What are you more worried about: death, or your looks?
September 4, 2001 9:55 PM   Subscribe

What are you more worried about: death, or your looks? "University of South Australia health researcher Murray Drummond said while there was a growing focus on young men and body image issues, such as steroid use and eating disorders - older men's concerns had been overlooked. Dr Drummond said men aged 55 to 80 were 'not concerned about how they looked as long as they were alive'. But he said they were concerned about what their bodies were able to do."

As a (young) woman, I definitely have body image issues (noting earth shattering, I'm afraid), and I'm not so worried about my body failing me. What about everyone else?
posted by jetgrrl (24 comments total)
Hm. The article doesn't go into any details at all, unfortunately. I find myself wondering if the older men are less concerned about looks because they've all long since been married, combined with the fact that they tend to die sooner than their spouses.

Combined with the fact that there really does seem to be some measurable supply of young to middle-aged women who are attracted to much older men, be in for reasons of power, wealth or just kicks.
posted by aaron at 10:19 PM on September 4, 2001

All I can say is: there is a difference between "looking" and "feeling". I am very concerned about women "feeling" bad about themselves when they "look" absolutely fabulous to everyone else. I wish that we didn't live in a world where sex, fashion, and image are shoved down all of our collective throats. I won't hold my breath. I also find it dubious that men have somehow been left out of this guilt and anxiety. I have a very close tie to this, as my loved one sometimes questions her image when she is the most beautiful thing that graces this earth. I can understand. After I sit in front of the computer for hours on end I feel dumpy and fat and unattractive. Yet when she tells me I look good and she loves me, I feel good about myself again, and I want her to feel good about herself. She is beautiful and I want her to know it. I guess all I am trying to convey is: I wish that (and, I know, it's close to impossible) we all could be happy to be alive, and bless the presences of those around us.

sorry for this rambling. i got caught in passion.
posted by tenseone at 10:24 PM on September 4, 2001

As a happily married 46-year-old man - and, yes, my wife is objectively and consensually beautiful but hates the way she looks - I hope you young 'uns can take solace from the proven fact that insecurity is a fundamental element of feminine beauty.
There is nothing more charming than a woman's implacable self-scrutiny. I've thought and written a lot about this and offer the following explanation: girls, from a very early age(I have two 21-year-old twin daughters), are absolute perfectionists. Their ideal of beauty, which they mercilessly apply to themselves, is sublime. Or, at least, way beyond the capacity of the male of the species.
This is charming - and actually makes women more beautiful - because women judge themselves by their own, elevated standards, rather than by those of the common masses.
If you consider the rare opposite - women who love their own face and body - and how unsexy they inevitably are you will understand how the contradiction between a woman's merely physical beauty and her aesthetic ideal makes for such an irresistible combination.
Women's saving grace, of course, is not wanting to be any other woman. My wife shops other women's bodyparts - this one's ankles, that one's bottom - but readily confesses that, as a whole woman, she would reluctantly prefer her own particular assortment, however tear-inducing, to any other's.
And I think I speak for all of us lucky men when I say that we wholeheartedly concur.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:55 PM on September 4, 2001

If you consider the rare opposite - women who love their own face and body - and how unsexy they inevitably are you will understand how the contradiction between a woman's merely physical beauty and her aesthetic ideal makes for such an irresistible combination.

Well, I don't know. The only women I know who are happy with the way they look are exquisitely beautiful. My sister, for example who occasionally complains but in general likes her body and features has gotten her picture in 17 magazine.

There are lots of girls who 'know' they are beautiful because the fact is unavoidable.
posted by delmoi at 12:05 AM on September 5, 2001

Delmoi, you're quite right. It's the tension between the "occasionally complains" and the "in general" which adds the necessary spark. Really beautiful women never know they are - they "know" they are, as you yourself put it. For once the use of inverted commas expresses an otherwise unavailable meaning.
Perhaps it has something to do with needing constant confirmation and retouching - "make-up" not only material but psychological - that keeps them looking wonderful.
I hope your sister, 17 magazine cover or not, sees your post because a brother's sincere and publicly expressed opinion is, in strictly technical terms, the truly ultimate accolade for any girl!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:23 AM on September 5, 2001

Miguel - are you really saying that it's good that women obssess over their appearance? That you enjoy it?

