Stanley Tucci, Jeff Goldblum and the Sexy-Older-Man Fallacy
The whole point of being horny for old men is that they’re … old
I’m pretty open about the fact that I’m horny for older men. I thirst-tweet about TikTok dads, Steve Buscemi’s gentle sultriness and the fact that I’d take Stellan Skarsgård over his son Alexander any day. A man recently asked me if I could go out with any of my celebrity crushes who would it be, and I answered, with complete sincerity: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. In my whole life, I’ve only ever dated one man who was younger than me, by a year; the rest have been anywhere from five to 10 years my senior. And I’ve always been like this. My first crush as a child was the Professor from Gilligan’s Island. My therapist once asked me who my high-school heartthrob was; I said Peter O’Toole and Jimmy Stewart and she openly laughed at me for three minutes. (I’m 26.)
So last week after my Twitter feed flooded with videos of Stanley Tucci making a Negroni, people naturally started tagging me in it and sending it to me, assuming that, as an old-man fucker, I would appreciate this particular content. But Tucci, while delightful for certain, is not an old man crush, and thus doesn’t do it for me.
Allow me to explain.
Tucci falls into a category of older men I have designated as “older men for non-old-man fuckers”: men who are technically older in years, but who give off an air of fun and whimsy more characteristic of a man much younger. I would also put Jeff Goldblum (who absolutely repulses me) in this category.
In doing research for this piece, I did some digging into who the internet thinks are the hottest older men. Along with Goldblum and Tucci, a few other names came up over and over: John Stamos, Robert Downey, Jr., Paul Rudd. These are rookie choices. If these Tucci fans were really horny for older men, they’d be into Richard Lewis or Willem Dafoe, because in order for a man to be an “old man crush,” his age must be part of his appeal. Men like Tucci and Goldblum are older men for people who do not actually have a thing for older men: people like them because while they are technically older, they have youthful energy and looks that belie their age, which actually completely defeats the purpose. True old-man stans, meanwhile know that there is nothing less attractive in a man than youthfulness.
Journalist and fellow old-man stan Jordan Davidson says that for her, it’s about experience. “There is definitely a maturity gap between men and women,” she says. “When I date men my age, I always end up parenting them. Not by choice! … If I’m a mature woman, I need a mature man.”
There’s some psychology behind this. The maturity gap posits that women are typically more mature than men and therefore an older man makes a suitable match. There’s also the evolutionary angle, which seems kind of archaic to me: the idea that women need providers, and associate older men accordingly. And of course, there’s the “daddy issues” trope, which, despite its prominence in our cultural discourse, has been observed as a mixed phenomenon at best in research settings. (I have a very healthy relationship with my father — it’s not daddy issues, it’s just called having taste.)
For what it’s worth, I’ve personally just never found men my own age physically attractive; that natural carnal pull that suggests attraction has just never been there for me with cut abs and smooth skin.
Davidson says her first crush was Alan Rickman as Professor Snape in Harry Potter. “I think part of the reason I like older men is because my type is ‘brooding,’” she says. “And brooding is an art form that can only be perfected with age. I like dark, moody men and that’s not a look that works for younger guys. For most, it comes off whiny and entitled.”
I personally believe men age up. I’ve never met a man for whom salt-and-pepper hair and some wrinkles didn’t do good. Of course, this theory isn’t without exceptions: there are the men who were hot when they were young but devolved with age (Brendan Frasier, Alec Baldwin, Nicholas Cage) and also men who were hot all along, and will be eternally hot (Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington, Prince, Robert Redford). But by and large, the years are good to men.
Take Ted Danson. Was he cute in his Cheers years? Kind of? But now with that silver hair, he is an absolute panty-flooder. Ditto other silver foxes like Larry David, Sam Waterston, Eugene Levy, Brian Cox, Greg Davies and Steve Carrell. Look up any of these men in their youth and they’re at best passable. But now? Undeniably magnetic. I wouldn’t cross the street for James Spader in Pretty in Pink. But in The Blacklist? Or as Robert California in The Office? Grab your ankles, ladies. Bradley Whitford was an impish smug hottie in The West Wing, but now that he’s fully grey, he is undeniably irresistible.
There are, of course, ways to meet your own older man at home, like setting your dating-app age range higher. But there’s a slight catch in having a palate for silver foxes: typically, the most appealing ones don’t want much younger girlfriends. I can’t see Senator Whitehouse dating a 26-year-old, and if he did, it would frankly put me off a bit! (This is another strike against Goldblum, whose wife is 30 years his junior, in the old man crush category.) Part of the appeal of these men is their decency and their maturity, and chasing around women a third of their age would render that moot.
There’s a distinguished sensibility to an older man that young men simply do not have. Of Stellan Skarsgård for example, Davidson, also a fan, agrees: “He just has this presence that you can’t find in younger men.” Essentially, older men give off an air of competence (whether or not that’s actually true of them).
Which brings us back to Tucci. My editor pointed out that in the video, he is needlessly shaking his Negroni, a drink that is normally stirred. This is something I missed completely. But therein lies my point: this is a young man’s mistake in nature. It communicates a level of naïveté and inexperience that leaves me bone dry. A man with all the trappings worthy of an old-man crush would never make such a mistake.
If I wanted to date a man with a spring in his step and triceps that test the limits of his polo-shirt sleeves, I would date a man my own age — not Tucci. The whole point of being horny for old men is that they’re … old. Davidson agrees. “Everyone loves Tucci because he’s the life of the party, but you’re not an old man stan if you want to date the life of the party. You’re an old man stan if you want to date the guy who knows how to pick a bottle of wine for the host gift and then promptly leave at 9 p.m.”