Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The term swooping conjures the image of a hawk diving with its claws out for a tiny mouse running in an open field. But unlike the negative connotation that associated with this term, an age difference in a relationship is not something I would shy away from.
Swooping seems to be a term that Swatties have created, a word that is defined as upperclassmen making a move on underclassmen.
The essence of swooping and how comfortable you are with it comes down to your acceptance of relationships between two people of different ages. I may be biased in my support for relationships with an age difference because one of my very best friends is happily in a relationship with a man who is six years her senior. However, my reason for being impartial to swooping is because by the time you are a college student, age does not necessarily measure your maturity. If two people of different ages are able to connect, why would it be wrong to date?
I am not implying that a 12-year-old and an 18-year-old should date because this would be a relationship between a pre-teen and a person reaching adulthood; it would be two people at completely different levels of maturity. Additionally, I will honestly say that I would feel uncomfortable with a relationship between an 18-year-old and a 30-year-old. This would make me a hypocrite, but this makes me reflect on why I am able to accept a relationship between an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old but not a 18-year-old and 30-year-old.
Swooping may be looked down upon because it is conventional for two people of similar ages to date and marry. But this is simply because it is easier to meet people of similar ages and easier to connect. Age difference may result in different hopes for where the relationship leads and what kind of goals the individuals in the relationship wish to pursue. However, differences can be worked around if each party in the relationship are willing.
When I imagine a relationship with a significant age difference, I also imagine this to be between an older man and a younger woman. The first couple I think of is Gloria and Jay from the TV series Modern Family. I find this phenomenon of older men with younger women strange because, as with my earlier point, levels of maturity would not be a tremendous factor in a relationship as you become older.
It is often said that girls mature far more quickly than boys when we are adolescents, but does this factor still come into play even after we have become adults? No, but factors that are related to socioeconomic status and achievement are usually the big differentials between adults. Does my image of these relationships come from a more cultural or biological factor? In an industrialized society where childbearing is far less dangerous, I would say it is predominantly cultural phenomenon for younger women to be with older men.
Any relationship, whether it be dating or friendship, is formed by compromise and the flexibility to overcome differences. Swooping, or relationships between people of different ages, is no different.