Why do young women fall for older men?

You don’t hear much about May-December romances these days. But history is full couples made of young women with older men, especially in centuries when so many women died in childbirth.

That was the case in the family of Anna Osborn. Her father was twice a widower, and his third wife (Annie’s stepmother) was 13 years younger than he. Each wife bore him several children, bringing the total number of Osborn offspring to eleven.

Varying Explanations for Women’s Choices

According to an article in The Guardian, women are genetically programmed to recognize a man with genes strong enough to be attractive and display wealth at an advanced age. According to this theory, evolution favors a strong older man over a younger one.

Or is it more than that? Perhaps it is because older men have more sophisticated tastes, seem more sure of themselves, and are looking for serious relationships, as this more recent article suggests.

In the chapters of The Truth About Daniel concerning  Annie Osborn’s courtship, she evades the clumsy pursuits of Richie, a man her age. Richie doesn’t know enough to douse his cigar in a lady’s presence and still appears boyishly lanky. He dances badly, works for his father, and has done nothing heroic. How can he measure up to Daniel Read Anthony with his war-hardened physique, strong profile, and willingness to save people in a burning building?

When Annie learns that Daniel has also committed himself to the same risky undertaking as she, she falls in love with a man twenty years older her senior. She senses Daniel’s value to society in contrast to Richie’s lightweight existence.

Neither can Richie match Daniel’s experience as a mayor and postmaster. He lacks Daniel’s acquaintance with influential people, notably his sister Susan B. Anthony and her cohort—people that Annie has only read about before.

Unlike Richie and Annie, who have lived their entire lives on an island, Daniel has traveled halfway across the continent. Perhaps the best thing of all is that he’s willing and able to take Annie there.

Happily Ever After

No novice at the game of courtship, Daniel keeps his wealth to himself until after he is engaged to Annie. As mayor, he may have known too many women who wanted to marry a man for his money. Fortunately, Annie reacts with pleasant surprise, showing that not all young women are looking for sugar daddies.

 

 

Gallop Across the Dance Floor, Anyone?

 

 

This is a wonderful video of a 19th century dance. Read more about it below.

I first learned about a dance called the gallopade (or “gallop”) at a concert given by pianist Jacqueline Schwab, whose piano music was featured on Ken Burns’ documentary of the Civil War. Intrigued to see how it was done, I tracked down this video.

The gallopade, a very energetic dance, takes place at a ball in The Truth About Daniel. In this contemporary video, you can hear the laughter that naturally arises from this kind of happy exertion. Notice also that most of the dancers are young! When preparing to dance the gallop, Daniel Anthony, who is 40, searches the room for a young and fit partner.

Notice women dancing with women—this was often done when there were not enough men, which could certainly have been the case on Annie’s island during the Civil War, when many young men were serving on battlefields. In fact, just before a dance recital, Annie asks her best friend to save her a dance so she will not have to partner with a predatory man named Richie.

In this contemporary video, the style of gowns is appropriate to the mid-19th century when Daniel and Annie fell in love. You can see the outline of hoops beneath many of the full skirts, which bob along as the women move energetically across the floor.

Despite the fact that these dancers learned the nine movements of this dance that same day, they make it look effortless, don’t they?

Where to Fall in Love

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Two nights ago I attended the “Turning of the Year” Ball for the English Country Dancers. It took place in downtown Rochester at the Jonathan Child House, a pillared mansion with polished wood floors, glowing chandeliers, high ceilings, ornate moldings, and a delicately turned staircase. Continue reading