Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

Kind, sexy, charming, funny - and 58 years old
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The Independent Online

Last week, when I walked into a restaurant in Mayfair with my ex-boyfriend David, jaws dropped. Yes, he's handsome and beautifully dressed, but they were probably staring because he's a silver-haired 58-year-old, and I'm 27.

We met a couple of years ago, when we worked for the same company. I had a huge crush on him but was afraid to make a move, so I settled for flirting shamelessly. He was old enough to be my dad; in fact, he was older than my dad. But he was kind, charming, sexy and hilariously funny - the kind of person who lights up a room when he walks in.

I started teasing him about setting me up with one of his friends. He laughed and said: "I can't be in charge of your love life, Catherine, I've got to sort out my own." "Well, why don't you take me out, then we can kill two birds with one stone?" I asked, batting my eyelashes. He was stunned, telling me that he was very flattered, but thought I was too young for him and didn't want to take the risk at work.

But I was very persistent. I looked up his number and called him. We talked all night, and one week later we were staring into each other's eyes over a candlelit dinner - then making out in a cab on the way back to his flat. The sex was fantastic, not least because this was a man who had had a lot of time to practise his oral technique.

There were other perks. Having dated a guy who thought that moving pizza from box to paper plate was fine dining, the views from David's penthouse flat were looking especially good. None of my friends thought it would last. They teased me about giving him a heart attack in bed, and changed my surname to Zeta-Jones.

But strangers were worse. Most people assumed that by dating him, I was filling some void in my life by looking for daddy. "I'll bet your parents are divorced, right?" was a common line. Of course, waiters who asked if he wanted a table for himself and "his daughter" didn't help.

Not all older men dating with double-digit age gaps are Peter Stringfellow clones. Of course, there will always be guys with low self-esteem who want a younger woman to idolise them. But there are also men - and women - like David, who will always be as cool as they were at 17.

Still, nothing prepared me for the day I opened David's medicine cabinet and found an alphabetised row of pills for everything from angina to zinc deficiency. We tried to avoid the subject of his advancing age. But things got nasty when we got into a huge fight about his diet; he was a rabid gourmand who would rather undergo a quadruple bypass than cut out Parma ham. I started to have visions of changing diapers - and not for my children. And, though my crowd warmed to him, I couldn't exactly drag him to a punk concert. I started to miss my friends.

So, as quickly it started, our relationship began to fade out. One night, I took him to a club where the bartender had safety-pin earrings and a "Jesus Is My Homeboy" T-shirt. "Look, I was in Studio 54 when Bianca Jagger rode in on a white horse, and I don't want to do this any more," he said. "This is your scene, not mine." Soon afterward, we parted ways.

But the chemistry never went away. These days, we are like any two friends who meet to dissect the train wrecks of our respective love lives - and the waiters still stare at us.

But tonight, he tells me that he has broken up with his latest girlfriend. When I ask why, he's typically elusive, but finally he says: "You know, it's not easy to replace someone like you, Cat."

As he's helping me into my coat, our eyes meet and he kisses me - on the cheek. We head home in separate cabs, which is probably for the best. But friends tell me that the age difference matters less after 35, so who knows what the future holds?