Harriet Walker: Harry, Caroline and an age-old debate

Tales From The Water Cooler: A 17-year-old boy is every bit as vulnerable as his female counterpart – which is why they should probably go out with each other

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With the news that little pop-child Harry Styles of the band One Direction has split up with TV presenter Caroline Flack, who was 15 years older than him, comes the noise of a thousand micro-hearts unbreaking.

Pre-teen fans were thrilled when he tweeted yesterday that their split had been a mutual decision. Thrilled they were no longer an item, that is, rather than the fact he hadn't just callously binned her by text or even pigeon-post.

Relationships with an age difference are always questionable – just think how we would have reacted if a 32-year-old man had struck up with a 17-year-old girl – but in this instance, people have been heavy-handed on both sides.

The opprobrium heaped by the media on women who date younger men, and especially by the internet comment community, is notorious – but there is often an assumption in these cases that younger men benefit from their older girlfriends, while the inverse is simply harmful and a bit pervy.

It doesn't really work like that. A 17-year-old boy is every bit as vulnerable as his female counterpart – which is why they should probably go out with each other and work out how to be adults together.

Regardless of whether Styles has had to mature quickly under the scrutiny of the limelight he now inhabits, he's still just a dweeby teen looking for love.

Nor should Flack be castigated for having found a pleasant diversion in a younger man, but perhaps it's for the best that they go back to their natural spheres: she to those over the legal drinking age, and he to the crèche.

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