We’ve all been there: You’re talking to a nice motherly lady who reminds you of your fun aunt when all of a sudden some twentysomething guy comes up and calls her “babe.” Or, more commonly, a wrinkly old man totters into a restaurant with a girl who looks like she could be his granddaughter — except she’s not. It’s always a bit shocking to see couples with huge age gaps (usually in a fun, “Good for them!” way), which makes it even more interesting when celebrities take that path, as Demi Moore is said to be doing: “Page Six” reports that she’s been seeing 26-year-old Vito Schnabel, son of painter Julian. Moore is 50, and Vito is only two years older than her oldest child, Rumer Willis.
So, in the spirit of Demi, how does one react to couples made up of two people of such different ages? A May-December pair, if you will? We’ve taken a quick poll of those with some experience, and devised the following pointers:
1. Try really, really hard not to act surprised by the age difference. But if you can’t help it, don’t worry.
Obviously, this is the hardest part. But don’t stress about acting normal: They know you think it’s weird. They probably think it’s weird, too, and that’s part of the thrill for them.
2. You can defer to the younger member of the couple when it comes to age-appropriate manners.
If you see a really old man on a bus, you’d probably offer him your seat. But if you see a really old man on a bus making out with a 20-year-old, you wouldn’t feel pressured to move, right? Same if your 35-year-old friend is dating a college sophomore: You can serve them cheap beer when they come over. It’s the get-out-of-obligations-free card of respecting of your elders.
3. Be aware of broaching the topic of sex, for your own sake.
You’d talk about sex with someone your own age, but it’d feel weird talking about sex with someone your dad’s age, right? Same goes for hearing about it.
4. Monitor your cultural references.
Steer clear of questions like, “What are your memories of the Warhol era?” Or, “In 1990, when I was too young to read, what books were popular?” The awkwardness risk is just to high.
5. Be aware that they probably have an age-difference comfort disparity, too.
From a co-worker who has some experience dating older men: “Every time I’ve dated someone even just a few years older, I find myself talking about it nonstop, which winds up making him feel self-conscious.” Be sensitive to the more awkward of the pair, and if you really want to hear the dirty details, get the oversharer one-on-one.