MORE SEX PLEASE, WE'RE BRITISH © Duncan Graham 2007
There are really only a couple of ways that an aged Caucasian with a frisky young Indonesian partner can handle critical public opinion.
Either they never go out together, denying both the chance to show off trophies, or they tackle the issue up front with humor and frankness.
Sheldon and Yuyun Archer favor the second approach, as Duncan Graham discovered in Probolinggo, East Java:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Dylan Thomas
"They'd call me a dirty old man back in my hometown Sheffield," said pensioner and former military pilot Sheldon Archer. "I could never have got married to someone like Yuyun if I was still in England. Here there are no problems."
Or if there are he's not aware of them, for the Javanese tend to be polite to your face if not to your back. But he does know what's going through the minds of other bule (foreigners) who see the mixed-culture couple as they get out and about in the north-coast port where they've become mildly famous.
For Yuyun is 23 and Sheldon is 72. To save you the job of scrabbling for the calculator, that's almost half a century of difference.
"I married a child," said Sheldon. He said he hasn't been wed before, but has had other partners. He also has a daughter in the US; Yuyun has inherited a stepchild two years older than herself.
"This is keeping me young. I've always been associated with beautiful women and this is the best relationship I've ever had.
"Let's face it; every middle-aged man has a fantasy of making it with a young girl – just ask Bill Clinton. Here in Indonesia fantasy can become fact."
At this stage it's important to report that Sheldon's comments were made in front of his wife who handles English well. His hearing was damaged through military service and he's having problems learning Indonesian.
More robust remarks, prefaced by "man-to-man" will not find their way into this family newspaper, but I guarantee they only endorse and underline the above quotes.
And what does Yuyun say about her husband of three years? All the right things a bloke who's not going gentle into that last goodnight loves to hear: "He is so romantic and attentive," she said. "He's a nice man and I love him. Every day he tells me that he's lucky to have me."
The couple says they're having so much fun in and out of the bedroom that they want to share their good fortune. So they've started an Internet dating agency called An Asian Wife. The come-on is direct:
Would you like a wife who never complains, nags or refuses sex? One who devotes her life to making you happy … who will love you as a person and not as a meal ticket?
At one stage they had almost 300 "real, unspoilt Indonesian girls from villages" on their books, but that number has been slimmed down to about 60 who are "serious and available."
For US 20 (Rp 180,000) the lonely suitor can buy a contact for the lass of his choice – then it's up to him to get in touch and follow through. But communication is a big problem.
While the lusty lads in bleak Birmingham (Alabama or West Midlands) can broadband their ethernet billet-doux, the olive-skinned ladies in waiting have no easy access to the Internet. Probolinggo connections can be measured in minibytes.
So it's not surprising not one of these contacts has resulted in marriage. More successful (15 weddings so far) have been the tours Sheldon and Yuyun organize for amorous adventurers with time and cash.
For about US $1,500 (Rp 14 million) the couple will pick up the wife-seeker at Surabaya's airport and escort him to the lady's home. This is usually mum and dad's abode, so kampong reality soon crushes expectations of 24-hour workouts alone in penthouse suites.
If she looks as lovely on the carpet of her cramped lounge as she did on the laptop and the emotional electrons are stimulated, then the rest is up to them.
If not Yuyun will schedule other introductions until Ms Willing meets Mr Right. The price includes hotel or homestay accommodation and romantic trips for up to a fortnight.
The couple said the men they've squired so far have been in their 40s and 50s from the US and UK, usually refugees from a broken marriage, escapees from feminism and enticed by the exotic.
Many have been anxious about traveling to Indonesia fearing terrorists and were "astonished at the differences from their negative expectations".
"Age gaps aren't an issue in Indonesia," said Sheldon. "The people here are really friendly and hospitable. There are bad things about Indonesia, like pollution and lousy service, but the good outweigh.
"I no longer enjoy Britain – it's like a police society. I can't even get a visa for Yuyun so she can meet my relatives and see the country. We don't want to live there.
"Here there are no speed cameras, no parking restrictions, no surveillance, no income tax, no VAT. To open a business you find some premises and go ahead...no licenses, no fire inspections.
"No political correctness, no lawsuits, no compulsory insurance, no fishing or television licensing. Here I bought a house for US $6000 (Rp 55 million). You couldn't get a garden shed for that in England.
"Western women are disgusting. They are selfish, egotistical and money oriented. If you don't have tons of cash they're just not interested.
"Here I've never met a real bitch. Indonesian women list being faithful at the top of their requirements in a man. There's a bit of hero worship. They like white skin."
And credit cards of whatever hue? Aren't many bule chasers just gold-diggers?
"Some are – though I can think of only two in this category that we've had on our books. Women in Thailand and the Philippines want a foreign husband so they can flee the country – then kick him out. Indonesian women aren't like that – they prefer to stay near their families."
A local proverb says when a woman marries a foreigner she just gets the guy – but he gets her and her family.
"That can be true. Yuyun moved her parents into our house after we got married without my knowledge. I don't mind. There are many family obligations in this culture."
How did you meet Yuyun?
"An Indonesian friend I knew overseas brought me here and introduced me to many families. He said I'd never want to leave – he was right! I was accosted by so many women I was in heaven. They treated me like Beckham! They are so sensual.
"Yuyun is never unhappy, never miserable. She's so bubbly and easy to get on with. How could I not love her? It never entered my mind that we'd get married – but Indonesian women make decisions fast about their future."
(Yuyun: "I only agreed when I knew he was serious and when he kept his promises.")
"Indonesian women don't talk openly about sex and it was hands off before marriage. But when they love there are no half measures. Westerners think they are subdued. Not so. Yuyun is a real sexpot. It's me that has to plead a headache some nights to get a rest."
What cultural hurdles have you hit? "Not many. We both share the same sense of humor. I don't mind Indonesian food. I want lots of air in the house and she doesn't. (When The SundayPost visited the fans were on in most rooms and the front door open.) Some men have problems because of the lack of alcohol here. No issue for me - I don't drink."
Religion? "I had to become a Muslim to marry. I just mumbled a few words I didn't understand. I'm not religious and Yuyun isn't serious about religion."
What happens to Yuyun when you die? "I hope that by then she'll be able to inherit my pension. I've had a heart by-pass, but I'm pretty fit. My parents lived into their 90s.
"The house and car are in her name. We're starting a business for her buying and selling cattle. She'd love kids but first I have to be sure that her future is secure."
(Srikandi is a non-profit organization in Indonesia for local women who are married – or were married – to foreigners. See www.srikandi.org)
SEX FOR SENIORS
There's no shortage of famous couples with significant age differences. Unsurprisingly it's usually older man – younger woman, though film star Joan Collins settled for a toyboy 32 years her junior.
Currently Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills (25 years) are getting the headlines as they divorce. They've eclipsed Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas who also have a quarter-century gap.
In business media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's third wife Wendi Deng is 38 years his junior. The press baron has proved his potency by fathering two children with the former Deng Wen Di
The most famous has to be the megabust Anna Nicole Smith and megabucks J Howard Marshall II. Both are now most certainly distant, but before they died they were 63 years apart.
(First published in the Sunday Post 29 April 07)