With edge on their side
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- Published 21.08.08
No, not usually. Sure, if you look closely you will spot some grey hair and crow’s feet. But does he care? Rarely.
Men mature. What a lovely word, that. And women? They droop. Which is far more… droopy.
For a man, the thirties are thriving and if change must at all be made, it is time to upgrade from beer to whisky. For a woman, the thirties are fraught with danger, and it is time to buy a Rs 1,000 jar of anti-wrinkle cream to fight it off.
Blame it on what you will — conditioning, socialisation, vanity — there are few women who are stoic in the face of the tick-tock of the body clock. While for many men, it is a not unpleasant background beat. Some points on which the twain shall never meet...
Age & grooming
“The size of your car makes up for the size of your belly,” says 40-something Shumone Chatterjee. “The theory dates back to ancient times. Men were known for their deeds. Even today, a man is known by his accomplishments, little by his looks. Beauty is the forte of women,” adds the managing director of Levi Strauss (India) Pvt Ltd.
So, who cares if you have gone soft around the centre, bald around the crown and crinkly around the eyes? It’s nothing money, material possessions and a mid-life crisis can’t solve.
|Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep: Age can be kind, too|
Twenty-nine-year-old software engineer Siddharth Roy is “cool” about turning 30 this September. “I was never expected to be a hunk. I was expected to do well in academics. To crack JEE or IIT,” he shrugs. “While the occasional thought does go out to strands of hair that were left behind on the pillow in the morning and the increasing waist line, there is nothing really to get freaked out about,” he points out.
A certain urbane lifestyle has made age for the man almost an asset. “A man has a car at 25 and a second one at 32. He goes for a drink, or for a movie to the multiplex. Personal grooming becomes important,” says Shumone.
“Men are more systematic and logical in their approach,” feels hair and skin expert and t2 columnist Priscilla Corner. “Around 40 per cent of Indian men today are conscious about weight and hair loss,” she says. But that doesn’t mean they lose sleep over it.
In his free time, Shumone plays his guitar, Siddharth prefers chilling before the television over hours spent at spa or gym. They have chosen to un-enslave themselves.
“Robert Redford’s lines of distinction are my old-age wrinkles,” Jane Fonda has said. And nothing has changed since then. If anything, it is worse in this age of expression-stealing Botox and collagen fillers. When skin smooth as a baby’s bottom is only a pinprick and some botulism away, is there any excuse for looking haggard?
“The television, magazines, hoardings… they are all saying it. If you have to be the best mummy, look your best; if you want to be the most loved wife, look your best; if you want to be a success story at your job, look your best,” says 27-year-old Reshmi Ghosh. It’s true when you’re 27, it’s true when you’re 37. And at 47 too, when none but the most genetically or surgically blessed are exempt from the ravages of time.
But whether you choose to point fingers at the beauty-product peddler or the insecure consumer, somewhere the two paths cross to create a veritable buffet of pots and tubes on every shop shelf, all promising youth everlasting. And the crores of rupees spent purchasing them are proof that these products are filling a need (though what exactly that need is remains far murkier territory). And unlike the fairness segment, the anti-wrinkle salesmen are focussing squarely on women.
Public relations professional Somini Sen Dua feels the pressures come from many fronts. “Her looks are almost like an identity,” she says. The words ‘once upon a time’ become the most dreaded for any women. Like software professional Avantika Kar, who at 24 has already started worrying about the effects age must have. “I want to look good even at 50. I don’t want men exclaiming, she was an item, once!” Diet, yoga, under-eye cream, facials are all part of her essential armoury.
“A lot of women want to try out anything and everything new in the market, all to look better, to stop ageing,” says Priscilla.
Age & the opposite sex
Tying the knot can wait. Beauty, crudely measured in our marriage market, comes from looks and bank balance. And on the second front, age is nothing but a number that grows with the passing of years and piling up of payslips. So no pressure, right?
“Even 50-year-old men with receding hair-lines have options if they have the financial security,” feels 27-year-old Kunal Bose. The media professional is in no hurry to get married. For Siddharth, the only cause for concern “is getting tied down”. “There are times when I feel that I don’t have much time before I get domesticated.”
When it comes to dating, experience counts more than age. “Dating and socialising is fun, and age is not a issue, till you find the right girl to settle down with,” says Siddharth. “It’s like wine. You get better with age,” feels Kunal. “At 21 you are only aware of your own needs. By 30, you know what the girls want as well. That works to your advantage,” he points out.
“Sex is high on the priority list, starting from puberty, for most men. And they know they can safely bat till 60,” smiles Kunal. Post-marital equations are also divided along gender lines. “Men don’t feel the pressure even after marriage. It’s the women with her weight issues and insecurity who feel threatened,” he adds. Age is also no bar for Siddharth when it comes to sex. “Whatever be the time, the answer is always yes.”
The older, single woman may no longer be called the ‘old maid’ or the ‘spinster’ in more evolved circles, but that doesn’t mean the Singleton has a lot to choose from in our society. The marriage and dating market becomes restricted significantly.
To make matters worse, men of the same age seem to always be interested in younger women. There are exceptions, of course, and some men are even open to dating older women, but these numbers are regrettably small. For women, age continues to be inversely proportional to dating and marriage prospects.
Somini and Reshmi agree that after a certain age options seem to fast dwindle. Says Reshmi: “You begin to think that there are not enough guys in this world. And to make matters worse, guys who are suitable are already taken and the guys who are available are desperate. Isn’t this enough reason for us to feel the pressure?”
Indeed. We’ll end with these poignant words from Italian film legend Federico Fellini: “A sign of growing old is when interviewers start asking you, ‘What would you do differently if you had your life to live over again?’ I give some sort of answer because I don’t wish to be rude, but I don’t tell them the image that comes into my mind because they would think it vain and frivolous, and no one wants to be a subject for ridicule. I see myself as a tall, skinny Fellini, vigorously lifting weights. That’s what I would do differently. I would lift weights.”
Koneenica Banerjee: “I think girls are more fussy about age. There are people in our industry whom I used to call didi but now they call me didi. It all stems from insecurity. I personally have never hidden my age and I believe that you can control the age factor and look beautiful, which is more important than fussing about a line on the face”
Shonal Rawat: “Men are definitely more easy-going when it comes to ageing. Maybe because they tend to look better with age. With nine out of 10 men, such is the case. Women, be they 50 or 80, are always tense about looking good. A woman’s body goes through so many changes, during puberty, during pregnancy and then again during menopause. So I guess they need to look after themselves more.”
Parambrata Chatterjee: “I’m not concerned about ageing. I believe life for men begins after 40. After all, most successful men are above 40, right? Women fuss, and in our profession, they fuss more. But I would not mind the mature look. In fact, I would love a salt and pepper beard.”
Nondon Bagchi: “You can’t stop the clock, the signs of passage of time must show. To make an effort to hide those signs by something like dyeing my hair seems pretty hopeless. Whatever the person’s age, it is important to stay fit. If women are more bothered, blame it on the conditioning. They are brainwashed into believing they have to be attractive otherwise the world will pass them by.”
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