Am I an old fool to love a girl half my age
I don't want to risk losing her friendship, which I value highly
I have never thought of myself as romantic and little dreamt that one day I’d seek your opinion.
At just 65, I’m pretty fit and robust. Six years ago, I lost the best wife in the world to cancer at the age of 59. Alice was loving, kind, gentle, utterly loyal, and a marvellous mother.
Three years after her death, I lost my beloved son (30), again to cancer. Thus I have plumbed depths of misery difficult to describe, alleviated only by my wonderful daughter.
Shortly after Alice’s death, I visited her very old friend, Brenda, and her husband and we commiserated.
Although they live a long way away, they invited me back and some time later I returned.
This time their eldest daughter was present (let’s call her Jean), who is 34. Since then, Brenda has sadly passed away and her husband fallen ill.
I have visited him and his two daughters a couple of times a year, and they always make me most welcome. Both girls are unattached and work full-time.
During these visits, I was aware of a growing attraction to Jean, a good-looking, vivacious woman — in many ways uncannily like my late wife.
Because of the age difference I could see no future in it.
Shortly before Christmas I received a long letter from her with a card saying she hoped I’d visit soon.
She always finishes her letters with ‘Love, Jean’ and kisses. When I went, I took her flowers. We embraced warmly and kissed on the cheek.
All the signals suggest that Jean is genuinely fond of me and I confess that now my heart is on fire and smoke has got into my eyes, clouding my judgment. I love her but don’t know how to proceed.
My head is telling me not to be a silly old fool, whereas my heart is telling me otherwise.
I don’t know enough of the feminine mind to gauge her reaction if I confessed my feelings, but fear she might react badly and see me as some sort of pervert who’s been biding his time.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I am not after sex, but merely wish to replicate the deeply loving relationship I had with my wife, and this girl is special to me, irrespective of age.
I realise she may simply feel sorry for me, but she is always so delighted to see me and invites me back.
I don’t want to risk losing her friendship, which I value highly, so common sense tells me to leave matters the way they are.
Does this have a future or is my head right to tell me to ignore my foolish heart
Do you think men and women ever grow
old in their hearts Perhaps when they are tired or sad, they do.
the fact that you have written this letter is yet another proof of
something I’ve always believed — that the human spirit is ever-youthful
and the human heart goes on beating stubbornly, insisting on being
During a long marriage you learned the
precious habit of loving, and that miracle is proving to be stronger
than sadness and death.
I begin with that thought because, no matter
what happens, I want you to pause and celebrate these feelings rather
than worry about them — just as we celebrate the first delicate shoots
of snowdrops and primroses which are even now pushing their way up
through the cold soil.
Let me deal with the issue of the age
difference before considering how you should proceed.
In the minds of
most detached observers, an age gap of 31 years is ‘too big’; on the
other hand, who is laying down the rules
Young women have entered into blissfully
happy relationships/marriages with wonderful, caring, older men, just as
they have found misery with men of their own generation.
found themselves suddenly wondering what they are doing with this
wrinkly guy, while their sisters have been happy with men many years
Mix and match the permutations and reverse the genders as
you will — there is no blueprint for human happiness.
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It may seem an odd thing for an advice columnist to say, but I wish people would mind their own business. Everyone has a view about age gaps, even when they don’t know the people involved.
One of the happiest marriages I ever observed is that of a man some 22 years younger than his wife.
Of course, when they wed in 1967, some of his friends expressed their doubts, and from time to time over the years she would be upset when a waiter or shop assistant assumed she was his mother. But — let me reach for a clich — love can overcome all. And it did.
Relevant to my views is the fact that my own husband is 17 years my junior. He can’t bear people tattling about age gaps because he doesn’t think they matter — not one jot.
To come closer to your situation, I knew a woman who was married to a man 33 years her senior.
They had a long, astonishingly happy marriage, raised two children as well as having successful careers — and when he died, she was inconsolable.
Let me assure you that these examples are a million miles removed from the situation (sad but all too common) of a middle-aged man trading in his faithful wife for a younger model. My point is that the soul isn’t issued a birth certificate.
That said, I think you must be very careful — for your own sake.
You also have to consider your relationships with your daughter and with Jean’s father and sister — because you don’t want to damage them. It’s too soon for you to declare yourself.
Do you write regular good, chatty letters to Jean It’s an appropriate way to proceed, because you’ll be able to deduce a lot from the tone of hers.
A phone call every now and then (to find out how they all are) would be a chance to tell her what you’ve been up to.
I’m guessing you’ve met her only about ten times, during which period your life was turned over by the death of your son. So I’m worried that you haven’t really enjoyed any period of ‘ordinariness’ around Jean.
Would it be possible for you to take a two-week holiday in the area they live in, staying in a B&B perhaps, and ask her to accompany you on a couple of days out
At 34 she is old enough to know her own mind, and women do make their feelings clear.
