New research shows the perfect age gap for a couple is four years and four months
By Cristina Odone7:30AM GMT 13 Mar 2013
When I came to London in 1990, the late, great Auberon Waugh told me that the best relationship was one in which the couple was separated by at least 20 years. An older man could open up a career as well as car doors for a younger woman, share his comfortable life with her, and, having established himself years before, devote his time to entertaining her.
I usually listened to Bron. In this instance, however, I took my cue from the humble Tube rather than the celebrated satirist. “Mind the gap,” boomed the anonymous voice under ground – and I did. The age difference between me and my man, I resolved, could only be modest. Anything over three or four years, and I risked losing my footing, tripping and plunging into a dark and dangerous place. As it happens, my husband and I are separated by two years.
Now I have proof that I made the right decision. According to new research, the perfect age gap for a couple is of four years and four months (and the woman should be younger than her man). Most women surveyed – in a poll for confused.com – said they wanted someone three to six years older than them. Only 1 per cent would go for a younger man; and only 2 per cent of men were interested in an older woman.
I won’t deny that in the tabloids, the May-December romance still plays well. There’s ageing rocker Ronnie Wood, 65, frolicking with his new bride Sally, 34. Then there is Hollywood star Michael Douglas, 68, married to Catherine Zeta Jones, 43 (below); and Rupert Murdoch, 82, and Wendi Deng, 44. Woody Allen took it a step further by marrying his stepdaughter when she was 27, while the writer Petronella Wyatt, 44, has this week confessed to a string of admirers, from Laurence Olivier to Robin Day, so old that they’re now dead.
At least half the fun of celebrity-watching is laughing at the famous old fool who thinks the girl half his age is with him for love. Intrigued, we witness him transform himself with hair dye, Botox and a tummy tuck, while his arm candy, straight out of St Trinian’s, bats her eyelashes at the camera and cashes in on his fame and fortune.
In real life, though, the Sugar Daddy is fast falling out of favour. The gap between his age and hers, between his fat bank account and her slender means, give rise to too much hostility at a time when so many slog their guts out for so little.
At the end of a long day at the office, in the wake of a long sleepless night when the toddler screamed for Calpol and the baby for Mummy, the last thing most working mothers want to see is Lolita sitting on her Sugar Daddy’s knee. She’s half our age and size, and spends her time surreptitiously reaching for her iPhone, or studying the brand new Jimmy Choos that I somehow doubt she had to buy herself. I for one can barely restrain my hostility – especially when I see the doting gazes she earns from her “mentor” and the admiring one my husband shoots her. And what of the Cougar, who only a few “research studies” ago was deemed to prowl the land in search of a toy boy? Madonna, Sam Taylor-Wood and Demi Moore seemed to prove that she wasn’t a figment of the media imagination – they had legions of them singing to their tune. Back on Planet Earth, I don’t recall seeing a woman with a much younger man – except at Primark, where I’d exchange horrified looks with other mothers as their boys loaded baskets with ready-torn jeans and ink-stained T-shirts.
The demise of Sugar Daddy and Cougar Mummy suggests that we no longer seek a trophy mate. Maybe as demographics show Britons are growing older, we are also growing up. The likelihood is that we’ll hit 90. At that ripe old age – and even 20 years before then – having a Barbie doll in tow, or a Tarzan on our arm, will seem futile. The whippersnappers in their fifties won’t enjoy our jokes, or songs; they won’t want to play bridge or know what we mean when we speak of the 2012 Olympics or the 2013 conclave.
Bron was wrong. We don’t want a naughty, exciting age gap. We want someone to grow old gently with.
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