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ISSUE 117 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/31/2003

Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson

By Jean Mullins
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 31, 2003

In this modern era, everyone would like to think that age does not matter, especially when it comes to dating. But somehow a relationship seems that much more intriguing when a fossil like J. Howard Marshall II takes up with a young thing like Anna Nicole Smith. It has long been common for older men to date younger women. And while those relationships always capture the public’s, even more intriguing, and becoming increasingly common, iswhen a relationship exists between an older woman and a younger man.

Do older women have a certain appeal to younger men that is more apparent now than it was before, or is it simply that, in an era where people are looking younger longer thanks to plastic surgery and cosmetics, it is possible for women (and men) to be ageless? What is the inspiration for this trend? Why are older women looking for younger men? And why are younger men looking for older women?

“I think that it has to do with looking younger themselves,” Beth Gillaspey ’07 said. “They feel better about their age if they can bag themselves a younger man.”

Aaron Johansen ‘07 said, “It has to do with financial security … Younger guys want women who are financially stable.”

Still, Sarah Fortman ‘07 suggested, “Maybe it really does have to do with love. Age is not a factor in love.”

The most obvious example of this trend is the now infamous relationship between Demi Moore, 40, and Ashton Kutcher, 25. The announcement that these two celebrities were dating brought on a media feeding frenzy, and every person who ever stood in a grocery store cashier line saw the photos of the two celebrities canoodling. Many people weighed in with their own opinions on the relationship, some speculating that it was a publicity stunt to coincide with Moore’s reemergence in Hollywood after a sabbatical of sorts. But Ashley Williams of “Good Morning Miami” commented: “It’s not about where dating someone can get you.”

Yeah, right. But with recent rumors of an engagement, people are beginning to wonder: What if this relationship really is about love?

When it came out that Bruce Willis was dating Brooke Burns, a woman 23 years his junior, the public hardly noticed. Perhaps this is another sign that it is more acceptable, and therefore less interesting, for older men to date younger women. It certainly happens all the time in Hollywood.

For example, the age gap between Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart is 22 years. Another example is the marriage of Michael Douglas, 59, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, 35. Theirs is a whopping 24 year age difference, but it is hardly considered taboo or interesting.

Sure, Saturday Night Live poked fun at Douglas and Zeta-Jones a couple of times, but it was hardly anything close to the Demi-Ashton extravaganza. In fact, none of these celebrity pairings received the attention that the relationship between Moore and Kutcher has received, despite (it must be noted) the wider age gap between these men and their much younger significant others.

However, the older woman-younger man phenomenon hardly started with Demi and Ashton. Consider the following relationships: Jude Law and his (now estranged) wife Sadie Frost have a five year age difference, at 30 and 35 respectively. The seemingly successful marriage between Courteney Cox Arquette and David Arquette is another example. Cox Arquette, 39, is seven years older that her husband, who is 32.

Susan Sarandon, at 56, is 12 years older than her significant other Tim Robbins, 44. And a final couple for consideration: Heath Ledger and Naomi Watts. Though they recently parted ways, these two talented Aussies dated for quite some time. Watts is 35, and Ledger is 11 years her junior at 24. This is not the first older woman for Ledger either – some may recall his previous relationship with Heather Graham, who is 9 years his senior.

St. Olaf students, when asked if they would date a younger man/older woman, many responded with a skeptical, “How much older/younger?” While some seemed open to the possibility of dating someone older/younger than themselves by, at most, two years, most cringed at the mention of the age difference between Moore and Kutcher.

“That’s gross,” said Jacquie Spielmann ‘05.

Many were concerned about the differences in maturity level. Elsa Kendig ’07 said, “I guess [it’s okay] depending on the maturity level [of the two people].” Many others echoed Kendig’s sentiments – the conception seems to be that younger men tend to be less mature than their older counterparts. Certainly a few were concerned about the so-called “maturity gap” in a relationship between a 40-year-old woman and her 25-year-old mate.

Some students questioned the relationship between Moore and Kutcher based on Kutcher’s maturity level – how responsible can a guy with a prank show (Punk’d) on MTV be?

And it seems in Hollywood that art imitates life. The mother, no pun intended, of all older-women/younger men stories, the acclaimed film “The Graduate,” is about a college-aged man seduced by an older woman. The film may have been before its time in 1967, but 2002 saw a revival of its classic theme – cinematically, it was a big year for films portraying relationships between older women and younger men. Twenty-two year-old Jake Gyllenhaal was courted by two older women in two separate movies: Jennifer Aniston, 34, in “The Good Girl,” and Catherine Keener, 43, in “Lovely & Amazing.” Other recent films that followed suit of “The Graduate” include the movies “Tadpole” and “Igby Goes Down.”

Perhaps this is a sign that the public, along with being fascinated by the older-woman phenomenon, is also accepting of older women dating younger men. The public will have to wait and see if Moore and Kutcher’s relationship has longevity, but one thing remains apparent: relationships between older women and younger men are nothing new, and they will not go away any time soon.

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