By: Skip Bandele
DO GENTLEMEN really prefer blondes? Let us have a look at that old cliché and the issue of age gaps – and I am not talking about one-night stands either.
Ever since Bonnie Parker followed Clyde Barrows out of Hicksville, US in search of an end to a drab existence and a life of perpetual excitement, ‘wannabe’ blonde femmes fatales have been hitting the headlines across the Atlantic at irregular intervals. Aside from Britney Spears, no longer fair or anything else for that matter – the most recent case has involved Vickie Lynn Hogan, better known as Anna Nicole Smith.
What is it with this American penchant for name-changes and why do the new ones always consist of double-barrelled prefixes? Marie Beth, Betty Lou or any other combination are more at home in a Kenny Rogers country and western howler than in real life. Do Americans have real lives? The answer to that last question may just explain the phenomenon … but back to Vickie Lynn, or rather Anna Nicole (see what I mean).
In a startling re-enactment of another tragic, meteoric yet short-lived existence, that of one Norma Jean Baker, the iconic Marilyn Monroe, Ms Smith was found dead in her Florida hotel room likely caused by a massive drug-induced heart attack. The former Playboy Playmate of the Year was 39.
Anna Nicole’s life had been relatively hum-drum – while waitressing, aged 16, she married Billy Wayne Smith, a cook at a fried chicken canteen with whom she almost immediately had a son, Daniel, who also died very recently at 20 years of age, of a drugs overdose. She subsequently met J Howard Marshall, while working as a topless dancer in a club in Houston, Texas. The lovebirds got hitched three years later in 1994, a union in the nick of time, as the groom passed away just 14 months later – not a surprise, as the oil billionaire was 63 years Anna Nicole’s senior and approaching his 91st birthday!
The wedding, the young widow and, above all, the sordid squabble over the 1.2 billion dollar fortune (still ongoing) caused a huge media furor and Anna Nicole Smith instantly became one of the most recognised faces in the world, fair game for gossip columns, paparazzi and fortune hunters alike.
She left behind a five-month-old daughter, Danielynn, supposedly the product of her third marriage to lawyer Howard K Stern. However, as it became clear the baby would one day become likely to inherit the Marshall fortune, no less than four other men, including her bodyguard, a photographer and incredibly Zsa Zsa Gabor’s ninth husband, Prince Frederick von Anhalt, stepped forward to contest paternity. No doubt DNA tests, claims and counter-claims will follow – as I was saying, it can only happen in surreal America, or should that read ‘Hollywood’?
To top it all, even Anna Nicole’s burial site became the subject of litigation, the judge in charge of the proceedings breaking down in tears, overcome by emotion, before ruling in favour of her last companion and the Bahamas. Yep, definitely make that Hollywood with a capital “H”.
The farcical and tragic elements and gold-digger cynicism apart, this story throws up several interesting questions. My mother and father, married a very long sounding 46 years now, are 14 years apart in age, a gap of some significance that has never really been apparent or played a role in our family.
I’m really in two minds over this issue – when does an age difference become too great, or doesn’t it matter at all?
The 63 years age gap between Anna and her late oil magnate husband strikes me as being a bit sick, as it probably does the vast majority of observers. Having said this, I feel that the physical aspect and compatibility must be part of any long-term relationship, as are shared lifetime experiences and common interests – am I tiptoeing through a potential minefield? One year is nothing, agreed? But then each additional year is only one further 12 month period – when do you say “stop, that’s enough”?
Another puzzling ingredient here is the plain truth that we usually associate age differences with older men and younger women – in finding a balanced answer, one must surely also look at the situation in reverse.
Take a 60-year-old woman with a 29-year-old man – quite unacceptable to my mind, yet a gap that hardly raises an eyebrow these days when applied to an affluent older man and younger girlfriend. Maybe this preconception comes down to my gender; let me know if your opinion differs.
Bob Thompson, a divorced father of two, is 52 and a local councillor in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Fatou Jammeh, 25, used to peel potatoes in a Gambian hotel kitchen to support her eight-year-old daughter. Following a two-week whirlwind romance, Bob converted to Islam and married his holiday sweetheart. The couple now hope to make a go of it, away from the mud huts, on the edge of the Pennines. Both Bob’s sons are older than their new stepmother – can it work? I don’t think so. Age gap apart, cultural, language and intellectual differences will surely spell the end of this union once physical desire on the male partner’s behalf starts to wane – or does love conquer all?
Defiant 16-year-old teenager Kayley Simcock insists her love for twice-divorced biker Philip Nash, 50, whom she met at her local church will last – having been wooed with a motorbike ride, she says they are soul mates. The couple is now married, causing Kayley’s mother, nine years younger than her son-in-law, to turn her back on her daughter. The groom’s daughter is five years older than her new stepmother. Come on! Be as liberal and open-minded as you like, but this is just going too far.
It seems to me that older men are living out their sexual fantasies at the expense of father figure-seeking girls from dysfunctional families. Girls (and boys) of 16 are not in possession of the mental maturity required to decide they want to spend the rest of their lives with an adult 24 years older than themselves – men around 50 (sometimes) are.
How, then, do I conclude? In theory, age differences, however great, shouldn’t matter, but somehow they do. I suppose upbringing, values and attitudes, instilled by parents and society as a whole, all shape our perceptions and views – there’s just no getting away from it. Although feelings cannot be deemed good or bad in this context – much as genuine friendships between whoever, of whatever age, can only be laudable, my suspicion is that in most cases they involve more than merely platonic empathy, one party is the ‘user’ while the other, consciously or unbeknown to them, the exploited.
I am a firm believer in some people being ‘born old’, even during childhood mature beyond their years, while others never do really grow up.
Reverting back to the sexual content of any given relationship between men and women separated by generations, the concept does not ring true and raises hackles. Perhaps because every young person should be given the right to develop their personality, complete the character-building process, without becoming emotionally burdened and confused by situations they are not really able to cope with and fully understand – am I making sense?
There are a lot of grey areas – at what point does intimacy with a minor supersede child abuse – but at the end, common decency and a sense of greater responsibility beyond personal desire must prevail. Some dreams are fine as long as they remain within the confines of the mind and should not intrude into someone else’s reality.
As for blondes, the explanation is simple – they are in the minority among the world’s population and, since time began, scarcity has provoked avarice among men.
Oh, and before I forget – I prefer brunettes, but then they say opposites attract!
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