Are you ready for the Summer of Strange Love?

Are you ready for a summer of strange dating? (Alamy Stock Photo)
Are you ready for a summer of strange dating? (Alamy Stock Photo)

Age Gap Summer

You’re early-40s, hot and had a messy, if quiet, divorce after your husband was caught cheating (with a 25 year-old, naturally). You find yourself in London and at a loose end. Who would you call for a few drinks? A man of your own age with matching amounts of emotional baggage, greying hair and management middle? Or would you ring Paul Mescal, hero of the slutty shorts movement?

Natalie Portman and Mescal have — despite meeting during an interview to promote Portman’s film, May December, about a very problematic case of age-gap grooming — obviously an entirely appropriate age gap (and are also ‘just friends’). But Age Gap Summer isn’t about going for someone wildy young or old, as much as it’s just about being open-minded in bridging the Millennial-Gen Z divide we’ve all been wringing our hands about. It’s basically dating diplomacy.

Of course, Portman is a 43-year-old megastar in her absolute prime. And Mescal is a 28-year-old man set to revive all concepts of masculinity in the new Gladiator movie. Yes, he was born in 1996, two years after she starred in Léon, but that shows you that she was indeed a child at the same time as him — which is where one needs to draw a hard and fast line when it comes to inter-generational dating. If you could have been their parent (even a young one), don’t go there.

The old calculation that your lower dating age could be half your age plus seven works exactly here. And according to some research by dating app Bumble, 2024 is the year we are all adjusting our settings to date up and down a little, with 63 per cent of their users saying age is not a defining factor for them and 61 per cent of British women open to dating someone younger.

Which is why Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine’s Harry Styles-Olivia Wilde fan-fic drama The Idea of You topped the streaming charts when it launched last month with 714 million minutes viewed on Amazon Prime. We’re all here for the rise of an unconfident divorcee getting back on it with a 24-year-old pop star she runs into at the Coachella portaloos. The largest issue in their relationship is that no one really buys Versace queen Anne as the put-upon mum of a 16-year-old. Fifty-seven-year-old Nicole Kidman is following shortly after with the younger man wish fulfilment in A Family Affair as a widow dating the 36-year-old star (young, but not too young Zac Efron) who her twenty-something daughter works for. The main takeaway is: get your leg over, just know that your daughter will come to hate you and respect you in equal measure.

“2024 is the year we are all adjusting our dating settings”

Emily Phillips

Hot Rodent Men

We challenge you to find a guy hot in 2024, give his little face a scan and not notice something slightly ratty. Like where did all the labrador guys go from 2023? It feels like as soon as Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor served up in a battle for Zendaya on the court, their ears as big as teacups, our aesthetic preferences hit reset. And then when O’Connor name-dropped Ratatouille as his favourite movie on the press tour, well, we were all goners. NYC rat boy Jeremy Allen White is back with The Bear this week (see page 28 for all the hot chefs) and yes, I know the Calvin Klein ads weren’t really focusing on his slightly closer together than average eyes but they’re there, and we’re into it. Timmy Chalamet has been the hot rodent standard bearer, but now they’re as ubiquitous as the critters in the London sewers. If you pick a man who doesn’t look like a rodent now, what are you even doing with your life?

Nato Dating

Is ‘not attached to the outcome’ dating the new no strings attached? Well not quite… Think of it more as a mindful approach to your Tinder, Hinge and Bumble process. Enjoy the date, don’t think about the bigger picture. And definitely no international political chat at the dinner table.

“You might want to tone it down — one foot wrong and she’ll get the ick”

Emily Phillips

Zero Chill Newbies

Did Barry Keoghan mention that he is obsessed with Sabrina Carpenter? It’s painful being in a new relationship, wanting someone so much you… Just. Can’t. Contain. Your. Self. But when you’re literally starring in a music video where she has to gaffer tape you to keep you in your place, you can’t help but feel like 2002 Jenny From the Block era Ben Affleck might need to step in with some tips. Dressing like a velvet festooned leprechaun to accompany her to the Met Gala, the boy’s really giving away his hand. Meanwhile, she’s writing him into songs as ‘I got this guy, he won’t stop calling’ and ‘I beg you, don’t embarrass me motherf***er’. You might want to tone it down, Bazza — one foot wrong and she’ll get the ick.


Slave Play playwright Jeremy O. Harris (and our cover star this week) said it best recently when he claimed straighties need to stop trying to co-opt the concept of being ‘open’ and just be chic and return to the French style of having affairs. And ‘tolyamory’ is just that — a relationship where partners are willing to tolerate their other half’s short flings. See also ‘cake eating’ (literally having your cake and eating it), the term to sweeten your scumbag cheating ways. Let’s all just call a spade a spade, eh?

Boy Sober Celibacy

Feel like you couldn’t put yourself through any of this? Celibacy might just be 2024’s hottest option. Who cares if you haven’t had sex since the last decade. Now you can pretend you’ve done it on purpose because you’re being #boysober, the most puritanical thing to come from TikTok since the rise of the Trad Wives.