By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Far right, far left, center. It’s what divides the recent French election. I am fed up with ideological politics since the recent presidential election in the United States. The only fresh perspective I have is not for the French female presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, but her opponent, Emmanuel Macron.
You are surprised. Yes, I know. Being a feminist, why I am rooting for the man and not the woman? Both Le Pen, a far right and anti-immigrant politician, and Macron, who is more center, pro-Europe, and pro-globalization, are the frontrunners. Both will face off in a runoff election on May 7.
While the European Union fans celebrated Macron’s victory, another message was clear — voters’ acceptance of him marrying a woman 24 years his senior. His older wife has not turned off supporters.
When I heard the age difference, I thought I was hearing it incorrectly. No, it’s true. Macron is 39, and his wife Brigitte is 64. She was his high school drama teacher when he was 15.
Macron must have overcome a lot of obstacles to marry the love of his life. It shows he is not a man of insecurity, and that he appreciates maturity in his mate. What he values towards women is not based on physical attributes or youth. When he was 18, he told Brigitte that he was going to marry her. What determination and courage he displayed to pursue the woman of his dreams!
Love should not be defined by age. But social conventions said otherwise, especially when a younger man falls in love with an older woman. Some of Macron’s opponents have been attacking his marriage not only because of his wife’s age, but because she was married when her and Macron’s relationship began.
C’mon, why is nobody attacking President Trump who is also 24 years older than his wife, Melania? Also, this is his third marriage, and he had affairs during his earlier marriages. In the past, conservatives would crucify candidates for such misdeeds. However, in the 2016 election, Trump fans simply chose to overlook those flaws.
Isn’t that a double standard when the woman is the older partner?
Society raises its collective eyebrows to couples like Macron and his wife. So they kept their relationship quiet at first. They were married in 2007.
It’s a terrible taboo in Asian cultures for younger men and older women to be together. I was raised in a traditional family that frowned on such relationships, and my relatives often doubted that those marriages would last. My parents objected to my brothers dating older women and of me for dating younger men. We were all scared to disobey our parents then.
Macron is a step grandfather to Brigitte’s seven grandchildren. That would drive my mother nuts — raising other people’s kids and taking care of someone else’s grandkids! My aunt would sneer, “For heaven’s sake, she (Brigitte) looks like his mom. Those are not his real grandkids.” Fewer people would describe a woman’s older husband as looking like her dad.
In this day and age, having an older wife can be practical. Women live at least five years longer than men. For every four widows, there is only one widower.
However, it is a little extreme to have a 24-year gap between the partners. If having kids are a factor, the big age difference is a challenge, especially when the female is past her childbearing years.
The French care much less about the love lives of their presidents. They are familiar with love triangles and affairs with former president Sarkozy Nicolas — who divorced his wife and married a model during his term; and current President Francois Hollande, who broke up with his long-time partner for a younger woman.
You might wonder why I am blogging about the soap opera angle of the French presidential race. The message is, we should be open-minded. It is okay for younger men to date or marry older, more mature women. Judge a person by his/her wisdom and experience, and not their age.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.