This time last year, at the tender age of 43, I admitted to some friends that I kissed a 60-year-old man. My friends, still in their 40s, had interesting responses. One of them sneered at me, but the other was curious. "What was it like?" he asked. "It was fantastic," I said.
The gent in question had flown into Toronto that day from the U.K., to attend a posh business/cocktail party associated with his work. We had a wonderful conversation, and before I knew it, we were the only guests remaining. After bidding the hosts adieu, we shared a taxi back into the city and had a couple of drinks at his hotel bar. Like many women, I fell under the spell of a man who excited my mind, and a man who wanted to hear what I had to say, and I wanted to show my appreciation.
I invited myself up to his room under the guise of wanting to see what they'd done to the building since renovating it into a hotel/residence. After looking at the view and talking about the action on the street below, I sat down beside him and asked if I could kiss him. It was innocent, respectful, exciting, unhurried. Most of all, it was a refreshing change.
My phone rang at 8:30 the next morning. With a thick head, I struggled out of bed to answer it. It was the gentleman calling me from his plane back to London as it waited on the tarmac. He wanted to make sure I got home OK and we chatted for a few minutes before he said goodbye. It was a romantic dream. I felt like the heroine an old movie.
I've known a lot of men in my life, but I've seldom been treated so well. My gentleman carried a hankie and the manners of a bygone age, from a time where men and women treated each other with respect. Meeting this man made me think about the differences between seasoned older men and the urgent expectations of younger men; about maturity and experience vs. physicality and insecurity. An older man's politeness, consideration, and charm can be irresistible, and if he's anything like my guy, it doesn't hurt if he resembles Gregory Peck.
I became fascinated with the idea of older men with younger women and wanted to know how other women felt, so I devised a survey and got the opinions of a handful of women who have had some kind of romantic tie to men at least 15 years their senior. Most women think their older fellas are fantastic, with the exception of one woman who complained of being more of a "nurse-maid" than a romantic partner. That's a risk that a younger woman might take, I suppose, but overall, women who like older men love older men.
Women found their mature men respectful, polite, handsome, generous, intelligent, kind, affectionate, sensitive, and good conversationalists, and were not considered pushy, demanding, or materialistic. The majority of women who took the survey found their older men confident, aware, and responsible, and all women recognized the differences between older and younger men.
One woman offered this: "Older men seem to understand that they have to be full participants in a relationship. I've also dated younger men (much younger) and found the relationships were hollow and shallow. Older men know who they are, what they want and where they're going. They are less selfish and self-absorbed. They are also more caring sex partners. I put it all down to older men have more experience with women and therefore are more sensitive to our needs."
The jaded nurse-maid was the only woman who would not recommend dating older men, and rightly so, but most women agreed that men get better as they age. As one woman said, "Older men have a lot more going for them than we often think."
When men reach their mid-30s and move into their 40s, they enter andropause, also known as man-o-pause, similar to women's mid-life menopause where hormone levels change and people take on new behaviours. When testosterone levels begin to wane in men, many changes occur -- vitality lessens, the sex drive and aggression decreases, and physical agility declines. This can be shocking for some men, but they have a choice to cruise into their golden years with grace.
The following short-term effects of andropause can include:
Decreased sexual performance
Added to the effects of testosterone deficiency comes loss of muscle mass that, according to this Huffington Post article, includes higher fat levels as muscle converts to fat, and more fat means testosterone converts to estrogen. Increased estrogen can look like many things like a heavier frame and "man boobs" (yes, even 007 has developed moobs -- have a look at Roger Moore as a senior). Some of these changes may not be welcome, and depending on the man, could be thought of as a defeat, but an increase in estrogen is what makes men more sensitive and better listeners, and this is what the women in the survey found so appealing.
The style of the older gent
Researching for this post, I did a general search for "older men" and had to pick out the rare bits that were not focused on health issues like increased urination, risk of falls, or a preoccupation with the falling libido. I waded through scathing articles written by women about men growing meaner as they get older, terrible sex-crazed articles describing how thirty-something "older" men should deal with the conniving, sex-obsessed, gold-digging twenty-somethings. I was crestfallen to find few articles mentioning the allure of older gentlemen appealing to a woman's sense of intelligence, and so too, anything about the style of an older gent.
For the Baby Boomers who bore the youthquake movement of the 1960s, their youthful ideals have in the end, betrayed them, and we find ourselves in a youth-focused society where older people are almost entirely overlooked. It's a shame -- we miss out on how awesome they are. As a men's image consultant, I am blessed to work with older men who want to reinvent themselves during the second part of their lives and become the men they've always wanted to be.
We've been conditioned to think of aging as a sentence, as a terrible end to life, but it's all about perspective. Take it from actor/model Gerry Hennessy who, at age 67, would rather talk about style than ill health:
"Surely personal style is one of the choices that define us as individuals," he says. "It is the wrapping on the package that identifies you as a man who is interesting, interested, fearless and worth knowing. That is why abandoning your sense of style as you age makes as much sense as retiring at 65.
"If only older men took the time to explore and experience the sense of well-being that personal style brings to the life table, then perhaps we would have more things to discuss than the things ageing generally brings. It is a matter of finding inner peace through life's style choices -- I age, therefore I style."
Further reading: In Praise of Older Men (Elle magazine)
The Myth of Older Men Wanting Younger Women (Huffington Post)