Bruce Willis, 54, just married lingerie model Emma Heming, 30. Harrison Ford, 66, announced his engagement to Calista Flockhart, 44.
Few relationships annoy women over 50 more than the May-December union where the woman is a generation (20 to 25 years, depending on the source) younger than the man. The Demi Moore (47)-Ashton Kutcher (31) type of union is rare, and does not provoke as much censure as curiosity.
I've seen women with the perspicacity of a Supreme Court justice lose it when a 50-something man takes up with a 30 year old.
Their response is often like my friend Jay's Jewish grandmother's when he was dating one Bridget O'Hara: "And you're letting a nice Jewish girl sit home?" They see the scarcity of eligible men in their age cohort, and are not pleased to see a guy pass over vital, interesting, lovely fifty-something dames for a "girl".
The assumption is that the man is displaying a trophy, chasing his departed youth or reveling in the sugar daddy role. By the time they are 50, women have seen these scenarios often enough to make their blood run cold.
But let's resist defaulting to the cliché.
Some couples I know tell me they fell in love with a person, not a birthdate, and the years between them simply dropped away. They are willing to brave differences in health or energy as the decades roll up; they navigate family or friends' approbation with good humour. One woman in her early 40s says her 70 year old husband is "the youngest man I know". Several have reared second families blended with first families, and that is some hard work.
And who cares what people think? Would you choose your partner by popular vote? As long as both people consider themselves lucky, who's to criticize?
The Younger Model
In the case where a man has chosen a new, much younger companion to bolster his status and flaunt symbolic virility, let him be as well. Would you want someone that superficial and insecure? Would you predict a fulfilling life for his partner?
The problem with relationships based on a "deal" is that you need your stack of chips piled in front of you at all times, and if yours is mostly composed of the gold chips of youth and its lingerie-clad charms, it will erode before your eyes.
So May-December might look the same from couple to couple but it's not.
There are great love stories with more than a small measure of courage and devotion, calculated deals, and old (and young) fools who find each other across an age gap. To assume all couples are together for the same reason- a reason that does not flatter the mature person in the couple- is the same error as thinking that a relationship has to be long to be significant.
Woody Allen, who knows a thing or two about intergenerational romance, will kick off the Tribeca Film Festival in late April with his new film on the theme, "Whatever Works" starring Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley. I hope he has the guts to address complexity, rather than presenting stereotypical characters like those of "Vicky Christina Barcelona".
A 50+ woman whose 48 year old buddy introduces her to his 23 year old girlfriend will need her full complement of good will and grace, because she's probably not going to respond with whole-hearted enthusiasm, at least at first.