Ladies, why do we do this to ourselves? A recent story in the Daily Mail — “Young at heart or old before their time?” — explores a study that found that men feel over the hill at 58, but for women it’s 29. (29!) Apparently, men still feel young as long as they can perform sexually, but women feel old the moment they perceive their looks beginning to fade — for example, when the first grey hairs make an appearance, or when you realize that it’s starting to take longer and longer for those little sleep creases to fade from your face every morning. Half of the women surveyed said they were still young until their “assets started to droop.”
Psychologist Professor Cary Cooper from Lancaster University was quoted: “In our society the attractiveness of women is quite important. Men don’t have to be good looking but, for some reason, it’s important for women to look presentable…Magazines are all about youth and are filled with young, attractive women. Women then start to perceive themselves as old when they no longer feel like this, when they don’t feel trendy or fashionable…Men, on the other hand, don’t have to be good looking, it doesn’t concern them.”
Cooper also added that, at around 30, women are expected to focus on getting married and starting a family — in other words, their social expectations revolve around a ticking biological clock. On the other hand, expectations for men tend to revolve around career and so their stock keeps rising until they hit retirement age — which, I don’t need to tell you, is a good 30-plus years past a woman’s ideal childbearing years.
It’s amazing that we’re living longer and longer, and yet the cult of youth appears to be intensifying. I have friends who had mini breakdowns over the big 2-5, covering their faces with their hands at the sight of a cake covered in candles. And while I barely noticed turning 30, thanks to the distraction of a fairly miserable breakup, subsequent birthdays have made me a little nervous. But not in a bad way. I can’t say that I feel old or that I’m chiefly concerned about my looks. It’s more that as every year passes, I’m more grateful for what I have and more aware of all of the things I want to do and try — all of which are possible even with lingering face creases.