Wednesday 7 December 2016

There's a lot to be said for having an affair to forget

An older lover won't dangerously inflame your senses, which will leave you free to work on your career, says Rowan Pelling

Rowan Pelling

Published 04/10/2015 | 02:30

Prue Leith
Prue Leith

I don't recall any of the dour professional women who visited my all-girls school in the Eighties advocating an affair with a married man to advance our careers - although it must have been received wisdom at geisha school for many centuries. Yet now it's possible this pearl of wisdom may be dispensed to ambitious young ladies everywhere. For no less an authority on food and corporate acumen than Prue Leith has just revealed her business empire first flourished because of a dalliance with a married, much older family friend.

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She says the limitations of the relationship gave her plenty of time to devote to her fledgling catering company: "He was invisible and he went home at night, so I could work every hour."

When you come to think of it, it's true that many young women in more conventional romantic scenarios devote an almost inconceivably large amount of time, energy and brain-power to their relationships.

When I ran a business, all the highly educated, twenty-something women I employed seemed to allocate the greater part of their grey matter to the pursuit of love.

Nor was I particularly critical of it. After all, when I was in my mid-twenties, I took up with a handsome, older hack at the glossy men's mag I worked on. I spent pretty much every minute of the working day thinking about him, instead of honing my journalistic skills. Within weeks I was making the daily four-hour round trip from his little house in the Fens, meaning we both turned up late if a train was cancelled.

The final straw for my boss came when I phoned in to explain that my beloved had flu and needed me at home to nurse him. I was fired a fortnight later; my boyfriend wasn't (although at least he had the decency to marry me). I ended up out of work for most of the following 18 months.

Young men don't tend to cede their professional ambitions so readily to amorous distractions. They have a far greater capacity for cerebral override, switching their thoughts from emotions to personal advancement during the working day.

My husband readily admits that when he was in his early twenties, he would evict his then girlfriend from his flat if he had an important article to write. Or he might explain he was spending a week re-watching the entire cinematic canon of Andrei Tarkovsky and she shouldn't bother coming round. "I was just so focused back then," he says, shaking his head in amazement.

After a while you begin to see Prue's point. There's something to be said for an indulgent, older inamorato, who won't dangerously inflame your senses and only has an afternoon a week to lavish attention on you. A man like that will leave you many hours to become a world-beating enterpreneur.

I suppose another route ahead for any lass in search of promotion might be to mix business with pleasure by setting her courtesan's cap at an ageing boss. The danger is that you might end up married to the elderly tycoon, like Wendy Deng Murdoch, at which point your relationship becomes your job (remember the tiger wife bodyguard incident?). Is that really what you signed up for when you flashed a hint of lacy stocking top?

The truly pragmatic young businesswoman, on the other hand, would simply establish her own company, staffed by silver- fox interns. Devotion and dedication, without the distracting hurly-burly of the chaise-longue.

© The Telegraph

Telegraph.co.uk

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