Elizabeth Green has a poster on the wall in her Upper West Side Manhattan apartment which used to hang in her restaurant, Planted. It reads: ‘Elizabeth Green, Planted owner, says: “I’m looking for love, real love, ridiculously inconvenient, can’t live without each other love”.
As aficionados will know, that’s actually something Carrie Bradshaw said in Sex and the City. Elizabeth is more like a Carrie-Samantha mix, and since moving to New York from the UK in 2013, she’s proud to be the poster girl for a senior, real-life version of the singletons-looking-for-love series.
When she lived in the UK Elizabeth freely admits she looked for love in all the wrong places, and from all the wrong people. But in New York she found herself enjoying many exciting and intimate dates. And now she has a steady partner.
Why has it been so different? There are, she says, many reasons “Initially I think I stood out because I had an English accent and that intrigues people. Also here people actually talk more and you can go out to restaurants on your own and not feel ashamed or sleazy. People go to restaurants and the theatre on their own all the time.
“Americans are much kinder and more polite. They ask you how you are and you say ‘I’m good, how are you?’, even if you’re not. You fake it till you make it. You don’t talk about your bad knee or anything else negative, you just don’t take on those negative things.” She reminds me that Bruce Lee said “don’t speak negatively about yourself, even as a joke – the body doesn’t know the difference. Words are energy and cast spells. That’s why it’s called spelling”.
But it’s also that people in New York are not ageist. In the UK, I was worried I had to lie about my age [she’s 74 and knows she doesn’t look it “I’ve had better help than Madonna. At least, my doctor’s were better”], now I just have to lie about my height [5ft “on a good day”] Although I joined a gym on 92nd Street where there are a lot of people with osteoporosis or who’ve shrunk as they’ve got older, so actually I don’t even have to hide my height so much.
“Also, I feel so much better in New York. I’m still me but I’m not carrying my past with me. I don’t have to open a copy of the Daily Mail and see stuff about my family”. Elizabeth’s brother is Sir Philip Green so there have been plenty of times over the years when he was always in the papers. And not just the Daily Mail.
“Being in the US made me feel so much freer because I wasn’t reading about something else that I was left out of because I was ‘not in the script’” Not In The Script’ is the title of her memoir and an upcoming movie she’s producing and which is the reason for her visit to London where we meet, her looking gorgeous, with wavy golden tawny hair, mesmerising eyes and lovely skin.
Returning to the theme of dating Elizabeth relates how, when she first arrived in New York she went on J-Date [the site for Jews wanting to meet other Jewish people] but because she wrote a column for the Jewish Chronicle, people recognised her. So she tried another site. Soon though, she realised people in new York were easier, and much more willing, to engage in conversation, so she could meet people without using dating sites.
Talking is something Elizabeth loves to do. But love is something that she’d never felt from her family. She writes in her memoir, “I wanted all the love I never had, all wrapped up with a bow. I wanted someone to love me to the moon and back, take me in their arms and keep me safe.” She married her husband, David, in 1983 and they divorced in 2006 after three children who she remains extremely close to. “I married my mother ‘ she reflects. “He was very controlling”.
Her mother was controlling yet distant, and nothing Elizabeth did was good enough. Unlike her brother, who, although he was not as smart as her, was the Golden Boy and all their mother was interested in. The walls of her Maida Vale home were filled with framed cuttings about him – Elizabeth called it the Philip Green shrine – but nothing about Elizabeth. Her first JC column was placed above the toilet.
When Philip and his family organised a This is Your Life complete with the big blue book and Michael Aspel for his 50th birthday in Cyprus (the infamous £20m toga party where Tom Jones and Rod Stewart performed for 200 friends he flew in for days of excess) and Elizabeth inquired where she should sit for the show, her mother informed her there was no seat for her as she was “not in the script”.
Growing up rejected, Elizabeth searched for love through sex with lots of people. In New York, she found intimacy and a steady partner. “He is much younger than me, we are ethnically and culturally different but we have had similar mistreatment as a child. If you connect because you’ve been rejected on some level, age doesn’t really matter. There’s no reason why older women can’t date and have sex. Older men have been doing that with younger women for decades – it’s a double standard, isn’t it? People here really do relate to the Sex and the City characters – and to And Just Like That…”, she says.
New York has been a new life for Elizabeth. Her next book is about what it’s like to be a woman in the restaurant business. And she’s just started doing stand-up. Does she want to settle down with one man, I ask her. She pauses for a long time. “I’d like to wake up with someone every morning, yes, but I don’t want to be controlled by anybody. I want to wear what I like, be my own person. Sex makes me feel good and relaxed – it’s my addiction. My heroin, my vodka. But much less harmful”.
By Chrissy Iley