“If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.” –Actor Clint Eastwood to his wife, Dina
Relationships are really big in the news rights now, specifically dysfunctional and largely illegal relationships. I hadn’t wanted to comment on any of the mess in Hollywood or New York or anywhere else because anything I might say one way or the other would just be noise. When the allegations against Alabama GOP Senate nominee, Roy Moore, surfaced last week, I rolled my eyes. We already knew the former state Supreme Court judge was a piece of shit trying desperately to cling to the hem of Jesus’ legacy; this seemed to me to be merely more noise that the thick-headed Republicans in Alabama would just ignore. Those folks haven’t elected a decent politician since … uhm … ever. No need for me to wade into that useless fracas. No amount of logic is going to sway the minds of the willfully ignorant.
However, in recent days since that story first dropped, I started noticing things popping up here and there, in a comment on a news story, in a reply to a tweet. Nothing really major, I suppose, just personal opinions regarding large age gaps in relationships. The topic gets under my skin a bit, but the people making those comments were not people of significance and are entitled to their own opinions, even if they are misinformed.
Then, this piece of garbage showed up on my Twitter feed, thanks to someone’s reply to the attempt to misdirect the conversation:
The tweet references an article in People magazine in September of this year, talking about the revelations in a book by the woman involved, Mimi Alford, who had just released a book detailing her experiences as Mrs. Kennedy’s personal assistant [source]. Presuming the allegations are true, and there’s no reason to assume they aren’t at least based on some level of fact, then sure, President Kennedy abused the power of his office for sexual favors. So did Bill Clinton, in case you slept through the 90s.
What makes the allegations against Moore so much worse, and Coulter’s attempt at distraction more despicable is the fact that Moore’s victims were teenagers, under 18, making the act one of pedophilia which is illegal. The law sets the age of 18 as the point at which a young person can reasonably be expected to have enough information, education, and life experience to make her own decisions regarding the when, where, why, how, and with whom they want to have sex. The further removed one is from that age, the less they have sufficient maturity to make knowing and responsible decisions, putting them in the category of inherent victims regardless of what the child might have said at the time.
What angers me, though, is when people like Coulter associate all May/December relationships with the despicable acts of pedophiles like Moore. Pedophiles aren’t looking for relationships, they’re looking for control and power. Comparing the two is like trying to compare mustard with treated lumber—they’re not remotely the same thing.
Why, you might ask, does this matter upset me so much? Because I’m in one of those May/December relationships, I’ve experienced the negative response, and quite frankly, I’m rather fed up with people patting me on the back as though I’ve won some award while looking at The Young Woman (hereafter referred to as TYW for brevity) as though she’s either lost her ever-loving mind or presuming she must be a gold digger. That response is every bit as wrong as expressing disgust with a biracial relationship or a same-gender relationship. We are in love because we both chose to be in love and the only creepy factor is among those who think our relationship is creepy.
Part of the problem is that some seem to think that May/December relationships only happen because one was stalking the other. The dialog goes that either the older person had some latent pedophilia going on or the younger person was merely looking for someone from whom they could mooch a comfortable existence. Either of those assumptions would be wrong. While I can’t speak to every such relationship that has ever occured, I can speak to ours, so let me enlighten you.
How Our Relationship Began
Scroll back up for a second and take a look at the photograph at the top of this article. That photo was one I took the night TYW and I first met: December 6, 2012. She was 28, I was 52—25 years difference. We met at a non-holiday party thrown by a mutual friend who had the week before posed for this photo for my birthday:
Yeah, that’s me in the center there, back when my hair was just a tad longer than it is now. Our mutual friend is down front, wrapped in brown cloth. Her intention was to throw a party for other girls who, like here, was over the whole holiday party scene. She asked me to come along and take pictures. Then, one of the girls asked to bring her fiancé. TYW asked to bring a friend as well. She brought her boss. Not kidding. He was freshly divorced and rather lacking in dating skills. She was trying to help. As it turned out, the party had almost as many guys as girls, but it was okay. I was only there to take pictures.
I didn’t presume anything from meeting TYW that night. She was friendly enough, but she seemed rather distracted by our host. The brief gallery below is a sample of the photos I took that night.
I’m going to just assume that one can pick up on the obvious theme there. I was not the person to whom TYW was paying attention that night. We talked politely, but I left before she did and slept sufficiently not knowing that I’d ever see her or anyone else from the party again. I wasn’t looking for a relationship and neither was she.
