Oh Helena Bonham Carter, good on you. There you are, 53 years old, looking incredible and – gasp – dating someone 21 years your junior. Taking a closer look at the photos of the actress on the arm of her boyfriend, writer Rye Dag Holmboe, you'll see something remarkable: Helena looks genuinely happy.

She's smiling right up to her eyes: the romance has been, she says, "a bit of unexpected magic in my life." Like many women experiencing their best years in their fifties, she knows what she wants and how to get it. But she may find, as I have, that being with men closer to half your age than your own should come with a health warning.

A study this week found that 42 per cent of women over 50 say they found that decade their favourite, with a further 69 per cent saying they expect more adventure and fun in the future. I can relate: after I found myself single and uncertain in my late 40s, I knew hitting the half century mark was the time to find a new way forward.

So I went on all of the dating apps, expecting no action at all. I was overwhelmed with responses from 20somethings: I met the first, aged 23, at a bar, had a drink. His sexual interest in me was clear, but I didn't reciprocate – I didn't feel like being some sort of sexual training ground.


So I met a few more young guys, meeting at the same bar, without any frisson whatsoever. And when I returned yet again for yet another date, the bar manager said, "Your date is here. He's not your usual calibre." I decided it was time to meet someplace else.

Everyone who wants to be attractive to a younger partner can do it if they start being attractive for themselves. It starts with reality: surprise, you're not dead! Yes, you might be making more trips to the good Dr Lowe at the Cranley Clinic. Maybe you're wearing long sleeves in summer.

You might have to work harder to shed weight. New decisions emerge: do I let my hair go grey? Do I get Botox? Do I quit the high heels? I found that I'm happiest when I care for myself like an exotic pet: I must eat, sleep and exercise properly. I make an effort to be happy and mentally balanced. I need fresh air. Here's the takeaway: if you're treating your pets better than you are yourself, you need to reassess.

Dating younger men isn't about denying your age. It's about being interested in their lives as well as yours. I love online dating. It's a paradise of smart, challenging men. Online is far better than having to go to parties or events and scope around for targets.

The rules are clearer and everyone lays down the guidelines early on. I started with older men but found them dull: they seemed worn out by life, shabby in their dress or doused in after shave. One met me for a drink, talked about his ex who was bi-polar then said goodnight, shaking my hand and saying, "Kick on," the old hunting term for galloping off after some tragedy.

If you're treating your pets better than you are yourself, you need to reassess.

Younger men can be more awkward but they dare to ask questions and to pick a good-natured argument. I found their approaches amusing. They were willing to experiment and have outrageous opinions. And all the while, they never pretended they didn't want sex.

It's easy to dwell on negatives, "Oh I'm all old and wrinkly," and then start being neurotic, self-absorbed, boring. There were days when I felt fat and puffy and knew I looked it.

But neuroses are a passion killer. Your body doesn't make you sexy: it's wanting your partner and liking yourself which makes it so. Many, many women have said to me, "aren't you afraid you'll be left for someone younger?" It's usually married women or those who can't get a date online who ask. Relationships, from the briefest fling to my parents' marriage of 70 years, last as long as they last.

Demi Moore is just one of many women who married a younger man. Photo / Getty Images
Demi Moore is just one of many women who married a younger man. Photo / Getty Images

Why don't I date someone my own age? I have tried. Maybe I met the only men in the UK who were only interested in drinking, watching TV and talking about their exes? Older men need to be adored and soothed and when they see that's not happening, the drinks bill gets paid very quickly (and we split that). Other older men wanted to talk about sex, typically stockings, dressing up and handcuffs. So dull.

For the most part, younger men are sane, balanced and curious. They like doing things. While I wouldn't normally hang out of a moving car or strip off in the groomed gardens of luxury hotels, the stupidity of youth can be quite exhilarating.

They'll try a new recipe, go ice skating, take a flying or polo lesson. They'll be charming at parties, wear an evening suit perfectly, bring you a fresh glass of champagne. Younger guys carry less baggage because they have less mileage but they're also less sexist, ageist or racist. They're kinder, more understanding and less cynical than older men. A younger man gives you a fresh take on a new world. Seeing the world through his eyes, I see my life in a different way. And I like it.

Everything is great about dating younger men, except the snide comments from closed-minded people. But if social media has given us one skill, it's to mute comments that aren't constructive.

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These days people can say what they like but I don't have to listen. Besides, everyone I know in long term relationships or marriages is only ever desperate to ask one thing: are younger men better at sex, and can they think of anything else? They are keen to learn. They love to put a woman's pleasure first. Above everything, they have energy, focus and curiosity about everything. It's not all horizontal.


Advertisements and Hollywood and the rest of the world may still be obsessed with youth, but it's fake news: there is more to life than holding back the years. As Hollywood icon Carrie Fisher once tweeted, "Youth and beauty are not accomplishments. They're the temporary happy byproducts of time and/or DNA." People are still afraid of ageing; friends whine about turning 40 because they fear they'll no longer be hot. "I'm so sorry for you," I croon, "because now your life is OVER." Of course, I'm joking: being in your 50s is more mega than ever.

Look at Tess Daly, who recently celebrated her 50th with aplomb on Instagram - Kate Beckinsale, Sam Taylor Johnson, Joan Collins, Demi Moore, Tina Turner, I could go on and on with the list of older women who dated or married younger men and were happy to do it.

Beauty is deciding what to accept and what to improve in your own life. The catch here is that might be a far harder adjustment than dating someone a couple of decades younger.

The health warning? A younger man may be the spur to reexamine your life. You may fall in love with yourself all over again.