Molly Crabapple recently wrote a thought-provoking article about hitting thirty over on Vice (yeah, I know) and as I’m staring down the barrel of forty it struck a bit of a chord. Molly comes at it from the perspective of a woman, and an American, so not all the cultural cues are the same as they are for me but still, it resonated.
And irritated, a bit.
So much of the article seems to be couched in the idea that men, somehow, have it easier. Needless to say, as a man who is getting older I don’t see it the same way so I want to write about getting older from a man’s point of view, from my point of view.
A man is never the ‘right age’. A man’s age (unless it’s for a driving licence or to buy someone alcohol) or physical beauty doesn’t seem to come into it compared with the pressure to accomplish. Sure, you might get by for a while by being cool or intense but unless you’re really lucky that doesn’t get you your ‘happily ever after’. You’re rarely valued for who or what you are, but for what you do. It might be nice for that to be turned around once in a while, but it doesn’t.
You’re either too young and too poor or too old and too poor.
You hit your thirties and suddenly you’re expected to ‘grow up’. There’s an endless parade of articles bemoaning the ‘permanent boy’ and that’s just the pressure from women. Then there’s pressure from family, friends, work, society at large to grow up and take responsibility for everything. The fun times are – supposed – to be over when you hit that magical age and anything frivolous or fun is frowned upon, even if it happens when you’re not looking.
The stages of woman:
- Hot Teen
- Gorgeous Young Woman
- Groovy Granny
The stages of man:
- Immature child
- Dirty old man
And that dirty old man thing is a bit of a sneaky bastard. It seems to happen overnight. One day you’re able to have a look at a pretty girl without feeling guilty, the next people are trying to shame you for it or you’re mentally asking yourself ‘how old is she?’ The guilt can be crippling and it really has no reason to be.
Men aren’t allowed to fight ageing either. No make-up, no surgery, no hair dye. Metrosexuals have done their best to change that, but it’s still simply not done. Men get to grow old ‘gracefully’ whether they want to or not because anything else looks silly, risible stupid and – perhaps – fearful, which is something men aren’t allowed to show either.
The grass isn’t greener for either sex, it’s just different. We’re often blind to the disadvantages the other half haves, or worse, see it as advantages. Molly talks about how annoying it is to constantly be approached by men and how it might be a relief to get less of that attention as you grow older.
Imagine not getting that reassurance, not being told you’re attractive. Imagine brushing off whatever backhanded compliment you might receive because that’s just what guys do. Imagine never being valued for who you intrinsically are but only for what you do – and then only for what you’ve done lately.
In that context, the odd ‘nice crotch bulge mate!’ wouldn’t go amiss. It might even be nice from time to time.
So long as you’re not too old to enjoy it.