Then, we started talking. I don’t remember exactly what prompted the conversation. Presumably, I still have the conversations but trying to dig that far back was going to take several hours of time I really don’t have to give up at the moment. Still, we talked. We met up for coffee a few times and discussed, among other things, how that neither of us thought love was real. She had been married and divorced twice already and was gunshy of relationships. She was also a U.S. Marine, tough, fit, and very independent.
Our first non-coffee date was an art gallery tour about a month later. While it went nicely enough, there was still no signs of romance. She wouldn’t even let me buy her coffee afterward. We kept talking, though. We enjoyed that and conversed about several things. As I got into the February fashion season, I’d be online at 3:00 in the morning and more often than not she’d be waiting for me. She came over a couple of times to watch me edit photos (thrilling time that is) but always left with nothing more than a hug.
Later that month, I mentioned a need for a model for a very special art project shared with a rope artist. The art was erotic, well out of the mainstream, and not the sort of thing just anyone can do, even if they want. This was the kind of art that can trigger all manner of anxieties and psychological issues. To my surprise and pleasure, she volunteered. A few nights later we met up at the artist’s studio and took a few pictures. I managed to find one that is reasonably work safe.
Yeah, it was pretty intense, but again, she wouldn’t let me buy her a drink or anything afterward. She took me home, gave me a hug, and left. We were making good friends.
Eventually, the romance did kick in and by March she had moved me in with her. She didn’t give me a choice. I was sick, again, and as I sat shaking on her couch she informed me that she was sending someone to pick up my stuff. I could either go with them or just tell them where everything was. End of conversation. We were a couple in a relationship who hadn’t planned on a relationship. Pleased, but surprised, we weren’t ready for what was about to happen.
The fallout begins
We knew not everyone would approve of our relationship because of the gap in our ages. We tiptoed around the issue, passing it off as TYW just helping out a friend. We pulled off that ruse until her birthday, which just happened to be when her best female friend had a baby. We were at the hospital and while I knew her friend, I didn’t know any of the other people in the room and let it slip to her friend’s sister that I was TYW’s boyfriend. Her friend didn’t find out until after we left, but her response was no positive.
Eventually, her parents figured it out and TYW went ahead and told them. Interestingly enough, her mom, who is only four months older than I am, took it better than her dad, who is 11 years older. But then, most of her dad’s reaction was just watching out for his only girl. I can appreciate that.
What was disappointing, though, was the number of people who completely ghosted. Poof. Gone without a word. Sure, it got back to me all the murmuring on the grapevine, how that some found are relationship disgusting, others thinking that I had been predatory, and still others convinced she was just wanting all the pictures to be of her. I did my best to ignore it all, but don’t think for a second that the betrayal didn’t hurt.
TYW met my boys for the first time when the middle one graduated from Marine boot camp at Parris Island, the same place TYW had gone. Not only were the boys accepting of her, she hit it off well with their mother, which I totally wasn’t expecting. If my former wife could be okay with this new relationship, which couldn’t everyone else?
Yet, what we’ve experienced in the ensuing years is that those who really care about us are accepting and those that never were run and hide. And in some cases, they make faces.
A mere three weeks after I moved in with TYW, I twisted my ankle stepping on a tree root during an outdoor shoot. By the time I got home, the ankle was swollen, presumably sprained. The Marine wrapped it, put it up, and made me stay off it. That should have worked, but it didn’t. Three days later, I was in the ER with both legs severely swollen and in need of attention. TYW had stayed with me long enough for the doctor to notice her presence. He assumed she was my daughter. Upon correcting that information, the doctor’s response was less than positive.
We encountered the same problem with other doctors, all of whom were visibly surprised, and one of which even restricted my access to pain medication out of fear that TYW might steal them for herself. I did not continue treatment under that doctor long.
Every time we meet someone new, the stigma is there. We see it on people’s faces, even if they don’t say anything. We see the looks of surprise, the curiosity, and the disgust. Rarely do we meet someone whose response is positive. We’ve grown used to those reactions but they still hurt just a little.
And now, it’s all coming back around again, a little stronger and with more bias this time, because of a stupid fuck-up of a politician.
