Edna and Simon. Photo: BBC
‘‘She’s 79, he’s 38 - and they’re madly in love!’’
That’s a real headline, published on an actual newsite, relating to the latest tongue-wagging doco to grace the airwaves of the UK’s ever entertaining Channel 5.
Certainly tickled my fancy. I mean, a woman, in love with a man, less than half her age? Smashing! What a duck! What a dude! What a reason to read on! Subsequently I learn about three couples who have overcome festy judgment and fleshy obstacles to create beautiful, loving lives together.
Edna and Simon, our beloved title-bearers, are happily married, having bonded years ago over a shared passion for, of all things, organs (the kind you play. With your fingers. In a church). So what if Edna’s kids are all older than her husband? So what if Simon had never been kissed before he snuck in a quick wet one at a recital? They say they’re happy, they say they’re in love, and they say they are “at it like rabbits”.
Then there’s Joan and Phil. Joan was married, but on his deathbed, her ever benevolent husband gave her blessing to go on, and live a full and wholesome life. One that may include “new boobs and a lovely toy boy”, if she so chooses. And while there was no explicit mention of a chest boost, she did roost with one young buck, with the blessing of his mum, I might add. A woman, probably of Joan’s vintage, who is, Phil says, just “glad that Joan looks after me”.
Well. I for one am also glad. That these people have found love in a world filled with disappointment, rage and hate. Good on them, I say, for sticking it to society’s norms, and carrying out what appears to be happy, healthy relationships. We should be supportive of such rosy romance, should we not?
Yet their experience is in the minority. Not just because they’re partnered off at a time of rising singledom, but because their age-gap is just so very vast. And because we’re talking women and boys, not men and girls.
Funnily, old blokes with young birds is a far more common, and socially acceptable phenomenon. Even if such pairings - witness Hugh Hefner with any one of the bunnies bounding about his hearth and grotto-home - inspire eye-rolls, winks and knowing nudges. Even if, they are still les likely to inspire what I presume the abovementioned love affairs would - a blend of bemusement and derision. The kind of ‘‘haha-but-seriously-no’’ reaction I vaguely coloured this blog’s opening with.
Why is that? Why are we less in love with the idea of older women loving younger men, than we are when the bedside tables are turned? Sure, there’s that old idea about young brides swapping their fertility for an aged groom’s economic security and social status. Sure, we’re more familiar with that order of things. But it doesn’t make it more ‘‘right’’. Does it?
Fact is, we are living longer, we’re more mobile, our social networks are linked through ways and means not possible in the time of Abraham. Diversity is becoming the new normal. We’re more accepting of the fact that two men can love and make-love-to each other, or that my Vietnamese girlfriend can enjoy a robust, egalitarian and passionate relationship with her middle-aged white-guy fiance. So what’s wrong with 79-year-old Edna and 38-year-old Simon shacking up together?
Enter couple number three. William and Marylin. Their relationship began when he was 16, and she was 45. His family were not impressed. He says he was also shunned by his friends, and beaten up because of their relationship. Well, 16 year-olds are prone to stupid acts and peer-group pressure. But there’s nothing illegal about their love affair, they don’t appear to be harming anyone else, so why the trouble?
Indeed, you’d think young Willy would have been back-slapped and high-fived for his Mrs Robinson-esque marauding. Certainly one would assume that the outcry over inappropriate partnerings would only have occurred if this particular situation was reversed - if a 16-year-old girl to fall for, and pair up with, a 45-year-old-man. Then you’d expect to hear cries about exploitation and taking-advantage and gross misconduct and so forth. Funnily, this would be because we’d fear our young damsel is just “not yet old enough to know better”. Funnily, because the refrain commonly attached to comments about older women with much younger guys is “she’s old enough to know better”. Why is this so?
I say go Edna, go Simon, go any adult who’s found real love in this world. I am all for it.