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Silver Threads: Edwin Edwards prompts musings about May-December romances

If either Hugh Jackman or Colin Firth rang my doorbell, I’d be tickled to pieces to see him. But if the sexy star of stage and screen wanted anything other than a bourbon and seven and some scintillating conversation, I’d have to pass.

Not only am I happily married, but I’m just way too proud. I wouldn’t want him to see my — um — anything. And if our ages were reversed, I wouldn’t want to see his.

After 60 or 70 years, gravity takes its toll on each and every body, but the guys don’t seem to care. And history bears out the fact that neither do their younger women. May-September marriages were once commonplace because it usually took a fellow his first 30 or 40 years to either inherit daddy’s estate or tenant farm, get settled in a military regiment, serve an apprenticeship for a trade if he weren‘t destined for higher things, or acquire a nice rich congregation to preach to.

Meantime, the prospective wives were leaving the schoolrooms, preparing for their debuts in some societies, nagging their mamas to call the matchmaker in others.

In New Orleans, the tradition lives on in the Carnival krewes: Kings are middle-aged, sometimes older. Queens are college students. I know that men are programmed by nature to be attracted to the youth and beauty that signify healthfulness and an ability to procreate, which the male can manage even in his twilight years.

Women, on the other hand, are programmed to use it and then lose it, and not so long ago many didn’t live past their childbearing years. Why not, for the short time they would be desirable, choose some geezer who had the power and status to protect them and wrap them in the most beautiful of furs? Straight from the unfortunate animal in ancient history and more recently from Koslow‘s.

I got to thinking about May-December unions the other day when news of former Governor Edwin Edwards’ impending nuptials hit the front page. Fast Eddie is entitled to the nickname.

“He’s so much fun to take care of,” gushed his fiancee, who is 50 years his junior. They look happy in the photo that ran with the announcement, although Edwin seems a little subdued. But then he’s barely out of federal prison and who wouldn’t be? I’m sure this latest arrangement will put the sparkle back in his eyes. And no one can deny that he has one when all’s going well.

Nowadays people almost always choose someone close to their own age to marry. The late Anna Nicole Smith comes to mind as an exception, but by and large we gravitate toward our contemporaries, and romantic love and — yes — lust decide our course. Nowadays we even try out what used to be post-nuptial living arrangements in advance. Things change. I think a visitor from 100 years ago would be less surprised by Edwards’ intentions than by Brad and Angelina, who despite all those kids see no need to make it legal.

But marital arrangements are the business only of the two consenting adults most closely involved, and for me that opinion covers a lot of ground. I can’t help thinking, though, about the misery in store were I to become the pen-pal of a 26-year-old and we set a date at the church.

Some years ago a young male co-worker appeared at my desk all excited with the news that a woman we both knew was expecting twins at age 45.

My response was, “Oh. My. Goodness.”

“You’re just jealous,” he told me, whereupon I invited four or five nearby women — all over-50 mothers like me — to join our conversation, and a universal groan went up.

Young men. How little they know.

And that’s why I think most older women wouldn’t really want one.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at


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