Relationship age gaps really shouldn’t matter in this day and age – especially now, when we have far more important (read: global coronavirus pandemic) things to think about. Despite this, though, age gap romances – particularly those which feature celebrities – continue to prove fodder for gossip, not to mention judgemental comments from complete strangers.
We saw it in the reaction to Keanu Reeves’ relationship with Alexandra Grant. With Kylie Minogue and her ex-boyfriend Joshua Sasse. And now, despite everything else going on in the world, we’ve seen it with Florence Pugh and Zach Braff.
Pugh and Scrubs star Braff started dating earlier this year, after working together on the short film In the Time It Takes to Get There. And, while they largely tend to keep their relationship out of the public eye, many people have become fixated on the fact that – at 45 – Braff is 21 years older than critically-acclaimed actor Pugh.
In a heartfelt Instagram video, Pugh shared a message with her 1.3million followers, in which she addressed the abuse she has received over her relationship with braff.
“On Monday I posted a photo in honour of Zach’s birthday, and I wrote a birthday message for him,” she explained, referencing a photograph she had shared earlier in the week.
“Within about eight minutes of the photo being posted I had about 70 people in the comments hurling abuse and being horrid, and basically bullying someone on my page.”
Pugh continued: “It is the first time in my entire Instagram life that I’ve had to turn off the comments on my page.”
Warming to her theme, the Little Women actor went on to address her and Braff’s age gap directly, stating: “I’m 24 years old, I have been working since I was 17-years-old, I have been earning money since I was 17-years-old, I became an adult when I was 18-years-old and I started paying taxes when I was 18-years-old, I underline this fact, I am 24-years-old.
“I do not need you to tell me who I should and should not love. I would never in my life ever tell anyone who they can and cannot love.”
Urging anyone who can’t respect her decision to stop following her, Pugh added: “The abuse you throw at him is abuse you’re throwing at me and I don’t want those followers.
“It’s embarrassing, it’s sad, and I don’t know when cyber-bullying became trendy, I don’t know when it became a point system, I don’t know why it’s a cool thing, and that’s never been what my page has been about.”
Underlining her message, Pugh finished by saying: “I will not allow this sort of behaviour to continue on my page. I’m not about that. It makes me upset, it makes me sad that during this time when we really all need to be together, we need to be supporting one another.
“We need to be loving one another right now. The world is aching and the world is dying and a few of you have decided to bully for no reason.”
Pugh’s right, of course: it’s her decision, and her decision alone, who she decides worthy of her romantic affections. If you disagree, that’s fine – but only if you keep it to yourself. There’s a reason we’re all taught the phrase, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” from such a young age.
Of course, though, there are those individuals who can’t stay silent. Who feel compelled to share their thoughts in a crass Instagram comment. Who refuse to respect the opinions of others, solely because they clash with their own.
To these people, I would like to once again cite the advice of Amy Poehler: instead of casting judgement, try the phrase, “good for you, not for me”.
As I’ve said before,there’s a lot of power in those six little words: they help us to build one another up, rather than tear one another down. They reinforce the bonds of sisterhood, rather than pit us against each other. They champion kindness (and, boy, does this world need a lot more of that right now) above all else.
Most vital, though, is the fact that “good for you, not for me” celebrates both difference and an assertion of self, making it the ideal response to someone else’s life choice. They channel nothing but empathy, appreciation and esteem. And they form the basis of a philosophy that works for all walks of life.
With that in mind, I suggest you write them on a post-it note and stick it on your mirror so you can be reminded of it before you go to bed and when you wake up. Let’s flood the negativity out of social media, and build it up into the sort of place that allows us to be vulnerable, to be open, to be ourselves.