Telling your parents that you have a boyfriend is still such a scary concept in India. But telling them that you have a boyfriend who is younger than you, is a much more horrific idea. Even the most liberal of the parents would go ‘Chi, he is younger than you?’ Even if he is just younger by a year or a few months, a younger prospective husband is still a scandalous concept in India.
This prejudice comes from the social construct that men should always marry women who are younger than them and women should always marry men older than them. Then only the power dynamics in traditional union work. The average Indian is still unfamiliar with a marriage with no power dynamics. In their mind, the husband should provide for and protect the wife and the wife should be dependent on the husband. Even if the wife is earning, the husband should be earning more and should be in a higher social position than the wife. This power dynamic gets shaken in their eyes if the husband is younger than the wife.
The concept of making a younger girl marry an older guy came also from the belief that women mature faster than men and an older man and a younger woman would be more similar in maturity level. But we should think that that may not be valid for everyone in the world. There may be boys who mature faster and girls who take time to get mentally mature enough to get married.
Also, why should we always marry a guy who is more mature than you? The answer to the question again comes back to the power dynamics. It is unthinkable for the patriarchal society to think of a situation where the woman has equal or more power inside marriage than her husband. Though we need to point out light-heartedly that even younger women sometimes have power over their husbands. But in Indian society this is unacceptable.
There is also the stigma attached to a woman’s age. In society, the older the woman is the less attractive she is. And hence a man should always opt for a younger woman. There is the notion that as you grow older, women will show signs of age faster than men. And hence for the couple to look similar in age, the woman should always be younger than the man.
But all these social constraints and barbaric thoughts should not affect you in any way in choosing your partner for life. A partner should be chosen based on the mutual love and respect you have for each other, and your compatibility with each other. Irrespective of gender, race, nationality, culture, language, religion, and caste. None of these should stand in the way of a human’s freedom to choose their partner.
We have many examples of some beautiful older woman – younger man couples who have worked so well together. A recent example is the beautiful Priyanka Chopra- Nick Jonas couple. And do we all agree that our nation’s father Mahatma Gandhi who was younger than his wife Kasturba had a cordial and successful married life?
But even with these successful couples’ stories existing, the stigma against a younger husband still persists. Not just in India, around the world. Derogatory words like ‘cougar’ and ‘boytoy’ are used for these kinds of relationships where a much younger man is dating or marrying an older woman.
We cannot say when this prejudice will change. We can only hope that as more and more couples like this come up the world will slowly begin to accept that as a norm and stop stigmatizing the concept of a younger husband.