Is Billy Joel too old for this?

Story highlights

  • Peggy Drexler: People may judge Billy Joel's marriage to younger woman, but what's wrong?
  • She says when women are with younger men, it's seen as a coup, not a pathetic stereotype
  • In any case, we should cut Joel a break for love, Drexler says

Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

(CNN)Billy Joel had quite the holiday weekend, marrying his longtime girlfriend, Alexis Roderick, in a surprise ceremony at Joel's annual Fourth of July party at his Long Island, New York, estate. Roderick is the fourth in a long line of very beautiful, and younger, wives -- 34, this time, to the rocker's 66.

Some in the press and, of course, across social media have wondered why Joel would bother getting hitched again -- though Roderick is expecting their child, certainly marriage isn't compulsory for modern parents. Beyond that, Joel's three previous divorces have cost him millions. The most recent, from food critic Katie Lee, included handing over his New York townhouse, which she eventually sold reportedly for close to $12 million.
Peggy Drexler
But clearly -- in his music and in his life -- Joel is a romantic. He likes women, and has said he likes being married. Does he like much younger women? It would seem so.
    But so what if he does? By now, we're past the point where each time an older man mates with a younger woman we automatically pass judgment: Marrying a woman only a few years older than your daughter -- really? What's wrong with women your own age? And not just on the man. Certainly, younger women who marry wealthy men old enough to be their fathers have faced their fair share of judgment.
    That's because Joel is hardly in the minority here. According to a December report from the Pew Research Project, men who remarry are far more likely to marry someone at least six to nine years their junior than those marrying for the first time. What's more, as that same study showed, the same goes for women who remarry -- and they're also marrying younger.
    More and more women are engaging in long-term relationships with much younger men -- mining Hollywood for examples, actress Robin Wright is 14 years older than her on-again, off-again steady Ben Foster; Madonna was 55 when she reportedly began dating 26-year-old dancer Timor Steffens last year.
    Whenever the media talk about actress Julianne Moore, they rarely fail to mention that her husband, director Bart Freundlich, is younger by a decade. The May-December relationship, it would seem, is no longer expected to be the exclusive purview of the older man, or even the older man with money.
    What's notable, and a symptom of the still-pervasive double standard on men and women and aging, is this: Unlike with the older man/younger woman paradigm, we often give women with younger men props for being beautiful enough, youthful enough, desirable enough to "be able" to snag a younger man.
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    By not doing the same for older men -- and, let's face it, Joel may have many charms but it's hard to dispute that he's almost always dated women who are objectively better looking than he is -- we're basically acknowledging that older women do have to work harder to date younger. For men, meanwhile, doing so is something closer to a birthright.
    Which is why instead of treating the age difference between Joel and Roderick as yet another case of an old male celebrity using his fame and money to get a woman that in the world the rest of us inhabit he'd have "no right" to date, we should be celebrating the marriage as a triumph for Billy Joel, just as we would see it as a triumph for an older woman who "landed" a younger man. Age, after all, matters just the same for men as it does for women. Or, at least, it should.
    The fact is that, when it comes to love and romance, we never know who we'll fall for, or when; how old we'll be and how old he or she will be. If Joel and Roderick have enough in common to spend their lives together -- or, at least, the foreseeable future -- who are we to say otherwise (and it should be noted that while there's more than 30 years in age difference, Roderick is still the oldest bride Joel has had).
    Instead of asking why he'd bother, or what she's after, we should be celebrating Joel for having endless amounts of faith -- that love will conquer all. And frankly, we could all use a little more of that.