When people learn I’m married to a younger man (my husband is 16 years my junior), they usually respond with raised eyebrows. When they find out he’s a musician (a blues-punk firebrand who goes by the moniker Rust Dust), the eyebrows hike higher. Folks figure I’m either living in a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy or simply out of my mind. The truth is somewhere in between.
There are five common assumptions made about our curious, unconventional coupling—and this is my chance to clear up what life is really like when you’re married to someone younger.
1. “OMG, how can you even walk straight with all that incredible sex!”
Those raised eyebrows inevitably come with a wink-wink, so I’ll address that first. While a fella in his twenties may be raring to go at all times, a woman’s healthy libido doesn’t necessarily wane when she hits her forties—so from the start we’ve been a good match in that department. Plus, there’s no sweeter aphrodisiac than someone singing you love songs with his shirt off…until he starts writing them about you!
It’s not like being a musician predisposes a person to kinkiness.
That said, there’s never been anything freaky to our brand of frisky. My guy can pen some twisted lyrics and pull out unusual chord progressions, but it’s not like being a musician (or a writer, for that matter) predisposes a person to kinkiness. Besides, we’re married. We have married sex, and it doesn’t always go to 11. What’s great is that by now we know exactly what strings to pluck, and every coda includes a cuddle.
2. “Come on, no way in hell he understands your references.”
Folks infer that communication breakdown regularly disrupts our relationship, but life is not a Led Zeppelin song. If I was raised on rock radio, he grew up on the same tunes, only for him it was called classic rock. My generation’s TV shows and movies? He had them in reruns and on video. Moreover, we discovered we were both drawn to the same sad minor keys and dark perverse humor with a mutual sense of wonderment about the world. Sure, he’s a little bit more Beatles, I’m a little bit more Stones, but it’s those kinds of differences that keep things interesting.
3. “All those babes trying to get close to him? He’s bound to leave you for a younger woman!”
Let me be clear: I’m not married to the Beibs…or even Beck. My husband is no pop star, so I needn’t go tooth and claw against groupies. However, Rust Dust did recently put an album out on a cool boutique label and has acquired some attractive, adoring fans. Not to mention the female artists who share the bill at clubs around town. Not to also mention his pretty blonde publicist.
One reason I resisted getting involved with him initially was the onus of: “Will you still love me when I’m 64…and you’re not?”
Do I get jealous? Sometimes. In fact, one reason I resisted getting involved with him initially was the onus of: “Will you still love me when I’m 64…and you’re not?” (Sorry, Ringo—had to cut to the chase!) Fortunately, rather than intensify over time, that fear has diminished. Not because I work very hard to forestall the aging process (I don’t), but because of the kind of human being I hitched my wagon to: a loyal, honest one who values doing your best over looking your best and a quirky mind over perky breasts. The longer we’re together, the more I come to trust that my man loves me—crepe-y skin, graying strands, and all.
4. “You must be exhausted from the constant hard partying.”
Um, hard partying? We’ve been together eighteen years, which makes my husband now older than I was when we met. Sure, we party: backyard barbecues with family and friends of all ages that typically turn into hootenannies. When he has a gig, I go, of course—as long as he’s on stage before midnight. And those free drink tickets he scores from bartenders supply all the seltzer we can pound. Andrew WK would bang his head in approval! (And there’s also this.)
5. “Marrying a younger man and feeding his ego has got to be a fulltime job.”
Yes, fine, okay. I often ask about what he’s working on. I encourage him to do his music and admire him for sticking with it despite the poor financial rewards (the likelihood of him becoming the next Biebs/Beck and us eventually retiring to Ibiza is mighty slim). I listen to him, and that often means listening to him practice. Yes, even banjo. Yet I wouldn’t call this feeding his ego so much as being supportive, which is easy because I consider him truly talented. I’m fully into his stuff—his tensile tenor, his workingman playing style, his unique way with words.
Saying what’s in your heart and having others relate to it is a wonderful thing; that may not happen for me again.
The hard part—oddly, the part no one ever speculates about is this: When I was his age, after years of toiling away at my own “art,” I started to get some attention, too. I had a decent run, six books published, four of which I’m proud of. Lately, though, the muse seems to have left me, at least as far as long-form fiction goes. Now I read my husband’s record reviews, watch his Instagram followers and mailing list grow, and I do get wistful. Saying what’s in your heart and having others relate to it is a wonderful thing; that may not happen for me again.
Then I stop feeling sorry for myself. At least I had a shot at expressing myself and touched some people who felt the same way I did. Now I get to see someone I cherish, someone who deserves it, experience that wonderful sensation. I’m lucky enough to live in a house full of song, which is music to my ears—and my heart.
A native Brooklynite, Nina Malkin has written for everyone from hoity-toity fashion magazines to trashy tabloids to The New York Times. She’s the author of six books, including the paranormal romance novel Swoon and the memoir An Unlikely Cat Lady: Feral Adventures in the Backyard Jungle.
Other stories in the Love & Sex series:
A version of this article was originally published in January 2018.