The UK’s Daily Mail reports on a recent study that shows that women consider themselves old at 29, whereas men don’t consider themselves old until about 58. Apparently, women’s perceptions of their own age relate to their appearance, but for men it’s about sexual performance.
It is thought that this gulf between the sexes is because age perception is so determined by society’s attitude towards youth and beauty. The modern woman may feel “past it” if she doesn’t fit an ideal. Men, who are less defined by their looks, refuse to act their age until nearly 60.
Commenting on the findings, psychologist Professor Cary Cooper from Lancaster University said: “In our society the attractiveness of women is quite important. Men don’t have to be good looking… but, for some reason, it’s important for women to look presentable.”
Now there’s British understatement for you. It’s strange that a psychologist would be baffled as to why women feel they need to look “presentable”: In our society, if you don’t look like the women you see on magazine covers, television, the internet, billboards, movies, or in men’s minds, you’re not okay. Which means most women don’t feel okay about themselves, considering themselves “over the hill” when their first gray hair pops up at 29 or so. (If I had a dollar for every time a woman I know says she looks old, ugly, and/or fat, I could be writing this from a villa in the south of France.)
According to the study, there are additional triggers that make people feel old, including when bar music seems too loud and “when you start behaving like your mother.” I’ve also noticed that people with children tend to feel older than those without children. One possible explanation, to my mind, is that the rapid rate of change in children make parents measure time — and therefore, themselves — differently.