Joe Hardy, founder and CEO of the 84 Lumber Company and owner of the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, recently exchanged rings and probate court servers with a 22 year old salonist employed at the complex he owns. Or, rather, previously employed, though I suppose that goes without saying. Hardy recently reached his 84th birthday, so the age difference and standard deviation of wealth have raised more than just a few eyebrows. I’m sure it would take more than a few numerologists to divine that someone who named their lumber company “84” after the town it was started in would find a particularly creative way to celebrate their landmark 84th birthday, but I doubt even the most expert of psychiatrists would predict it would involve creating a future Anna Nicole Smith replacement. Nature, as it seems, perpetually abhors a vacuum.
May-December romances always seem to cause a bit of a stir when they happen, even though, historically, they’ve been rather common. Back in the day, gentlemen with, shall we say, a significant amount of life experience routinely courted mere teenagers as their wives, partly because in a day and age of rampant consumption, violent, drug-free childbirth that was the medically necessary equivalent of seamlessly passing a watermelon though a screen door, and the socially acceptable requirement of breeding enough children to field both teams, and the fans thereof, of a standard baseball game, it was encouraged that middle-aged men find fertile, study young women as their lifemates. Plus, they were pretty much old horndogs.
With gender equality came progress, though, and young maidens no longer had to be held as prizes for established merchants or reputable gentry to procure as a fruitful and subservient means of production. As the sexual revolution entered the mainstream, women were now free to be held as prizes for freshly minted middle managers and young appliance salesmen to procure as a fruitful and subservient means of production.
As society settled down to equilibrium during the sleepover Eisenhower years, marriage tended to be among equals—most courtships were between high school sweethearts, so unless the groom skillfully avoided getting assaulted with the smart stick for long enough and skipped about every other grade until he passed remedial study hall, the age among both parties involved reached near parity. So much so that couples often graduated together, started getting cancer screenings together, got sick of each other and cheated on each other together, and got that letter from the AARP and then discussed exactly how old they are and how they wasted their lives buying Frankie Avalon albums and voting Republican when all they really wanted to do is drink highballs and smoke duty-free cigarettes playing blackjack at the Indian reservation together.
Because of this, the incidence of the golddigger/trophy hunter match-up always gets people’s attention. It’s unusual enough as it is, though it’s perfectly explainable. Women tend to find constancy, maturity, and success as desirable traits in a man, while men tend to gravitate towards nubile innocent young things with a rather cavalier grasp towards socially accepted sexual mores. Pairing these two things up will often lead towards marriages of unequal ages. (Please note that this paragraph contains some atrociously sweeping generalizations, most of which women will find incredibly insensitive and men painfully indifferent. Such ham-fisted oversimplications will no doubt cast aspersions on my analysis, but it will certainly be enough to pass muster on, say, The CBS Evening News.)
The extreme forms of this occur in cases like Joe Hardy. It’s not terribly common, but hardly unheard of, as many old men realize that their sell-by date is fast approaching and they might as well get all they can while the getting is good, lest their shrew ex-wife get a portion of his money when he dies. It’s not too much to think that he might as well split the pot three instead of two ways while getting his rocks off in the process. Depending on their theological inclinations, of course, such transgressions will no doubt be either erased by the vanguards of history or, at least for Lutherans, eliminated with a healthy dose of God’s good grace.
It’s strange how, often, the females end up with the shadier reputation in these partnerships. Many of them are portrayed as stiletto-heeled vixens perfecting the art of extracting his wallet while staring at the ceiling. Yet nary an aspersion is cast at the man, who could just as easily be painted as a predatory pervert throwing greenbacks around in what is generally considered to be borderline prostitution. Perhaps it’s latent jealousy, perhaps it’s society’s expectations, but most likely it’s the fact that most old men with money have gotten to the point where eHarmony isn’t exactly going to be sending out boatloads of responses on a regular basis so they might as well go to the strip club for prospective wives.
To be honest, I’m surprised things like this don’t happen more often. I mean, every man wants some eye candy to wake up next to every morning, and every woman laments for financial stability. And if love isn’t defined as the appropriate arbitraging of sex and money, well, then, I don’t know what it is.