"When she'd start to talk about Duran Duran or Erasure, I was like, ' What are you talking about?'" said Charlie Capen, right, now 31 and married to Avara, 39, left, for eight years. (Handout/Family photo)When he moved to Los Angeles, Charlie Capen, 20 at the time, could have joined his friends hitting the clubs.
Aside from light teasing about divergent pop culture references, and occasional jokes that Avara will trade Charlie in for a younger model, the age gap barely registers in their romance, even as society still looks askance at the pairing of an older woman with a younger man. Robinson's day — Hollywood's proud examples include Mariah Carey (10 years older than her husband, actor Nick Cannon), Julianne Moore (nine years older than her husband, director Bart Freundlich), and Geena Davis (15 years older than her husband, plastic surgeon Reza Jarrahy) — studies show people disapprove of age gap relationships in general and especially those in which the woman is older, which they deem most likely to fail.
But to many people actually involved in older woman/younger man pairings, the age difference can be a boon, if it matters at all."(It was attractive) to be with someone on their own two feet, less self-centered, interested in doing stuff not based so much on distractions but on real life," said Charlie Capen, an actor and co-founder of the blog
Avara Capen, an executive assistant in the entertainment industry, was drawn to Charlie's youthful idealism. "He had this spark for life that is infectious."As the years pass, age matters even less, though Avara Capen said she's feeling the physical toll of approaching 40 as their son turns 3.
The couple waited to start a family because "it was very important to me that Charlie really have a chance to pursue his dreams without the stress and responsibility of having a child," she said.
"I wish there was a way to have started our family earlier."Conflicting research Reproductive realities are a common evolutionary reason academics cite for why men tend to go for younger women, and women for older (i.e., more financially stable) men.
And some studies have shown men and women are happiest in households where the husband is older than the wife. A study published in 2008 in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly found that women 10 or more years older than their partners report being more satisfied and committed to their relationships than women who are the same age or younger than their partners.
That could be because the power dynamic in those relationships is more equitable, said social psychologist Justin Lehmiller, co-author of the study, or because only the most solid partners pursue age gap romances given the stigma.
People in age gap couples perceive more prejudice against their relationship than same-sex or interracial couples, Lehmiller's research has found.
Women bear the brunt of the criticism regardless of whether they're on the younger or older side of the spectrum, with the cougar or gold digger labels reflecting a deeply rooted sexism that judges women's sexual activities far more often than men's are judged, said Lehmiller, who teaches at Harvard University.
Given that social marginalization hurts a relationship's success, as Lehmiller's research also has found, large age gap relationships may struggle more than same-age relationships, he said.
Stigma, and the social sanctions that can follow, also has been blamed for data showing that marrying a man seven to nine years younger increases a woman's mortality risk by 20 percent.