Not all young people are looters. I recently encountered a pretty young thing – the kind who was, as Chandler put it, ‘ blonde enough to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window’. Rowan Williams might have been tempted to kick the Canterbury glazing at the sight of this little poppet. And she was bright as a button, too, with an agreeably smutty sense of humour and a keen mind that was very nearly as engaging as her body.
Of course, there was a downside. As brilliant, beautiful and gratifyingly filthy as this little minx might have been she was also as mad as a box of frogs. And her grip on reality made such doughty perjurers as Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken sound like doughty swingers of the sword of truth. She put a smile on my face and a spring in my step, but life was one long dodgy dossier when she was around.
I mention this because one has to be very clear of the pros and cons when considering the reviving effects of what one might call the Hefner-Berlusconi approach to life. Prudes may mock when they see men with faces as lined as their scrotums surrounding themselves with dewy, gravity-defying popsies. And one has to worry about the strength of a relationship when she packs her vibrator and he packs his false teeth.
But I think we can admit among ourselves, as gentlemen of a certain age, that we are not immune to fantasies in which we too are surrounded by a veritable harem of barely-legal beauties.
The advantages provided by the average 23-year-old, when compared to the average 53- or 63-year-old hardly require explanation. What one has to remember, however, is that while they may be young, they are nevertheless still women, with all the drawbacks as well as benefits this implies.
A young woman is, as I have suggested, at least as likely as her mother to be neurotic, needy, catastrophically irrational and prone to appalling periods. The only difference is that she is also more immature, incomparably more self-obsessed and likely to believe that best solution to her problems is to lie around feeling sorry for herself, demanding vast amounts of attention and playing truly appalling contemporary pop songs (sadly, Sinatra was not my beloved’s only musical love) at absurdly loud volumes.
Young women – like young men – are convinced they know everything while actually knowing precisely nothing. Even the brightest ones are quite likely to have no comprehension of history, culture, politics or indeed anything beyond the latest fashion craze or celebrity gossip. We oldsters may have found it inconceivable that a young man like Charlie Gilmour would not have known what the Cenotaph was. I have yet to meet a female under 25 who had the faintest idea.
Your prospective young plaything has far fewer of the traditional prejudices about race, gender or sexuality, but will instead have stuffed her make-up-laden, hair-straightened little head with quasi-academic superstitions about climate change, food allergies and global economics. Every third word she says is either ‘like’, ‘literally’ or ‘omigod’. So that is, essentially, her entire conversation.
The beautiful ones are as jaw-droppingly delicious as they will ever be, yet they are also more insecure about their looks than at any other time of their lives. And of course, if one does have daughters, the discovery that their father is involved with someone of their own generation is likely to provoke Vesuvian eruptions of rage and disgust.
Above all, there is the ghastly moment when one has to face up to the fact that not only is one’s beloved appallingly age-inappropriate, so is her mother. It is at that point, I think, that one decides that enough is really more than enough and crawls back home to the deep, deep peace of the marital bed.
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