Saturday, June 16, 2012

Attractional inertia

After Athol pointed out the obvious, which is to say that women are at their physical peak in their early twenties and forty-somethings are not as hot as twenty-somethings, one of his female readers proceeds to reach precisely the wrong conclusion:
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.

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.
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 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.


Doom said...

Even as a, as yet, never married man, I have seen enough of that which you speak. It is odd how when you love a woman... something changes, becomes timeless, at least while I have been with them. I've only known it for periods of time, but I like to believe that should I find 'her', I might know that little bit of magic for the rest of my life.

Anonymous said...

Women would do well to understand that no matter what a wife looks like, her loving husband's mind photoshops her young self onto his eyes every time he sees her.

So a loving husband sees his wife in her youth, at her physical peak attractiveness. He remembers her youth.

Perhaps this is one reason why women ought to marry young -- because the husband remembers her, and remembers she gave him her best.


Anonymous said...

Came across a picture of my x wife. Thought sweet Jesus, I used the F that? I swear I do not remember her looking that bad at the time. Also, when we were going through the divorce, I could not visually see her details of her face when I spoke to her in person. She was a grey shadow with no details. I knew it was her but no idea what she looked like or what she was wearing etc

Anonymous said...

This is an important post. Thank you, Vox.

Lucas said...

You hit a very fine point there. Vox. What the questioner ignores is the love factor. Regardless of what game theorists say, both sexes can overlook the physical apeal of the other, and still have it.

There is no shortage of A-males out there with wives in their decline. Can they find a better one? sure. Do they want to find a better one? No.

Stickwick said...

Not that it matters, but Magster is me. I didn't want to post under my usual handle over there, for whatever reason.

Women are, by nature, very competitive. So, when a man points out that an attractive woman who's 40 is never going to be a 9 no matter how good she looks, it can elicit rather ugly feelings of competition with younger women -- especially if said woman was used to a lot of attention when she was younger and more attractive. Now, unless she's seriously deluding herself, an older woman realizes she cannot possibly compete with a 22 year-old in terms of looks; and, if she fails to understand that her husband is not holding her up to this standard, she may resign herself to bitter defeat. Thus, the hell of the formerly cute, and that was the mindset in which I made that comment.

After a great deal of thought, I realized the feelings of competitiveness were completely orthogonal to my Christian beliefs, and so I let them go. Still, I had resigned myself to just "compensating" for my fading looks, and that's not very inspring. In that sense, I found Athol's subsequent response not very satisfying. But Vox's response completely resonates with me -- I truly did not know this is how a man views his wife as she gets older -- and it has put my mind at ease. If anything, I will work that much harder to be as healthy and attractive as possible for my husband.

Anonymous said...

I am grateful that you brought it up over there, Stickwick. It was something I badly needed to hear as well. Thank you.

Toz said...

Agree with the post. I would point out this is another instance of a woman thinking that men think like them. She's hypergamous so she assumes he is, when in fact, men are just wired very differently.

Badger said...

"The key is to understand that the thought has probably never crossed his mind. "

Something I've found that almost NO women understand is that a typical man, once he's bonded and committed to a woman, is usually not going to go shopping around unless she's given him a good reason to de-bond from her (not trying to be attractive, refusing sex, being really bitchy). This isn't really true for top men with high novelty and sexual appetites, but your average married beta-type is not going to think that going from one woman to two is anything more than extra complication.

Maybe this is a fear based on female projection, they are constantly told by magazines and movies to evaluate other men and question whether they married the right guy. They must assume men are constantly agitating for pretenses to leave their relationships?

"in spite of maximizing my attractiveness, _performing a daily exorcism of all bitchiness_"

Bitchiness is a gigantic turnoff. I cannot overemphasize this. Tracey MacMillan has this one right. When a guy gets that feeling he can't do anything right by his woman, he's already started to mentally exit the relationship or will do so presently.

I'm not quite sure why some women have so much trouble exorcising bitchiness - it's like that episode of Seinfeld, when George gets the instinct to say something he does the opposite. Same thing, when you want to let some flip comment fly out of your mouth, think about it and replace it with something nice or shut up. I dated a woman for whom it was like a compulsion; we broke up. It wasn't a coincidence.

