Humbert Humbert confesses

12th March, 2005

Dear Economist,

I seem to have a thing about young girls. I will not see 40 again, and while my friends (the female ones, admittedly) insist that I should be dating sophisticated thirtysomething women with the aim of settling down, I find myself attracted to wild, volatile hellraisers. There has been Kristen, 18, catwalk model; Irene, 22, Swedish law student; Janine, 20, French heiress and, most recently, Fleur, 23, polo player (my God). My friends tell me my later years will be lonely, barren and desperate. Is it worth it?
— H. Humbert, London

Dear Mr Humbert,
Contrary to popular belief, economists have an optimistic disposition. We believe that when individuals are free to choose, they find life is full of mutually beneficial interactions, such as the ones you and Fleur enjoy. We also believe that just because something is fun doesn’t mean it cannot last.

The contrary view – the view your friends hold – is that you need to drop Fleur like a hot potato and find yourself a member of the Bridget Jones generation. There are two possible reasons. First, perhaps women, like wine, improve with age. Your friends may believe this but when it comes to your happiness, your own preferences must be sovereign. Second, perhaps it is worth giving up your playboy lifestyle now to avoid loneliness later.

But I believe that your friends are giving you bad advice because they are jealous. Given that you are already successfully dating people half your age, why will this suddenly stop? Even if your hellraisers grow tired of you, you may then find that single women of a certain age are a renewable resource. But the most important reason for advising you to stick to girls is my own conscience: I am not sure the sophisticated women of the world could bear to experience your charms just yet.

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