The sweet charms of the pure, flawed teen: 4
Perhaps some clarification is in order, since many readers will get too distracted by my praise of romantic relationships with teenagers. The larger theme is how our modern lives are so derailed from nature's plans that we have trouble imagining what courtship and marriage are supposed to be like. Like it or not, your genes are not a magic lamp: they have no intention of granting your wishes to find your first husband or wife at age 30, and then have your first child sometime afterward.
Some aspects of this outta-whack-ness are pretty obvious, like the difficulty women face in conceiving and delivering healthy babies after 30. Still, there are thousands of subtler effects, which when added up may make the relationship as miserable as the inability to start a family. It's these "death of a thousand cuts" differences that I'm interested in.
Charm #4: Not wanting a sugar daddy. Spending less and appreciating you more
Yes, I know it sounds strange to suggest that girls in their late teens don't want sugar daddies as much as ones in their late 20s do, but it's true. The key difference is that a teenager unconsciously expects you to be courting her, in order to get sex, while the late-20s woman unconsciously expects you to be providing for her and her real or imaginary children. If you spend too much on a young girl (aside from a minority of precocious gold-diggers), she will interpret it as soliciting prostitution and become turned off. That's why all it takes is a hamburger and a milkshake to make her feel special.
The woman whose unconscious brain is in mothering mode will interpret your lack of big-spending as a refusal to provision for her and her offspring -- she'll view you as a bad dad. This is also reflected in the types of things she expects you to pay for, at least in part: an expensive zip code, furniture and home accessories, kitchenware, and so on, and not so much on make-up or movie dates. (An appendix at the end of this post provides a back-of-the-envelope estimate of how much more expensive it is to date a late-20s female.)
This mindset of hers would be perfectly fine if she were indeed your wife and raising your children, but in today's world, it's likely that you two are dating and perhaps cohabiting. Your brain is still focused on getting sex rather than raising kids, and so you'll want to spend less on her; but in compromising with her and dropping a lot of dough on ottomans from Design Within Reach, you'll come to feel like you're her sugar daddy. With the young girl, at least both of your minds are on sex (and other things too, but certainly not raising kids), so there is less conflict in the spending domain. Her suspicion of big-spending will prevent you from even accidentally engaging in sugar daddy behavior.
It's ironic that the average guy in his late 20s and beyond worries about younger girls using him as a sugar daddy, when it's the females his own age whose spending habits and expectations are more likely to exhaust his savings. Let me be clear: this is not because the late-20s woman is necessarily more shallow or materialistic. She simply has different unconscious needs, and being provided for -- as opposed to being courted and wooed -- is among the strongest at this stage, since her body expects her to be a mother by now. However, if there is no family to raise, she will have to satisfy this urge by having her mate spend money on other family-type things, such as improving the home.
Still, if the guy is not getting kids out of the deal, he will find himself wondering what all this spending is really accomplishing. Eventually he will believe, with some reason, that he is only subsidizing her female-female status competition, a role that is as rewarding as being the ball in a schoolyard soccer match. The partners will probably not know what the other's frustration is about, and talking about it rarely does any good anyway. The surest way to avoid all of this mess and maintain your girly charm in this area is just to marry and have kids sooner rather than later, so that your mate's provisioning can achieve something he'll actually feel proud of.
The following is a rough estimate of the cost of dating a darling in her late teens vs. someone in her late 20s and beyond. I'm comparing extremes to make the differences stand out. Rather than try to account for all of the costs of maintaining a girlfriend, let's just look at how much you might be set back after a big-spending day consisting of buying her an entire outfit, eating out, and going to a nightclub.
Your teen gf would compete with her female peers by getting her clothes from a trendy, moderately priced store like Wet Seal, and would shriek with glee if you offered to take her there for a head-to-toe outfit. After buying her some shoes, a pair of shorts, a top, and boyshorts, you've spent $67.
Your late-20s gf would compete with her female peers by going to a place more like Bloomingdales. You could take her to Target, but she would only really get wet if it were at least Bloomingdales or above. After buying her some shoes, a pair of shorts, a top, and boyshorts, you've spent $219. Note that I chose the least expensive counterpart of the Wet Seal item, so this is a conservative estimate.
Your teen gf would be happy to grab a bite to eat at Burger King, for God's sake, where a value meal sets you back $5. Your late-20s gf would expect at least Applebee's, where a combo meal plus tip starts at $12. Obviously if it's a "special occasion," the price disparity will only worsen.
Going to a nightclub
The nearby 18+ club that hosts '80s night has a $5 cover charge, and since a teenager cannot drink alcohol, you might spend $2 on a bottle of water or soda. The nearby see and be seen 21+ club, which is de facto 27+, charges $10 to get in and about $5 for a drink. This discrepancy is surely worse in more fashionable metro areas.
This whirlwind day of spending with your teen gf costs you $79, while with your late-20s gf it costs you $246. In other words, you spend less than one-third on a teenager than on a 20-something -- status-striving sure does get expensive as you age. And remember, this only accounts for courtship spending -- forget about the price difference between the Ikea furniture your teen gf would be content with, and the designer stuff your late-20s gf would require to compete with her gal pals.