Like Athol says, why do wives nag their husbands when they could just sit on his face and smile? Lots of women seem to have no idea how much being happy with your man in your life makes him want to keep investing in the relationship.

Badger said...

Anonymous said...

It's not so much a fear of shopping around as a regret of not being able to give young beauty like I once was (obviously, I don't know how other women feel about this, but I am coming up to the wall and I think about it more often of late). There are women out there who could give that to him and he will never be able to get it from me again. It's painful and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Slow it, yes and I work very hard at that. But I can never give that back to him.

Stingray said...

Sorry, that last comment was mine.

SouthTX said...

Vox knocked it out of the park. We all age. The hot virgin I married over 20 years ago has followed the course of nature. But I still really love her for her sweet nature and kind heart. I am still attracted to her. Girls, want long term security? I think Badger or Athol summed it up best.
"Like Athol says, why do wives nag their husbands when they could just sit on his face and smile?"

SouthTX said...

As a successful married man with great kids. This is the truth. The wife ageing is inevitable. If she is a sweetheart and a good mom, men wear rose colored glasses. The good ones deserve it.

Anonymous said...

"When a guy gets that feeling he can't do anything right by his woman, he's already started to mentally exit the relationship or will do so presently."

A man who can't do anything right by his woman is playing a rigged game, and when you find yourself playing a rigged game, you quickly realize that the rules no longer matter, or more accurately, there are no rules anymore.

Anonymous said...

Stickwick, if you will dedicate the fruits of your hard work to your husband [in addition to laboring for him] I think you will find that your task will become easier and the results will come quicker. We do our best and most difficult work willingly and joyfully for someone other than ourselves. Your dedication will bring accountability to your practice and keep your natural pride over your achievements under control. In addition to boosting your spiritual health it will bring the sparkle and joy back into your face that pride typically takes away.

SouthTX said...

Girls. Capture your Man early. And be sweet. Give him good kids. When they grow up. You can get the freak on with him. Mrs. knows it. It's fun.

mmaier2112 said...

"Bitchiness is a gigantic turnoff. I cannot overemphasize this."

It's sad that some (if not most) women simply don't or cannot see this. I see it in the eyes of a recently-divorced woman in my office as well as in the eyes of a likely-to-be-soon-divorced woman in the same office.

A lack of love and mercy that simply guts their loveliness. I wish it could be otherwise, for their sakes. I understand that divorce is an ugly thing, I just wish they could overcome it.

But it's probably just as likely that their lack of love & mercy are the very reasons their men left them in the first place.

mmaier2112 said...

And BTW, this post is simply yet more evidence why men, NOT women, are the true romantics.

Mr. Nightstick said...

You beautiful bastard ... I read your book.

SouthTX said...

BTW, Happy Fathers day to all Dads out there. Kid's are a blessing from God.

SouthTX said...

Marraige 2.0 has to suck, for all parties involved. No winners. Glad I avoided it.

SouthTX said...

A word of caution. When taking the red pill. It can take you down a dark path. Thank God he kept me from seriously screwing up. When you realize you can plunder at ease. You have better have your priorities straight.

Sojourner said...

Great post and one that sums up my feelings exactly. Divorced now and at 30 I won't go for anything around my age range because I want a wife that is younger so I will have "experienced" her youth. It does feel as if I've been robbed of something and it's exactly that.

Badger said...

"Girls. Capture your Man early. And be sweet."

The love goggles are why Dalrock's work on delayed marriage is so important. The older a woman marries, the less of her prime the man experiences, so the love goggles effect is muted.

And the older a man marries (in other words, the more that women demand fully-established men and shy away from helping a man build his life), the love goggles are muted again as he doesn't have the memories of her alongside him as he builds up.

There's plenty to be said for not marrying until you feel you have a good idea what kind of life you want to live, but if you wait until you feel like all your formational problems are behind you, you're really cutting out the possibility for the kind of mutual growth that forms the bedrock of a good long-term marriage.

