A few of us were talking about men — a favorite subject — when Alec Baldwin’s name came up. The 54-year-old “30 Rock” actor is engaged to Hilaria Thomas, who’s 28.
“It isn’t fair,” lamented one beautiful, brilliant 50-something friend who’s single and would love to find a partner.
“We all know what those marriages are about,” observed another beautiful, brilliant 50-something friend who’s also single and would love to find a partner.
It isn’t? We do?
I am always amused and surprised at how we believe it’s wrong when men chose to be with younger women, as this is something new. Some men do — so? I can certainly understand the attraction let alone the evolutionary biology, can’t you?
As I’ve noted before, a Stanford study confirms what we already know: The older a man is when he marries after age 40, the greater the likelihood his wife will be a lot younger — whether he’s rich and educated or not. Men in their 40s tend to marry women about seven years younger, men in their 50s marry women 11 years younger, and men in their 60s marry women 13 years younger.
But what upsets my friend as well as a lot of other middle-aged women is this: If older men are only interested in dating and marrying much younger women, they are limiting the pool of available men in their own age group. I don’t think so, because if that trait — youth — is important to them, those men are no more truly available to women their own age than men who drink too much, gamble too much, smoke pot too much, are too heavy, etc., that we women are already overlooking.
We’re all free to pick and chose whatever traits we consider desirable or not, and youth and beauty are just as valid as any other trait — even though many want to call those men shallow. They’re not. That said, why would we want to be with someone for whom those are the most — or only — desirable traits? I wouldn’t; what makes a person truly attractive to me goes way beyond youth and handsomeness.
So I believe what that does is weed out people I wouldn’t be interested in anyway from the dating pool — now the men who are left are the true gems; go for it!
But it’s silly to think that May-December marriages aren’t “real” marriages. What is a “real” marriage? One between two people of the same age? Does age alone make a marriage would work, and if so, why?
The woman idolized by more middle-aged women than ever before, “Eat, Pray, Love’s” Elizabeth Gilbert, married a man 17 years older than she a few years ago, when she was 38. When I asked her recently how it’s going, she laughed (something she does often and genuinely) and said that she and her friend, author Ann Patchett, whose surgeon husband is 16 years older, always say that if they can’t make their marriages — a second for both — work with these men who so clearly adore them, then no one can make marriage work.
This, despite the fact that 60 percent of second marriage end in divorce (although I’d be curious to know what percentage of those marriages involve children).
May-December marriages can work, despite the constant stereotype that they can only be marriages between gold-seeking women and entitled wealthy men. Wrong, and that’s why Susan Pease Gadoua and I are working on a book about reshaping marriage, The New I Do (and check out our spiffy new website).
It’s time to embrace the fact that we shape the institution of marriage to fit our needs, and not the other way around. Marriage should no longer be one-size-fits-all — because it doesn’t.
- Do men who only date younger bother you? Why?
- Do marriages with wide age gaps bother you? Why?