Maybe men feel invisible too in their forties. Talk with Jane Green

April 13th, 2014, 11am

When I was in Medellin, Colombia, I went out to dinner with 5 men, all in their sixties. All their girlfriends were under 25 and they complained endlessly about women over 25: they were not as fun, too interested in marriage and not as beautiful.

“You know,” One of them said to me after a few glasses of wine, “In the U.S I am too old for you. You,” He jabbed the air in my direction, his finger shaking, “you come into my clinic and I ask you to dinner. You’re disgusted. You say I am too old. But here,” his lips curled up into a cruel, victorious smile, “you’re too old for me.”

I stared at him, this swollen, droopy faced, white-haired man and wondered how long he had been waiting to meet a North American woman over 25 just so he could deliver that statement. “I’m handsome here,” He said feebly, “They have a different, more refined aesthetic than you norteamericanas.”

My response wasn’t a kind one. I pointed out that since he lacked other compelling attributes women were responding to his affluence, not his beauty, and that if he thought otherwise he was deluding himself. I still think I was right, but enough time has gone by for me to appreciate his frankness, his transparent insecurity.

At the L.A Times Festival of books, held at USC, I attended a panel where four attractive women over 40 talked about their books. One of them, Jane Green, had written a book about female infidelity and disclosed that she had written it because of a rash of divorces she had witnessed. All the divorces seemed to come about the same way: 40 something woman meets a younger man, announces that she has always been unhappy in her marriage and that the new guy is her soul mate, six months later said soulmate is MIA. She said she thought she knew what it was all about: after 40 women become invisible - no one looks at them anymore - and the flattery of a younger man becomes irresistible.

Generally, people in the room seemed to agree with this sentiment. “Women cheat for emotional reasons,” A woman near me chirped to her friend, “Men for sexual reasons.”

I doubt that. I doubt it because trying to separate out the emotional from the sexual is complicated (if a man cheats because he wants an ego boost, isn’t that an emotional reason?) and because that statement is founded on years of erroneous ideas about the differences between male and female sexuality. But I also doubt it because of that night in Medellin. Men age as do women, which is something we seem to forget. And as men age they too lose some of their youthful brightness. To say that they lose their attractiveness is tantamount to saying that attractiveness is equal only to physical beauty, and further that physical beauty is something that can’t be had outside of youth; both of which are not true. And yet, things are tangled: we’re a youth focused culture and the prevailing notion is that beauty and youth are intermingled, and that physical beauty is attractiveness. It affects men too: those men in Medellin, who claimed to be beautiful in that city, were terrified of younger men with their lean bodies and full heads of hair. No doubt they too, by contrast, felt invisible.

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Dani Z

The hardest thing about getting older is realizing that I might, in fact, be a minor character in someone else's story. (I keep changing this bio. I'm not sure I'll ever nail it)

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