CONFESSION time: When I read about grandma of three Sharon Hawkins, from the US, dating a man 28 years younger than her, my heart was incandescent with . . . envy.
This clever lass, who is 50, smartly lowered the age range on her dating app to 19 in search of a new man and — Bingo! She met Perry, who is 22. They now plan to marry.
Ulrika pictured in 1994 at the height of her Gladiators fameCredit: Rex Features
I can well do without the marriage bit, but the idea of a younger man is perilously appealing.
It’s precarious because of all the potential for judgment, the probable public outrage and its capacity for causing upset on the domestic front.
I’m 53 and would very happily date a man 21 and up.
But then I suppose I would need to consider that my oldest son is 26 and my oldest daughter 20. And I’m not convinced it would sit well with them.
The reality of the notion first surfaced, subconsciously, a couple of years ago, when I was asked to appear on Channel 4’s First Dates Hotel.
I had no interest in meeting anyone as I was newly divorced and feeling pretty despondent. But it was for charity.
Ulrika appeared on Channel 4’s First Dates HotelCredit: PA:Press Association
When a show researcher — determined to find me a perfect date for the night — asked what age range I was thinking about, I said without hesitation: “25 to 40?”
This was met with a long silence. I was 51 at the time.
I think the poor girl was horrified by this delusional old has-been.
I had the dawning realisation that not only was I actually over 50 but I also loved the idea of a younger man.
I think to save her blushes I compromised on 35 to 50. But I rather wish I hadn’t.
I’m not someone to avoid controversy in my personal life.
I have very much believed in doing things my own way.
In the past I have probably exceeded people’s expectations of what is humanly possible, sometimes on the stupid scale, sometimes on the crazy scale.
I married three times and have four children by four fathers.
I’m not exactly backwards in coming forwards.
There are aspects of ageing I don’t enjoy, my sagging face and my aching body, my memory lapses and my inability to grasp technical instructions as quickly as before.
One concept I’ve definitely got my head around, however, is the idea of being with a younger man.
I’m not being ageist here, if you’re older and interested, do form an orderly queue and I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.
But the confidence and this strange kind of fearlessness that comes with being older is one that possibly stems from the knowledge that you have more years behind you than you do in front. So why not throw caution to the wind?
Ulrika says men are deemed to become more attractive with ageCredit: Dan Charity – The Sun
Men and women age differently. We know that.
Women nowadays have the aid of aesthetic intervention, but men always had the advantage because they were deemed to become more attractive with age.
Some part of me must have bought into that, because when I was 19 I dated a bricklayer, Gordon, who was in his 30s.
Or maybe it was just a personal quest of mine to seem more mature.
Whatever, I felt very happy to have someone with considerably more experience than me.
I would never have considered a younger man back then, that would have felt regressive somehow.
The 53-year-old describes herself as a ‘self-assured, sharp-witted sex goddess’Credit: Instagram
But my time with Gordon didn’t last – I was just starting out in life and he liked to lay bricks and drink a lot. Sometimes both at the same time.
Fast forward to the end of my first marriage.
I was a 28-year-old mother of one and I started to date a 22-year-old.
“What first attracted you to the young, fit, handsome, bodybuilder that was Hunter from Gladiators?”, was not a question which really required an answer.
I didn’t think about our age gap, not in the bedroom nor anywhere else.
Clearly we were at different stages of our lives even then, but I was utterly infatuated. And in love.
Eventually, after about 18 months, the cracks began to show and we went our separate ways.
Ulrika Jonsson and her family
I carried on my pursuit for love, pausing briefly for a fumble under the covers with a nearly 60-year-old, Sven-Göran Eriksson.
Remember him, the former England football manager?
Yes, I am also trying to forget because sex was about as exciting as assembling an IKEA bookcase, which is what makes my argument for a younger man inescapably convincing.
Lockdown has given fuel to my strategy.
