Toy boys and sugar daddies

A good friend wrote to me recently, that he was unable to write long letters to me anymore as he is 77 and his time is more limited since he met a new ‘lady friend’.  I could continue to write as I wanted but from now on he could send postcards only.

I was pleased for my friend to have found love so late in his life, but when he wrote further  that she was six months younger than his sons, I felt my hackles rise.

What is it about older men who connect with significantly younger women that riles me?

Is it that I am no longer young myself and therefore unable to embark on what seems like a delicious encounter. Or am I simply responding to rigid certainties that say a couple should be reasonably close in age, otherwise something else might be happening to do with power imbalances and the like?

I bristle too when I read about significantly older women taking on young men as partners. Toy boys and sugar daddies trouble me.

So what is it about the Rupert Murdochs of this world, the old men with wealth and power, who can attract much younger women into their beds?  Why does it rile me?


Is it the old disapproval that comes out of some warped desire of my own to go off with my father? You know, the so called Oedipal pressure on girl children to go off with their fathers and the opposite for young boys to marry their mothers.

There’s a French writer and psychoanalyst, Janine Chasseguet Smirgel, who writes about generational confusion as an aspect of what she regards as perverse behaviour, a denial of generational differences and by perverse here I mean the situation where reality gets turned on its head, and what is white is considered black, or where everything’s value is somehow turned to shit. Where the lowest common denominator dominates and anything goes.

I suppose here I’m talking about boundaries and the basic realities and limitations of life and death.

Similarly, when my daughter told me the other day about a woman in her sixties who gave birth to a baby recently somewhere in Australia. Without thinking, we started to calculate the age this mother will be when her child enters adolescence.

How will an eighty year old cope with a teenager, and what of the teenager’s experience with a parent old enough to be her grandmother?


Would you believe, as I was writing this, one of the cats came up the hallway making that loud meow call, which I recognise as one of ‘I have caught myself a mouse’.

I had to chase her around the house to catch the poor now dead creature and dispose of it to protect myself from hearing this cat go through the pleasure of eating its remains.

It seems an apt interruption for my concerns about these generational divisions, as if I’m talking about people who interfere with the natural order of things in human life, even when it is the so called natural order of things for cats to catch and eat mice.

Maybe it’s as natural for men to act on their attraction to significantly younger women as it might be for women to act on theirs towards younger men.

We all admire youth and beauty and struggle to appreciate the merits of old age.

But the young women being attracted to older men like Rupert Murdoch, what’s that about?

Is it the father figure element, the power and prestige of being attached to an older man, who is seemingly strong and established or what?


Spring has sprung and the natural order is asserting itself with the change of seasons, and I baulk at the idea that I’m talking about a natural order as if some sort of god ordains it rather than that it’s a construct, just as nature itself is a construct.

We construct stories around these ideas, like when I grew up and believed heartily that a man should be about three years older than his partner, given the alleged lag in maturity of the sexes, and given my father was three years older than my mother.

Now that relationship worked out well, didn’t it?

I tell myself that the age difference should not matter but here I am cringing at the idea of a 77 year old man linking up with a 40-year-old woman.

Jealousy perhaps, not to be in the flush of a fresh new romance. Prudish disapproval at folks for trying something new towards the end of their lives, or what?

Another part of me says, let them be, but then I start to find myself identifying with my friend’s children.

How will they feel to see their father shacked up with one of their contemporaries? Will it irk them?


When my mother remarried, a man two years her senior – not a significantly younger or older man – I was furious.

I railed against the idea that my mother who had told me throughout my childhood that the only men she preferred were men of culture, European men, and that Australian born men tended to be boors, married an Australian man, less than two years after my European father’s death.

My mother and this second husband lived together more or less happily for the next 18 years.

By the time he died several years ahead of my mother, I had gotten over my grump. Instead I was then sad for my mother to have lost her partner. But when they first came together I could not feel so generous.

At the time, my therapist told me that I was unhappy because my mother was not marrying the man of my choice.

My therapist was right and perhaps the same now applies to my friend.

When he first wrote to me about finding a new ‘lady friend’ I had in my mind, a woman closer to my age, ten years or so younger than my friend but not a youngster.  Not that forty year olds are youngsters, but relative to those edging into their eighties, they’re spring chickens.

And so I have to check my condemnation and get over my prejudice.

Just be happy for my friend that he has found joy in another, late in his life, a thing he never imagined happening after the death of his wife several years ago.

Maybe, I feel excluded, after all he has told me he won’t be able to write long letters any more and I will miss our correspondence, pushed out by this younger rival.

thought my childhood, I was brought up to examine my conscience. Examine my thoughts, especially the unkind ones, the critical ones, and consider whether they bear further reflection or should be confessed and expunged.

Maybe this is one such example, or am I onto something?

