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Don't call older women cougars

Infatuation doesn't take into account how many birthdays the other person has celebrated, nor does the 'appropriate age gap' guarantee marital longevity.

May 07, 2021 / 10:22 PM IST

The laws of attraction are conspicuous by their absence. You see, they were never written, never composed, never there in the first place. There are social, matrimonial and sanctimonious rules that are obeyed and disobeyed in equal measures, but you cannot tell A not to fancy B.

If nothing, not even heterosexual narrowings, apply in human relationships, then one of the first mooring to loosen is ageism. For centuries, older men married younger women and the populace mindlessly followed this ageist diktat. Men had to be older and women younger. Couched within this was the tacit understanding that the women will look after the men in the evenings of their lives. But in the mornings of their lives, the woman was to stay fresh as a daisy as she remained forever young to her lord and master.

Cut to the battlefield of lust. Here the eye likes what it likes, who it likes. Feelings can't be leashed to a post. Age is a self-conscious construct, occurring to all concerned at a much later time.

First there is the infatuation. Which takes everything about the other person into account except the number of birthdays. Each individual peaks in personal beauty, both inner and outer, at their own leisure. Sweet sixteen is an attitude, a mood, and can strike at any age. It is also to do with the glow the other party lights in you.

What attracts one to another is so mysterious a process that it cannot be bottled and sold over the counter. There is a magic that happens between two people when they meet, and it pays no heed to the number of years each has lived on earth.

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Literature is full of such examples. In the Rupa anthology An Unsuitable Woman, author Preeti Shenoy has penned a story about the dynamics between an older woman and a younger man who are lovers till she loses her husband. On reel and in real, between the pages of fiction and between the sheets in daily life, no one asks, how old are you, to the one who catches their eye.

When Meghan Markle married Prince Harry, she was older. When Priyanka Chopra met Nick Jonas, he was younger. They all remain married. And if they do separate, as trolls and gossip mags predict, it won't be for the age gap.

One of the fringe benefits of feminism and the new woke air around us is that maintaining an age gap between couples is no longer expected or seen as a virtue. Human ties have too many layers, too much baggage - an appropriate age difference, with the female younger by two or twenty years to the male, cannot ensure matrimonial longevity.

In the tough grind of everyday living, all one wants is a hand to hold, an eye to meet. Younger or older or same age.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.

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