George Clooney Engaged, Donald Sterling Disparaged

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Older men, their romances and their sex lives are hot news.

Opinions about the engagement of George Clooney, 53, and the downfall of Donald Sterling, 80, are all over the place.

(I’m warning you right now that I have serious concerns about the pillorying of NBA team owner and Los Angeles real estate mogul Sterling. More about that later.)

But first, let’s congratulate Clooney, the avowed bachelor who’d tried marriage once, about 20 years ago, and admitted he wasn’t very good at it.

A notorious lady’s man and chick magnet, Clooney, like Warren Beatty a couple of decades ago, decided that the time had come in his mid-50s to commit to one woman, still fertile in her 30s, and settle down.

After countless relationships with assorted models, actresses, waitresses plus one former pro-wrestler, Clooney is marrying a 36-year-old human rights lawyer, Amal Alamuddin.

Beatty, who turned 77 last month, has been a dependable husband and father of four, after marrying Annnette Bening 22 years ago.

Clooney looks to be going the same route at the same stage of life.

Clearly, the biological clocks of Mars and Venus are out of synch by about two decades.

Just as women are entering menopause as they move past 50, many men are ripe for change, too – but often in the opposite direction.

Annette Bening and Warren Beatty

Some who have been married for years and have kids want to break free and date other women, sometimes starting a new family. Others, like Clooney and Beatty, realize that time is running short to domesticate and raise a child to adulthood.

With this purpose in mind, both Clooney and Beatty chose women who combine intellect with beauty, a prized genetic combination. Bening is one of the smartest, down-to-earth actresses working in Hollywood. Alamuddin is a top-notch trophy wife for Clooney.

Because Alamuddin is such a catch, I’m not sure why there are so many comments about how she “tamed” Clooney and “tied him down.”

It’s as if Clooney’s fiance somehow manipulated or tricked him into popping the question. Actually, he’s getting the better part of the deal: a brilliant, gorgeous international legal scholar as a wife and mother of his children. She’s getting a celebrity playboy.

But there is one man in the news who was horribly tricked by a woman: Donald Sterling.

His racism – less evident in the taped phone call with his ex-girlfriend than in the past as a landlord – is only matched (maybe even outdone) by the ugly ageism that it’s provoking.

Sterling has demonstrated racist behaviour before and yet was still was about to be honoured, again, by the NAACP.

In this phone call, he did not say he didn’t want African-Americans at his team’s games. In fact, he regularly invited minority kids to attend. What he told his half-black, half-Mexican girlfriend was that he didn’t want her to show up with African-Americans, for example, or to post a photo with Magic Johnson.

Sterling’s comments are indeed racist, but I believe they were uttered in that conversation more as an expression of jealousy and control and less as an expression of racism.

The woman, V. Stiviano, taped the conversation and likely was the one who made it available to TMZ in a stunning, castrating act of revenge. (She has said through her lawyer that she didn’t release it and is sorry about what has happened. Her lawyer maintains there was no sexual or romantic relationship between her and Sterling.)

Stiviano, who has used many aliases, is no heroine. It’s despicable that some commentators are congratulating her.

And let’s be honest: if you or I taped and made public all the racist, anti-semitic, homophobic comments we hear in this diverse Canadian society we live in, very many of us would be as guilty as Sterling.

It’s been reported that the Stasi turned one in three of the 17 million East Germans into an informant. Children at school snitched on their parents, wives informed on husbands, lovers betrayed one another. Sure, that was all about criticism of the government. But the principle of a person with whom one shares intimacy informing on someone’s privately expressed opinions is still the same.

So while I’m not defending Sterling’s attitudes or behaviour and agree that it’s right to make clear that racist sentiments are unacceptable, I’m still troubled with how this has played out.

Punishment is one thing, but the pillorying – defined as exposing to public ridicule – has gone too far.

Sterling is being condemned not only for racism but for being 80 and still wanting to be a player and enjoy the company of young, beautiful women.

Yes, he’s been married to the same woman for 50 years, but that’s between the two of them. They’re not the only long-married couple to agree to an open marriage, if that’s what it is.

Meanwhile, the degradation, insults and abuse being heaped on him are less about his racism than about being an old man with the means and desire to buy the attention of a woman almost 50 years his junior.

But this is not a new story. There have always been old men visiting young prostitutes and keeping young mistresses. The artist Picasso, late in life, married a woman 45 years younger.

The vicious ageism directed against Sterling, including attacks on his appearance, describing him as “as old, odious, unrepentant fool, an octogenarian who will sleep with a 31-year-old … a repellant geezer … old racist … dreadful old man” – and worse – has nothing to do with what he said or what he meant. Why is his being old mentioned so often in the rants against his racism?

Using racism as an opportunity for ageism is worse than inappropriate.