Money can't buy me love

He was 43 and flush, she was 22 and having a ball. After the break- up, he sent her the bill.
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POOR NEIL WEEKES has made a bit of a fool of himself. This was the man, aged 43, who took his ex-girlfriend, Joanna Kirby, aged 25, to court, in an attempt to recoup the cost of her breast implants - something around pounds 3,500.

The court heard that Weekes, perhaps over-excited by a pounds 20,000 redundancy cheque, had paid for his then girlfriend's chest to be enhanced from a 34B to a generous DD-cup. He then took her on a round-the-world trip. When they returned, unfortunately the relationship soured. Weekes, having somewhat overspent his lump sum, asked his girlfriend to contribute to the mortgage. She took this rather badly, and shortly afterwards, on her 23rd birthday, packed her bags and moved back home to her parents.

Weekes, feeling broke and broken-hearted, believed that a judge would see his side of things, and force his ex to pay back the money he had squandered on her. The judge, however, took another view, and not only failed to award him the pounds 3,500 he sought, but also instructed him to pay Kirby's costs, which amount to pounds 570.

What was Weekes thinking? "Everyone warned him the age gap was too big," said a friend after the verdict. "All he wanted was to live happily ever after." It would be fascinating to find out whose idea the breast enlargement had been. One can only imagine Neil Weekes wasn't against it. And exactly how was a pneumatic young woman nearly 20 years his junior supposed to help him live "happily ever after"? Hadn't he read the manual?

If he's feeling broke after the world tour, one could understand if he asked for a contribution. But to ask for the cost of her boob job now that he is no longer in a position to enjoy it, is transparently sad.

This case highlights the confusion about the traditional roles of male and female. As the younger woman, Kirby had taken the view that she could enjoy being financially protected by an older man. Breast enlargement, world tour, a home with her man instead of living with her parents.... None of these is generally available to your average 22-year-old.

By the time he had paid for the grand tour with a grand gesture, poor old Weekes remembered the demands of a modern relationship. How about she pay her way? He had forgotten, perhaps, that at roughly half his age, she was unlikely to have the financial clout to go halves on a mortgage.

And herein lies the rub. Until recently, men would woo women a few years younger than themselves and take on the role of economic provider. Now there is a growing male view that the drive to greater equality in relationships is based on equal sharing of economic factors in the household. Plenty of women nowadays pay half the bills, go Dutch when paying for the romantic dinner a deux and even pay for that special party dress themselves. But if a man wants to pick a younger partner, he might have to forego some of that Nineties egalitarianism.

Let's look at the scenario. It is a bit like that famous Mrs Merton question: "So, Mr Weekes, what was it that attracted you first to the 22-year-old woman?"

He was earning a decent wage as an energy trader and she was living at home earning a pittance as a dental nurse. For a while, he was prepared to engage in the traditional trade-off of youth for money. But as soon as he began to feel the pinch, things looked very different.

What he seems to have missed is that a man lusting after a woman 20 years his junior is all part of the natural way of things. When I was 28, I went out with a man 20 years older than I. I was fascinated by his worldly savoir-faire and he with my carefree attitude to life - well, that and my pert bottom. But there was another factor in the equation. Part of my attraction for this middle-aged man was his status and his affluence. Unlike men my own age, who only had enough money for a few bevvies and a night out in a sweaty club, here was a man who offered me weekends away in Rome and dinners in good restaurants.

There was never a question that I should help him pay his mortgage. It was understood that what I gave in youth, he gave in holidays and dinners at Daphne's.

I have a few words of advice for Weekes. If you don't want to pay for your girlfriends, then pick on someone your own age. A 40-year-old woman may have tramlines etched into her face, but at least her bank balance will be able to match yours.