I don't think the opposite is that they have to "love themselves". Why can't they have a similar attitude to their body that many men do (or, at least, used to) - that it's something you can keep in reasonable shape and that does what's expected of it?

I would like to think this is just some kind of cultural gap (reminds me of last Friday, in the pub, when a Bolivian woman was explaining how she can tell which men were gay by how shy they were; she seemed rather put out when I suggested that her forceful defense of this argument implied she was lesbian), but my partner is from S America and I think she'd find your attitude macho (maybe you're from a generation where that's not a criticism?), old fashioned and demeaning to women...
posted by andrew cooke at 12:28 AM on September 5, 2001

On the subject of the post - as a (approaching middle age? already in it? 35) male, I'm certainly noticing increased pressure to look good. I'm also noticing that my body isn't as tough as it used to be - gets injured more easily - and if that continues to get worse I can understand why older men are worried about their mortality.

It's kind of odd to realise that you moving around inside something that's slowly starting to fail.

PS For me, at least, I don't think being in a permanent relationship affects how I want to look - if anything, I look better now than I did 10 years ago (when I was younger and sporadically single) - better dress sense and fitter (in the athletic sense ;-). Apart from the bodily decay, getting older is pretty good.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:33 AM on September 5, 2001

I think the study indicates the problem of young men now becoming extremely self-conscious about their bodies, not so much about older men being conscious of their health.

I thought we (globally, collectively) were trying to help girls deal with being overly preoccupied with their bodies, not drag blokes into the fray.

It's sad, really.
posted by jetgrrl at 12:34 AM on September 5, 2001

Well, Andrew, this might well be so. But is it macho to reassure your partner constantly? Is it macho to be constantly charmed by her relentless perfectionism? I'm an old guy from Portugal and I'm sure - and glad - cultural gaps exist. But the Portuguese are notoriously un-macho - Spaniards and Italians maintain we're all sissies - and being called "macho" is a terrible insult. It roughly means a stupid slob who thinks women avoid him like the plague(which they do, of course) because they secretly fear his innate animality.
And, if I may offer some criticism of my own: never, but never presume you know what your partner would think. Gay or straight, I think men are, albeit only slightly, different from women. Or at least we like to think so. Hey, we have our own insecurities too, wot?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:44 AM on September 5, 2001

Duh...dragging blokes into the fray is actually allowed in these enlightened times. As you yourself say, jetgrll, "noting earth shattering" about that.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:01 AM on September 5, 2001

at least there's parity now.
posted by moz at 1:09 AM on September 5, 2001

Welcome, Moz. But, as the great Stephen said, what difference does it make? Compare with Sacha Guitry's "vive la difference" and reel around the fountain with the rest of us.
Isn't it truly heartening that men and women have been talking about these very questions since time began?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:21 AM on September 5, 2001

When your health starts to go, your priorities shift. I'm 31 and I've been sick for five years. By now, I just want a body that works. Of course, if it were also beautiful, I wouldn't object...
posted by swerve at 1:52 AM on September 5, 2001

"Older men were more worried about death than about how they looked, new research has found."

posted by pracowity at 2:08 AM on September 5, 2001

Miguel, in these enlightened times, as you say, it is perfectly acceptable for young blokes to have these worries that were always considered 'feminine'. But it doesn't mean it's therefore healthy for either gender.
posted by jetgrrl at 2:18 AM on September 5, 2001

I only worry if I've got a rat's nest in my hair. Damned rats.
posted by meep at 3:03 AM on September 5, 2001

Wow, check out Miguel and the flowery language- it's like we've got a veritable Don Juan de Marco in our midst!

