It’s been a week of gloomy thoughts about what one applicant called “the packaging”. In fact, he wasn’t an applicant. He wrote specifically to tell me he wasn’t. “It’s a shame I don’t fancy you,” he said, “because otherwise you tick all the boxes.” Another said I sounded nice, but added: “Though unfortunately I have stringent physical criteria.”
There seems to be a gender imbalance, vis-a-vis the packaging thing. All the women I know are tolerant of middle age showing itself in a chap. We quite like a late flowering, in fact: the silvering, the smile lines, the coming of bodily sturdiness. We read these as signs that life has been lived and enjoyed. We read them as indicators of substance, of being substantial. In general, men don’t seem to grant us the same courtesy, at least not the men I meet online. They are highly focused on the packaging. It’s disheartening.
“I bet you were gorgeous when you were young,” I was told recently, via message, like that was supposed to be a compliment. Yes, I was gorgeous, ish, for a while, and self-absorbed, and shallow, and inexperienced, and over-sensitive and dull. You’re right, mate, you’d have much preferred me then.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this. What does it mean to us, as women, to be told that we’re worth less than we used to be? No man I know has ever been told that his powers, his allure, his charm have faded, and that he has to face up to that redundancy. Many women I know in their 50s talk about their invisibility in public places. I’m sure a case could be made for invisibility as a liberating force in a woman’s life, but I am not the woman to make it, not this week at least, when I’ve been dissed or else flatly ignored by all the men I’ve said hello to.
It’s making me a bit rebellious, I admit. It’s making me want to look 50, and talk about 50, and stand firm with a whole movement of women, rejecting the pressure to try to look 35 for ever, throwing away our foundation garments and hair dye. I get these impulses and then I buy another stupid snake-oil anti-ageing cream.
It’s true that men don’t see me any more. It’s sobering to walk down the street observing how the 50-year-old men behave, paying attention to what they’re looking at as they stroll along. They are not looking in shop windows. They are not looking at me. They are looking at women half their age.
I spoke to my friend Jack about this.
“Men online are the same,” I told him. “They say they’re after true love but really what they’re after is the 25-year-olds.”
“Maybe they think they can have both,” Jack said.
“You’re not like that, though, are you? Given a choice, you’d pick the older, more interesting woman, the passionate, well-read, intrepid, low-maintenance woman.”
“Nice of you to think so,” Jack said. “But I’d go for the firm arse and tits, always, without question.”
I expressed mild disgust.
“You just have to face facts,” he said. “Men are extremely visual creatures; we respond visually and we can’t help it. Well, we could probably help it, but we don’t want to. Online dating is giving these idiots the impression that they can snag a honey. Most of them have no chance, of course. Don’t you look at the 25-year-old men in the street?”
‘I don’t. Honestly. They have mothers of my age, so it’d be like randily pursuing the children of your friends. There’s something inherently unsexy about that whole set-up.”
“Sexy as hell.”
“It’s the 55-year-old, slightly rumpled silver foxes that I stare at, the tall well-travelled well-used ones. But they don’t see me.”
“Perhaps you should wear brighter colours.”
I looked down at myself. “I like navy blue. What’s wrong with navy blue?”
“These are just facts. Men like youth. They like long hair. They like colour. They like slender, as well. Sorry. You’re going to have to lose weight and grow your hair and wear red if you want the silver foxes to see you.”
The question is, should I be prepared to change?
Know more: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/feb/21/why-are-older-men-looking-at-women-half-their-age