From your classic gold-digger generation to modern day cougars age gap relationships have always been of great interest to me. There’s no great secret to my enthusiasm for the subject, it stems solely from my parents who have nearly three decades between them – 28 years if you’re counting. My mother is a youthful 50 and my Dad still as sprightly as ever at the age of 78. Has it affected their relationship? Honestly? Yes it has. But do they regret it? Probably not.
Growing up my Dad never held back from his parenting duties, already in his mid to late 50’s people would constantly ask my sister and I – “is that your Grand-Dad?” We never once hesitated from proudly proclaiming “no, that’s our Dad!” An old Dad is better than no Dad I always said. The setup between my Mother and Father has always fascinated me – perfect material for a relationships writer you might say. Age differences can be tricky at the best of times, even five to ten years can sometimes prove difficult, so how do you make a gap of three decades work? When they got together my Dad was the most devilishly handsome (and surprisingly young looking) 48 year old you could feast your eyes on and my Mum – a fresh faced 20 year old who’d only recently left her seaside town for the big city. Perhaps my Dad was the strong arm my Mum needed to help her settle into her big move or perhaps he really was just incredibly handsome. I can only imagine the two of them complimented each other perfectly in the same way I still observe them do to this day. My Dad is funny. It’s my favourite quality in him and any person for that matter, I love people who make me laugh and I guess my Mum is the same. My Mum on the other hand is organized, sensible and well – motherly. In fact it’s incredible just how much I am like my Dad and my sister is like my Mum but it just goes to show that with the right balance of characteristics in a pairing, age gaps really do become irrelevant. For just about every time I have seen my Mum stress over a phone bill I have watched my Dad reduce her to tears of laughter only moments later, maybe these are the true great qualities of a successful relationship? Not appearances or money or how you might look on paper, just the purest form of balance. I envy them every day.
One of my fondest memories of seeing them together was on holiday in Devon (England) as a youngster. We’d taken a trip to the zoo and my sister and I sat on a bench devouring ice lollies whilst my Mum and Dad went for a wander. My Mum was more the sun bathe by the beach type whilst my Dad (like myself) was quite the explorer, in fact we often took gruelling day trips just to keep the peace more than anything. The zoo of course was fun, but as my Mum marched ahead with her arms crossed my Dad blissfully trundled along gazing at every animal, bird, leaf, plant, tree etc that came his way – ‘Father Nature’ I used to call him. As my sister and I watched from a distance they came to a bridge overlooking a stream full of exotic fish, it was one of those bridges that you could shake and sway from side to side, my Mum who has suffered from vertigo for many years naturally walked across as quickly as humanly possible, my Dad on the other hand stopped in the middle to admire the fish in sheer wonderment. What happened next still makes me laugh and to this day I have never seen my Mum laugh harder – she was quite literally floored. My Dad in his mid-60s at the time is only around 5ft 3, a group of young and very excited German tourists had spotted the bridge from afar and in their excitement hadn’t even noticed my Dad innocently watching the fish as they sprinted to the middle. They bounced around on that bridge like kids on a trampoline at Christmas. The bridge wasn’t high so he was in no immediate danger but watching my Dad’s face as he hung on for dear life whilst this group of athletic young men almost twice his size bounced around was a sight I’ll never forget. This was the beauty of my Dad’s persona, whether he was making a joke or just finding himself in yet another comedic situation there was always laughter. It was in these moments that I knew my Mum would think that loveable little man…is mine.
It’s not easy to brush aside the opinions of others and although I wasn’t there at the time, I can’t imagine a 20 year old on the arm of a man approaching 50 sat well with those around them, but did it put them off? I wouldn’t be sat here on this cold Autumn evening if it had. I talk a lot about not caring about what others think, frankly I believe life is too short and I spent most of my teens trying to make the world around me like me before I myself even liked me. It’s only tonight that I’ve realized this attitude comes from my upbringing. So to those suffering the strain of a scrutinised relationship, if you’re not hurting anyone – just do whatever the hell you like.