As for me, a married woman approaching 40, this post touched a sore spot. When I was in my early 20s, I was a superhot 9. I am now in what P.J. O’Rourke described as the “Hell of the formerly cute.” Married my husband and over the years let myself go. He’s told me he wants me to get back in shape, and I am complying. I’m currently working my tush off (literally) to get back into the best shape possible, and was pretty excited about how my appearance is improving — but hearing the truth about my age this starkly is demotivating. It makes me wonder what the point is, when even at my best at 40 or 50 I’ll be totally eclipsed by even average 20-somethings.The key is to understand that the thought has probably never crossed his mind. Physical decline is inevitable for everyone. I keep myself in pretty good shape with weightlifting, running, and soccer, good enough to occasion frequent questions concerning my age from younger guys at the gym. And yet, it would be downright laughable for me to pretend I am anywhere nearly as strong, as fit, or as fast as when I was in my early twenties and training seven days a week doing martial arts.
I won’t wail and gnash my teeth over whether or not Athol’s point is valid. It’s true and there’s just no denying it. What I will say, from a feminine POV, is that being reminded of it taps into the dark recesses of my mind where I think, in spite of maximizing my attractiveness, performing a daily exorcism of all bitchiness, and actually enjoying frequent sex with my husband, he’s looking at superhot 20-somethings and thinking “why in the hell am I stuck with this old hag?”
I really don’t know how to put Athol’s post into perspective, since I don’t know to what degree other factors motivate my husband to stay with me and how these factors compete against the allure of a young, attractive woman. What I do know is that I suddenly feel a lot less sexy.
I can remember to the day when my speed vanished. I was thirty-two and in the middle of an indoor soccer game when a loose ball popped out towards the opposing goal. I knew I could get there before the goalie... only somehow, I didn't. I wasn't the only one who noticed this, as my brother asked me after the game about what happened. He'd seen me play for years when we were younger and we'd played two seasons together as adults, and he knew something was wrong.
Now, even in my forties I can still run quite well for a veteran player, and I blow by the defenders on the opposing teams in much the same manner as I did in the past. But when we play the club's first team, which is comprised of guys between 18 and 32, I seldom run past anyone as their speed, and especially their quickness, is just on a different level than mine.
Given my decline, a first team coach would promptly kick me to the curb, or as is more commonly the case, gently suggest that next season I might want to consider playing with the veterans. Why doesn't my wife do the same? Well, among other things, she couldn't care less how I play or who I beat to the ball, she just wants me to enjoy myself and stay out of the hospital.
Of course, it sounds absurd to suggest that a man's wife would kick one to the curb because his physical peak has passed, so how does it make any sense to imagine that a husband would be inclined to get rid of his wife simply because she isn't 22 anymore? Because there are more attractive women out there? There always were. There may be a few more than there were before, but he always had other options. Is a woman going to eventually be eclipsed by twenty-somethings? Of course, it is the way of the world, although to be honest, so many younger women are fat these days that perhaps it takes longer than it used to.
What I think the reader in the Hell of the Formerly Cute is missing is that men tend to possess what can be described as an attractional inertia with regards to the women of their youth. It is hard for us to clearly distinguish between the woman that we are with now and the woman that she was twenty years ago, so long as the changes are not too dramatic and thereby create a cognitive dissonance. Not only that, but the history of a couple's time together plays a big role, to say nothing of the natural chemistry, which doesn't necessarily change with age. An objective observer might claim she is not as beautiful as she was when we met, and yet I find her every bit as attractive as I did then, if not more so. It's not that I can't see the little changes that age has wrought, but I have to make a conscious effort to notice them. For the most part, I see her simply as who she is, the same slender, pretty blonde that she always has been.
This is why it is so tragic when women, particularly women over thirty, cast aside their husbands in search of something better. Because no matter whom they meet, no one will ever look at them again through love goggles, which like beer goggles, tend to make a man see a woman through a soft and flattering lens as her mythical and eternally youthful self rather than the harsh, objective light of reality.
There is nothing wrong with mourning the loss of one's youth. There are times when I look in the mirror and wonder who the hell is this large, hairy man with the tired eyes and shaved head staring back at me. He looks more like a minor heavy in a Guy Ritchie film than the young buck in a Fitzgerald novel I feel myself to be. But it is important to remember that one's external appearance is only one part of one's self, and one aspect of one's sex appeal.
There is only one fundamental rule of sexual attraction. No man can fake an erection. If he's got one, you've still got it. Perhaps not quite as much as you once did, but it's all you need.