What makes a 30-year-old mother have an affair with an 18-year-old boy As it's revealed pop star Harry Styles had affairs with older women, CAROL SARLER has a shocking confession to make
19:26 GMT, 27 June 2012
12:27 GMT, 28 June 2012
Older affairs: Eighteen-year-old pop star Harry Styles had flings with two 32-year-old women
There were raised eyebrows all round when Harry Styles, the 18-year-old One Direction pop star, enjoyed a passionate affair with 32-year-old TV presenter Caroline Flack. Fourteen years his senior, no less!
They broke up in January, to the great relief of his teenybopper fans. But the heart-throb’s fan club has been plunged into depression once again by news he was embroiled with another 32-year-old, the married radio presenter Lucy Horobin, when he was just 17.
It’s not hard to see what’s in it for Harry. Every decade of womanhood has its own merits, but the early 30s are a lovely time.
Women of that age have shrugged off the gawkiness of adolescence, while retaining the bloom of youth and the peak of fitness and acquiring the ease and confidence of age and experience.
No wonder young Harry’s bandmates admired him for his conquests. They should all be so lucky.
The real question, however, is: what’s in it for the thirtysomething woman who shuns men her own age in favour of the arms of callow youth
To which the answer is: absolutely nothing. You can trust me. I’ve been there. Done that. And bought him the T-shirt.
We met on holiday in Greece. He was 18, blond, French, pretty as a picture; I was 30 and quite old enough to know that what happens on holiday, stays on holiday. But did I heed that golden rule Did I heck.
In my defence, I should say right away that this was not a ‘cougar’ moment — that snide term for older women acting in a predatory manner. In fact, quite the reverse; Philippe came after me. With a heart-thudding vengeance.
I was, at the time, a divorced mother of a six-year-old daughter who rather liked him — as well she might; they were both, after all, children. I supported my daughter by freelance writing and a bit of radio work, which I think looked glamorous to young Philippe.
He Well, he was an ‘artiste’ given to, er, ‘poetry’ and making ‘free music’ (ie tuneless). But, as they say, opposites attract.
The fact that he was French undoubtedly helped his cause. He had about him a poise, a je ne sais quoi that would have been hard to find in a teenage British boy.
Yet at the same time, being only 18, he had not yet learnt the art of acting cool; he wore his heart on his sleeve, his adoration in his eyes — and very flattering it was. Rather like being loved by a puppy.
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I returned home after the holiday to a flurry of giggly miss-you-madly phone calls and letters. A few weeks later he landed on my London doorstep with nothing but a rucksack and, for some reason, a flute.
And for a — very short — while, all was fine.
He loafed around the house while I wrote articles, and although he made no effort to work or earn any money, I hardly noticed at first and didn’t mind.
He was my little secret, all kisses and games, like acting out the old Cointreau advert where the Gallic charm melted the icy heart of the Englishwoman. Aaaaaaah. Je t’adore.
But, dear God, how quickly the rot set in.
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The first thing I noticed was how conversations petered out before they had begun. I’d say, ‘Doesn’t that remind you of . . .’ or ‘Do you remember . . .’ And stop right there.
Because no, it didn’t remind him. He didn’t remember. He was three or not even born when ‘it’ happened; damn it, the boy was vague about the Beatles and ignorant about Bob Dylan.
I grew tired of being the teacher; the one who knew how to order in a restaurant or work a room at a party, while he had nothing to teach me — and nor did he have any cash for the bills.
My friends, bless them, did their best. I caught the odd merry glance exchanged over our heads at parties, but they indulged us with exemplary manners.
Nevertheless, given that many of them were older than I was, and thus fully 20 years older than my imported amour, how were they supposed to find enough to talk about with him to sustain a whole evening
It didn’t feel much better on his side, either. After a few weeks together we spent a weekend with his nice, middle-class parents in France, for the purpose of picking up yet more of his belongings.
His 40-year-old father — closer to my age than Philippe was — engaged me in Euro-political chat Philippe couldn’t follow, while his mother looked at me with contempt.
‘Pick someone your own age,’ you could hear her thinking. ‘And leave my baby alone.’
It’s a funny thing, but every time you hear older men defending their penchant for girlfriends half their age, they always say: ‘She keeps me young.’ Unfortunately, young men have the opposite effect.
Philippe made me feel and act old: tetchy, cantankerous, impatient with his inability to keep up with me — socially, financially, professionally and intellectually.
And then guilty for feeling all of the above.
By the time we’d been together as long as Harry Styles lasted with Caroline Flack — barely four months — I felt little more than constant irritation. So I knew he had to go.
Therein, however, lay the next problem. These young men don’t want to break up with their older lovers; why should they
They’re having a blast. Domestically, because you are the older one, you take responsibility (and blame) for everything from contraception to gas bills to dinner. Surrogate mother doesn’t begin to cover it.
Socially, because you are the older one, you have the smarter contacts, better access to movers, shakers and sophisticates — and therefore you open doors beyond his dreams.
I don’t know how Caroline Flack or Lucy Horobin managed their heave-hos, but I’ll bet it was hard. Hints fall on deaf ears, manufactured rows are ignored.
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In the end, drastic measures were required. Philippe mentioned how he’d always fancied a little trip to India, to ‘find himself’.
I didn’t care if he got ‘found’; I cared only that he got lost. So I leapt upon this idea. Finally, gallantly, offered to pay for it. And it wasn’t until we got to Heathrow and I handed him the ticket that he noticed: it was one-way only.
If he looked hurt, I didn’t notice. By this point, I had no feelings for him left but raw exasperation.
Harsh Probably. But a lesson learnt. For both of us.
And from that day to this, I swear, I have only stepped out with men who not only remember the Beatles and Dylan — but who can sing along, too.