Age is just a number: Brigitte Trogneux and the French President

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The 64-year-old first lady of France is 25 years older than Emmanuel Macron, France’s youngest president ever.

And instead of being hailed as a hero on the playing field of spousal gaps, both Macron and Trogneux have been at the forefront of media controversy. It’s no surprise that media reports on the first lady have been cast in a more unbecoming light than the president himself. How dare a woman marry a younger man? 

But what if the roles were swapped?

How would the relationship play out in the media if Macron were a 39-year-old woman and her spouse, the 64-year-old man? We don’t have to look very far for examples. It happens all the time.

When we swap their sexes, like in this case, the age gap doesn’t matter.

My partner and I were watching Casting Jon Benet the other night. A new Netflix documentary revealing the casting process for a fictional film that portrays the murder of Jon Benet – the 6-year old beauty “queen” who was murdered in the basement of her Colorado home. 

In the documentary, a multitude of actors, mostly from the same town as the victim, audition to play roles of real people involved in the case – including Jon’s parents, her brother and police officials. During on-camera interviews, the actors reveal their thoughts and speculations surrounding the murder, which took place in 1996 – to this day, no one has been charged. 

Why am I telling you this? 

Well, during an interview, one of the actors who played the father, a greying middle-aged man who was semi-attractive, shared how he always regretted that he never had kids. My partner waxed lyrical about how he could surely get himself a young wife to bear him some kids. 

We are still unable to liberate a woman’s character from her age.

And it’s true. He probably could. Everyone at the local pub would high five him for scoring some arm candy, and easy as pie, he could probably be a dad. Brigitte Trogneux, has had no such luck. 

Donald Trump shares the same spousal gap with Melania. They too are 25 years apart. Melania (45) is the younger of the pair. When we swap their sexes, like in this case, the age gap doesn’t matter.

Read more: Why do men always go for younger women?

Trump and Melania’s age difference has hardly made front page news of every tabloid ever and it certainly did not taint the wig-wearing red head’s chances of becoming president of the US. 

So why does the media care so much about this particular French “affair”? 

The facts are simple: 

1. While societies and governments we have made massive leaps in the emancipation of women, we are still unable to liberate a woman’s character from her age.

2. Men who marry younger are never questioned, while a woman’s motives for doing the same are always called into question. 

3. The terminology  - words like cougar for example - surrounding older women who have younger spouses is tainted with criticism.

4. And finally, if and when the relationship is accepted, it is because the woman is defined as being good-looking enough to hook a younger man.

Let’s reflect on Trump and see how many of those boxes he checks. His character is questioned all the time, but never because he is 70-years-old.

His motives for marrying someone younger are never questioned. He is never defined as a cradle-snatcher in the media, (it begs noting that there very few definitive terms for older men who date younger women).

And lastly, his relationship is definitely not measured against the fact that he is good-looking enough for her. 

The media will continue to scrutinise the once “illicit” affair.

The man looks like a dried up naartjie peel that’s been left in the sun too long and is longing to turn into something better. A koeksister in a Cape Malay kitchen maybe? Basically he scores a big zero on the aforementioned facts.

There is of course the controversy surrounding the beginning of Trogneux and Macron’s relationship that makes is kind of different from others. Trogneux was Macron’s drama teacher and their affair developed while he was still a teenager.

The two continued even though they were separated by distance and eventually married in 2007, keeping their marriage under wraps for 8-years.

The media will continue to scrutinise the once “illicit” affair. Still, it has been well documented that the president is the one who pushed for the relationship (when he was an adult), while the now first lady resisted. 

With maturity comes wisdom and there are plenty of reasons to investigate the kind of influence Trogneux might have over the president as his closest confidante. But the influence of her age does not, and should not fall into the same category of scrutiny. In fact, it falls into no category at all. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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