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I had a relationship with a man half my age

By Violetta Published May 17, 2024 10:31 pm

A week ago, my usual alone time had me watching The Idea of You with Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine—an “intelligent and sexy romcom,” according to Rotten Tomatoes, that “exudes affection and confidence.” It’s about 40-year-old Solene, an art gallery owner, mom of a teenager, and Hayes, a boy band singer, 24, who met and well, “fell in love.”

Ten years ago, I had my own Solene-Hayes story. No, I was not a gallery owner, and no, the guy was not a famous personality. But the age gap? Even more. And the chemistry? As hot. 

We met during a party at a friend’s restaurant one Friday night in Manila. I knew many people there, but I was hanging out mostly by the bar—with the bartender and chef who were also my friends—while sipping my Vodka Sprite.

A foreign guy approached the bartender and asked for a glass of water. “Only water?” I quipped. The party was in full swing, with some guests on the dance floor.

“I don’t drink alcohol,” he answered. “Oh, good for you,” I said.

He asked for my name and I gave it. His name was difficult to say—or even spell, I thought.

“From where?” I asked. France, he said. (Not bad looking, no vices, apparently. Puwede, I jokingly thought.)

I had my own Solene-Hayes story with a French guy over ten years ago.

He was a fellow volunteer of an NGO as with the other guests present. At the time, I was helping out the organization as best I can as a volunteer, and as a marketing director at my friend’s restaurant where the party was being held. 

He arrived in the Philippines—his first time—just a few days before the event, living in the community where the NGO was. His fellow volunteers brought him along.

After our brief chat, he asked for my contact details. I gave him my Facebook name, not my cellphone number. I didn't think much of it anymore. 

The following morning, he messaged me via Messenger, saying he was glad to have met me and was wishing he can see me again. Yikes. When he said he was still finishing his graduate studies in Paris, I figured he was way younger. Mid- to late 20s? I was already in my mid-40s. Okay, late 40s. The Idea of You film is from the book by Robinne Lee, which actually puts their age gap at 20 years. 

Our age difference was about that. He was about the age of my son. Goodness! 

He said he found me very interesting. He had mentioned he was staying in the Philippines for two months, then he was going to another foreign country for more volunteer work. My marriage had been annulled by then, my two kids working abroad, while I lived alone, single, working.  

Just like Solene and Hayes, ours became a steamy romance, and I was the one holding back. “I’m too old for you,” I told him, and he said he didn't mind at all. He liked holding my hands while we were walking in public, this tall, gorgeous French person. Sometimes we would just spend the afternoon working on our own laptop in my place, him just in his boxers, all serious, while I was trying to work and stealing glances at him.

I would think, “I’m just going to have this experience. No one will ever know.” Everyone has secrets, after all.

Solene and Hayes have a 16-year age gap in the film, which is streaming on Prime Video.

And then Typhoon Haiyan happened in November 2013. Immediately, both our volunteer modes were in full swing. I was planning a trip to Tacloban with volunteer friends arriving from abroad, while he was helping pack donations at a college campus. One time, I asked if he wanted to help move sacks of rice to be hauled by a truck going to Leyte. Yes, of course, he said. He was carrying a sack of rice on his shoulder, walking towards the truck, then back. I secretly snapped photos of him, in shorts, tank tops, slippers, uncomplaining. Beautiful him.  

He was able to travel to Cebu for post-Haiyan assistance with other foreign volunteers, while I was in Tacloban doing psychological first aid mostly to mothers and children.

Around three weeks later though, it was time for him to go. I thought the goodbye was going to be easy. We both knew it was going to end sooner than later. What I did not expect was to see him cry. “I will miss you. Please, let's keep in touch,” he said. He wrote a note in my notebook: “With love from Manila,” and then his name.

The hug was long. Heartfelt. 

We did not have regular conversations since he was always traveling, but when we did, he would always say he missed me. Weird, I was missing him too. He wanted me to go to Paris after a few months. I said, “The first time I went, I saw the Eiffel Tower all by myself.” “This time I will go with you,” he replied.  

But it never happened. Life just happened.  

We lost touch after a few years. He was never big on social media. Like Hayes, I’m sure he has matured much, pursuing his passion. I do wonder about him sometimes, especially after seeing the film—and what we might have been.

No regrets, though. I can always say that once there was a young, naked French guy in my bed. For real.