The fact that my husband was a rising tenth grader when I was born (we are 16 years apart) proves that I have a tendency to find older men attractive. (Don’t worry. There was nothing kinky about it. I was a lawyer with a job when we met.) I still don’t find youth terribly attractive. I have no interest in boys. I want a man. I feel maternal over, not attracted to, the good-looking young men I come across. (Then why, you ask, did I end up with a man who plays with the remote control planes in the house way more than the 11-yearold boy for whom they were allegedly purchased? Well, that is for another day.)
Old(er) men are often universally accepted as attractive. Sean Connery was named People Magazine’s sexiest man when he was sixty or so. And honestly, I think they were right. This is true despite the fact (maybe even because of the fact) that he doesn’t (and didn’t then) have all his hair, isn’t exactly sporting a six pack, and has lots of crows feet and other lines on his face. And he’s not the exception to the rule. There are plenty of hot old guys. Paul Newman was gorgeous up until the day he died. Harrison Ford is still mighty attractive in his 60s. Etc.
But women? Not so much. I have no idea if this is because we are conditioned by popular culture to dislike the features associated with older women, or because nature is simply that unfair. And I’m not going to get into such weighty topics at this moment. I’m just going to whine about the unfairness of it all, and let the deeper conversations happen somewhere else.
Hair, I think, is the worst of it. Bald men can be not just tolerable, but desirable. (See Sean Connery, above, and Patrick Stewart and Bruce Willis, just to name a few.) In fact, there was an article in the Huffington Post not too long ago that which reported a study that found bald men to be 'more manly'. Grey hair on a man is ‘distinguished’, whereas the conventional wisdom for women is that you should run, not walk, to your hairdresser (or at least the drug store) and do something about your grey hair the minute you see the first one pop up. Seriously – George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Clint Eastwood, all attractive older men with grey hair. Even Brad Pitt is going grey. Name me one gray-haired famous woman conventionally thought of as attractive? Paula Dean is the only grey-haired female celebrity I can think of. (Note this: I have some female friends who have allowed themselves to go naturally silver, and I think they look gorgeous. I’m talking generalizations and stereotypes here. Also, I just did an internet search to see if I was lying, and I found a picture of Jamie Lee Curtis looking lovely with grey hair. But that was it.)
And while we’re talking about hair, let’s talk about hair placement. As I said above, men’s hair can turn grey or turn loose and they can still be just as attractive, if not more so. Women don’t tend to lose their hair. In fact, we seem to gather up some more of it as we age. Maybe, just like there is a law of conservation of matter and a law of conservation of energy in physics, there is a law of conservation of hair in the aging process. For every hair that falls out of the head of a man, a new one sprouts on the face of a woman. Usually in some bizarre place like the middle of the cheek, but often collecting for a little facial hair party on the chin. You can wax and pluck every day of your life, but you will never be able to completely keep up. I swear if I quit with the (painful) everyday maintenance, I could grow a nifty goatee.
And while we are talking about the lower face area, let’s get into the whole wattle deal. Remember Ally McBeal, the show about a young female lawyer in Boston that aired in the late 90s/early 2000s? (Completely coincidentally, but bringing this blog more or less full circle, Calista Flockhart, the actress who played Ally McBeal, is married to the very same Harrison Ford listed above, and is about 20 years his junior.) Anyway, there was a character on the show, Richard Fish, who was by all accounts an odd duck, and who had a wattle fetish. That is, he found women, like me, who have this papery, empty-fleshed skin hanging down from their lower jaws to be attractive. This was meant to be a joke, as if who on Earth but this weird guy could possibly find this attractive. At some point he had a major crush on Janet Reno, the former Attorney General of the United States, not because she was an intelligent, powerful woman at the top of her field, but because she had one heck of a wattle. (Again, not getting into the actually unattractive vs. conditioned to be considered unattractive argument.) All I know is that my wattle feels a little creepy even to me, even when I have removed all the bizarre old lady hairs, and I don’t like it.
I know good and well that I am never going to win anyone’s beauty pageant. I made my peace with that decades ago, and I’m not fishing for compliments or false flattery. I’m pretty realistic about what I see looking back at me in the mirror. It’s just this: every time I run my hands through my husband’s silver grey curls and think how attractive I think they are, and how when he has gone three days or so without any personal maintenance or grooming of any kind beyond brushing his teeth and still manages to look more or less exactly the same, I am reminded of what I tell my children approximately 47 times a day: Life is Not Fair.