There has been too much time on my hands for fantasising and enough time for me to engage with a very average US serial/drama about a thirtysomething teacher locking lips and erecting IKEA furniture in a most arousing, exciting way, with one of her 18-year-old students.
I understand their story was fraught with illegalities, but the raciness was more than enough to convince me that this was my way forward.
Ulrika Jonsson and James Crossley aka ‘Hunter’ in 1996Credit: Rex Features
There may have been a recent, little dalliance with someone 21 or so years younger than me . . . I couldn’t possibly say, but the fact is that it’s enormously exciting for an old bird.
It’s taken me a while to become the self-assured, sharp-witted sex goddess I now am.
I don’t want kids and marriage, I want laughter, good food and sex . . . please.
To that end, surely I’m God’s gift to the younger man?
And I can probably help him with learning history and introduce him to old people’s music.
Sven in 2001, just after he became England’s first foreign managerCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
And I can talk about the ’70s and ’80s, which might be a time before he was born.
I have a fire in my belly because I find it intensely infuriating that no one bats an eyelid when actor Dolph Lundgren, 63, struts about with his fiancée, who is 24.
Yes, that’s right, essentially he could be her grandad.
Societally, we are conditioned to think this is OK and yet, over in the States, poor “old” Sharon Hawkins gets grief for looking like her boyfriend’s mother. It simply isn’t cricket.
I love the idea of a younger man and, just like Sharon, I want someone with greater spontaneity.
Someone with a youthful, blossoming body who isn’t so dragged down by life that he is disengaged from his enthusiasm, has retired his energy levels and parked his stamina in a disabled parking space outside the House Of Fun.
I want intensity and vitality. True, I’m somewhat lacking in both at the moment due to these eternal lockdowns, but it won’t be long now until the sun comes out again and we are actually, physically, allowed to attach and involve ourselves with others — and I can’t wait.
Although my body isn’t what it used to be, I’m pretty sure I can find someone who appreciates its flaws, its lines and creases, because it’s the body of a mature, experienced woman.
It’s not a doll with fake boobies, nail extensions and hair into which so many young girls have transformed themselves. There’s a reassuring reality about an older woman.
Besides, I would find myself in fine company.
The queen of this is actress Tamzin Outhwaite, who at 50, with two daughters, has joined forces with a 29-year-old Tom Child.
I look to them as my favourite example but there is a long list of others.
Ulrika with Sven in 2002 during their flingCredit: Big Pictures
Olivia Wilde bagged Harry Styles, and while she is said to have been trolled for it, they both look pretty bloody happy with the ten-year age gap.
More or less everyone Madonna has ever dated has been younger than her.
That Kourtney off the Kardashians has enjoyed a younger beau and Dame Joan Collins is 31 years older than her Percy. And they show no signs of stopping.
It is my belief that sensible and reckless young men find an older woman intriguing.
Our wealth of experience goes hand in hand with our desire for a new lease of life, our insatiable appetite balances nicely with our contentment, our reassurance com- plements our desire for adventure and danger.
Clearly I’d be forced to run this past the Ungratefuls — my offspring — who would doubtless make a fuss, show acute embarrassment and try to force me into submission because I really ought to know better and ought to retire gracefully.
They would struggle to get their heads around it, I know. There might even be disgust and disdain, self-pity, judgment and definitely concern. Because as we all know, women of a certain age aren’t capable of making rational decisions. If ever we were.
But for me, the fantasy is very real. I’m not ruling anything out. I really think it has legs. And hopefully, much more besides.
IN THE NEWS . . . grandma Sharon Hawkins, 50, with lover Perry Hopstein, 22Credit: HotSpot Media
AGE GAP . . . Olivia Wilde, 36, with Harry Styles, 26, in Santa BarbaraCredit: BackGrid
NO STOPPING . . . Dame Joan Collins, 87, with Percy Gibson, 56, in 2013Credit: Getty Images – Getty
DATING QUEEN . . . Tamzin Outhwaite, 50, with Tom Child, 29Credit: Refer to Caption
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