Are Natalie Portman and Paul Mescal Ushering in a May-December Summer?

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There’s a great Liz Phair song about the joys of dating a younger, less-established man that has a line I can’t stop thinking about: “Your record collection don’t exist, you don’t even know who Liz Phair is.” That lyric played in my head especially loudly when I discovered that actor Natalie Portman and a young neighborhood flaneur by the name of Paul Mescal had been spotted hanging out (and smoking cigarettes!) together in London this week.

I know we’ve already established that men and women can just be friends, but am I insane to hope that these two are cooking up some The Idea of You-inspired romance of their own?

There’s a lot to love about the notion of the recently single Portman and always adorable Mescal delving into a situationship of some sort, but even if they’re just platonic smoking buddies, there’s plenty of cultural precedent to support the idea that we’re heading into something of a May-December summer. (No, not the 2023 Todd Haynes movie, but what can we say: that + The Idea of You + the upcoming A Family Affair, in which Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron hook up, make a trend.)

If you need further evidence of May-December Summer’s advent, look no further than some of our favorite couples going. The legendary Cher, 77, and her 37-year-old boyfriend, Alexander “AE” Edwards, are very much back on after a temporary break; Sarah Paulson and Holland Taylor, who make a 30-plus-year age gap look so good, will hopefully be together forever; Sam and Aaron Taylor-Johnson have defied the odds for years (and had two children together, to boot); and who could forget Kris Jenner and her longtime boyfriend Corey Gamble, who is a good 25 years her junior? Let me also refer you to the curious case of Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles, who spent the summer and fall of 2022 swanning around in coordinated Gucci looks as they delighted in their somewhat controversial romance. (The couple broke up that November, but still!)

There are more heterosexual May-December relationships than I can count in which the woman represents sunny May, and the (much) older, often rich man is wintry, cruel December, but personally, I choose not to devote much mental energy to those sometimes-troubling arrangements, focusing instead on celebrating the older-girl-younger-guy pairing that is, to paraphrase, Zoolander, so hot right now. I mean, is there any more vivid representation of the term “queening out” than dating a man who doesn’t remember, say, the Waco siege of 1993? It also makes sense that it would be more fun to date someone young, cute, and mildly worshipful of you than some forgettable Raya-having finance bro your age with the speaking-to-waitstaff manners of a nonagenarian and the texting habits of a Gen-Z fuckboy.

Mescal is, of course, only 28 to Portman’s 42, which is basically a senior dating a freshman in age-gap connoisseurs’ terms (not that there weren’t a lot of creepy examples of seniors dating freshmen at my high school, but I digress). But for someone as established and worldly as Portman—or Wilde, or Taylor, or Jenner, or Cher—I imagine it’s genuinely refreshing to date, or even just hang out with, someone who’s simply in awe of you, whether it’s because you’re a little bit older or just because you, I don’t know, played Princess Amidala in Star Wars? (Oh, God, Mescal has to be old enough to have seen all of the Star Wars movies, right? Should I move to an old-age home…or just swap my age-appropriate boyfriend out for a younger model?)

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