I always knew that us Brits could be a conservative bunch, and of course few of us find change easy, but even I’m struggling to understand why people still find it so strange that a younger man might actually enjoy the company of an older woman, when such relationships have been going on for, not just decades, but centuries.
This week I was sent an email drawing my attention to a letter that statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin sent to a friend, discussing this very topic, back in 1745!
To be strictly accurate, he was suggesting to his friend that, if he ever fancied playing away from home, he’d be well advised to do it with an older woman, rather than a young one – and some of his reasoning is pretty sexist - but I was still struck by the similarities between what Franklin says about the admirable qualities of the older woman and what my younger man, Ad Man, told me he found appealing.
For those of you new to these pages, in the early days, I asked Ad Man about what it was that the younger man could possibly be gaining by dating the older woman, and this is what I reported back in the blog:
The older woman has more to talk about By the time a woman hits 40, she’s usually been to a few places, seen a few things, and realised that there’s more to life than what’s happening in X-Factor and the new handbags in TopShop (though that’s not to say that we don’t like those things too!) We’ve got somewhere in our careers, seen some ups and downs, and know that you need more than perfect hair and make-up to make an evening interesting. Twenty–three-year-old Megan Fox may tick a lot of boxes for the Toy Boy, but her conversation certainly isn’t one of them.
And here is Franklin, back in 1745, saying much the same thing – though with less mention of X Factor:
“Because as they (older women) have more Knowledge of the World and their Minds are better stor’d with Observations, their Conversation is more improving and more lastingly agreable.”
He goes onto say:
“When women cease to be handsome, they study to be good. To maintain their Influence over Men, they supply the Diminution of Beauty by an Augmentation of Utility. They learn to do a 1000 Services small and great, and are the most tender and useful of all Friends when you are sick. Thus they continue amiable. And hence there is hardly such a thing to be found as an old Woman who is not a good Woman.”
Fortunately for me, the work the Suffragettes, Women’s Lib and the Feminist movement have done over the past hundred years or so has ensured that Ad Man views me with rather more respect than Franklin feels due to give the older women of his time. But, strip away Franklin’s assumption that an older woman’s beauty fades (and that is why she works harder to please her man) and essentially you have Ad Man’s second point – that older women are not so self obsessed as their younger counterparts:
It’s not all about ‘me’ Talking about yourself for too long is a big turn off for men - and so many 20-somethings are yet to emerge from their egocentric chrysalis. The joy of the forty-something is that she has developed the skill of asking people questions. More than that, she is genuinely interested in someone other than herself. Think, who would you rather have a chat with - Kate Winslet or Peaches Geldof?
And finally, although Franklin rather crudely points to how an older woman’s face and neck will inevitably show signs of age and gravity taking their toll (the unfortunate women of 1745 had less sunscreen, moisturizer and Botox around to help them out, of course) – even he is aware that, when it comes to turning out the bedroom lights, the older woman still has more to offer, thanks to her extra years of experience:
“Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part: The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts continuing to the last as plump as ever: So that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one. And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement.”
I only hope that Franklin's wife o French mistress, never got to see what he'd written about lank and wrinkled faces! I suspect that she would have preferred Ad Man's 21st century interpretation:
We’re confident Age definitely brings an added confidence. The cougar knows what she wants and what she doesn’t want, and she knows how to sweat her assets. Such confidence is sexy – men of all ages are unanimous in that – and that extends to the bedroom too. OK, so the 40-year-old’s body may have the odd flaw, but at least she’s happy to keep the light on and show off the bits that count – and that keeps a toy boy very happy.
Well, plus ca change – as the French, and pretentious, might say! Who knows, maybe another 300 years from now, when older women are still being vilified for dating younger men, someone will pull out my blog, and marvel at how it was happening even back in 2011!!