Logically, we knew the question of age was approached drastically differently on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. We saw it last season, when 36-year-old Nick Viall met 24-year-old Corinne Olympios' parents during hometown dates.
But we never felt the double standard of age with more immediacy than yesterday’s episode of The Bachelorette, when contestants questioned whether a 25-year-old man could really date a 31-year-old woman.
For their one-on-one date, Rachel Lindsay took Dean Unglert for a swirl on the Goodyear blimp. After a make-out session, the aircraft deliberately flew past the resort to stoke the other men’s jealousy — as happens on every aerial one-on-one date in the history of Bachelor Nation.
It worked. Soon, all the men were simmering with resentment, and turned to discussing the problems Dean and Rachel's age difference might cause their relationship.
Matt Munson chimed in first, speculating whether Dean’s age would prevent him from appreciating Rachel's finer qualities.
“If she’s attracted to a guy who’s five, six years younger than her, it’s probably going to make her say woah, let me stop myself before I go all in with this individual and see if they can handle all I bring to the table,” Matt said.
Then came Bryan, who, at 37, is the oldest contestant on the season.
“I think she’s intrigued by Dean. I think she finds him attractive. But he’s 25. She’s turning 32. And at the end of the day, I think that age is gonna play a factor...if he can’t show the level of maturity he’s looking for, he may be going home. And I think he should be worried,” said Bryan.
Their six-year age difference isn’t stopping their connection.
Ironically, Bryan and Rachel have the same age difference as Dean and Rachel do, but we've never heard Bryan questioned Rachel's "level of maturity."
We get it. Both Bryan and Matt seem to think Rachel is attracted to Dean because he’s fun, and young, and exciting — but he’s not someone to settle down with. To these bearded individuals, the clean-shaven Dean is barely out of his teen years. His maturity hasn't risen to full potency. He can't handle Rachel.
Granted, Bryan and Matt might just be looking for an edge over their adorable housemate, and nothing more. But I suspect their comments reveal one of the last major taboos that exist in the dating realm. Men can date younger women, but women get flack for dating younger men.
The Bachelor often pairs men with much younger women. Taylor Nolan was 23 when she competed for a piece of Nick Viall’s smarmy, 36-year-old heart on Season 21 of The Bachelor. On Season 18 of The Bachelor, 32-year-old Juan Pablo Galavis gave the final rose to 26-year-old Nikki Ferrell — the same age difference as Rachel and Dean.
But when the gender roles are switched, an age gap becomes an insurmountable challenge — at least in the eyes of Dean’s competitors.
The other implication in Bryan and Matt's comments is that Dean doesn't have to settle down, yet. At 25, Dean can wait around until he's 37, like Bryan, to date a woman like Rachel. Simply put, men on Bachelor Nation are considered "eligible" for longer than women are.
Well, Rachel Lindsay has been defying Bachelor Nation norms from the start — including the taboo age gap. At 31, she's the oldest Bachelorette ever, and has zero qualms making out with a 25-year-old in a blimp.
I’m not here to say that Dean is the perfect match for Rachel (Team Peter, baby). But in her own words, Dean “is someone who surprises me every single time that I’m around him.” Their six-year age difference isn’t stopping their connection.
I applaud Rachel for giving Dean a chance, even if in the history of The Bachelorette, most of the contestants are at most two years younger than the woman they're vying for. Rachel has demonstrated time and time again that more than age, more than race, and more than income, she’s interested in a person’s character. We love that she and Dean have a connection. Power to ‘em.