18. A magic number in America. The day one becomes "legal", possessing the full rights and restrictions of an adult in the eyes of the United States government. And yet, it can be a monumentally sad day. Any teenager in a relationship with a significant age gap (more than a year in most cases) will face substantial problems if this day rolls around and their partner isn't there with them. In US culture, a relationship is easily divided over the age of 18. Couples will be frowned upon for differences of a mere 5 years or less if both people aren't over 18. Even if they are, such cases of age discrepancy appear to be wrongful in the eyes of the average American. Now, by no means am I one who does not see the purpose here. Obviously teenagers, at the ripe old age of 15 or 16, don't truly know what is best for them, however, this node pertains only to the social norm, not the law. The law simply forbids sexual interaction between an adult and a minor. Does sex usually factor in? Yes. Is that the point? No.
I do have an example of how this law leads to a social norm which is honestly quite backward. for those of you who knew that's where this was going. I have a friend (not me, we'll get to me in a minute) who is in a serious relationship with someone older than him. I would like to state this is an online relationship. She is female, or at least appears so; Skype videochatting has confirmed that much. No, wait, come back! Just hear me out on this.
He, who we'll call Tom, is nearly 16, and she, who we'll call Liz, is 21. As the nearest lonely bastard, I, of course, spend the majority of my time around them. I've watched their love (yes, they are in love) grow from the very start. They are serious, and they are definitely long-term. The problem here lies with Tom's parents. They are a traditional Christian family that believes "God never meant for people to date online", and have threatened to call the police on a woman half a nation away for no viable reason. When they discovered Tom was dating this girl, they removed his computer privileges, like many parents would. They are attempting to protect their child, and I understand that, but their logic for doing so is beyond dumb. For example, Liz smokes. Tom's mother, who smokes and drinks to excess, stated this would be a bad influence. His father refuses to accept it for multiple reasons, one of which is his belief that it is against his religion (Nondenominational Christianity, for those who care). Both of them have stated they fear Tom would try to leave home to meet her. A good reason, really, except they haven't consulted either one of the two people in question on this. If they did, they would find that Liz opposes this just as much as they do. She is actually on their side, wanting to have him finish school, turn 18, then meet her, so they are legally safe. She is attempting to be responsible here, but due to social norms, her opinions, values, views, and any actions not deemed illegal have no bearing on the situation. She is simply labelled as a rapist, ironic as she was molested multiple times and raped at least once (I can't honestly remember, as it's hardly a regular conversational topic).
Now, I realize the fact that his parents are at least acting in the right frame of mind, and I respect that, really I do. I would do the same in their position, but I would change tactics. They are not talking to him about it, reasoning through this, or regarding his wants. They are simply forcing her away, and it hasn't worked yet. By not even attempting to work with Tom on this, they are isolating him. He complies to their demands, he doesn't resist, so they continue to take from him. The only thing he won't do is stop talking to her. Regardless, he's begun to hate them vehemently.
His parents are stuck on the issue of this magic number. If she were under 18, they wouldn't even challenge it. Never mind his father's "God-given" verse on online dating. They are hung up on age here. What's ironic is that most couples who are married have decent (3-5 years at least) age discrepancies. I had a teacher who was 17 years younger than her husband. My question is why the double standard? Now, don't accuse me of approving pedophilia, I understand that below a certain age, dating of any sort is unacceptable. I would personally draw the line at about 15, any older and I see no issue with dating who you want. I mean, they are going to do it whether it's acceptable or not, laws don't stop criminals.
As I stated, I do have a stake in this. I was, at one point, in a relationship with a woman five years older than myself. I was 17 at the time, under legal age. So, call bias if you wish, but I wasn't planning on doing anything until I was legal. It's just as well, we didn't last. I came late to the three-way and didn't feel like sharing, so I left her. I no longer care for her, whether that negates the bias is up to the reader, but the question remains:
Would you break up love over a number?