Sexless frumps

Australian men become, after a certain age, sexless. It’s as if they give up on their appearance once they’re into their fifties and they just look awful.
So says comedian Lawrence Mooney and I don’t think he was trying to be funny. He was talking on the fabulous Agony of Life, Adam Zwar’s latest series for the ABC which chronicles the life stages with pithy observations and timely advice from Zwar’s TV friends. Over the course of the series (sorry, it just ended) Mooney proved the most astute and intelligent of the lot.
“It was Catherine Deneuve who said that getting ready takes so much longer as you get older. That the older you get, the earlier you have to get up to get ready just to look OK.”

It’s worth considering what he has to say about ageing men.
Mooney believes that men age badly compared with their European counterparts. They get to a certain age or stage and then they stop making an effort for the opposite sex and even themselves. It’s trackie-daks and general dishevelment.

It’s as if they’ve given up, Mooney says.
But in other societies older men remain fascinating and alluring to women. They take pride in their appearance and look after their bodies. They do their hair and dress well.
Why are we so slack in Australia?
You do see men in their lateish fifties – though they could be any age – schlepping about looking disgruntled with life and themselves. There’s a bitterness, a resignation.
What’s happened and why? Is it because other things have taken priority over appearance – demanding teenagers, infirm parents, unmanageable mortgages, unwanted celibacy – what is it?
Or has looking good just become too difficult? Takes too much effort? Isn’t ”worth it” any more?
I think it was Catherine Deneuve who said that getting ready takes so much longer as you get older. That the older you get, the earlier you have to get up to get ready just to look OK. She’s French, of course, but why don’t Australian men seem to do that?
Do Australian men stop caring about how they look and become sexless frumps? Why?

This may read a little strangely, but that’s because I have substituted ‘men’ for ‘women’ throughout the article. Yes ladies those of us not already in our fifties are destined to become sexless frumps because we don’t take the time to dress up for public approval every time we have the temerity to leave the house. Apparently even if your sex life is going just fine thank you very much we will assume that you are a sexless frump if you even look like you might have thought about considering thinking about a pair of tracksuit pants. Oh no ladies, heels, stockings, perfectly coiffed hair (leave it long, don’t want anyone to think you might enjoy the ease of short hair, but mind that you can’t just wear it in a practical braid or pony tail either and straightened or curled if your hair is naturally straight) manicure and lippy for putting out the bins on bin night if you please. Don’t even think about letting the dog out for a wee if you haven’t put your eye liner on. Those of us already past the half century mark have apparently just given up without a fight and been swallowed up by tracksuit pants. Because surely we don’t have anything better to do than dress up for the male gaze and have our hotness rated? I mean really where are our priorities? Why worry about mortgage payments, kids, schools, university, or any of the other myriad worries of daily life if we don’t have a full face of makeup, flashy shoes and designer gear on first?

You think I’m joking? Unfortunately not.



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11 replies

  1. … dang. It was perfectly possible to read that straight, about Australian men. I thought of the blokes on the train and thought, yep! Though I’d have run it back a bit before fifty. 😛
    But seriously, dressing or making up to fascinate anyone? Or for the pleasure of anyone ‘cept my and my beloved? I. Don’t. Think. So.
    As for the bit about how long it takes to get ready … well, possibly Catherine Deneuve feels she needs to, having had such a reputation as a beauty, but it takes me all of ten minutes to do my face and hair, which is less time than it takes to do all the stretching to get my legs and back working. Perspectives, they are different.

  2. I have not been getting as much sleep as I should lately and this totally confused me. I thought the original article you were quoting was about men. It made perfect sense to me that way. And no sense the other.

  3. Speaking only for myself, the reason I “gave up on my appearance” back in my mid-twenties was I realised I was on a hiding to nothing. I was never going to be someone who was considered “worth looking at” within the narrow constraints of social preference in those days (the height of the whole “supermodel” thing), being too damn short for true beauty to begin with. I’m also a body shape which isn’t popular with designers (short solid frame, comparatively narrow shoulders, comparatively narrow waist, large boobs, very little actual distance between my bust and my waist, very solid legs, very solid wrists, short neck, etc) so the chances of me finding clothes which are actually designed for me off the rack are infinitesimally small. Oh, and I have a tendency to retain weight when I gain it (which was only accentuated by ten years of attempting to diet to lose weight). My face isn’t right for “pretty”, and the end result is I realised I’d either have to spend multiple thousand dollars per year and multiple hours each day vainly pursuing the ever-mobile target of “beauty”, or I could just accept I wasn’t likely to hit it, and get on with my life.
    I’m lazy. I chose to get on with my life, give up on the makeup, buy clothes and shoes for comfort rather than style, and focus on what I enjoy.

  4. @angharad – at least it wasn’t just me!

  5. Obviously, Mooney has heard about the number of women high-fiving each other on being Old and officially being rewarded with their get-out-jail-free card from the Prison of the Male Gaze; he wants us to know we are never free.
    Thanks Lawrence.
    Let’s schedule a visit from the feminist SWAT team for him.
    I really enjoyed the article when the word “women” was replaced by “men”. Caperton is much funnier than Mooney.

  6. @Kitteh, yeah I still don’t get it. I don’t see how you could make that observation really. I work in the CBD and the older women I see around are groomed and neatly dressed in more or less the same proportion as the younger women. I’m assuming this guy’s observation is actually meaning ‘eurgh! women! how dare you get old and become unattractive to me!’
    I’m another lazy one. I made some efforts towards wearing make-up daily when I both started university and working but quickly gave them up. I rarely do anything fancy with my hair (there is so much of it that it is a lot of work).
    Actually I have a good anecdote about how not easy it is to be a supermodel. When I was in my early 20’s I was skinny (like clinically underweight, see-my-ribs skinny). I weighed about 50kg. My measurements at the time were 34-24-36. I read somewhere this was the same as Elle McPherson, which I thought at the time was great. Until I realised that she is eight inches taller than me!

  7. A while ago I went out and got some new clothes and shoes and what not, feeling I was well enough off to dress a bit better than I had been, and was quite happy with my nice new purchases. Then I opened a fashion magazine and found that everything I’d bought was not even in the “Before” picture, it was in the category called something like “Indications of a woman who has given up.” OFFS.

  8. Count me as another reader who did not realize until you spelled it out that the original article wasn’t really talking about men. As a USA-an, I just figured, hey, Aussie (male) comedians must be more feminist than our own (male) commedians.
    I was also thinking, actually, a lot of the men I see on the train or the subway _do_ look like they spend some time and money on their appearance (though I’m sure not as much as the women.) Perfectly coifed hair (and lots of it), wrinkle-free suits, etc. Of course, this may not be typical for the USA. I work about 4 blocks north of the New York Stock Exchange, and financiers here are expected to _look_ “successful” (=rich.) On the other hand, there’s me on the train, too (keepin’ property values down.)

  9. The only thing that tipped me off here was that I don’t recall Laurence Mooney being in any way progressive. Otherwise, I read it perfectly straight.

  10. I’m wondering if Laurence Mooney has looked in the mirror lately, the hypocritical douche.

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