Growing up, being an “older” woman was not a pretty picture – literally.
Predictably, post-menopausal women were pictured pleasingly plump their sagging jowls and sagging breasts as slumping as their sedentary, asexual lives that were defined by grandchildren, gossip and reminiscing about the good old days.
Swathed in a quilted hand crocheted shawl her chilly body temperature was matched only by her chilly non-existent libido.
And if “the old biddie” had a libido, it was ridiculed.
The dried up, toothless, ‘horny granny” created by Robert “Buck” Brown was a permanent fixture in Playboy Magazine in the 1970’s.
Take My Old Lady…Please
Next to ditzy female drivers and meddling battle-axe mothers in law, the older women was a favorite target of cartoonists and comics.
The Age Old Problem
For all our current advances, one fact stubbornly remains: avoid any visible sign of aging or you become invisible.
Reinforced by Madison Avenue’s potpourri of promises to stave off signs of aging and restore youth, the Grimm brothers story of Snow White was quite instructive to young girls when it came to aging and faded youth
“Mirror Mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all?” The Queen famously asks her magic mirror. The queen has grown accustomed to a reassuring answer. “You,” the mirror always replied. “You are the fairest of them all,” until that terrible day when the mirror spoke another truth; Snow White is fairer than you.
No amount of Elizabeth’s Arden Vanishing Cream could change the ugly fact: Women of a certain age get used to fading compliments, as slowly the attention of men fade away.
No wonder women are haunted by the horror of growing old.
What are women to presume?
Obviously that beauty lasts only slightly longer than puberty and it is our business and obligation to keep those visible signs of aging at bay. Or else you’re all washed up.
Especially if you want to keep a man.
In the 1960’s a middle-aged woman whose marriage was in trouble could reignite her love life by simply washing away her gray hair.
“Hate That Gray? Wash it away! “
“How do husbands react when wives suddenly look years younger,” asks a 1962 ad from Loving Care by Clairol.
Seems most men don’t know anything about the art involved, but every man knows what he likes. And that is a wife who stays young and attractive. Not only is it a pleasure to look at but it reflects nicely on him too.
Loving care looks so fresh and natural makes your husband feel younger just to look at you!
Stay Young and Beautiful
The current portrayal of busy and botoxed boomers – diligently popping Boniva and those little blue pills – may be redefining aging, yet remnants of out-dated images linger like fossilized remains.
Age based stereotypes are often internalized in childhood long before the information is relevant; calcified for decades these disparaging stereotypes are often difficult to dissolve.
These dated images may have reached their expiration date, the prejudices against getting, old has not.
But how old is old?
For most of my life the media seemed incapable of portraying an attractive woman over 30.
When it comes to attractiveness it seems like there is always an expiration date. Best used by…
Middle age was once indicator of the end of your beauty shelf life …. A warning your desirability was about to expire.
Middle Age Madness
Palmolive Soap ran an ad campaign in the late 1930s to warn of the scourge of ladies everywhere- middle-aged skin. Once afflicted, dates were broken along with hearts all because a careless lady allowed herself to develop middle-aged skin.
Even a young women could be mistaken for middle age long before her time, if precautions weren’t taken.
How Young is Old?
Young, at 51? Impossible you say?
By 1951 fifty was apparently the old 60 when Jergens Cream marveled that a 51-year-old woman could still be considered attractive. Even if that woman was aging movie star Gloria Swanson. No Norma Desmond she, Miss Swanson was no fading beauty, thanks to her daily ritual of cleansing with Jergens All Purpose Cream.
The ad asked the middle-aged reader to be truthful: could they possibly look as young when they were over the hill.
Of course today if 40 is the new 30, and 60 is the new 50, middle age itself gets murkier.
The expiration date may be pushed back, but in our youth obsessed culture it is inevitable.
As long as there is an obsession with the “problem” of age and how best to avoid it through diet, exercise, chemical formulas, moisturizing creams and good old-fashioned denial, old stereotypes can exist.
Like processed food, the more chemicals additives and fillers added to a woman, the longer the shelf life of her attractiveness.
In a culture that worships of the altar of all natural no additives the same can’t be said of our aging women.
If positive portrayals of aging promote the idea that defying aging is the only way to age successfully, negative stereotypes can remain strong
Copyright (©) 2015 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved