Legally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a grad student or another member of the community dating a freshman in college. Women do mature faster than men, so dating older could create a more compatible relationship. I do not wish to debate the rationale for this pattern. The question at hand is not can you—it's should you?
Your freshman year of college is hyped up by every major Hollywood movie, book and song your whole life, and it always centers around a cute boy who makes you giggly, giddy and doesn't smell like a locker room. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting this fairytale for yourself. Unfortunately, it seems many of us looked for our knights in shining armor in haunted old mansions.
Freshmen (and most 18-year-old) women are straight out of high school, shoved suddenly into the realities of life. Freshman year is the first year of your independence, and the beginning of you starting your life, without any influence from your parents. You are entering a new space and chapter of life, and whether it has struck you or not, this transition is an incredibly vulnerable time.
You know very few people and are likely to miss your parents, pets and, to some extent, your siblings. Making new friends is much more intimidating and challenging than we'd like to admit. Class material can be complicated, and professors unapproachable or unavailable. Every night is a new experience, and little pieces of advice you've always heard but never listened to are starting to make sense. However, even when you think you are adjusting well, there are waves of loneliness, panic and stress.
The complications that come with all these new experiences can make us insecure and lonely, which makes us long for affectionate, caring human contact. Freshman year is an exciting time, but also likely the first time you don't have a strong support system to lean on. Enter the older man. When I first typed this, I wrote older boys. However, language has power, and how we refer to grown men intentionally seeking out younger women needs to accurately reflect the relationship in question.
Obviously, some older men date younger women for natural coincidental reasons, and I do not intend to bash these relationships as long as it is consensual, and all involved are content. However, there is a slew of men who intentionally pursue younger women because they are, according to a grad student I know, more "eager, genuine and innocent."
I do believe it's worth mentioning that all of those words also help explain why it is significantly easier to manipulate young women.
The desire for someone to care and support us can blind us to the several hundred red flags we might have otherwise noticed. This desire to feel included and wanted can persuade us to attach ourselves to someone new and exciting much quicker than we would otherwise.
While being a generous, loving person is precisely the image of ourselves we like to imagine, this rushed and all-encompassing relationship is likely to soon dominate our thoughts, our goals and our freshman year. The halfhearted connection you have made could start to feel like the strongest relationship you've ever had, an all-consuming entanglement that delivers you from the evil self-destructive thoughts of inadequacy and loneliness that plague your mind in your solitary hours.
Whew. I'm definitely speaking for myself there.
However, this consumption of the mind is the real problem with forging a connection in such a precarious time in your life. I do not speak for all women, and I certainly don't pretend to do so— but this outpouring of love towards someone other than yourself when your mental health is already struggling is only going to drain you of your energy.
Psychologists always say your patterns early in life skew your tendencies for the future. Prioritizing someone else as a coping method for stressful events and situations could lead to unhealthy dependency issues in the future.
I am not saying that you shouldn't date an older man, nor am I implying that you shouldn't date anyone your freshman year. My dear reader, I write this article because I allowed an older man to hijack my freshman year, and wish that someone other than my mom (who I frequently don't listen too) had dissected why I was so susceptible to his nauseating charms.
Reader, I come to you not with self-righteous condescension, but rather with the open arms of a big sister who likes to say, "I told ya so." I know freshman year is tough, and it's tempting to chase after the older man who can buy you drinks and knows so much about good music (or whatever niche thing he prides himself on), but there are so many more experiences to pursue your freshman year.
You have your entire college career to find your Prince Charming—let's stop settling for Rip Van Winkle.