In 1994, Wendy Featherstone and her best friend Amanda Elliot-Murray decided to go clubbing.“I drove Amanda home from work so she could get changed and I went into the house and got introduced to her dad.” Wendy was dazzled.“Robert was slightly taller than me, with an amazing full head of white hair and stunning, twinkly blue eyes.
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“May-to-December” relationships – romantic attachments where there is a significant difference in age – were given a high-profile airing last week when Bryan Ferry, 66, married Amanda Sheppard, a former PR of 29.
He had been introduced to his bride by one of his sons.
In 2009, another fresh-faced lovely caught the eye of a more mature beholder.
The actor Aaron Johnson, 21, is now engaged to the artist and director Sam Taylor-Wood, 44. The “December” partner can be the woman – think Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler; Joan Collins and Percy Gibson – though it mostly happens the other way around (Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng; Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart; Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre). For the man, “it’s about elasticity”, says Phillip Hodson, spokesperson for the counselling website uk. He still feels young and he doesn’t want to feel old, thank you very much.” And for the woman?
“There is something very deeply attractive about tighter flesh.” Christine Northam, a counsellor working for Relate, sees it more as a tactic for deferring ageing. “Women basically find power and money very attractive,” says Northam.
“Older men provide them with the financial security they unconsciously want.” Some women, Hodson points out, “are quite straightforwardly commercial about their marital choices”.Wendy Featherstone admits she had always preferred older men. Born in Johannesburg, her father was the late John Featherstone, chairman of South Africa’s largest newspaper publisher.“My father was a very distant man, very unemotional.He provided for us, but he wasn’t involved in our lives.I wanted a father-figure who thought that I was valuable and really special, and Robert gave that to me.” While boys her own age “were still trying to figure out who they were”, Robert was running a building merchant company in South Africa.He also had five children, now aged 48 to 38, from two ex-wives – but when she met him, he’d been a bachelor for 19 years and he infected her with his vitality and sophistication.