Jayne Dawson: In celebrity world, rules of marriage so much different

Stephen Fry at 57 is fully 30 years older than his new spouse, Elliott.
Stephen Fry at 57 is fully 30 years older than his new spouse, Elliott.
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So Stephen Fry has rushed off and married his boyfriend.

There was an engagement but it lasted about ten minutes before the couple signed the register.

There was no time to buy a hat, knit them a draught excluder, decide whether the boyfriend was good enough for a national treasure. Nothing. It felt like it was all over in less time than it takes to watch an episode of QI.

I’m concerned. And just in case you’re wondering: no, it’s not that. Who cares if a person marries someone of the same sex, the opposite sex, or indeterminate sex?

It’s the age gap. Stephen Fry at 57 is fully 30 years older than his new spouse, Elliott. He is old enough to be his father - is the same age as his father-in-law, in fact.

They haven’t known each other all that long. Once the first flush has worn off, what are they going to talk about.? Stephen already had three decades of life experience chalked up by the time Elliott Spencer took his first breath.

They’re not going to be able to reminisce fondly about the loony fashions of the ‘70s and the bonkers hairstyles of the ‘80s are they? Elliott’s grasp of the ‘90s is going to be hazy too - as we all waited to see if computers would blow up and end the world as a new millennium dawned, he would have been a thirteen year old at home with mum and dad.

It’s disappointing. Because by marrying someone so much younger, Stephen Fry has shown himself to have a lot more in common with the celebrity set than I had expected.

Because that is where marriages with massive age gaps mostly happen, isn’t it? In the real world they are a freak of nature, but in celebrity world the rules are different.

Amongst the rich and famous, it happens a lot. And it always brings to mind Mrs Merton when she sweetly asked Debbie McGee what had first attracted her to the millionaire Paul Daniels.

Because that looks like the deal in a celebrity age-gap marriage. One brings status and power and ego, while they other brings their youth and beauty. Trouble is, it doesn’t often make for a lasting relationship.

Hollywood is littered with examples.There was a 25 year gap between Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones; seventeen years between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

Anna Nicole Smith was 26 when she married 89-year-old J Howard Marshall II, and that didn’t exactly turn out well for either of them.

Sometimes celebrity women have a go too and, boy, do we get to hear about it. Television presenter and Strictly winner Caroline Flack was vilified when she dated seventeen-year-old Harry Styles, and Madonna has become infamous for her toyboys.

Here’s what I think. Everyone should marry someone within five years of their own age - ten years at the most. I think it should be the law. Really, I do.

Otherwise, things get skewed. I bet there are lots of nice men aged around 50 who would have made a lovely companion for Stephen Fry, who has talked in the past of his loneliness. They could have had nice chats together about love, life and everything, starting from more or less the same point in time.

In the real world, age gap marriages are not so extreme but men, because they are stupid, often favour women who are younger than them.

In a survey of men aged 60-69, the participants said they would prefer a partner to be eleven years younger than them, on average.

Where does that leave the women in their sixties? In a lonely world, that’s where. In fact, dating sites are stuffed with women aged forty onwards who can’t get a partner because all the available men in their 40s want a woman in her 20s.

It’s not on. In the interests of fairness everyone should marry within their own age bracket. By doing that, you show that you are a grown-up, smart person who knows that a relationship is about relating to someone, not having a trophy on your arm. I thought Stephen Fry was all of the above. Now I’m not so sure.