What is youth?
As the notion evolves century after century because of longer life expectancy, there are thousands of ways of defining youth (statistical, sociological, biological, literary, etc) but most scientific papers have chosen the 15 to 24 years old range, based on the definition given by the United Nations.
In a previous post, I reflected upon how our modern societies correlate beauty and age, when it comes to women.
My point was to try to understand the reasons behind the use of such terms as « for her age » or « seeing how many children she had » to qualify a woman’s beauty.
I repeat it, that kind of compliment irritates me.
Without being acrimonious (I have decided to reduce my level of bitterness in life to 1%) or particularly feminist, I sense that through these words, youthism is applied to women unconsciously, implicitly.
Which media, which regular person says or writes that Brad Pitt or George Clooney look good « for their age »? None that I know of, anyhow.
Which media, which regular person says or writes that Jane Fonda or Helen Mirren are beautiful women, « for their age »? Everyone.
Likewise, no one would ever that a 25-year-old woman is beautiful « for her age » because her beauty is seen as intrinsic to her youth. The words put on the concept are never fully explicit but we have all integrated the social construct according to which youth is beauty’s new eldorado. We have, in the same way, also integrated related elements of language, without even noticing it.
For most, youth is beauty. I disagree. Personally, I was absolutely mundane and this lasted quite some time, until about 35. Youth can be horrid (and so can maturity).
For others still, youth is strength. Even if I understand this claim from a darwinist point of view, it seems to me that cavemen and societies have evolved quite a bit and that the required strengths to face our modern world are both physical and moral, intellectual and emotional. And yet, being strong morally, intellectually and emotionally takes time and thus, a certain level of maturity.
When I was young, I thought that I was indestructible.
This is called the power pulse syndrome in psychoanalysis, a syndrome often applied to teenagers like a one-size-fits-all.
It led me to fuck up thousands of times, hurting others and myself. The poor belief in my strength was finally nothing but a huge weakness. By times, maturity is more powerful than impulsive youth. But the contrary can be true as well.
For some, youth is reproduction. Indeed, it was applicable a century ago but it no longer is.
To go to the heart of the issue, I suspect that this rampant youthism is – in reality – not linked to the power and preservation of the species but rather to an overly sexualized consideration of women. Because you must admit that this youthism doesn’t apply to the masculin gender.
I sincerely think that it doesn’t help a woman to be qualified of beautiful « for her age », which means « wow, she’s ok for a woman who’s expiry date is passed. Oh well, she doesn’t interest anyone anyways, though ».
That’s the way it is for mature actresses, for example, who regularly point out how roles start to vanish after a certain age. A logical rarefaction: no one is interested in them anymore. A large majority wants the hero of the movie to be beautiful, attractive and seductive: the male spectator invests more of himself in the story and the female spectator identifies more (the first time I saw Donkey Skin, I didn’t understand why Catherine Deneuve wasn’t in every single movie because she was in my eyes, the most beautiful women I had ever seen. Except that I was 6 years old).
Age shouldn’t ever be a part of the equation and everyone should feel free to disclose it – or not, without desperately looking for a way to hide or manipulate it (by the way, I never understood why it was inconvenient to ask a woman her age).
Obviously, the unconditional compliment remains the ultimate ideal. It is, in my opinion, that towards which we must strive by being careful and cautious with the words we use, which have a meaning, a weight, an energy. This requires a tad of reflexion because the ease with which we all absorb some elements of language (myself included, of course) without even realizing their scope or their real meaning is quite unsettling from a sociological point of view.
Personally, I am 41 years old, blithely going on 42 – I’m a Sagittarius after all – and I don’t feel either young or old. Just full of life. And I’m perfectly fine with that.
Apostrophe dress and belt – Lanvin jacket – Roger Vivier heels – Fendi handbag – Hoss Intropia gloves – Mykita + Maison Martin Margiela sunglasses