Listen to your head and your heart because they both make valid points. But please don’t insult yourself with ‘silly old fool’. Because you’re not.
I’ve been dumped for a Plain Jane
A while back I got into a relationship with a man I thought was clever and intuitive. He showered me with compliments and I liked it.
But once we had begun a relationship, he lost warmth. In bed he was very nice, especially after a few glasses of wine.
But sometimes he could be brusque, and he never put kisses on his emails.
In the end, it got to me and I gave up being patient and revealed my annoyance at his cold moods.
So he dumped me.
Now here is what’s bothering me. The person he’s seeing now is so different from me it gives me pause for thought.
If you will bear with me for a bit of showing off: the truth is that I am very pretty, I am glamorous, and I’m also clever.
To try to be fair, all I will say is that the woman who has taken my place is none of the above.
In fact, I suspect that she puts up with his controlling nonsense because she may never have enjoyed a better relationship.
Why did he treat me like that when he obviously likes odd Plain Jane
At first, when I saw her, I was amused. But now I feel insulted.
Why was all the fun and joy of our times together not worth a bit of give and take, rather than choosing to have a relationship with someone he can bully, really, who does not bother to make herself gorgeous and is not very personable
Here I am, torn between two poles of my own nature. The side wearing a halo wants to sit you down for gentle counselling, so that you see your errors and hopefully become wiser.
The other side, with horns and a tail, wants to berate you for being a stupid, shallow young woman incapable of understanding that serious relationships require far more than superficial nonsense — like the glamour you’re so very proud of.
It wants to suggest you consider that this man was cool with you because you bored him with your endless primping.
Clever Hmm — yet you wrote to me, exposing your inadequacy so nakedly your worst enemy might rejoice in your humiliation.
Now that’s off my chest, let’s find a middle way beween halo and horns.
You do need to examine the person you really are, behind the face in the mirror which pleases you far too much. Your vanity will count for nothing when your skin is wrinkled.
HOW TO CONTACT BEL
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or e-mail [email protected]
A pseudonym will be used if you wish.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
But with luck, if you can realise how much you need to change, somebody might still love you then — for yourself.
I want you to see how insufferably patronising you sound, assuming that this girl puts up with a controlling relationship because it’s all she can get.
How do you know she doesn’t make him happy How do you know he bullies her How do you know he’s not sick of gorgeousness You don’t.
Your letter put me in mind of the trivial views of many people when it became clear that Prince Charles loved Camilla Parker Bowles and not Diana.
Leaving any question of morality aside, they wondered how could a man prefer the warm, witty, slightly-older woman who did NOT look like a model, to his younger, neurotic, self-regarding, gorgeous wife
That very question, raised now by you, speaks volumes about the way we over-value image.
If I were you, I’d think very hard about your priorities and your knowledge of human nature and vow to shift them into a different place — where you recognise the importance of inner beauty.
As for me, I celebrate ‘Plain-Janes’ wherever they are. The smart, kind, funny, loving women who don’t need to trowel on the slap — but slap their thighs and laugh at the silly dolls who get dumped.
Getting on but not giving up
As regular readers know, people of all ages write to this column — and the youngest reader’s letter I have ever printed came from a nine-year-old.
Still, it’s true to say that many letters come from older people, and the saddest ones are very lonely.
That’s why I’m glad a reader called Stella has written to let me know about the work of a quietly-brilliant organisation called Contact The Elderly.
It runs local groups which offer teatime get-togethers — a lifeline for elderly people on their own. Which might well be you or I, one day.
Look at the website (www.contact-the-elderly.org) if you want to have some fun by volunteering (and they really do look as if they love it), to send money, or to find a group near you to join in and make new friends.
For those without a computer who want to know if there’s a group near you, call (free-phone) 0800 716 543.
But here’s the good news. Old age doesn’t have to mean doing less. I had a note from an amazing 85-year-old called Jacqueline, who tells me:
‘Life is pretty full since retiring. I have worked in the Magistrates Court, in horse racing, become a police volunteer on the enquiry desk at my local police station, and done “Extra” work on TV, working on many dramas and commercials and soaps.
‘In two weeks I shall be a model in a charity fashion show (wearing clothes for the older lady) — my third such show in a year.
So I think I’m not doing too badly. I’m doing things I’d love to have done when I was younger, but didn’t get the chance.
‘The downside is I have polymyalgia so have to take steroids which have caused me to put on weight. Ugh! But it can’t be helped and I feel OK.’
I find those words so inspiring. Jacqueline has discovered that getting older doesn’t mean congealing. Endlessly interested in the world around her, she goes on accepting new challenges.
Young or old, we should realise that growth never stops — not as long as you draw breath.