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I'm a newly single man in his late 30s with no kids and I was wondering about your views on age and dating. In my view, if I want a family of my own, I need to date younger women. But if I don't want a family or want to have stepkids, then dating same age or older is the way to go.

What are the pros and cons of older/younger? How young is too young?

Sounds as if you have only one problem in life - and that's deciding what you want. How can I tell you if you want to have kids or not?

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I do find it rather cold when people, male or female, pick partners as breeding machines. Why don't you just date someone you really like and are attracted to - or is that me being naively romantic?

I have a feeling you are really curious about younger women, but worry that such a liaison would be unseemly. Have you ever heard the French maxim about suitable age differences? It's said (by arrogant and sexist old buggers) that the woman should be half the guy's age plus seven. That means the age difference will increase as you grow older. (If you're 20, she will be 17; if you're 60, she will be 37.) Hey, I'm not endorsing it; I'm just saying that large age differences are not abnormal.

I myself have only one rule: If you're over 30, then women under 25 are too young. Twenty-five is the youngest any civilized guy over 30 should go. Why is this? Because people of university age - male or female - are still teenagers. I find there is an enormous difference in maturity between a 23-year-old and a 27-year-old. It's quite unlike the difference between a 27-year-old and a 37-year-old (which is trivial). People over 25 are (almost) all adults, and they are all fascinating in different ways. Their ages aren't important.

I was curious about popular views on this matter, so my online magazine, XYCanada.com, commissioned a survey to find out if our subscribers (about 30,000 across Canada, mostly guys, mostly single) agreed. We asked several questions: What is the optimal age difference in a relationship? What age difference is too great (if the guy is older and the woman is younger)? What is the greatest age difference in your own relationship history? And what is the most significant obstacle to dating a younger woman?

To my surprise, our hip, urban guys were markedly conservative on this issue. The most popular answer was that one to five years was the optimum age difference, and that a difference of more than 10 years was insurmountable. "Differences in life experience" was the reason most often selected for not doing it. And most of them had done it: 62 per cent of respondents have had relationships where the age difference was greater than 5 years, so they are speaking from experience.

So there you have it: many Canadian men disapprove of cradle robbing.

You can view the complete

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archive of Ask Mr. Smith questions, or ask a question of your own,

by going to Russell Smith's online advisory service, XYCanada.com, and selecting your city site.

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