London - To celebrate his 65th birthday, Ronnie Wood took his beautiful year-old girlfriend to Venice, the city of love. As they cuddled together in a gold-encrusted gondola, Sally Humphreys leaned in adoringly for a lingering kiss - from a man almost old enough to be her grandad. His thin, wrinkled lips were puckered like those of a man who had misplaced his dentures. His crepey skin stretched across his thin, boney face, his sun-damaged hand reached for her slender knee, his turkey neck wobbled in anticipation of a night of passion.
To be honest, it was utterly revolting. One can only imagine that when they did make love, Miss Humphreys laid back and thought of the Bank of England. How else can you explain the love affair between the scarecrow Wood and this lovely theatre producer? And he has offered it to many women, all young enough to be his daughters, since he separated from his wife of 24 years, Jo. Not that there is any shortage of much younger women keen to go to bed with these gnarled old codgers.
The pattern is always the same: As I discovered recently at a gathering of thirty to fifty-something women who were all single and dating, a younger woman pays an especially heavy price to be with a much older man.
And instead of a washboard stomach, they have washboard bottoms. And, as one of my young friends revealed over dinner after her affair with a year-old, the sex can be a nightmare. One woman at the dinner, a glamorous fifty-something, told of her latest dating experience.
She met an adorable man 12 years older than her who was very keen, but who suddenly stopped calling or returning her texts. After three weeks without a word, he reappeared. Was there another woman? Was he back with the ex-wife? Yes, teeth problems loom large with the older man, as does health in general. They fret about their receding hairline and their ever-expanding waistlines.
Forget the myth about the older man who can support you emotionally and financially: Constantly seeking reassurance, they need their lovers to lavish praise on them. As Wood said of his new girlfriend: The most brilliant portrayal of the truth of the much older man and the younger woman comes, ironically, from Woody Allen - who left his partner and mother of his children, Mia Farrow, who was a modest ten years his junior, for their stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn, who was 35 years younger than him.
Alfie subjects himself to fake tans and endless gym sessions, wears teenage clothes and watches his bank account dwindle due to her excesses. It is a poignant, rather pathetic portrayal of the Ronnie Woods of this world and reveals the truth about love with an old rogue. As exhausted Alfie discovers when he leaves his young wife and tries to reconcile with Helena, there is something marvellous about a long marriage.
Even in your 80s, as I know from my own parents, you remember the young person you fell in love with, and they remember you as you were - the soft skin, the bright eyes, the youthful body, the passion and the enthusiasm.
But while a lengthy marriage might provide a woman with a bank of memories to draw on when her husband turns grey and doddery, for a young woman going out with a much older man, what you see is what you get. The truth is, women are much more likely to find happiness with a man nearer their own age. This question was answered rather succinctly in a scene from American TV show Mad Men, when the silver-haired advertising executive Roger Sterling is sitting in a bar with his stylish and attractive ex-wife, Mona.
He is lamenting the breakdown of his marriage to his second wife, the twenty-something spendthrift Jane, acknowledging his folly in leaving a loyal wife for a beautiful young woman. Mona responds, with breathtaking clarity: Then I realised it was because you got old.