SouthTX said...

Great summary Badger. We were both young. I had previous girlfriends. I was her first boyfriend. We started out as basically kids. Now we are successful. The oldest Son is heading down the same path I went. I don't discourage it. I still have Love goggles.

SouthTX said...

Dalrock is a smart person. He's got my respect. Girl's You better build the love goggles early. In my 40's and after taking the red pill. I know I have a sea of options. The wife of my youth keeps me around because of shared memories. Plus she keeps me from my worst instincts.

SouthTX said...

Getting to experience all the wifes prime years means she gets a wall pass in her 40's. It was a fun ride. Still is, though less frequently.

SouthTX said...

Better limit bad PMS though. Remember he has options. The truth can be cruel.

SouthTX said...

Slighty paranoid is a good state for a wife. I never claimed to be nice. Her hamster is happy.

Badger said...

M3's post on this

Brought up another point for me:

"It’s only after they’ve made the snap decision well into the less than fertile years that reality nails them with the fact that the younger girls they never paid attention to before are now their primary competition. That’s when they realize they’ve hit the wall."

Good marketing is the art of positioning your product where it can perform well against competitors. If you're married and treating your husband well, you're in a good position against hot young things. But if you're going after single middle-aged guys who have access to 25/30-year old poon, you're in a bad marketing position.

SouthTX said...

Good summary. You must be in sales.

Johnny Caustic said...

I second the person who recommended Solomon II's famous "Women can age beautifully" post:

SouthTX said...

Spot on.

SouthTX said...

Just watched Megadeaths video on youtube of foreclosure of a dream. Good song. Chilling out on Father's day. It hit a nerve. Folk's there people who have been destroyed out there. It won't end well.

SouthTX said...

Just saying a Man with no options has every option. Hope I am far away.

Stickwick said...

That was powerful stuff, Badger.

I'm ashamed I thought of my husband the way I did. He's a good man who loves me -- I will endeavor to be worthy of that.

Stickwick said...

Stingray, I had a conversation with my father about this, and what he said might cheer you up. He's married to a woman he still finds stunningly beautiful even as she's rounding the bend on 60. He said the key is that she never acts old. She keeps a trim figure, still has long hair, fixes herself up stylishly, and is very active. Besides bitchiness, it seems a lack of vitality is what turns a husband off the most. As long as a woman strives to be as unboring and full of life as possible, it sounds like no decent husband mourns the loss of his wife's young beauty.

Diego Sigma said...

Is Solomon back?

Anonymous said...

Do women have attractional inertia toward men as well?

My sense is no, or not nearly as much as men do toward women. Lose significant status in her eyes, and her memory of your previous high status and hotness will become inoperative.

Jacquie said...

Thank you for sharing this link. It gives me, as a wife, so much to think about, so much to aspire to.

Stickwick said...

My sense is yes, and that it's largely the same as for men toward women. It's true that a man can lose significant status by showing weakness towards his wife, getting a big pot belly, getting fired/demoted, etc. But it's equally true that a woman can lose significant status by getting fat, turning into a bitch, etc. If your wife gained 100 lbs, all memory of her previous high status and hotness would become inoperative, too.

My husband's past accomplishments still factor into my attraction to him, and always will. He's not the super-fit special forces commando he once was, nor is he any longer a star player in an elite hockey league. But that makes no difference to me -- I still get a thrill out of those things, because he'll always be the man who did those things. Besides, he's found other ways to "compensate" (as Athol would say) for his declining physicality, and so, if anything, he's even higher in my estimation than when I first met him.

LS said...

Even if she were as hot as the 20-year-olds he's looking at, he'd still look at them. Guy's nature.

Unknown said...

Mr. O'Rourke described that place as "the lonely hell of the formerly cute." If memory serves me correct, he was talking about Bianca Jagger sitting forlornly in a Managua, Nicaragua hotel coffee shop, grieving at Daniel Ortega's electoral loss.

Jenny said...

One of the few encouraging and heart-lifting posts you've written. Thanks.

anon1 said...

