Tuesday, 25 September 2012
The age old age-gap....
My boyfriend is 13 years older than me. Apart from the odd music or film reference that goes over my head, the age gap is utterly inconsequential. And I think I was always going to end up with someone older: Aged 8, I played Marta in The Sound of Music. All the other girls fancied Frederick. I fancied Captain Von Trapp. Aged 10 I played Annie, and yes, you guessed it, I fancied Daddy Warbucks. I still remember his name - Colin Marsh. How many nights I spent thinking Colin and I would get married.....
I had a thing for Dr Finlay on TV, and for Martin Shaw, not in re-runs from the 70's, but as The Chief - 1990's cop drama where Mr Shaw was probably late 40's/early 50's, sporting some salt 'n' pepper grey. Then there was Harold Pinter aged 70 (admittedly I wouldn't have wanted to get naked with him, but boy was he charismatic on stage), Ciaran Hinds (on the hit list since an early re-make of Jane Eyre with Samantha Morton), Clooney obviously, and Alan Rickman, in whose presence I became a quivering wreck. I could go on!
If you had shown me any of those men in their 20's/30's, I probably wouldn't have looked twice. Now, you might say it's a father complex, a la Freud, and you might be right. I'm not really sure how you prove or disprove that.
Now, the question I have is, is this inbuilt? Was I always going to fancy older men? Is it a father complex, or more pertintently, is it social conditioning to some degree? Obviously all women don't end up with men that are older. Or certainly not in their first marriage...... And thus it begins. Because men don't necessarily age better than women. We just think they do. We are told they do. And I think that becomes self-perpetuating, as you see women get older (I'm talking 60's upwards), and quite a few of them become more anxious, busier, whilst the men seem to get quieter and slow down. I can only talk of the people I know, who to be fair, are mostly related to me, so it could be the genes. But for the most part, the guys seem more and more rooted as they get older, and the women seem less so. They seem more nervous. Less confident.
Now, that is probably just old age manifesting itself differently in the sexes... But I wonder at a younger level, a la 40's upwards, whether those differences kick in... and whether they are innate, or whether they are the result of where society's attitudes are at... I think there are probably very few men in their middle age worrying that their wives are going to leave them for younger men. But I reckon there are plenty of middle aged women panicking that their husbands will leave them for some young thing. That is the 'norm' that is played out in the media. Who knows what the reality is? I'd love it if in fact the statistics showed that more women are heading off to toyboys than the other way around!
I'm sure there will be women who will clamour that they get more confident as the years go by, and I totally agree with this. I just see that diminishing when they hit pension age. And I hope that for my generation, that changes.
But, to return to the age gap. We live in a world where Trevor Eve gets to shag a woman younger than his daughter on BBC1. Ditto Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, probably Tom Cruise in a few years. Unless he gets to shag a man young enough to be his son, and that would be a turn up for the books..... And it's not just the dramas and the movies - TV and News presenters follow a similar pattern - the man is usually a good 10yrs older than the woman.
So, in such a world, where the media perpetuates the age gaps, representative or not, is there not some irony in the hubbub that is the reporting on 15yr old Megan Stammers and her 30yr old Maths teacher?
I'm not saying it's right - at 15yrs, she maybe mature for her age, she may know her own mind, but she isn't an adult, not really. I don't think I hit what I would define as proper adulthood until my mid 20's. So although she thinks she knows what she is doing, she probably doesn't. And he, at 30yrs, one would hope, should know better. I also think the police are worried for her safety, given the parental appeals, so I really do hope that he isn't a nutter, that she is safe and well, and that they have the presence of mind to return home to families and friends that are worried about them.
But, a 15yr age gap further down the line would be neither here nor there. And in less than 12 months, she will be 16yrs, legal to all intents and purposes. There has to a line drawn somewhere, but given that we consider age to be so arbitrary as time goes on, is there not a little hypocrisy in an outcry that probably wouldn't make the news if she was 16?
We can't have it both ways - we can't glamourise older men with significantly younger women, and then not be willing to deal with the consequences. I'm not saying that those media stereotypes provoke age gap relationships, but I'm saying that the reportage and repetition of those stereotypes has its effects. The more we see it, the more normal it becomes. And I'm not saying that it's not normal :-) I think it's fairly common! Age is a number - we accept that; we judge individuals on their maturity, their behaviour, their sense of responsibility. And I guess that's the point with Megan and her older lover - it's not really to do with how old they are, it's more to do with the fact that they ran away, which is possibly the most immature thing either party could do.
And sometimes an age gap can be problematic. Like last night when my boyfriend was tired and wanted to go to bed, and I was wide awake. He said I should stay up. My response: 'But I'll have no one to play with"! Tongue in cheek, but you get my drift :-)