Richer, wiser and keen for children – why older men make perfect partners
My aunt always told me there is nothing more boring than a young man when you’re young or an old man when you’re old. Scientists have now confirmed this and, what’s more, it’s not just cultural, it’s biological. Mature males who ogle young totty are not just dirty old men; they are simply expressing ‘an evolutionary acquired trait’.
What they know instinctively is confirmed by boffins. Martin Fieder and Susanne Huber at the University of Vienna examined a database of more than 10,000 men and women and discovered that the most successful couples were those where the man is between four and six years older than the woman.
This comes as no surprise to me. Rather like the Queen, my husband and I fall squarely in the middle of this age range.
He is 45 and I am five years younger. The Queen, who is 81, is almost five years younger than the Duke of Edinburgh. She and I have known for a long time what the results of this scientific study show; older men and younger women make more successful couples.
One of the most obvious reasons for this is that women mature more quickly than men. Even aged 16, I found snivelling youths who were the same age as me deeply uninteresting. My first boyfriend was four years older than me. He was from Finland, and at the time was doing military service so would show up at the school gates in his army uniform looking very handsome. To me he seemed so much more sophisticated than my contemporaries. He was out in the real world, while the other boys I knew had no interest in anything beyond comparing the size of their conkers. J‰rmo (as he was called) seemed intelligent, sensitive and above all older. Just being older was in itself an attraction. How intelligent he ended up working in a mustard factory.
A young, educated woman wants more from a man than a pretty face and a uniform. She wants someone who can teach her, guide her and enrich her life, not just arm-candy. The most obvious proof of this is Marilyn Monroe, the most iconic sex goddess ever. When she married, aged 30, whom did she chose? A gorgeous film star? A young hunk with biceps and buttocks to die for?
No, she chose a bespectacled lanky playwright called Arthur Miller, who was 11 years older than she was.
My father is now 84. In his ‘salad days’, as he calls them, he seduced literally hundreds of women, 99.9 per cent of them younger than him. “Young women are more interested in learning from a man than how he looks,” he once told me. “It is far more useful to go on a date armed with poetry than a pretty face.”
Although aged 84, he is more limited in what he can do these days. He still uses his tried and tested formula, quoting Dante at attractive younger women all over the world. I have seen the effect it has on them, and it is quite amazing. They literally melt. They love the idea that someone can teach them something. Women are always multi-tasking, even when they’re falling in love.
But a woman can’t live on literature alone. Sex is also important. And older men are better in bed. It’s just a fact. They even look like they’ll be better in bed. For example, take Alan Clark versus Eminem. Who would you go for? Only a fool would forgo all that experience for a man who may have rhythm, but has little else to recommend him.
For a man age is no barrier to being sexy. Warren Beatty is still considered one of the most attractive men alive. Most of us wouldn’t throw Robert Redford off the sofa. I have an Italian friend called Cosima who used to be a model. When she was 38 she met the Duke of Edinburgh who was then 80 – and yes she found him attractive.
“He was incredibly sexy, so English and aristocratic,” she told me at the time (I didn’t like to disillusion her.) “I love that older-man-slicked-grey-hair look.”
The other advantage an older man has is that he will often be more sophisticated than his younger contemporaries. And more educated. I did once go out with a younger man. He was gorgeous, sweet and had lots of hair. But it all fell apart when we were watching the news coverage about the first war in Iraq and he asked me where Baghdad was.
A friend of mine tells the story of how she split up with her boyfriend of the same age just before they went on holiday to New York. She asked him if they could go to Tiffany’s when they got there. He had never heard of it. “Is there no end to his ignorance?” she wailed down the phone to me. She has since married a man 21 years her senior who is extremely well versed in international jewellery shops.
I recently made an older friend.
He is your perfect gentleman, he even stands up when you walk into the room. This is something a youth is unlikely to do, unless of course you tell him you’ve got an X Box 360 in your handbag.
Younger men lack the manners of their older counterparts and however feminist we pretend to become, I don’t know a woman who doesn’t want doors opened for her or dinner paid for. A friend of mine recently went on a date with a 45-year-old man. At the end of the meal she said: “I suppose we should get the bill.” ‘It’s all done,” replied her date. He had paid while she went out for a cigarette.
Money, of course, plays a part. You not only need to know where Tiffany’s is, but you need to be in a position to spend money there.The older man is likely to be more successful, richer and more able to provide for you and your offspring. My father always says that if he had a penny for every time a woman told him how attractive Aristotle Onassis was he’d be as rich as the shipping magnate. “He looked like a goat,” he says. “But that never stopped a woman finding a billionaire attractive.”
Another upside is that you’ll always be the younger woman. But if this isn’t enough for you then you should follow Agatha Christie’s advice and go for an older man who is also an archaeologist: the older you get the more interested he will be in you.
I suppose if I follow my aunt’s adage I will soon be at the age when older men cease to be interesting. I will be ditching my older husband for a nubile toy-boy who will pounce on me at all hours and keep me young in mind and body. It sounds exhausting. I think I’d rather nod off by the fire and read some poetry. Or maybe my husband could recite some to me?
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019