Yes, women do have attractional inertia aswell. That's why this post is so good to hear. I thought I was projecting to think a man could still be as attracted to his 40yr old wife as when she was 20, because that's how I feel about my husband.
The manosphere literally shouts that wives can be so easily replaced by someone younger and hotter - the ideal. I was getting brainwashed to think all men would really love to do that since love or pair-bonding are not mentioned as being any hindrance to the choice. Therefore such a shallow statement of 'you can easily replace your wife' leaves a 40yr old wife feeling pretty valueless in the eyes of men no matter how well she fulfills her wifely role.

Orion said...

I think your missing the point of the manosphere comments. The comments aren't being made because men would prefer that as the end result. Those comments are made in response to the feminists and friends constantly telling men how unneeded they are and that "empowered" women can always drop them and trade up for a younger guy or a wealthier one. The response is to point out that it is a two way street. The truth of things is that a man in his 40s is by far more able to actually get a 20 somethings interest than a woman in her 40s is likely to pull a 20 something... The reality is of course that while the manosphere is correct, getting past the constant reassurances to women that it isn't is like talking to a brick wall. If you are really fulfilling your wifely role (not the feminist version) then you really have little to worry about from the manosphere.

Stickwick said...

Apparently, Vox's post was the missing key for a lot of us women in understanding this, Orion. With all the emphasis on SMV / youth / hotness and frequently seeing phrases like "you can easily be replaced" and "you have competition," the wrong idea can easily be cemented in a devoted wife's mind, especially if she doesn't understand the default position of a good husband. I can't tell you how much anguish this has caused me, personally.

I understand now that all of this is a rebuttal of the marriage-destroying feminist position, but I didn't really before. Reminding a feminism-duped woman that she's got competition from much younger women may cause her to think twice, but it's very demotivating to a woman who has zero intention of ever divorcing her husband. What changes this is the "love goggles" notion, which is wonderful beyond belief. I had no idea this is how husbands view their wives. Knowing this, a wife can be motivated by love instead of fear. She'd be insane to ditch a man who will, through some wonderful God-given trick of the mind, always see her as she was the day they married, because no other man will ever see her that way. Now this whole business of comparing unfavorably with younger women is in its proper context, and a good wife need not worry.

Anonymous said...

I also have felt the sting of the harsh, cold comments posted here about women and their looks and their ultimate value to men. I've been receiving the same message my entire life. I remember being 13 years old and in such pain over the fact that the boys in my school only cared about the superficial: looks and looseness. Sometimes that observation by wives can actually result in a depression and lead to the gaining of weight etc., because we feel so worthless as human beings. The sense that you don't actually care about the person but only the package it comes in can be very depressing. But I do appreciate the message about how love, real love, changes things. When you have the blessing of being married to a kind, decent, Christian man, it does make a difference in terms of the fear of being replaced. Please understand that life experience and the bitterness caused by it aside, a man making hateful comments about women being only worth using and throwing aside, are no better than women who only care about money and status. In fact, it seems that your use of a human body as a recepticle that you discard when finished, is the greater sin.

Zac said...

This is an awesome post. I expected to see something completely different but was pleasantly surprised. I think a big part of this comes from the "commitment" in a relationship. Something inside us does seem to change when we truly commit ourselves to another person. You also begin to accept a person for who they really are and they accept you, something that rarely happens in life. These ideas are discussed a little more in depth here

Samson J. said...

As a successful married man with great kids. This is the truth. The wife ageing is inevitable. If she is a sweetheart and a good mom, men wear rose colored glasses. The good ones deserve it.

Not only that, but it's an exaggeration to suggest that women become hideous in middle-age. I find many women in their 40s to be quite attractive if they're reasonably fit and keep their hair long.

Anonymous age 70 said...

Not to gross you out, but my wife is not 40 nor 60. We are 70. I am well aware sex with one of the 22 year old's who have propositioned me here in rural Mexico would be another magnitude of physical pleasure.

But, she has remained thin. When she is standing, sure, there is muscle sag and neck wrinkles that one expects of old women.

