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Molly O’Keefe | In Praise of Older Men

August 1, 2012

Molly O'KeefeTHE CARE AND FEEDING OF STRAY VAMPIRESWatching the Smurfs movie (for sadly about the fifth time) I was struck anew by how much more handsome Neil Patrick Harris is as a thirty something than he was as a twenty something. His face has weathered in a beautiful way, full of character and charm. He twinkles like he knows something good.  And that’s pretty damn attractive.

Maybe it’s my own age, but I’m taking another look at men of a certain age.  Men who when younger, might not have caught my eye.  As a writer and a reader, I like going on a journey with characters who have some life behind them. I like the “I don’t want commitment” conflict, but it works so much better with someone who has actually been committed and been burned. Or maybe burned someone.  A guy that is aware of all the grey area in life. Men with scars and baggage are intriguing and they make for good reading, but there’s a fine line between an alpha male and a guy acting like a child.  Older heroes can skip all of that –  they can be damaged but  still stand up and do the right thing. Men who are men, I suppose.

And it’s made me think of a bunch of different actors who are hitting their strides as they get older, all because they’ve had some life experience and it shows on their faces.

Patrick Dempsey. I am not a Grey’s Anatomy fan, but I have not been living under a rock and Dempsey, with the salt and pepper hair and the wrinkles around his brilliant eyes – it’s hard to believe he was the same skinny teenager on the lawnmower in Can’t Buy Me Love.

As a young man, Hugh Laurie would never be called a sex symbol.  No. The Prince Regent? Oh, no. Not sexy. Opposite end of that particular spectrum. He needed to grow into that face and maybe he needed a role like House to get as comfortable in his looks as he has seemed to in the last few years on that show.

Mad Men has two great actors who needed some life experiences and some silver hair in order to be perfect for their roles: Jon Hamm and  John Slattery.  Perhaps it’s the magic of the right role at the right time, but I don’t really care. I just like watching them. A lot.  They’re sexy and mysterious and masculine and a little dangerous. What’s not to love?

In romance novels two of my favorite older heroes are forty year old astronaut Jamison Hunter from Stephanie Doyle’s fantastic THE WAY BACK. He had his secrets, but he owned his flaws and the sex…he knew his own body and what he wanted. Very sexy stuff.

In Brockmann’s classic THE ADMIRAL’S BRIDE, Jake Robinson is fifty-two years old.  This book is on my keeper shelf for a lot of reasons – the age difference between the hero and heroine seemed totally insurmountable but Brockmann made it work. In spades.

How about you? Do you like your heroes older? Younger? Does it matter?

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