My tragic life, according to Esquire

c21fizuko4vbzwuif9ddWhen I looked at my Twitter feed today, a lot of people were talking about an article in Esquire by Tom Junod.

I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never heard of the guy. Then again, I’ve never been much of an Esquire reader, I don’t live in New York, and my newspaper background means I’m more familiar with those writers than with magazine ones.

But anyway, Junod has written an ode to women: 42-year-old women, to be precise. He opens with this gem:

“Let’s face it: There used to be something tragic about even the most beautiful forty-two-year-old woman. With half her life still ahead of her, she was deemed to be at the end of something—namely, everything society valued in her, other than her success as a mother. If she remained sexual, she was either predatory or desperate; if she remained beautiful, what gave her beauty force was the fact of its fading. And if she remained alone… well, then God help her.”

Gosh. As someone who said goodbye to 42 a few months ago, I had no idea that this was ever the case. True, I’ve been married for some time, so my predatory and desperate sex drive is mostly inflicted on my husband. And I don’t have children, so I will never succeed in the mommy arena.

Woe is me?

As for my fading beauty – I’ve always known I clean up fairly well, but I’ve never been a beauty. Or to clarify, I’ve never been a beauty in certain places. In some countries, I had to fend off offers. In others, I was completely ignored. I always figured I wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that that is fine. It’s nothing to get tragic about.

In fact, even with some silver hairs and a few lines, I like the way I look much more than I did in my 20s. And those were the real tragic times for me, before I knew what I wanted to do with my life, before I found love, before I learned to value myself and know who to listen to and who to write off.

Junod’s article perplexes me for that reason, even if it’s supposed to be some celebration of the fact that 42-year-old women really do have value. When did we not?

I have talked to a few people about this, and they pointed out that Junod is not wrong, that society indeed has not celebrated women of a certain age. But then I think of the women in my own family. When my mom was 42, she was definitely not a tragic figure. She may have left behind her modeling career in the ’60s, but she turned plenty of heads. I always got tired of my friends telling me how pretty she was, even as they looked at me and I could hear them think “so what happened to you?” Men certainly never ignored her.

My grandmothers were no slouches either. My mom’s mom loved nothing more than a good party, especially with handsome younger men. And most of those younger men were not averse to her company. My dad’s mom had gentlemen callers until the end of her life. Men wanted to sketch her and write songs to her. She was their muse.

If anything, I always thought there was something tragic about men in their 40s, whether married or not.

The married ones, even the happily married ones, seem to take it very hard when the teen and 20-something young women put them in the “dad” category. And I don’t believe DILF has caught on nearly as much as MILF, because married men in their late 30s and early 40s tend to let themselves go. My 20th reunion is evidence. What a horror show! Most of the men had bald heads and potbellies. I almost wept when the boy I had secretly nicknamed “The Golden God” had turned into Homer Simpson. The women all looked good though. I guess they didn’t want to seem tragic in front of their old classmates.

The single 40-something men, whether they are divorced or never-married players, also risk hitting the skids. Most guys aren’t the Most Interesting Man in the World, and it’s always awkward to run into that old guy creeping on the young girls in the bar. Or online. Reddit has entire forums devoted to those. Do women creep? Sure. But they are vastly outnumbered. 40-something women also don’t tend to go on shooting sprees because they’re sexually frustrated. George Sodini, may I remind you, was 48.

But I guess I’m supposed to ignore all that. I doubt Esquire would pay me to write about how 42-year-old men really aren’t that tragic or predatory any more, as long as they work out and don’t get too uppity.

It’s okay, I will just focus on my own tragedy, or lack of it, as soon as I go vegan and take up Pilates. What works for Cameron Diaz will no doubt also work for me.

All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.