Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Frumpiness then and now

A long post on age and frumpiness, as written by a blogger who is older than 99% of the bloggers she links to and interacts with

Tonya writes about her weak enthusiasm for older men. Oscar comments that men haven’t the gall to publicly admit their lack of spark for older women (as he then takes himself out of that category, fearing the wrath of all his older women friends, I’m sure). Ehhh, men don’t have to admit it – we know it’s there. And I understand, because I am, unfortunately, equally tough, if not tougher, on older men.

And yet, I think Tonya isn’t completely forthright in her asserting indifference to this category of older guys, since she and I have counted off men we know who are significantly older and yet, by our standards, by any standards – they are damn attractive, both intellectually and physically.

However, the counting was limited to the fingers of one hand.

If it’s possible to find these attractive types, then why are we finding them so rarely? Because as people age, a significant number don’t find it worthwhile to pursue the war against frumpiness, natural proclivity toward obesity, to say nothing of intellectual and emotional slovenliness and self-indulgence.

And just to let you know: things don’t get any easier. Each decade it becomes a tougher war. Take the currently hot bloggers’ topic of body shape and size: I watch with amusement Jeremy’s and Ang’s discussion of how few food points they are allowed on their diets. When you pass age 50, your permissible “points” just to maintain a decent [meaning healthy] weight are so few that you have to admit that some degree of hunger will always be your bedfellow if you want to avoid the bulge that promises to make you look pretty much like the Michelin tire guy for life. Picture me on Mr. B huffing and puffing and looking something like this:

So often you conclude, however, that the struggle isn't worth it. Who wants to be constantly yelling at her or himself for looking with lust at a Twix candy bar. (A couple of days ago I watched my friend eat a chocolate bar in the car and I almost ripped the soft piece of candy from her hand – temptation is everywhere!)

In assessing the desirability of young people I’ll just say what everybody knows: sure, appearance matters some. Yes, yes, it matters a lot. Yes, there are those who hook up with women within minutes of meeting their object of attention simply because these beings are cute and bouncy and they never have a bad hair day.

But even if you are not in that category, even if you consider yourself living in a state of permanent bad hair days, you know that youth gives you a significant boost. Nature has done this for you, because we need to ensure that the human species will survive pop culture’s assault on physical imperfection. Nature has given you some combination of peachy skin and shiny hair and eyes that twinkle and hands that twist lids of jars without hesitation. It’s enough to get the job of finding a mate done.

There really truly is an old Polish proverb that states: men fall in love through their eyes, women through their ears. I don’t buy it. Men will pick out the woman who admires them to death even if she is not a looker. And of course, for women as well, in the context of youth – rarely is a guy’s appearance so totally off-putting as to have her walk away from someone who actually has something witty to say or holds some claim to a powerful position that is oftentimes more sexy than any muscle added during a gym workout.

But for me (and I am sooooo not the only one my age to be saying this) – oh, I am significantgly more fussy now. Significantly more! It comes as a surprise to most men that so many women my age would rather be alone than be with someone who doesn’t have both wit and some degree of physical presence going for him. Frumpiness may not have been as much an issue at age twenty or thirty, but it is now. We who have disciplined ourselves to maintain higher levels of mental and physical energy, we’re less and less interested in those who have caved in and let go. We were the caregivers, the conversation makers, the arrangers once, don’t assume that this is the role we are to take on yet again as you, men of my generation, find yourselves repeatedly in doctors offices or staring blankly with nothing interesting to entertain us with, because you were all about self- indulgence years ago.

So, note this please, you young bloggers: follow those diets, keep moving, and no less importantly: step outside your work boots and develop your interests, your ways of relating to people, to the Greater World Out There! Not because that’ll get you a desirable mate now. You’ll get her or him anyway. Do the above so that you will be an interesting human being when you are fifty or older. Or else you may find yourself spending even more time on match.com then than you are doing now.

UPDATE: In answering a reader's question I decided to insert the clarifier here as well. When I write about physical discipline and vigilance, I do not mean weight. I was careful to write the post in a way that focused on robust health and fitness. I know people are all about weight loss. To me, that is only a proxy for something far far more significant: strength, muscle tone, shapliness, stamina and zest, etc. -- attention to this creates a physical presence that is indeed attractive, knocking down physical frumpiness every time.