15 thoughts on “Toy boys and sugar daddies”

  1. A while ago (which I know is vague but it’s as close as I can pin it down) I came across a site online where some kindly soul had posted class photographs from the 1970s. Oddly enough there weren’t any with me in them but I have physical copies of all of them. As I looked at the photos I wasn’t so much swamped with memories as feelings. Two of the girls the girls are now dead, probably more. As I looked at the girls I noted that a part of me was strongly attracted to them, these fifteen-year-old girls. And it sounds creepy for a man in his late fifties to admit such a thing but then it’s not really me whose drawn to them; it’s the fifteen-year-old me that’s still inside me somewhere. This doesn’t mean that I’m oblivious to young women as I walk down the street. I’m not. But I can’t imagine being with them in any way. The youngest girl I ever dated was two days older than me. The oldest is my wife who’s twelve years older. F. was eight years older. So you might think I’ve a thing for older women but that’s not true either. I just happen to have always ended up with women who were older than me. I’d like to say it’s an intellectual thing but that was only true with Carrie. All other attractions were primarily physical and I paid the price. My mother commented on how much my first wife—who was six months older than me—looked like her; I can’t say I saw it. A lot of people maintain that men marry women who often resemble their mothers, more than women marry men who look like their father. I can’t say I’ve noticed. I certainly don’t have a type. My daughter’s always gone for older men—her current partner’s eight years older than she is—and the last two both had beards but all that says is that beards are in at the moment.

    I’ve only known one couple where there was a large age gap—I’d guess about twenty years—although that wasn’t what puzzled me about what drew them to each other. But then Carrie and I are an odd couple. We’re not only a generation apart but a culture apart. Really we have very little in common on paper. And yet we clicked from the start and continue to work despite the changes that have affected us both over the last twenty years. I don’t pretend to understand it. I do get what your therapist said about your mum not marrying the man of your choice though. I’ve never quite understood what my daughter saw in the men she was drawn too; apart from facial hair none of them are anything like me and frankly I’ve struggled to hold down a conversation with any of them.

    As for your friend not feeling able to write I have to say I’m a little disappointed in him. I don’t care what age he is. I’m not unsympathetic—I know full well how much it can take out of one to communicate in writing (I never spend less than an hour on these fairly short comments)—but to stop writing completely seems a bit… juvenile. When you’re seventeen and meet a girl suddenly she is your whole world and best buds just have sink or swim. But you’d think a septuagenarian would be a bit more balanced. Still, as they say here, it’s his funeral.

    1. In my friend’s defence, Jim, he didn’t say he’d stop writing. He said he wouldn’t be able to write long letters any more, the type I’m used to, the type I send to him. Instead, he’d send postcards, he said, but since then he’s sent me a short letter on postcard type paper – to stop him from writing more I expect. I’m not his only correspondent. And again, I understand his efforts to find more time to be with his new friend, it’s just that the whole business has this strange trickle down effect on me, especially since the new woman is so much younger than him. I can also understand an older man’s attraction to a young woman, as I can understand older women’s attractions to young men, but as you say, we don’t all act on them. In the end, whatever the age difference, it’s the relationship that counts, at least the mature part of me reckons that. The jealous me looks for reasons to complain. Thanks, Jim.

  2. You’ve been dumped. I don’t have time to write to you anymore, just send you a postcard. Surely attrition by lack of reply would be preferable. You would be braver than I am, but send him back a postcard and shock him, eff you ahole. What he did was malevolently cruel.

    As a young teen I removed the distributor leads from both of my father’s cars in effort to stop him going to his floozy common prostitute in town. The floozy became my step mother who gave my father love and good sex like my mother never did. She was by his side looking after him when he died. She is now in her eighties and respected by all of my family.

    So there you go. We have never really connected, but what do I have in common with an educated middle class Hawthorn writer and housewife? But I have spent ten minutes writing this. I do enjoy reading your blog posts.

    I had written him a letter, which I had for want of better knowledge……….

    1. I don’t feel completely dumped, Andrew, but I can appreciate your perspective. I certainly felt excluded. Funny what love does to us all. As you say, those on the periphery might sink or swim until the passion abates. I find the story of your adolescent efforts to stop your father from visiting his ‘floozy’ poignant. It must have felt hard for a boy of that age to cope with his father’s infidelities, harder than me having to cope with my mother’s remarriage. And yes, it’s funny that we two who come from different places should connect through our writing. I’m grateful for the ten minutes you took to respond here. Thanks, Andrew.

  3. What a hornets nest you’ve raised, Elisabeth.
    I believe that a lot of women are still genetically programmed to seek security and status in men as a way of survival, and the older, financially established male is certainly one that meets that criteria.
    I, too was unsettled about the men who befriended my own mother when she was widowed and the only reason I could think of was that they weren’t the man my father was and if he had still been alive, he would not have considered them worthy as friends. I was expecting her to choose someone who met my fathers’ standard.

