Dec. 11, 2000 -- When Tamara Latorre met her boyfriend, she was
32 and he was 43. That is, he said he was 43. They met online, so how could she
know for sure? After their first rendezvous in person, he confessed: he was 52.
The 20-year age difference between them didn't trouble her. She'd already
fallen for him.
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Three years later, they're happily living together on a
four-acre horse farm in southeastern Massachusetts. The age difference doesn't
show up when they're riding horses or racing down the slopes on a ski vacation.
The gap appears when they talk about their future.
Eager to get the education she missed when she was younger,
Latorre is enrolled full-time in college and plans to go to law school as well.
A mother of four -- her oldest is 12 -- she is preparing to launch a career for
the first time. Her boyfriend, meanwhile, is on the downside of his working
life. Until he got divorced recently and his expenses went up, he thought that
at this point in his life, he would be retired from his work as a dentist. Now
his goal is to retire as soon as he can. He's got three kids: one in college,
one about to start college, and one who is 10 years old.
When Latorre spends her evenings studying, he sometimes
complains that she's ignoring him, she says. "I tell him I'm doing this so
you can retire and I'll be able to earn money for us," she says. They've
worked out a compromise. She studies only on weeknights and he often joins her.
"I read him philosophy and he helps me figure out what the heck they're
The May-December story
While no statistics are readily available, older man-younger
woman couples have long existed and may be becoming more prevalent and more
socially acceptable. In certain Hollywood and corporate circles, especially
among financially successful men, the practice is so common that these younger
women, usually second wives, have been given the disparaging nickname of
Medical advancements are helping this merger of the generations
become more realistic than ever. Erectile enhancing drugs such as Viagra have allowed many older men to continue an
active sex life. At the same time, new fertility treatments have extended the childbearing
years for women, making possible families like that of author Saul Bellow, who
became a father at age 85 this year when his 44-year-old wife gave birth.
"The concept of what age means in our society is changing
very rapidly," says Ian Alger, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at
Weill Medical College of Cornell University. With many men rejecting the idea
that they should retire at age 65, older men are discovering they feel vigorous
enough to mate and even to start new families, he says. The Internet has been a
rich meeting ground, since it lets people communicate without revealing their
ages. "It brings everybody into the marketplace of life," he says.
Sometimes, people aren't even looking for the right partner
online; it just happens. When Tamara Latorre first started chatting online with
her now-boyfriend, she says she paid no attention to age. "I had absolutely
no expectations of meeting him."