But, when she is flat on her back, it all smooths out. I look down at her, and she looks good enough to enthuse me. Nice chest looking up at me; good female form. Probably hard to believe for you young guys, but it makes a difference that she weighs 112 pounds, not 212 pounds.

No contagious diseases. No jealousies. No angry husbands. No divorce courts.

It is different. But, it works. It works for me. It works for her.

By the way, not long ago I read of a study which said 30% of 80 year old women still have a sex life. I don't know who they get it from, but that is what it said. My wife certainly knows when she is 80, if I can, she will be doing it, too.

One tip. When you get into the elderly category, do it around 3 pm, when you are not tired as you will be at night. We have been doing that for several years, and have never yet been interrupted, though we have agreed if someone does knock at the door, they will have to come back.

Anonymous said...

To Vox and the commenter who asked this question thank you so incredibly much.

I was seriously stuck in depression over this. I read and read and was horrified when I read what I thought my Husband was thinking about me. Even sharing some of that with Him and his assurances didn't work. As I attempt to work on myself and work out I became stalled because I came to the terrifying conclusion that no matter what I did, I would never be young again. Never be beautiful to him again no matter what.
As I have shared with you, he has always been pursued by other women. It was offset because we were both pursued by the opposite sex, but we wanted each other. As he has gotten older, the pursuit for him has not stopped, in fact intensified. For me, it has been a huge drop off. While I still have interest even while not in good shape, it is nothing like the time in my youth when I was a genuine head turner. It IS a hell for a women to wake up and realize the one power they actually had can be gone so quickly. So harshly.

I was overcome, I was sure this was what he was really thinking but was kind because of the children.
The leaving, the disgust, it was coming anyway.

This post was the link for me. I cannot tell you Vox, what you wrote meant a tremendous amount to me. I truly cried.
Thank you so very much. He is a man of few words, and rarely a compliment. He took the time recently to tell me something along these lines and in the back of my head I couldn't believe him because of all the stuff I have read. It was good that I read it because I made changes, it was bad because it made me hopeless.
Truly I see him this way. It helps so much to hope he sees me this way. I don't have to work out in an attempt to look like I did young, I just need to be good for my age.

Thank you for the gentle and incredibly necessary encouragement.

Worried Wife

Anonymous said...

Stickwick, I commented on the bottom of the post as well, but wanted to respond directly to you. You helped me before when I sought advice here. I just wanted to let you know I was thinking and feeling the EXACT same thing. I actually had been doing well and was in a near desperate depression because I felt the same way.
And the men here should know they walk a fine line.Doing wife things out of fear would feel like a prostitute, doing it out of love is the noble duties of a wife. HUGE difference.

While a bit of knowing that you can be replaced is motivating, I have felt the same desperation when the ultimate attractor is youth..something I have just recently lost in my early 30s..and will never have again. Thank you so much for sharing and I was so blessed by Vox's response.
Worried Wife

Infantry said...

Agreed. Good stuff Badger. This mirrors the experience I've had with Long Term Relationships.

Seeing before and after photos of my ex, I could see a huge difference in her appearance. In my memories, there is none.

SouthTX said...

Trust me. Wives that pass the test of time. You are loved and he will stay home. At a point good behavior over the years eclipses objective hotness.

rich said...

I don't know what you are smoking, but you are living in Lala land. I am married 44 years and my wife is a lifetime away from the look she had when we married at 21. What is important is the relationship we have had over 44 years, the 3 children raised, the pain and joy of that life, and now the 3 grandchildren we can watch grow into young adults. It is that simple, but oh so complicated.

Anonymous said...

This is very true. Always felt and saw her that away about her for over 30 years until she said she was leaving. Then she didn't, but the "goggles" are gone. Once in awhile I can still see that girl, if only for a moment, but that's all.

Ladies, once you kill it, unless the guy is a beta, you'll never get it back because now he sees the real you, warts and all.

Anonymous said...

Is solipsism real?

Ask the women here crying about how they think their husband sees them (without asking mind you) based on how they judge themselves.

Oh yeah.

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