It’s been about one week and dozens (hundreds?? thousands??) of viral memes since anti-aging ambassador Leonardo DiCaprio, 47, and Camila Morrone, newly 25, split. Now, DiCaprio’s ex-girlfriend, whom he dated from 1995 to 1999, would like a word on the “ageist” responses to the actor’s most recent break-up—the latest in a long history of him and his partner splitting once they turn 25. In a short, personal essay in People on Wednesday, Zang, now 48, recalled the trajectory of her relationship with DiCaprio, and—as someone who didn’t meet her current husband and “love of [her] life” until she was 38—offered solace to women out there who are now afraid their lives are over at 25.
Zang says they met through mutual friends at 19, started dating at 21, and despite being two “good looking nerds with glamorous jobs,” had a pretty ordinary relationship. DiCaprio was “a very sweet and thoughtful boyfriend,” Zang writes, but in 1999, “about 4 months after my 25th birthday (ha, I know what you’re thinking) it was over for good.” She doesn’t get into the details, but it sure sounds like Zang was the dump-er, her prefrontal cortex finally fully developed: “It was a choice I made. … It was like I had outgrown that version of myself, the Hollywood high school girl. I wanted to figure out who I was and what I wanted.”
Over 20 years later, Zang shared her thoughts on DiCaprio’s most recent break-up: “Maybe [Morrone] really cared for him but was just ready for the next chapter, perhaps it’s temporary, or maybe it’s none of our business but can we stop with the ageist headlines and comments?” She also expressed frustration specifically with how media outlets and social media users have framed the split, “with his most recent ex-girlfriend being referred to as having ‘aged out’ or being ‘too old for Leo at 25.’”
Zang added, “Puh-lease (insert dramatic eye roll). I think we can and should do better. What kind of message is this sending to young people?” I have, personally, perceived the message to be that Leo and men in Hollywood are dirtbags. But perhaps I, a chronic, reflexive hater, could learn a thing or two from the positive, ~inspiring~ teaching opportunity that Zang found in DiCaprio splitting from yet another former 22-year-old who’d turned 25. Zang wrote:
“I met the love of my life when I was 38 and got married when I was 40. So you youngins out there, listen up. Life gets so much better after 25. Yes, you get more wrinkles but you also get more confidence and more love for yourself.”
Today, she lives in the Oregon countryside with her “hot” and younger husband “(joke’s on you, Leo),” and runs a “locally sourced dog food company.” Good for her!
I’m not going to lie, when I first read the People headline, “Leonardo DiCaprio’s Former Girlfriend Speaks Out About ‘Ageist Headlines and Comments,’” I braced myself for some pick-me screed about how DiCaprio is being cyber-bullied for dropping his girlfriends a full year before the Affordable Care Act drops them from their parents’ health insurance. Thankfully, while Zang didn’t have a negative word to say about her ex, she encouraged the “funny” and “stellar” memes to continue.
It’s not as if women are all just learning now that patriarchal beauty standards prize our youth above everything and try to write women above 30 out of existence. This is a world in which a 35-year-old woman was cast to play 26-year-old Tom Holland’s mother earlier this year, and hordes of online perverts started a countdown to Millie Bobby Brown’s 18th birthday—a long-standing tradition that child starlets have always faced. But the widespread, very much united clowning to which DiCaprio has been subjected by Twitter certainly brings some comfort: Too many men are still overly defensive about their supposed human right to date barely legal women—but at least some others and most of the internet finally seem ready to joke about how lame it is. If nothing else, I’ll take comfort in both this and Zang’s sage advice that one is “barely scratching the surface of life at 25.”