The Magical Age of Appearance

A few months ago, I read an article in Allure which asserted the age at which women reach their physical peak, in terms of beauty and appearance, is 36. The article looked at classic beauties like Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Catherine Deneuve. I found the article heartening in that I have a couple of years left before I reach six squared. However, the women they mentioned, in addition to being incredibly beautiful, were from an era which respected adulthood and maturity. Women aspired to look like women and have bodies of women, bodies which had sex and bore children and looked great in a bathing suit, but in a realistic way, and they were comfortable in their own skin (or at least, appeared to be so.) Today, it seems we all aspire to have the impossibly rail thin figures of the preadolescent, bodies which are forever youthful and detached from the realities of adult life, our skin drawn across our bones and our eyes filled with fear and the knowledge that the battle we are fighting is a losing one because we cannot stop the clock. It doesn't matter how beautiful you are, there is always someone out there who is just as beautiful who is also younger. Given the obsession with youth which currently permeates our culture, I wonder if true beauty even matters.

But the idea that we reach out peak at 36 is an interesting idea. One wonders what is so special about 36. A woman's fertility continues the decline which began around the age of 26 and, in this country, a woman with child at 36 is considered high risk. At 36, a woman has spent exactly half her life as an adult (if you consider the age of 18 to be the line which separates the child from the grown up.) Perhaps it is because at 36, a woman would have all the knowledge she has gained over the years and the confidence which comes with this knowledge, but has not yet developed many of the physical signs which we associate with aging.

Of course, I say this as someone who still is plagued with boughts of self-loathing, has had gray hair since she was 19 and who only started getting acne seriously at the age of 24. I am so obsessed with my own physical appearance I neglect to notice key features of other's and I constantly fail to accurately guess another woman's age.


Anonymous said…
Don't worry about post-adolecents and the markets that use them-- you and yours all have your own thing going on.
Anonymous said…
Articles in Allure reach their peak of usefulness at 36 days after publication.
Anonymous said…
most of the women that i've met over thirty say that that was the best time of their lives, and speak of their twenties in much the same way you and I would speak of being 10. And the early thirties are spent coming to terms with the fact that you are no longer in your twenties. PS, we can shave our heads together when we turn 36, if you will wait for me.
Anonymous said…
Interesting what you say about the examples being used are not from our contemporary culture... I recently saw "Friends With Money" and one of the most interesting parts of that movie is that Jennifer Aniston, who is supposed to be this glamourous Hollywood sexpot, was playing a character who was obsessed with aging, wrinkles, grey hair, etc... and that they didn't make the real Jennifer Anison look old for the camera! She looked just like she does in real life, but I guess I had never thought of her as "old" before. Anyway, I'm thinking she's probably somewhere around 36.

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