Relationships of our own design
May/December romances such as ours are nothing new. They go back at least as far as Classical Greece and probably further than that, though there’s little written record one way or the other. As society has changed and mating habits have changed and our understanding of human development has changed, we have altered the moment at which such relationships are justifiable and legal. There are reasonable arguments to be made whether any person between the ages of 16 and 20 have the level of understanding and emotional maturity necessary to engage in a sexual relationship with anyone of any age. For that matter, I’ve met people my own age who still don’t have the emotional maturity necessary for a relationship.
To take advantage of someone, regardless of the situation or their age, is wrong. We’ve not spelled that out well before, and at times our culture has even celebrated the “boys” getting drunk and rowdy. Remember the 1984 movie Porkies? Everyone laughed at the shower scene in that movie back then. Yet, that is the very type of media influence that encourages the behavior we’re now fighting against.
When two adults agree to a relationship, though, whether it be physical or friendly, there’s no good reason for making age a factor. In fact, if one were to ask TYW, she would likely tell you that it was the relationships with people closer to her own age (one slightly younger than she was), that caused her the most trouble. When we are free, as adults, to fashion our own relationships we are far more likely to find someone with whom we are better suited for the long-term, someone who gives as equally as giving, and maybe even someone who knows how to love.
What is even more strange in this situation is that we care less when both people are older than we do when one is still what society considers young. Consider that the age gap between Clint Eastwood and his wife, Dina is exactly the same as mine and TYW: 25 years. Does the fact that Eastwood is now 87 and his wife is 62 make it any more or less acceptable, or is it simply that one has more difficulty imagining them having sex at that age so we’re not so perversely interested? Perhaps consider that Harrison Ford is 72 while his wife, Calista Flockhart, whom he married in 2010, is 53. Does their age gap matter all that much or might it have mattered more when we still knew Calista as the character Ally McBeal? Here’s another one: comedian Jerry Seinfeld is 63. His wife, Jessica, with whom he’s had three children, is only 46. Does that 17-year difference in their ages really make any difference? I’m willing to bet that their kids would say no.
Public perception and acceptance of our relationships is important to our social well-being. When Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were first married, they changed their ages so that it appeared that they were both the same age, born in 1914. The truth was that Lucy was six years older than the 23-year-old Desi and they knew that difference would be a problem for them in the fickle social circles of Hollywood. Most people don’t think of a six-year gap as being that significant when the man is older, but our prejudice is born out in how we respond when a woman chooses a spouse who is significantly younger.
Destroying Relationship Bias
One would think American society would be getting over its stupid inbred attitudes toward relationships, but we’re not nearly as accepting as we want to think. Families of mixed race still face significant amounts of hate, especially within their native cultures. Same-gender marriage has been the law long enough that it really shouldn’t be an issue but Roy Moore is actively campaigning in Alabama on a platform that includes not merely overturning the Supreme Court’s decision but putting gay people in jail. We’re not making anywhere near as much progress as we should be and the fact that we’re not is, quite plainly, disgusting. We know better. We know we know better. Yet, we continue to choose prejudice everywhere we can possibly find it.
Let me ask you a very important question and one needs to be extremely honest in answering it. What harm does it do to you if I love someone who is 25 years younger than me? What harm does it do to you if I love someone a different race than me (technically, that is the case)? What harm does it do to you if I love someone who is the same gender as me, or someone who is gender fluid, or someone who is trans?
Here’s the honest answer to those questions: none. Zero. Zip. Nada. The sooner we, as a society, can figure that out the sooner we can get on with really important issues such as keeping real creeps like Roy Moore not only out of the United States Senate but away from little girls in Alabama shopping malls. Apparently, we need to be much less concerned about which restroom transgender people use and more about the ones movie producers and politicians visit since there are far more cases of the latter molesting people. In fact, there are ZERO cases of trans people molesting children or committing a sex crime. Too bad our own President can’t say the same thing. I’m still waiting for us to get back to that issue.
If my relationship gives you the creeps, then YOU are the one with a problem and you are the only one who can fix that problem. The same goes for every other relationship between consenting adults. Nothing about anyone else’s relationship is any of your business on any level for any reason. Sure, you may be jealous because we’re having more and better sex than the rest of you (on Tuesdays, at least) but again, that problem is on you, not anyone else.
America, as a country, needs to get over its relationship bias problem. Gossip columnist Liz Smith is dead. There is no breaking news here. Fix yourself or go away. Far, far away.
Abide in Peace,
The Old Man