Sheesh. How stressful would it be to be Brigitte Macron? I am letting all my neuroses out right here, in the conviction that whenever women are honest about themselves they give other women a gift.

Brigitte Macron is 24 years older than her husband, new French president Emmanuel Macron (39). The public shrieking about their age gap has been brutal and terrifying. But also kind of illuminating about our sexist double standards. We are obviously rather deluded to think we've made much progress in this area.

Why is the Macrons age gap considered so shocking? The reason is that it reveals the sneaky transactions that go on in our most intimate relationships. We like to pretend we just fall in love. Magic.

But really we make cold-hearted evolution-driven estimations about sexual capital and financial status of potential partners, as though we were still back in the stone age.


A rich man is expected to match up with a beautiful, younger woman. His economic status is then matched by her sexual allure. The status quo is not threatened and everyone accepts this trade off. Whew. In some pervy way this is considered fair.

We think we're so enlightened but really, we still follow these expectations so automatically that we don't even notice the rules are there, until someone like Brigitte Macron dares to break them. Actually, any kind of variation is threatening. A good looking man with a non-stereotypically hot woman seems to provoke a certain puzzled consternation too. And an older, wealthy man who has stayed with one wife as she ages has a sort of freakish heroic status. What a guy!

I'd love to think I didn't conform to social norms, but I'm just as bad. Worse even.

Because confession: I would hate to be with a man who was the same age as me, let alone younger than me. It would be so tiring trying to stay looking young.

I am reluctant to even write this because it seems a shameful bad feminist thing to admit.

Up until now I was simply too slothful and chaotic to ever be that fussed about looks or body image. Bodies were just irksome contraptions you had to put up with to carry your brain around. Yet, now I am 49 I have been surprised how confronting I have found my suddenly deteriorating body. It turns out ageing is barely perceptible for years and then it's a freaking mudslide. Now I wake up in the morning and my décolletage looks like a Google map. The backs of my hands look as ropey as Madonna's, but my face looks ten years older than hers. (I must get an updated decrepit photo for this column).

So the idea that you would have to manage your partners' expectations of your hotness as well as grieving your own drooping surrender to gravity would fill me with dread.

I have always been attracted to men who are much older than me. I framed it as just having exemplary taste: I was proud of finding character more attractive than gratuitous arm candy. Geoffrey Rush is so much sexier than Brad Pitt. Older men were more likely to appreciate Mahler's 5th and PG Wodehouse. Also, you know: Daddy Issues. (I've canvassed that at length in this column already so rest assured, shan't mention the war.) Older men are just cooler. My partner (18 years older than me) has a T shirt that says "Rock'n'roll mother***er." I have Barry Humphries as a pen pal.

It is hard enough coping with ageing in itself, but going through this process with a partner who was much younger would be a whole other level of horror and subterfuge and Botox.

But there is something else so mercenary that I hesitate to admit it. The fact that when you are younger than your partner, as a woman, you immediately get back a bit of power. In the algorithm of attractiveness you have a slight edge in comparative hotness. If you're hopeless at personal upkeep like me this means you can afford to be insouciant about your looks - I have a unibrow and sometimes when I hurriedly shave my legs there is a mullet effect. But this slack-arse formula only works when you are still young enough to be considered hot.

"You've got to that age where you really need to make an effort," as a friend's husband said to her once, bastardly. (They're not married anymore.)

It is hard enough coping with ageing in itself, but going through this process with a partner who was much younger would be a whole other level of horror and subterfuge and Botox.

Your younger lover might call your wrinkles "smile lines" and compare you to Helen Mirren, but wouldn't you wonder if he was sneakily checking out the hot girl along the bar?

But I'm getting to the good bit. It's not all grim. What happens to Daddy Issues when you no longer qualify as totty? They disappear!

Once you hit menopause the age gap doesn't really matter anymore. Now you're both just old and just have to deal.

So Brigitte Macron just needs to hang in there for a few more years till Emmanuel has a paunch and prostate problems. Then you can just both laugh at your fast-accelerating feebleness and face the indignity of ageing together. It happens to all of us.