Monday, 18 October 2010

The Age Old Question

It is a fact universally acknowledged that young people are better-looking than old people. A woman knows this vaguely at 19, and she knows it vehemently at 39. I remember one baby-faced writing student; dear me, she was a sweet-looking thing---except for all the facial piercings. Alas for facial piercings. Why do you do that to yourselves, girls? Eating disorders are bad enough without drilling holes in your faces, too.

Beauty, of course, does not simply tank when you hit 25 or 30 or 40, or whatever your bugaboo age is. The pretty 16 year old who becomes the knock-out 26 year old becomes the handsome 36 year old and the striking 46 year old and the envied 56 year old and then, if she wore sun block and has good luck, a pretty 66 year old. After 66 it is really time to stop worrying and just eat doughnuts with impunity.

Personally, I escaped all this by becoming a belle-laide at the age of 19 or so. I believe I had one brief shining moment of prettiness at age 10; alas that I didn't know it at the time. At 27, when I was as muscular and slim as a whippet, I almost achieved objective beauty, but I just missed it. A belle-laide is a woman who is neither exactly pretty nor ugly but striking and stands out. THE best-known belle-laide of our times is probably Sarah Jessica Parker.

There is no point lying and saying "Oh, Seraphic, of course you are pretty" like all nice women do. My own grandmother, in the nursing home, not far from death, pronounced, "You're not pretty, dear, but you are striking." And my friend Lily's eccentric downstairs neighbour, who had two kitchens (kosher) but also two lovers (not so kosher), told Lily, "You know, your friend is very attractive---but in a strange way." Personally, I am hoping I retain this belle-laide quality until death. Hopefully I will be a cult figure by then, and graduate students clutching digital film cameras will visit me in the nursing home.

But never mind that. That is a tangent. What I am really writing about this morning is how older people crush on younger people, and how dumb and pointless that usually is. And I should know because I had a dumb and pointless crush on a 14.5-years-younger hottie, and you can read about it in my book.

To my knowledge, though, no old person has ever had a dumb and pointless crush on me. "Old person" in this context means "person who is way older than me"; it's slightly subjective and also circumstantial. If you are 14, and someone aged 19 takes a shine to you, s/he is definitely an old person. However, if you are 34, someone aged 39 is your peer. Anyway, the oldest person with an interest in me was only 10 years older, and that is when I was 30, so it wasn't creepy, and we dated for two years. (I was the bad, feet-dragging-on-marriage half of the couple, and would have been dumped, were it not for the 9/11 effect.)

We believe that men always want younger women, but I found a report somewhere or other that men actually prefer relationships with women around their own age. This is very good news for aesthetics, for men who chase much younger women look like plonkers. Stretched-looking women in their 50s with blood-red talons and leopard print jackets lurking in frat bars have a sort of louche glamour; men with comb-overs in red convertibles blaring "Sympathy for the Devil" to get attention simply look ridiculous.

As I have said before, when I was under 30, I barely noticed men over 40. They weren't really men; they were their jobs: Dads, Bosses, Neighbours, Professors, Priests, Janitors. Then I turned 30, and all of a sudden there were all these handsome, slightly craggy men around. They didn't have the heart-walloping beauty of a, say, Polish 19 year old named Jan, but they had their charms.

So, the age-old question being, "Should I pursue people much younger than me?", the answer is "If you are a man over 40, leave all the women under 30 ah-lone!" The fact is that older men creep very young women out. However, older women do not quite as easily creep younger men out, so although I wouldn't advise a 32 year old woman to make moves on a 25 year old, I wouldn't suggest she immediately discourage his attentions, if he offers them and she likes him. After discussing the subject at some length with friends, I think you, both men and women, can consider people up to ten years older and down to ten years younger than you as potentials. If you are a 22 year old man, though, you may have your work cut out for you convincing a 32 year old woman that you are serious and mean business. But go on. Nothing like a challenge!

Meanwhile, if much older, and indeed very old, men or women, do take a shine to you, try not to see it as a horrific insult. Unless they are exploitative old wretches, they are paying, in their way, a tribute to your youthful beauty. Compare them to Uncle Monty in Withnail & I and if they are nothing like him, count yourself fortunate. Thank them for their fatherly (or motherly) interest; this will ruin their day but also gently smack some sense into them.

P.S. My husband is a year and some months younger than me. He's even a few months younger than one of my brothers. I don't know why this makes me feel so gleeful, but it does.


Andrea said...

"Anyway, the oldest person with an interest in me was only 10 years older, and that is when I was 30, so it wasn't creepy, and we dated for two years. (I was the bad, feet-dragging-on-marriage half of the couple, and would have been dumped, were it not for the 9/11 effect.)"

I think 30 is an age when even the most grounded woman becomes decidedly non-seraphic. I had a two year plus (!) relationship when I was 29-30 and I put immense pressure on myself to get married. I was the one dragging my feet and should have been dumped, but wasn't, for some reason. It's a danger zone for making mistakes, I think. (Getting married to the wrong person is a mistake. So is dragging my feet for two years, and moaning about how I wasn't sure.)

Seraphic said...

Yes, 29-30 is very tough. 39 is a snap, compared, but on the other hand I am married, so who can guess what I would have been like 39 and single? Possibly I would have needed all my seraphic singles equaminity, built up over four years.

Alisha said...

I've heard the rule is the person must be no younger than half your age plus 7. :)

Christine said...

I've heard that too. It sounds so random, though. Any idea where it's from?

healthily sanguine said...

Probably because it works starting at age 14 and is still valid for someone in their 60s (I guess).