| -0.3°C Dublin

Robinson not alone in her pursuit of the younger man

DOES age matter? Not really, unless -- as the actress Helen Hayes famously said -- you're a cheese.

Does age matter in a relationship? It shouldn't, and it generally doesn't if the older person is the man, never mind that his new acquisition is young enough to be his grand-daughter. Check out Ronnie Wood and former girlfriend Katia Ivanova. Well in his 60s and she barely in her 20s, the Rolling Stone guitar man certainly had one-ivanova-on-her.

And just weeks after their much-publicised break-up (well, it was never going to last, was it?), he was romantically linked to another Russian lass less than half his age, though that liaison lasted all of three days. And all we say is, "Good on you, Ronnie, fair play to you."

But Iris Robinson is a different story when it comes to our judgemental outcries on matters sexual. She is, after all, the older woman, old enough to have been a grandmother to her young Lothario, Kirk McCambley. Old enough to know better.

It's a disgrace, we cry. The poor kid. What could he possibly see in her? She must have started the whole affair.

Mind you, in fairness, there is the constituency that says at 19, he's a man. He knew what he was doing and so forth.

Before anyone gets too judgemental on the whole affair, let's remember that both are, legally, consenting adults and, while their short-lived affair has indeed impacted on those nearest and dearest to them, for the rest of us at large, is it really any of our business what two consenting adults do behind the bedroom door?

Iris Robinson is not alone in her pursuit of the younger man. There's a motley of women out there who have taken young men as partners. Madonna (51 to Jesus Luz's 23, with his mother Christiane 14 years younger than the pop star), Sam Taylor Wood (42 to Aaron Johnson's 19), Mariah Carey (40 to Nick Cannon's 29) and Demi Moore, who at 47 looks younger than her beau of 31, Ashton Kutcher.

A woman in her 40s or 50s on the hunt for a younger man is now being termed a cougar, perhaps because she can't wait to get her claws into all the young men.

But biologically it makes sound sense. The male of the species is at his sexual prime in his late teens (sorry men, but that's about the truth of it, thereafter it's downhill), while a woman hits hers in her late 40s. She is less inhibited about her body and looks, and with -- in most cases -- childbirth behind her, what could possibly embarrass her again?

By contrast, younger women are less secure. They worry about size zero and dieting and implants and their idea of a good lunch is sharing the iceberg lettuce, washed down by a good tap water.

Older women, on the other hand, the secure and confidant ones that is, find hitting a certain age liberating and the sexy and beautiful ones say to hell with implants and Botox and they just go for it.

For the younger man, the older woman holds a fascination. Apart from articulate pillow-talk, the sexy and beautiful ones wear great lingerie, know their way around the wine list and very often pick up the tab. And the last thing on their minds is babies.

And what' s in it for the older woman? Well, for one thing, there's the young buck's eagerness, his stamina and his body like an Adonis. For most older women, I suspect that's good enough for starters. Especially when, very often, the man they leave behind for the younger model is beer-bellied, balding and bloody boring, and takes all night to do what he used to do all night.

And still, there's the cry of, "She should know better at her age."

Meanwhile, the likes of Silvio Berlusconi, Rupert Murdoch, Peter Stringfellow and Donald Trump hit the hot-spots with girls young enough to be their granddaughters. And do we bat an eyelid? Not likely.

As a young man, I learnt a great deal from two older women, both of whom I remember with great fondness and my time with each of them as an engaging and enlightening, albeit at times fumbling, experience. Unfortunately, as I get older it hasn't quite panned out the Berlusconi way. Perhaps it has something to do with power and money -- after all, both are salient ingredients in the Mrs Robinson affair.

I'm neither rich nor powerful. I only know I've had my face slapped once or twice for overstepping the mark.

Sunday Independent