There were raised eyebrows all round when Harry Styles, the 18-year-old One Direction pop star, enjoyed a passionate affair with 32-year-old TV presenter Caroline Flack. They broke up in January, to the great relief of his teenybopper fans. In my defence, I should say right away that this was not a ‘cougar’ moment — that snide term for older women acting in a predatory manner.
But the heart-throb’s fan club has been plunged into depression once again by news he was embroiled with another 32-year-old, the married radio presenter Lucy Horobin, when he was just 17. He was 18, blond, French, pretty as a picture; I was 30 and quite old enough to know that what happens on holiday, stays on holiday. In fact, quite the reverse; Philippe came after me. I was, at the time, a divorced mother of a six-year-old daughter who rather liked him — as well she might; they were both, after all, children.
Dear Editor: I am writing this because I am tired of seeing young men’s lives destroyed.
Young men, there’s a real danger out there you need to be aware of that can destroy your lives forever.
A few weeks later he landed on my London doorstep with nothing but a rucksack and, for some reason, a flute.
Nevertheless, given that many of them were older than I was, and thus fully 20 years older than my imported amour, how were they supposed to find enough to talk about with him to sustain a whole evening? And it wasn’t until we got to Heathrow and I handed him the ticket that he noticed: it was one-way only.
You see, it does not matter what this mother lets her daughter do.
I supported my daughter by freelance writing and a bit of radio work, which I think looked glamorous to young Philippe.
Yet at the same time, being only 18, he had not yet learnt the art of acting cool; he wore his heart on his sleeve, his adoration in his eyes — and very flattering it was. I returned home after the holiday to a flurry of giggly miss-you-madly phone calls and letters.
The utility of this equation is that it lets you chart acceptable age discrepancies that adjust over the years. Let's examine it: How well does the rule reflect scientific evidence for age preferences?
According to the rule, for example, a 30-year-old should be with a partner who is at least 22, while a 50-year-old’s dating partner must be at least 32 to not attract (presumed) social sanction. Does it match our scientific understanding of age-related preferences for dating? Researchers Buunk and colleagues (2000) asked men and women to identify the ages they would consider when evaluating someone for relationships of different levels of involvement.