An honest eye on the mirror’s reflection
I was first told that I was “past my peak” by a dating agency when I was 36. Men my age, they said, wanted younger women, who wouldn’t force them into commitment or panic about their eggs. I should, in other words, be grateful for any oddball who would take me on. A decent man would be able to take his pick of the twentysomethings.
It wasn’t fair, but biology isn’t fair. All around us, we see the results: elderly film stars, rock stars, chief executives and politicians brandishing their babies and their much younger wives.
But from the age of 40, according to recent research, a man’s fertility declines. It can take five times as long to conceive with a male partner over the age of 45 than with one under 25. The risk of miscarriage is higher. And any child you have is five times more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder and 13 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
A woman’s fertility starts to decline in her early 30s. At 35, it starts to decline more rapidly. That dating agency was factually correct in saying that, at 36, I was “past my peak”. But this research shows it isn’t only women who are facing a ticking clock.
Perhaps this research will remind us that we all need to be a bit more honest about the choices we face. Do we live in the world as we would like it to be, or the world as it is?
And if you’re a man who is now a bit tired and paunchy, do you carry on chasing women 20 years younger and assume they will be thrilled? Or do you look in a mirror and think: you know what, I’m past my peak. I think I’ll start looking at women my own age.