Lots of people disapprove of Wendy Salisbury. Despite the fact that she is successful in her career, happy in her personal life and has a good relationship with her two daughters, there is one aspect of her life that worries her friends.
Salisbury likes younger men — men young enough to be her children. Since she divorced her second husband at the age of 42, she has dated a series of guys in their 20s and 30s and now, at the age of 63, continues to do so unashamedly — so unashamedly, in fact, that she has written two books, The Toyboy Diaries, about her conquests. While the first was a frank memoir about her various men (one chapter on each), the second, The Toyboy Diaries 2, tells the story of how she attempted to find someone her own age and settle down — and failed.
Salisbury, impeccably groomed and certainly looking remarkably youthful for a pensionable grandmother, feels that in writing these memoirs she is helping to liberate women of her generation. “The idea of writing these books was to put the message out there that everything is permissible. If you have found something you enjoy which doesn’t hurt anybody, then why not? I’ve had a lot of feedback from women who said they found it inspirational.”
With a twinkle in her eye, she adds: “Of course, it’s not totally altruistic because I’m a bit of a show-off.”
In her 20s and 30s life was very different for Salisbury. She was born into a cosmopolitan, well-travelled family. Her father was Argentinian and her family brought her up with a love of flamenco and world music long before it was fashionable. Yet at 21 she married conventionally — a nice Jewish boy from Hendon two years her senior, with whom she had a daughter. The marriage failed, but this did not deter her from marrying another nice Jewish boy two years her senior, with whom she had another daughter. When this marriage also failed, Salisbury belatedly decided that marriage was not for her.
“I’ve done the Friday dinners, been a mother and grandmother, I just have alternative tastes when it comes to men. In my new book, I wrote about my attempts to have a proper, sensible relationship with an older man. If you read it, you will see that I keep slipping off the wagon. Every time something beautiful crosses my path, I can’t help myself. It’s not as if I go running after them. I’m not a cougar, to use that horrible American expression. I’m not a predator. It’s just the way it goes. I think a lot of people who disapprove vocally are just jealous. Maybe they just don’t dare to do the same.”
So what is wrong with men of her own age? “Well, let’s just say that very few of them are well maintained and attractive. They tend to be overweight, a lot of them are bald — which, of course, is not their fault — and they don’t tend to dress very well. The few gorgeous ones are either taken or they are looking for a 35- to 40-year-old woman.”
So why would 35-year-old-men be interested in a woman 30 years their senior? “A lot of the guys I speak to and have interviewed for my research are not actually that enamoured of their peer group because the girls are either on a mission to get married and have babies, or they are ladettes. Intelligent men don’t find that attractive. The older woman package is very attractive. We have experience, we have great stories to tell, and we have great conversations. I think younger men are interested in older women’s histories. I saw The Beatles live twice and used to hang out with The Rolling Stones. I love telling that to young guys and then watching their expression. They think it’s awesome.”
Having said that, Salisbury finds that her musical tastes tend to give her away, and she has been known to stand furtively in front of her CD collection, so as not to be embarrassed in front of her latest man. Despite the fact she is not crazy about modern music, she has plenty in common with her boyfriends. And she does not find it weird that her boyfriends tend to be around the same age as her children — with one exception.
“I have only ever had one Jewish toy boy. It was quite surreal. The moment I found out he was Jewish, everything changed. Instead of wanting to bring him home and make love to him, I wanted to bring him home and make him chicken soup instead. I worried that I might know his parents and he might even know my kids. It was a little strange. I don’t have that feeling with non-Jewish guys.”
Her children have come to accept her predilections, although they are banned, she says, from reading the books. Indeed, there has been something of a role reversal. Salisbury recalls: “One of my daughters was living with me for a bit when we were both single and when I got home late she would be saying: ‘What time do you call this?’
“They know that I’m a bit of a renegade but as long as I’m not hurting anyone and as long as I’m there for them, I don’t suppose they mind. I did actually fancy a couple of their boyfriends but I would never make a play for them. One of them stayed with me for a few weeks when he was temporarily homeless and I really had to keep myself in check.”
Salisbury realises that eventually the fun will stop. “My friends constantly tell me that one day you won’t be able to pull toy boys. I know one day it will end but when it does I’ll be happy because it happened. Anyway, I haven’t reached the cut-off point yet.”