Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Assorted thoughts on past-it-ness

-If you weren't painfully hott at 16 - and most of us were not, as the recent Facebook trend of scanning and uploading one's high school photos reminds - it's all somewhat irrelevant. Sure, finite fertility is a question for all women. But if you know you were never "luscious," turning 28 does not signal any great loss.

-Even if - huge if - most men deep-down preferred virginal-at-marriage stay-at-home moms to ambitious, been-'round-the-block career-women who hire nannies rather than be sweetly domestic 'round the hearth, jump ahead a couple decades and... which 45-year-old woman has a better chance of relating to her 40-something husband: the one with a profession, or the one without? It's not as though "ladylike" women stay permanently 23.

-There's something refreshing about the fact that a 13-year-old blogger getting front seats at fashion week riles adult women more than the fact fact that the models on the runways are give or take that blogger's age. It shows that grown women with an interest in fashion are more jealous of successful fashion writers than of professional mannequins. Of course women care how we look. But when, say, we hear about the currents of our exes, or the exes of our currents, do we only size up their measurements and facial symmetry? Or do we maybe compare CVs?

-Best antidote to Charlotte Allen's piece: Léon Blum's "Du mariage." There's more to it, but here's the basic idea: The desire to see what's out there before settling down is common to men and women alike. Allowing men but not women to play the field prior to settling down forces men to experiment with prostitutes, and leaves the resulting young wives forever wondering 'what if?' every time another man walks by. Marriage is an important institution, and neither men nor women want to be alone at 45. Splitting the romantic lives of men and women alike in two parts, one a pre-age-30 passion-filled exploration, the other a placid, contented, post-30 monogamous partnership, is the best way to produce stable unions. If lust-filled 19-year-olds are allowed to pursue their interests, they will not turn into 35-year-olds who expect marriage to be based on feelings of adolescent-level intensity. All this, by the way, from the early 1900s.

-I still need to read Simone de Beauvoir's La vieillesse.


Britta said...

And some people don't merely go from being ugly to less ugly, they go from being attractive to gorgeous--I'm sure there are some women who peak in high school, and I genuinely feel sorry for those women, but there are also a large number of women who get better looking throughout their twenties (and not merely less dorky). If you look at photos of beautiful movie stars, while certainly good looking as teenagers, they are not nearly as beautiful as their late 20-30 something selves. While obviously famous movie stars are at an extreme end, I think that holds true for a lot of women. In contrast, you do have the Britney Spears/Jessica Simpsons, pretty much the epitome of the "girls who peaked in high school." Personally though, I think most women aspire to the Angelina Jolie/Scarlett Johansson end of things rather than the Jessica Simpson end of things.
I also find this, "women are hags after 21" laughable, as almost no one can pin a person's age down so well. Sure, maybe by decades, but my guess is not that many people can pin someone as 18 vs. 23 vs. 28 vs. 30, except to notice a slight change between the 18-30 year old. My guess is, for people whose lives don't depend on being sexually attractive, a big dividing line in body changes is after having kids, but then, women who've already had kids usually aren't the so-called desperate women whose biological clocks are ticking ever louder.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's a "huge if" or even an "if".

Phoebe said...


Oh, I fully agree. But I didn't mean ugly-to-less-so, just that your typical within-normal-limits woman isn't lamenting the fact that she no longer resembles her prom photos. It's usually if anything a good thing.


We all know some men think like this, and some think most men think like this. What, other than casting your vote, are you getting at?

PG said...

It's difficult to say if I'm actually prettier now than I was in my prom photo, because there were so many things working against my looking my best back then: not knowing how to dress (and being heavily guided by my mom's opinion of how I should dress, such that my prom dress actually came from a middle-aged-lady clothing store in town); wearing huge glasses pre-LASIK; my stubborn fondness for bright red lipstick; East Texas hairdressers' addiction to making one's hair defy gravity.

In my opinion, I looked drastically better in my wedding photos than I had 10 years earlier in my prom photos. I suspect that most women do, even ones without the degree of handicap I had as a teenager. You just know so much more about everything, but particularly about yourself and what is right for you, as you get older. This applies to your appearance as well as your ability to pick a mate sensibly.

Phoebe said...


"This applies to your appearance as well as your ability to pick a mate sensibly."

So true.