SIX years ago I had a very strong relationship with a man who was 20 years younger than I was. Physically, it was no different than being with a man my own age. I wasn't attracted to him for his Adonis build, firm ass and supposed youthful virility. On the contrary, he was too skinny and his sexual prowess was no different from any man my own age I had known.
The attraction was his face, how it looked; his cockiness, his self-confidence, his emotional maturity for his young age; and the fact that one so young desired me. He desired me incredibly, and never stopped telling me just how much. The chemistry, as they say, moved mountains.
The key here is: when a woman feels irresistibly desired, that feeling is better than great sex, lean firm muscle or soft silky hair. Desire is what sets the world on fire. It ignites passion, blazing fireworks that explode in your heart with such luminosity that common sense and rationale are completely obliterated. Debbie Harry, from that great Eighties group Blondie, described it in one simple word, "Atomic!"
Many men forget this. They mistakenly think that, to us women, love and desire are the same thing. "I keep telling her I love her," he wails. "So why isn't she happy?"
I've noticed, too, that in most movies that are directed by men, when he finally gets her into bed and they are whispering words of passion, she nearly always ends up asking him at that crucial moment: "Do you love me?"
They've got it all wrong. Women crave desirability. Sure, they want love in their relationships -- and due to their nurturing natures they can find and give love in many different ways -- but it's that feeling of being the absolute object of his desire, above all else, that gets a woman hot, feelin' the loooove and tempestuously aroused.
When women are unfaithful to men, the man is in a state of shock because he feels sick at the thought of another man touching or coveting his woman. When a man is unfaithful to a woman, she feels sick at the thought that he emotionally and physically, desired someone else. Someone not her!
Confused? Well we are a real dichotomy, us ladies. So loving, caring and giving, yet this affliction, may appear to you men as self-centredness which I personally, don't feel it is. It's more that we women still tend to define ourselves through the approval of the men we desire and love.
I hear my feminist sisters tut-tutting at this, and they are right. Germaine Greer recently stated that it was great having grey hair as men no longer ogled her, or tried to weigh up her desirability, as she walked down the street. She joked that she was finally liberated. But I'm only stating what's true of most women I know, even if it's seen as wrong sexual politics.
So many of my female friends who are married complain about the lack of sex or fantasy in their strong, mature marriages. He no longer puts in the effort. He feels sex has become a chore. The spark is gone. She feels a yearning for that intimate contact they once shared. Not because she is some oversexed, demanding nymphomaniac who craves sexual release on a daily basis (that would be nice, but...), but because she craves the feeling that he desires her above all others, in the eternal words of Lionel Richie, "Still."
Trust me on this, all you husbands out there; you have to reassure your woman all the time that she still has "it". Tell her you find her even sexier with those stretch marks, tell her that the weight suits her and makes her look younger. And even if you don't, precisely at that moment, want to jump her bones, lie. Tell her you can barely contain yourself and would throw her across the washing machine right now, only the kids are there. So wink at her and whisper, "Later," even if "later" you know you're going to be out playing golf.
Trust me, if you do this, you will have wildly exotic escapades in the marital bed, when you do finally make it there. You've got to keep her desirability fire burning.
It must have been great for Iris Robinson to feel desired by a much younger handsome man. When you are a lady way past your prime, it is an instantaneous elixir of happiness and self-confidence like no other. But, like all affairs and forbidden love, she was playing with fire and in the end someone had to get hurt. By all accounts Iris is hurting right now, but it cannot have been very good for the ego and self-confidence of her husband, Peter, either.
But age is not the important factor. My heart melts when I see some old couple in their 80s who are still cuddling and holding hands, and, when asked the secret of such a long happy union, he whispers with a wry smile, "I still fancy her rotten!" They understand the need to feel desire.
Rather touchingly, the Catholic priest who conducted my mother's funeral seemed to accept the driving force of desire too. He had no problem with Mary Coughlan standing at the altar during the mass, singing one of my dead mother's favourite songs all about desire. This particular song was not the typical satirical cabaret song for which my mother was so well known. It was a ballad lamenting a woman's lifelong journey through the physical side of love, and it always brought a tear to my eye when my mother sang it.
The song ends like this: "Since then I've always been on fire, and love has been my daily bread, when I no longer rouse desire, why then, I might as well be dead."
Then I remember another song my mother sang -- it was late in her life when Marc Almond wrote it for her. It was called Kept Boy.
"Kept boy, you kept me enraptured; Kept boy, you keep breaking my heart; Kept boy, I kept you encaptured; kept boy, you keep playing the part."