Within minutes of me publishing last week’s post, The Role of Ugliness and the Need to Address the Topic Head On, I received a very interesting plea by one of the readers. He urged me to address another appearance-related issue, ageism. And he was quite passionate about it. Within a few days of my post, he reached out again asking why I hadn’t yet written about it.
While one might be taken aback by such pushiness, I was actually pleased. Selfishly, I was happy that he thinks I have something to say. But more than that, I’m glad he cared, and that he was a “he.” In case you didn’t see his comment on the post last week, here it is:
Great commentary, Abigail. This is an ‘old’ argument. Have we made progress?; probably. Have we went far enough?; Certainly not. I think the broader discussion has to do with ‘age’ – what is the underlying difference between ‘beauty’ & ‘age’ if it means one class is being treated as an outcast? Many older workers are now feeling the same level of discrimination that woman of all ages have felt for many, many years. Of course, certainly for vastly different reasons in many respects. But what about woman over 50? Now they’re judged on their looks and their abilities. Talk about shaming! We need to start raising the noise on this issue; isn’t 50 the new 30? If so, let’s be more inclusive for all races, genders & ages.
Needless to say, I agree with him. And as a woman in the corporate world, especially in a very young industry, i.e., tech, I can relate to the fear of being “too old” in the not so distant future. I may be able to speak in front of large crowds and have the confidence to put myself “out there” in social media but tell my age to may colleagues? Now, that’s a different story :). In all seriousness, I experienced a bit of a mid-life crisis last year about this very issue. Would I lose my allure? And what happens then? Will people not want to work with me anymore? As vain as it sounds, I recognize that we all bring a full package to our social and professional lives. And that package includes youthfulness, style, attractiveness, in addition to all the other very important traits like intellect, integrity, a work ethic, EQ, and the list goes on. So I totally understand what this reader was getting at. There was a recent story by Carly Ledbetter in the Huffington Post all about this: Men are Getting Now More Than Ever. These Plastic Surgeons Explain Why.
This topic reminds me of a story I wrote a few years back about how American woman and men fear looking older. This fear is not just associated with sexual appeal but with a sense of currency in the office. Here’s what I wrote back then:
According to an article by American Health and Beauty(“More Male Patients Seeking Cosmetic Procedures”), men are increasingly seeking facelifts, male breast reduction, Botox treatments and liposuction. The reason given? Major competition in the job market from younger, more energetic youths.
What’s even more depressing is the rise of eating disorders among the silver-haired set. A recent New York Times article (“An Older Generation Falls Prey to Eating Disorders”) states that more and more women over the age of 50 are suffering from anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders.
So what do we? We can be more diverse age-wise in our hiring practices. And we can support older entrepreneurs who decided to pivot a bit later in their lives. And I’m sure there are even more actions we can take. In fact, comment on this story if you have some ideas!
But I actually think the changes need to come from within ourselves first. If we are in fear of aging, we will inevitably project that onto others. We all have to maintain ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. If we are to lose our sense of energy and positivity then we should expect people to not want to work or play with us.
I mentioned above that it was a man who reached out to me. While I don’t want women or men to ever feel ashamed or unattractive, I’m actually somewhat pleased it was a man who commented. For one thing, if both genders are experiencing this issue, the more likely the problem will be addressed. In addition, I’m a big proponent of men taking special care of their physical health and appearance. Unlike women who see doctors regularly from a young age and are used to tuning into their bodies, whether for procreation or disease-prevention reasons, men don’t really have a need to think about their bodies until later in life. They may not understand or feel connected to their bodies in the same way women do. But when we all make conscious effort to maintain our physical health, and, yes, our appearance, we understand our bodies better. We are clued into them. And frankly we respect them more. If more men were to have a stronger “connection” with their bodies, I am convinced, they will not only be healthier for longer, but also be more aware of when they aren’t healthy.
No doubt I want to ensure that we give everyone a chance, no matter their religion, gender, appearance or age. And we should fight against any discrimination that we face. But I also think it’s up to all of us, individually, to ensure we feel healthy, happy and energetic. Not only will we have that much more confidence, but we will undoubtedly inspire others to see how being older could even be better!