As I was getting ready to go out with my old school friend Helen last night, I couldn’t help noticing an article in the paper about Nancy Dell’Olio and her alleged new ‘Toy boy’ James Petrie.
Articles of this nature are never written to be flattering of the women in question. They hint at these women being ‘sad’, ‘desperate’, ‘attention seeking’ or in the middle of a full blown mid-life crisis. It would seem that these ‘women of a certain age’ should just be grateful for the attention. Think of it as a kind of “Help the Aged get a Sex Life” campaign. No room is ever made for the idea that two people might have such a strong emotional and intellectual connection, that age just doesn’t matter.
I will be the first to admit that I have always wondered about the attraction women have to much younger men – so the evening turned out to be enlightening.
We were supposed to be going for a quick drink and catch up. My friend, like me, is recently divorced and she just needed a night out. I had decided to give my liver a night off, so I drove to my friends’ house and we wandered round to a local bar.
A short while after we arrived, Helen’s attention was drawn to two young men sitting outside, who teased her about listening to their conversation. When we then went outside to get some fresh air for me and a cigarette for Helen (!) we got chatting.
It transpired that the two men, both 28, had split up from their girlfriend and fiancé respectively. I registered that they had enquired about our marital status fairly early on – which I guess wasn’t surprising, given that Helen and I are ‘mature’ women!
I wholeheartedly admit that it is hugely flattering when a much younger man even notices you’re there. But I don’t think it’s a one-way street.
Without a doubt, both of them were charming, well mannered, funny and interesting. And as the conversation progressed, the chasm between our respective ages seemed to matter less and less. Bearing in mind the volumes of alcohol being consumed by the other three (remember, I was giving my liver a rest!), the conversation was surprisingly philosophical and open. One of them had had a series of events in his late teens, which was not dissimilar to my own. But I never imagined I would find myself sitting outside a bar having a meaningful conversation with someone who was almost, but not quite, young enough to be my son.
It made me feel irritable that society pigeonholes us into an age bracket, which suggests that different generations have completely different views, feelings and perspectives. I totally related to how he felt and it closed the age gap between us.
The conversation progressed to social media and I was amused to hear that they thought it was a myth that their generation all understood and used it. As the conversation flowed, I realised that my humble knowledge of Twitter exceeded theirs!
Suddenly if felt like all boundaries had come down. Age really wasn’t an issue any more. And what’s more, the two men were supposed to be at a Halloween party further down the road.
We were invited to join the party. Helen was up for it. Helen was also wearing the kind of boots that really weren’t designed to be walked in. So stone cold sober Lara trudged behind as one of them kindly gave her a piggy back!
If I’d had a few drinks, I would, without a doubt, have been laughing my socks off. But in my sober state, I was just terrified the piggy back pair were going to fall under a car.
The party was full of 20-somethings, yet I didn’t feel out of place or ‘sad’ – just sober! Ironically, Helen and I spotted a middle aged man in the corner, desperately chatting up a much younger woman. I have to confess, on the basis of her response to him, if anyone was out of place it was him!
And then it struck me, that amongst the young women in the room Helen and I stood out. Not because we were older, but because we had a different dynamic. We aren’t in the ‘mating game’. We aren’t looking for a man to marry and father our children before we get stuck on the shelf.
We’re older, wiser and we’ve been round the block. And when I look at my friend Helen, who is so clever, funny, slender and beautiful, I don’t wonder that someone that evening took a bit of a shine to her.
So going back to my original point about Nancy Dell’Olio and her alledged ‘toy boy’. What’s the big deal? Why wouldn’t a younger man find an older woman an appealing prospect? Why does society mock women so much?
All of a sudden, my own personal prejudice about getting involved with younger men has been challenged.
As it stands, there are no younger men on the scene vying for my attention. But if any pop up, I will most certainly give it my consideration.