For many years, my view of May-December relationships was fairly traditional, informed mostly by observations in my early life in the Philippines.
“December,” in the case of local men, were older, almost exclusively wealthy and well-known businessmen, politicians or entertainers who looked for “May” women who were at least 15 years their junior, beautiful and educated (but not too much of either) and with some degree of penury to keep them dependent.
The “May” women were attracted more by money and power than by looks or youth, and accepted their questionable status as better than no status at all.
In the case of foreign men, many of whom came to the Philippines for this specific purpose, they were mostly retired workers with pensions, looking for what Americans call a “two-fer,” a giver of both care and sex. Their “May” women would be better described as girls, at least 25 years their junior, with little or no education and whose penury would be substantially more acute.
In both cases, I took the cynical view of a free-market capitalist. Each party had something the other wanted and a sale was made at an understood but unspoken price. There was always the malodor of “exploitation” in these transactions, but the exploitation was also evenly exchanged.
In no case, however, did I ever assume any kind of “love” or emotional attachment in these relationships. Nonetheless, understanding the vast panoply of human relationships, I could accept that there surely must be exceptions, even if I did not know of any.
What seemed to have no exception was that “December” was always a man with money and/or power, and “May” was always a woman without or less of either.
It was only in the late ’90s when I lived in Seattle that this gender equation was turned on its head, during the largest scandal in the rather staid Northwest. A young boy of 13 named Vili Fualaau and his 35-year old teacher named Mary Kay Letourneau, married with four children, became enamored of each other, resulting in Mary’s pregnancy and subsequent birth of a child in 1997.
As would be expected in the US, it also resulted in her arrest and conviction on two counts of second-degree child rape. Her six-month prison sentence included a no-contact order with Villi.
Out on probation in 1998, she was seen with Villi in his car and again arrested for violating the terms of her probation and sentenced to another seven years in prison with the same no-contact order. In the same year, she gave birth to their second child.
After completing her sentence, she was released in 2004, obtained a reversal of the no-contact order, and she and Villi married in 2005. He was then 21 and she 43. They remain married.
At the other end of the age spectrum is the more well-known marriage of Spain’s 84-year-old Duchess of Alba to a 57-year-old commoner, a rather handsome but lowly civil servant. To allay her children’s objections and to prove that her fiancé was no gigolo, she handed them their entire inheritance before the wedding, thereby divesting herself of most of her wealth.
They were married in 2011 and were last seen last year, frolicking on a beach in southern Spain with the Duchess in a bright blue bikini.
Somewhere between these two extremes is the more heartwarming love story of American rock star (and now Swiss citizen) Tina Turner, who at 74, married her longtime lover and manager, 57-year-old Erwin Bach, after an extended courtship of 27 years.
The disaster of her first marriage is well-documented, and one can understand her long hesitation, although 27 years might be pushing it a bit.
It says something significant about women that when they are in the “December” role, that love or some kind of emotional attachment is an important component in the relationship and that there is always some kind of financial parity—even if it meant the Duchess giving up most of her wealth.
Although these marriages appear to develop more organically out of whatever ether it is that attracts two people, more disbelief, cynicism or outright disapproval face these couples for reasons hard to fathom in our seemingly enlightened times.
While people tend to have some level of resigned acceptance of old men with young women, what meets older women with young men is at worst, suspicion and, at best, discomfort.
What is the basis of behavior being acceptable from men but not from women? It certainly does not come from nature. While sexual desire does not necessarily wane with age, sexual performance is very much affected by the normal debilitations of aging.
With older women, the remedy is as simple as a jar of petroleum jelly. The remedy for older men, however, is more complicated and expensive, including Viagra-type pills (with its bad side effects), penile injectables, pumps and other devices, as well as the more modern stem-cell infusions.
If one is to believe the “intelligent design” theory of creation, perhaps December women with May men may be Nature’s post-procreation reward for the physical hardships and cultural subjugations women have endured through the ages. It is only right and just.