age difference between the Macrons. "If they are 24 years apart, it means that when he was only 5 years old, she was already close to 30," they say, or "What does it mean that the president is only in his 30s but his wife is in her 60s?" There were many comments like this about the Macrons, but if you turn it around, the same can be said for the Trumps. When his wife was only 5 years old, Trump would have also been close to 30.

When a man is much older than his spouse, no matter the age gap, no one says a thing. However, when the situation is flipped, it becomes a hot topic. Isn't there something strange about that?

Not just spouses or lovers, but in relationships with friends and colleagues at work, same-age peers may have a lot more in common to talk about. But that doesn't mean that there aren't also cases where people can connect and work well together despite, or even because, of an age gap. When you come to be in your 50s like me, if you have a friend in their 80s with whom you can discuss just about anything, then you can also have a colleague in their 30s whom you respect. The feeling that "age doesn't matter" becomes stronger.

Even then, it still seems that if there is an age gap in a friendship or a working relationship, it is better if it's between members of the same sex or if the man is older than the woman. Whether personally or professionally, if I befriend a man much younger than me, I receive sarcastic comments from those around me -- "You have a lot in common, huh?" or "Are you really that interested in younger men?" Each time I can't help but be disappointed, and I think, "Is that really how they look at it?"

I have met a lot of different kinds of people in my practice, and it seems to me that no matter how much a woman ages, her ambition for learning new things never dulls. There are very few women who say, "I've reached that certain age" and give up their thirst for new things and ideas. Because of this, there are many cases where women can get excited or learn more from speaking to younger men than men who are the same age. That's why I think it's about time we end the chiding and jeering of older women who choose to befriend younger men.

On the other hand, there is also the tendency for men to believe that the younger their wife is, the better their image. There are still people who believe that only rich and charming men can marry women younger than them. Isn't that strange as well?

In human interaction, it is a given that you will meet both people of the same age and people with whom you have an age gap. The same is true whether that person is the same or opposite sex. Without getting too caught up in age, I want us to be able to freely make friends, or if the situation is right, enter a relationship with someone, simply because we want to get to know them better, and break free of all this stress over age. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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