Like Dennis Quaid, I'm Decades Older Than My Partner. There's Nothing 'Disgusting' About It.
“Look!” I shouted yesterday, waving my phone at my partner. “Dennis Quaid is 65 and he’s marrying a 26-year-old student. That’s almost 40 years!"
“This,” I said, poking a photo of a clearly delighted Quaid with Laura Savoie, “is disgusting!”
I was joking.
See, there’s a 20-year age gap between my partner Jayde and myself, and every time I see a decent age gap in the media I like to call it “disgusting”.
Because, when we got together eight years ago, we got a bit of that.
I was born in 1965, making me 54. Jayde was born 1984. She’s just turned 35.
We first met about 13 years ago through a work project. Sure, I found her attractive, but as we spent more time together, I realised she was incredibly smart, mature way beyond her years, ambitious, grounded and funny. She saw me as a well-connected, tubby, older and possibly gay man.
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For five years we had regular lunches and breakfasts and chatted through the dramas and triumphs of her career, without a thought of romance. We became firm friends, which served us well in the future.
But, “in vino veritas” -- in wine lies the truth -- and one long dinner became a moment that changed our lives forever. It was, and is, impossible to not be together.
Then the comments started -- many of them gross, mostly from men.
"Is she teething?"
"What time does she go home for her nap?"
"Does she have any hot friends?"
In some ways, we are a walking cliché. This is my second major relationship. I’m old enough to be her dad, literally. Jayde is closer in age to my daughter, 20, than me.
In recent years I’ve advocated for positive masculinity with No to Violence, an organisation that works with men to end family violence. Professionally, I write and talk about gender and manhood all the time, so I’m keenly aware it’s easy to criticise the nature of our relationship as imbalanced, with Jayde as a prize, an object.
It is also through this lens I must examine my personal behaviour, past and present, and the nature of my relationship.
Jayde has become the powerhouse businesswoman I predicted she would be. At 35, she is at the helm of a still-growing business that has supported us for five years. I’m the struggling author who’s crap with money. She looks after all that and I’m happy to ask her to pop $50 into my account for beer.
So, there’s no imbalance there!
There is no denying part of my attraction to Jayde is physical -- as it should be, that’s why people are together. And there can be no denying the person she is physically is age-related -- she is the age she is.
But I admire her brain and spirit so much more.
Jayde has also endured about 10 surgeries in our time together -- one of them a life-saving hysterectomy at 31. This meant facing the idea of not having children naturally. It also changed her body and hormones messed with her libido for years. She's been through a great deal and I am blown away by her strength. It's this admiration that's helped sustain my love for her -- not the purely carnal attraction that some might imagine when they're judging our age gap.
Indeed, our last few years have been no cliché.
One unexpected side effect of our age-gap has been babies. At 35, all of Jayde’s friends and family are popping out babies like a production line. Barbecues are now teeming with little bald heads and everyone leaves at 4.30 for nap time.
I have to say I thought I’d hate it, but I love it. My daughter, born at exactly the same stage in my life 20 years ago, often receives calls from her tearful father telling her she’s the “best baby ever”. All the milestones I’m seeing around me are triggering wonderful memories.
We know, eventually, I’ll be 60 when Jayde’s 40, 80 when she’s 60. I do feel an obligation to stay fit and healthy, but, who knows what’s going to happen in the future? I could well outlive her.
In the end, it is a quote from gender-challenging pop-culture hero Pharrell Williams, in a fresh issue of UK GQ, on masculinity, that nails the thinking for me.
“I think the truest definition of masculinity is the essence of you that understands and respects that which isn’t masculine.”
It’s a very big idea, when it sinks in. If men could do that, we'd all be better off.
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As an age-gap veteran, my opinion on Dennis and Laura is this: as long as Laura is understood, and respected, as his equal and an individual in every way, may they live a long and happy life together.
But, if she’s some sort of object, prize or trophy, valued for something other than who she is as an individual, well… that’s disgusting.