A friend recently sent me a link to an article about aging that was written by a woman for women. It was called 7 Things Nobody Ever Tells You About Aging. As a middle-aged woman, I found no surprises in it, nor could I see any benefits to the article. The fact is we live in a society that is obsessed with our looks, and when I say ‘our looks’, I mean how women look. No one really seems to be too concerned about what men look like. Not even men, regardless of their age.
All the negative aspects of aging women have been written about, talked about, joked about, and portrayed in theater and film for eons. Take the aforementioned article for example. The article lists the following as problems for aging women: more facial hair, thinning hair on your head, sparse or disappearing eyebrows, ears and noses growing bigger, receding gums, veiny or spotted hands, and horror of horrors, misshapen feet or toes. The funny thing is men also experience these things as they age. The exceptions being that instead of increased facial hair they start to grow hair in their ears or on their backs, and instead of their eyebrows disappearing, they grow bushier and become unruly. Perhaps they don’t get bunions or hammer toes, but they also haven’t spent 20+ years shoving their feet into pointy toed stilettos, designed by men for women, to look sexier.
Along with losing their hair, men have other issues to deal with as testosterone levels decrease which begins at the age of 30. They have issues like loss of muscle tissue and an increase in body fat, decreased libido or erectile dysfunction, and man-boobs. But I don’t see a lot of articles written by men lamenting these facts of growing older or warning young men about them. No one seems to care. If they do, they’re certainly not making a big deal out of it. Okay, women have options, and we exercise them. We tweeze, we bleach or dye, wear wigs, apply makeup, shove ourselves into spandex, endure uncomfortable push-up bras, and some of us wear dental floss for panties to avoid unsightly panty lines. Women will do whatever we can no matter how expensive, demeaning, or painful in order to fit the image that society has created for us. Men may not have as many options as we do to camouflage their flaws, but neither are they expected to endure what women have for decades in order to be aesthetically pleasing. (I’d love to know how many men ever had their backs waxed, let alone their genitalia.) So as a result, we are just expected to overlook these little side effects of aging in our male partners and continue to pump up their egos.
It is these same men who take little interest in personal grooming, staying fit, attempting to dress with style, or compensate in any way for these irrevocable signs of aging, who still think that they deserve ‘the hot chick’ and won’t settle for less. Sagging asses, grey pubic hair, bushy eyebrows, pot bellies, love handles, bald heads, and bigger noses don’t seem to rattle their self-confidence or sense of entitlement one iota.
Undeniably, I’ll admit that with a little common sense, a small amount of effort and a minimal financial investment, a woman can easily take years off her appearance. And if a woman took care of herself over the decades by working out, eating healthy, and participating in a good skincare regimen, she will reap the benefits well into her 40s, 50s, and beyond. And for the most part, we have, and we are. Have you seen the commercials for that popular over 50 online dating site? Most of the women look like they are barely 40, and most of the men look like they could be these women’s fathers. The next time you are out in a crowd take a good look at the people who you think are over 40. Chances are you’ll find ten or more ‘hot’ women in this age group for every handsome and physically fit man you see. Movies and TV shows are filled with couples consisting of hot, sexy, beautiful women who look half their age and unattractive men with beer guts hanging over their pants and bad manners. This seems to begin as early as in the over 30 set. Case in point: remember the movie Couples Retreat starring Vince Vaughn? There is a scene on the island where they all take their clothes off. The women all look like bikini models, and the men, well – it leaves you wishing they’d put their clothes back on.
What I found even more disturbing about the article I previously mentioned, were the comments by the female readers. Many were not only freaked out about these issues, but added fuel to the fire by pointing out other aging ‘shockers’, like changes in the appearance of their genitalia and the surgical options to ‘fix it’. I’m not opposed to cosmetic surgery if it’s something a woman does for herself, but labiaplasty is going a little too far. Why can’t we all stop trying to look like Barbie dolls, and simply be happy with what nature has given us? There are certainly enough push-up bras and Spanx in the world to keep everyone happy, albeit somewhat uncomfortably.
The bottom line is this: thanks to the pressure that advertising has put on women in the last century to look like Playboy centerfolds, and our society’s emphasis on youth and physical beauty, we have become much too hard on ourselves. A lot of women (of all ages) have become downright neurotic, many suffering from low self-esteem, and worse yet potentially fatal diseases like anorexia. Many women have lost their sense of self-worth to the point of staying in unhealthy relationships with narcissistic and abusive partners, or settling for less than they want or deserve, because they fear that as they age they will no longer be desirable. While I never speak in absolutes, there is much less incidence of men behaving this way. In general, they seem to weather the storm of biological aging much better. Is it because women have been conditioned to the point that we’ll just accept them any old way they show up? As a single woman, I sometimes look around at couples and I often times wonder what it is that they see in each other. Most often though, I wonder what in the world that attractive woman is doing with that guy and I wonder if maybe I’m just too picky. I know looks aren’t everything and who can explain chemistry between two people after all? But I do think it’s time that we all make an effort to control the stereotypes of women and how they age. I’m sick to death of the double standard that society continues to proliferate, and we as women are as guilty of keeping it alive as men are. We don’t need ‘beauty’ or women’s magazines pointing out our flaws and constantly shoving another product or procedure at us to fix them. What we need is to spend more time and effort working on ourselves from the inside out instead of the outside in. I think many men will agree that there is nothing sexier than self-confidence and nothing more beautiful on a woman than a genuine smile, but it’s tough to smile when your feet are killing you and your Spanx are cutting off your circulation.