The XX Factor

Dating Tips From Woody Allen

Woody Allen and wife Soon-Yi at the Venice International Film Festival in 2007.

Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Woody Allen has done something bold and painfully self-aware, something that his many detractors might never have expected of him: He has come clean about the sins he’s committed in the past against the women in his life.

“I was selfish and I was ambitious and insensitive to the women that I dated,” he confesses to Sam Fragoso in an interview with NPR. “ … As I got older and [saw that women] were humans suffering like I was … I changed. I learned empathy over the years.”


When did this happen? Sometime after his “early 30s,” Allen says.

Woody Allen turned 30 in December 1965. In January 1992, when Allen was 56, his longtime partner Mia Farrow discovered—via nude photos Allen left out on his mantelpiece—his affair with her 19-year-old daughter Soon-Yi, sister to Allen’s three children with Farrow.


At the start of his relationship with Soon-Yi, who is now his wife, Allen tells NPR that he “thought it would just be a fling, it wouldn’t be serious.” But soon, he says, it took on “a life of its own.” Why does it continue to work so well, even decades later? Allen muses: 

I think that was probably the odd factor that I’m so much older than the girl I married. I’m 35 years older … I was paternal. She responded to someone paternal. I liked her youth and energy. She deferred to me, and I was happy to give her an enormous amount of decision-making just as a gift and let her take charge of so many things. 

So we can distill two key pieces of dating advice from Woody Allen: 1) Wait until you’re around 35 years old to start dating and 2) Date women who are around 35 years younger than you are.

Maybe there’s a third piece of advice: 3) Be paternal. Then again, the opportunity to date your partner’s daughter and your children’s sister isn’t one that’s readily available to most men. As Allen himself puts it to NPR, “That’s why I’m a big believer in luck.”