There was a time when an older woman going out with a much younger man was something unusual and a bit weird. While men have been dating younger partners for years with nary an eyebrow raised, an age-gap relationship the other way around was seen as something of a concern.
But, increasingly, middle-aged women are not only choosing to step out with men much younger than they are, but showing off their younger beaus as they do. Kate Moss is often photographed cosying up to her boyfriend - Count Nikolai Von Bismarck - who at 30 is some 15 years her junior, while her model buddy Naomi Campbell, 48, has been recently linked to 25-year-old Liam Payne. This week we saw 45-year-old Kate Beckinsale at a hockey game in New York happily embracing her new boyfriend Peter Davidson, a 25-year-old comedian who is only five years older than her daughter Lily Mo Sheen.
The signs are that the relationship sands are shifting for women and what was once a taboo is almost becoming a norm. Chronologically these couples may not be on the same page, but the women are obviously seeing the positives. I suspect a lot of this has to do with us getting back our relationship mojo. Dating someone younger is the quickest way to take a holiday from your own life and all its attendant midlife anxieties and problems.
Besides most of the men our age, are in the throes of their own crises and even if they are single they are unlikely to want a woman of their age either - which doesn't leave a lot of hope (or fish in the sea) for a 55-year-old like me. When I first signed up to an online dating site, the only messages that pinged into my inbox were from balding 65-year-olds, or lonely men who had never had a long term relationship before.
Yet, while I once found this sad state of affairs beyond depressing, on the flip side, it has been a revelation to find that the online dating world is awash with handsome young men who actively want to wine and dine older women like me.
It never crossed my mind that someone that young men would think me attractive, but this was like a tsunami of youthful attention. I wanted to have fun and be outrageous, they loved the older sophisticated woman who didn't whine and constantly ask where the relationship was going. It was the beginning of a happy-go-lucky dating phase that lasted a year, but there are some things you only know when you date someone much younger than you…
1. You will be treated like a goddess
You may see an ageing hag when you look in the mirror, they see an experienced seductress who is exciting and different. They want to be your hero and will go to any lengths to impress you and if that includes getting you Haagen Daas ice cream at four in the morning so it will be.
2. You have discovered the best antidote to a post-divorce slump
Their attention is so heady, their adoration so blissful, you will find feeling 21 again. Just remember not to dress like one. They like you because you are different and you will start to look younger anyway because this rush of endorphins is going to your head.
3. You will be emoji'd to death
More romantic than a slushy film, your loved-up cub is likely to send you a barrage of texts first thing every morning, and night. You may find the zillions of emojis a bit bewildering at first (it took me a while to realise he didn't mean he wanted aubergine for dinner), but take it for what it is, youthful expression, and let him know that you appreciate the attention.
4. He's not the only fish in his sea
Experience has taught me that young men are willing and in plentiful supply. While the dating landscape is barren when it comes to men our age, the much younger man is a willing romantic warrior. You may find yourself spoilt for choice. They will send you flattering messages, invite you out for drinks, weekends away. Pace yourself, especially if you have a busy week ahead, you need your sleep. He doesn't.
5. What they lack in sophistication they make up for in enthusiasm
They may not know their way around the wine list, but enjoy their youthful enthusiasm. Accept their invitation to a festival, a party or just walking barefoot in the park. It makes a welcome change from the old ex who is more likely to be found slumped on the sofa watching the rugby. Or even worse, golf.
6. He may still be wearing braces
Watch out for the really young cubs. It used to be a woman's prerogative, but a lot of men now lie about their age. If you find they are wearing braces, have a look at their passport. You don't want to deal with angry parents banging on your door at 3am.
7. They are used to living in the moment
Baggage-light, the cub has no ex-wives or gaggles of children clogging up his life and his emotions. He is young and living for the day, a day he doesn't want ruined by conversations about niggles at work, feeling tired or even a nasty text from your ex. Leave those chats for your midlife friends.
8. You might end up paying for quite a lot
One of the few downsides is their financial situation. While you are not against going Dutch, you may find yourself covering the costs of the bigger bills like weekends away and dinners at restaurants you want to go to. Men have been doing this for their younger partners for years. That's feminism, folks.
9. They never want to leave a party early
Another downside. Just when you want to spend Saturday night in with a box-set and M&S dine-in meal-deal, you find yourself at a pub that doesn't seem to have a closing time (remember them? They don't) quietly fretting about the eight hours zzzz's you need if you are going to stave off Alzheimer's. Stay with it. Remember a change is as good as a rest.
10. He'll let you have your way
Not only will he WANT to go out, he will also be more than happy for you to take the lead and choose the film/mini-break/restaurant. And be thankful you did.
11. There may be laundry
But the chances are, you offered: unwashed jeans and t-shirts aren't a turn-on when the smell becomes overwhelming. You will probably end up buying him underwear, too.
12. There will be photographs on social media
Now you know just how much young men and their friends live their life on Instagram. Either get used to pictures of you looking a bit fat and bleary, or simply draw a line under 'taking pictures of me.'
13. Be careful not to start having love feelings
It is easily done, but if you mistake passion and excitement for long-term love, you are setting yourself up for a fall. Take the relationship for what it is, a fun happy fling, yes the feelings are real, but dial down the long-term expectations and throw him back in the water before he starts to ghost you. Look it up.