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Older Men, Younger Women

Will It Work?
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

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 talking about."

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 "trophy wives."

 

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."

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