    1. Someone who met your father’s standards is exactly what I mean, Karen, though my father’s standards were in some ways dodgy. Still he was my father, part of me, my blood and bones and this new man my mother had chosen seemed so alien. Now I recognise my mother’s choice as perfectly legitimate but then, caught in the heat of the moment, I resented him. There’s a story attached to this which I might write about one day. Interesting you see this issue as stirring up a hornet’s nest. It certainly feels tricky but no hornets have bitten me yet. Thanks, Karen.

      1. Christine has summed up the hornets nest dilemma I see, both the prejudice faced by the new partner and the reaction in those who have to learn to accept it, regardless of the circumstances. Probably not as relevant to your situation, though.
        I have come to the conclusion that should I ever contemplate a new relationship, it must pass muster with the children first and foremost for me to be happy.
        But really, who knows?

        1. Who really knows indeed, Karen. When it comes to falling in love with another, the adult children probably need to stand aside. After all, they have their lives to live, as do you. Though, of course for their sakes you can hope. Thanks.

  4. I have been the floozy, the long legged university student of lore, ( arts, of course) interloper, interferer, and the one who stole husband and father from his rightful place…even thought we met long after the separattion, and of course I am only after money!!! it’s amazing what the mind and its imaginings produce. Many has been the time when I have fallen over sideways in astonishment at the latest onslaught and attributions to me. And while there is comfort in the thought that ‘in the next life they will all be a second or third spouse and then…!!!’if they do not experience it in this life first…( Yes, the other thought is will I punch them now or later) it is also true that something very precious has been lost to these children and siblings which is their sense, from the beginning of time, that their world was framed by mother and father and so would go on forever and so the life cycle woul go on. It has not. Indeed the feeling of being amongst people whose lives have been so fractured by parental divorce is very very painful. It is not enough to say to them ‘but that is the reality’. The reality is that something is broken. It is very hard to speak about. And my presence as the second or third wife, and so called ‘stepmother’, will signify that wound for a long time to come. It does get better with time but it never goes away.

    1. Thanks for taking us into something of this other experience, Christine, what it’s like to be on the other side of the fence. So poignant. And I agree, something precious gets lost, or feels to be lost from the children who want to believe their parents love one another for ever and only. I know it’s not like that. My parents’s relationship was pretty horrible and still I preferred my dad to this interloper. My Dad was after all my dad. This interloper had nothing to do with me, my mother’s choice and all. And later I heard that this second husband found it hard to understand why so many of my mother’s children weren’t so much rude to him as they were to my mother, as in several of my siblings kept quite some distance from her. But my mother refused to tell her second husband much about her first husband so he too was locked out in some ways and not simply by my mother’s children. It’s a long and complicated story. I must say I feel for you as the so-called stepmother, hardly a step mother to adult children and yet all those fairy tales about wicked step mothers precede you. Thanks, Christine.

    1. I agree, Christine, I don’t believe my friend ‘dumped’ me, to use Andrew’s expression, and my friend is certainly aware of the limitations of time and age. He wants to make the most of his life in his actual dealings with a person who has started to matter a great deal to him, and that’s a good thing. I can see that. I’m not so churlish as to think that my mother’s second marriage wasn’t a good thing for her, even with its ups and downs and the fact that after 18 years together this second husband did to provide well for my mother, but that’s a whole other story. I suppose I was more interested in my almost knee jerk reaction to hearing the age of my friend’s new ‘lady friend’. My moral judgements about something I might not normally hold such harsh views on. Thanks again, Christine.

  5. There would be a reason you feel so riled (let down? disappointed? hurt?) and the challenge is to work out why. I suspect the answer lies in your childhood, that’s where I believe everything we feel comes from …
    PS. I wrote a short story not so long ago about something similar—an older man whose wife had died eleven weeks’ earlier, and whose cremated remains sat in an urn on the mantelpiece, going for a date with a younger woman who picked him up in her yellow VW beetle. I wrote it from the disapproving son’s perspective, while the widowed father was having the time of his life!

    1. I agree, Louise, the let down probably relates to some felt rejection in childhood, and if I were a more gracious, solid soul I might not feel one iota as I have, but still these feelings course through me, at least for a time, and then soon enough they pass.
      By the way, I saw in the Varuna alumni newsletter that your book is to be published next year. Did you announce this elsewhere? I must have missed it. This is brilliant news. Congratulations, Louise and thanks for your visit here.

      1. I’m sorry about my sanctimonious comment above. You’re the psychologist—ignore me telling you already know.
        By the way, it’s got nothing to do with being gracious or solid, it’s how many, even most, people would feel.
        Your story prompted me to return to my short story and I think I’ll make something of it!

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