I gotta agree this is hardly newsworthy- wouldn't this story be just as true if they asked young and older women? Doesn't aging naturally turn men and women away from the transience of youth and physical beauty and towards matters of their inevitable mortality, questions of what lies beyond this mortal coil?
posted by hincandenza at 3:24 AM on September 5, 2001

When I was young I was never happy with my looks, even though I was a beautiful girl. As I got older and had more confidence in my self I realized that looks were not that important. I felt my most beautiful as a woman when I was in my forties, and my feeling must have shown because I was hit on by more men young and old at that age then any other age in my life. I don't think attractiveness in a person has to do with age. I think it is how you fell about yourself that makes you more attractive. The one thing I do miss about my youth is the feeling of immortality. The feeling that nothing can happen to you and you will live for ever is a very powerful feeling.
posted by sunfilly at 3:46 AM on September 5, 2001

hmmm....at 7pm on friday night getting ready to go out on the town, i worry most about how i look than at any other point in the week (when i couldn't care less).

by about 2am, after many double vodka's and dodgey lagers i don't really worry about anything but how much a kebab will cost.

at about noon on saturday, i'm usually pretty concerned that the godawful pain in my head and horrible feeling in my stomach means impending death....

er, is this on-topic? ;)
posted by scribble at 3:56 AM on September 5, 2001

I don't think the issue is that men are "now becoming" more self conscious. They have always been, just as men have always had eating disorders and problems of that nature. I think that in many cases, men are ashamed to talk about insecurities, because such an honest outpouring of emotions would be emasculating.
It is the same thing with sexual abuse and rape of men/boys. You hear about women being abused and raped more frequently than you do men, because men think that that sort of thing doesn't happen to MEN. Or at least not to a REAL man. It seems that there is a much greater stigma in their minds, at least from what I have experienced.
Media and society have just as much effect on the psyches of males as they do on that of females.
posted by disaster at 6:37 AM on September 5, 2001

disaster; WELL SAID. I think that "outpuring of emotions" can be viewed as "not manly" by both men and women. LaTELY IT SEEMS GUYS HAVE OPENED A LITTLE MORE TO OTHER GUYS(IN THIER ROUND ABOUT WAY) i will not retype that(new keyboard and all) I was critical of this post at first, but find it good and well thought out. (can i be sancho panza)?
posted by clavdivs at 6:56 AM on September 5, 2001

Friday night on 20/20 there was a report about sexual abuse of boys at a prestigious New England boarding school. I was amazed at the bravery of the young man who came out about the abuse and molestation by fellow students of the younger incoming students. As I recall from the interview, he was shunned and ignored by fellow students after he announced at an assembly for incoming students a warning of potential abuse. He eventually left the school because he was being shamed.

It is astounding the amount of boy on boy sexual abuse that occurs during adolescence. It goes beyond just bullying, but as far as rape and molestation. Because there are several [yes, several] people in my life who I am close to who have been victimized as youths, I have read books and articles and basically everything I can get my hands on to learn about MALE victims of such abuse. These incidents leave many of them feeling powerless, because they are about power and control, so the victims try to control other aspects of their lives - in particular their looks. This is a root of eating disorders and severe self consciousness.

Anyway, it was definitely a catch 22 to see this report on 20/20 because I was relieved that this young man had the courage to speak out, so that others will not feel so ashamed. However, the fact that these sorts of abuses are still occuring, even in the most prestigious of prep schools and affluency, makes me really depressed.
posted by disaster at 7:25 AM on September 5, 2001

The solution, of course, is to replace all your ugly failing flesh with nice clean alloy. Why waste your time worrying about fat, zits, malformed jawlines, and such -- when you could be worrying about whether you should get that antipersonnel laser or go for the fusion upgrade instead.

The only future is a robot future.
posted by aramaic at 7:43 AM on September 5, 2001

sorry to make this personal everybody, but... i love you tenseone
posted by katexmcfly at 1:08 PM on September 6, 2001

« Older Fay Weldon, Part 2.   |   Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf, Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments