I’m in the Apple Store, praying to Steve Jobs that my laptop can’t be fixed. Because the last image on my screen as it died was an obscene selfie sent by a beautiful young man. And the last thing I need is it popping up in front of an IT guy.
Please don’t judge me. This is what happens to your inbox when you start to date younger men in the early 21st century. Because while on a bad day there’s more than a touch of Nanny McPhee about me, my 51-year-old self seems to be attracting many young bucks. And I’m not unusual.
Just check out this roll call of famous women and their men. Madonna, 59, is dating model Kevin Sampaio, 31 – the latest in a line of hot younger beaux. Mariah Carey, 47, is enjoying an on/off romance with dancer Bryan Tanaka, 34; and Demi Moore, 54, has reportedly been canoodling with actor Tobey Maguire, 42.
(Demi was also previously linked to art dealer Vito Schnabel, 31, and diver Will Hanigan, 34 – as well as being married to Ashton Kutcher, 39.)
Most men my age are married with children. They’re not dateable. I’m a very adventurous person and I also have a crazy life
And, of course, there is the glorious love story between Brigitte Macron, 64, and her husband, the French President Emmanuel, 39. (Let’s not dwell on the fact she was his teacher and he was 15 when they met.)
But the ultimate poster girl for age-gap relationships is Sam Taylor-Johnson. The 50-year-old film-maker and artist is married to actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, 27. (Check out his Instagrammed 50th-birthday gift to her: a ‘Sam’ tattoo. On quite a torso… Dear God.)
‘I don’t notice it now – we just instinctively gel,’ he has said about the age difference. ‘People who know me call me Benjamin Button – they think I’m an old soul and she’s a young soul.’
So what in the name of Joan Collins (84, married to Percy Gibson, 52) is going on?
This is what Madonna said in 2015: ‘It’s just what happens. Most men my age are married with children. They’re not dateable. I’m a very adventurous person and I also have a crazy life. I’m a single mother… I mean, you have to be open-minded and adventurous to want to step into my world. People who are older, and more set in their ways, are probably not as adventurous as someone younger.’
Is she right? Is this ‘just what happens’ now? Madeleine Mason, dating and relationship psychologist and director of dating coaching company PassionSmiths, thinks so: ‘Age is becoming less of an issue for both genders. And age-gap relationships where women are older than their male partners have become more accepted, thanks to shows like Cougar Town and female celebrities marrying younger men.’
She cites a survey last year by Match.com that found that one in four women were open to dating men 10 years younger. ‘And there are now hundreds of dating sites specifically for older women and younger men,’ she adds.
It may be a trend, but I can’t be the only person to find the term ‘cougar’ repulsive
It may be a trend, but I can’t be the only person to find the term ‘cougar’ repulsive. It’s predatory, naff, insulting to the woman and the man. And ‘toyboy’ isn’t exactly complimentary to anyone, either. (A boy to be toyed with? No, thanks.) Instead, I’m going to campaign for older women who are dating younger men to henceforth be called WHIPs – Women who are Hot, Intelligent and in their Prime. And the men shall be called really bloody lucky.
So let me tell you what’s happening to this WHIP. The last two dates I went on were with a 26-year-old and a 35-year-old (not at the same time). And the men DMing me on Twitter are also in their 20s and 30s. These pore-less, firm-jawed men are clever, successful, creative, and absurdly hot.
They write, work in film, dabble in music and are super-interesting. They are men I would have killed to meet – but could never attract – when I was in my 20s and 30s. For me, it’s Twitter, not Tinder (or indeed toyboywarehouse.com) where I’m meeting them. And we’re progressing from tweets to DMs, to the messaging app Telegram, to phone calls… and then to bars.
And fun is had. You’d think the dates would be excruciatingly awkward, with cultural references tumbleweeding. But no. We talk about our work, about what we’ve been up to, about politics/the world imploding, and we laugh. (Not about the world imploding.) They are funny, intelligent men – there is no setting the dial low.
Sure, these are early dates so we wouldn’t be going into the ‘this is why I’m single’ stuff – but there’s no feeling of being with someone younger. Until you step into daylight and see their skin.
As comedian Matt Rife, 21, who was recently linked to Kate Beckinsale, 44, posted on Instagram, beneath a photo of him standing next to a Care Home sign: ‘Age is just a number. Find someone you love – and take their breath away. Even if that means putting a kink in their oxygen tank cord.’
Just so we’re clear, it’s not me that’s going after younger men; they’re coming after me.
I actually think I have more in common with many young men than I do with many men my own age. Don’t get me wrong, I love men my age and older – but there seems to be a difference between single men and women in their 50s. Men = pipe, sofa, slippers. Women = Prosecco, slingbacks, Pilates. Why is that? Are men allowed to slow down? Is it seen as more acceptable for men to age, while women have to keep the vim, vigour and boobs up?
Men my age seem to be either slowing down, or eternally single (the Peter Pan Syndrome), or divorced and chasing their daughters’ friends (the Pervy Peter Pan Syndrome). And just so we’re clear, Irony Police, it’s not me that’s going after younger men; they’re coming after me.
I know what you want to know. But I can’t tell you, because I haven’t known these young men – yet. I’ve yet to find the emotional strength to reveal the bingo wings and my thighs. But believe me when I say that one can, ahem, tell, when we’re up close, talking and laughing and kissing in public, that they won’t care.
(One thing I have to report about the next generation of men is their carefree attitude to dirty talk and public displays of affections. It makes you feel that they just can’t help themselves; that they have to touch you. Contrast that to a date I had with a man my age who winced when I went in for a kiss: ‘We’re two middle-aged people kissing in a pub,’ he said.)
So no, I haven’t had sex with them. But there have been sexy photos (prompting actual gasps – bodies shouldn’t be that good), and the sexiest of calls. Sweet Hugh Hefner, these men are filthy.
Why do young men like me now? In truth, I’ve dated younger men before. But more are definitely interested in me now that I’m in my 50s. Which is lucky, because men my age aren’t into me at all. I’m too old for them. One charmer announced he couldn’t have a relationship with me because of our ages – but ‘I do have a thing for hot older women’. He was four years younger than me.
I think it’s down to confidence. I sort of don’t care any more. And the younger men seem to like that
I think it’s down to confidence. I’m still neurotic about life – but men? They like me or they don’t. I sort of don’t care any more. And the younger men seem to like that.
Recently a man (maybe 25?) smiled at me on the train, and then got off at the same stop. And then walked beside me on the stairs. And then loitered outside the station waiting for me. You say stalker; I say a young man who likes my attitude. (Either that, or he has a thing about his mum. Which is a whole other feature.)
‘The older a woman gets, the more relaxed she becomes about what other people think, and her self-esteem goes up,’ agrees Madeleine Mason. ‘By her 40s and 50s, she’s more likely to have come into her own, and this confidence is very attractive and very sexy. As people live longer, we’re expected to change careers, re-educate ourselves etc...
Could it be that this is something we will see in relationships, too? That being older no longer means we are unhealthy or undesirable, and younger generations begin to see past age and see women as individuals?’
I think so. Plus, 50 today isn’t what 50 used to be. We take care of ourselves and look better now. It’s not just true of the likes of Salma Hayek (50), Monica Bellucci (52), Halle Berry (51), Julianne Moore (56), Nicole Kidman (50) or Michelle Pfeiffer (59). It’s true for us mere mortals, too.
And, of course, women in their 50s aren’t seen as desperate, as those a decade or more younger are often depicted. Or, in the words of an ex of mine, ‘Wanting the baby before pudding’s arrived.’ (You can see why he’s an ex.)
For me, the children thing is key. As thrilling as these men and dates are, it’s not going to get serious, is it? Not if they want kids and, like me, you don’t have them. Being with someone, falling for someone, who would need to leave me once their male biological clock began ticking wouldn’t be good for my soul.
Ultimately, the fun, baggage-free experience of dating someone younger goes against what I want and need. I need someone who understands the baggage, and I’m not sure a gorgeous young thing could ever truly do that.
So I must leave the young pups be. Perhaps I’ll wait until after the university holidays are over, though…