Sunday, March 20, 2011

Old and pretty: contradiction in terms?


Why are aging women expected to live up to an almost impossible ideal of beauty?

If a man looks above average, doesn't gain too many pounds and manages to keep most of his hair, people will think he's increasingly distinguished-looking after age 40, in a Paul Newmanish kind of way. Wrinkles won't change that image, nor will reading glasses. In fact, if he wears glasses and puts on a sport coat, he will look distinguished AND intellectual.

Okay, now think of the average woman over 40. Add minimal extra weight and a pair of glasses. That should put her on equal par with an aging man. But unless she looks like Cher Bono, most people will consider her a frump. Put a sport coat on her and everyone will think she's a sexless frump. The glasses do not make her look intellectual. They put her in the grandma category. Add wrinkles and people will sort of curl up their lips when they see her. And if, God forbid, she has the poor taste to turn 60, she should start digging her grave.

I am not saying that men age better than women.
I am complaining that our culture views older men as better-looking than older women. We have been taught to view aging differently in men than in women.

This makes me more uneasy with each birthday I reach. My husband looks increasingly like Al Pacino to the rest of the world. But I am increasingly invisible. No one looks at me any more. I'm pretty sure I disappeared at age 30. If this continues, I'll be able to get into movie theaters for free. But how will I be able to stop the other theater-goers from sitting on me? Get off me! Go sit on somebody who's had botox!

I want this to change. C'mon. I'm getting older. My husband is getting older. We are ALL getting older. And I am not wrong or unimportant or sexless. I shouldn't be invisible. I refuse to be apologetic. I also won't divulge my age until you people get it right. Nyah!

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