Everyone has heard the term “damaged goods” before. If a woman has affairs, emotional trauma, or simply ages, she is no longer seen as eligible for love. Men, however, are enticing no matter their age or history. This concept is so common that it has become ingrained as a fact. Men can be loved at any age, but women have an ‘expiry date.’ Why is this? And how has this not been addressed before?
Something’s Gotta Give
This perception hit me when I watched the movie Something’s Gotta Give a few days ago. 63-year-old Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson) dates 29-year-old Marin Klein (Amanda Peet). They take a getaway trip to the Hamptons over a long weekend, not expecting Marin’s mother, Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), to be there. She shows up, and a romance between Erica and Harry ensues. I would definitely recommend the movie, but it does bring up some very real themes in ageism. Harry proclaims that he only dates women under thirty. He declares all this without acknowledging his appalling opinions and character.
The ‘aging out’ effect
One of the most hilarious (and accurate) scenes was when Erica’s sister, Zoe, described the ‘aging out’ effect to Harry:
“Let’s take you and Erica. You’ve been around the block a few times. What are you, around sixty? Sixty-three. Fantastic! Never married. Which as we know, if you were a woman, would be a curse. You’d be an old maid, a spinster. Blah, blah, blah. So instead of pitying you, they write an article about you. Celebrate your never marrying. You’re elusive and ungetable, a real catch.“
Zoe then describes her sister, a nationally accomplished playwright. Despite her incredible achievements, men choose younger girls every time. Harry is a sleazy magazine and music label owner but gets his number one pick every time. She sums up the ‘aging out’ effect perfectly, exclaiming,
“The over-fifty dating scene is geared towards men leaving older women out. And as a result, the women become more and more productive and therefore, more and more interesting. Which, in turn, makes them even less desirable because as we all know, men- especially older men- are threatened and afraid of productive, interesting women. It is just so clear!“
“Single older women as a demographic are about as fucked a group as can ever exist.”
Here it is, the most impeccable explanation of older toxic masculinity. Society accepts the man’s desires without question while the woman attains no romantic priority. If you watch this film, Harry seems ‘out of touch’ and excessive as a character. He is distinctly accurate to bachelors everywhere.
The masculine way
The Los Angeles Times detailed this commonality in men when interviewing Andy Myers, the president of ‘The Network Club.’ This company was a beginning outlet for romance to occur in the 1990s like online dating today. When asked about bachelor profiles, he summed his older male bachelor clients’ picky requirements in totality. When choosing women, “They claim they are looking for marriage, but they are looking for perfection. They will get close, then find something wrong. They are generally very critical. They are fours looking for tens. They’re very selfish.”
Even though this article came out thirty years ago, the masculine motivations are spot on. Their narcissistic nature is so present that they cannot imagine anyone else’s needs. Their way is the only way. This is not the only reason for all men to be bachelors. However, this behavior is easy to detect in self-centered ones.
The occupation of marriage
The historic beginnings of this preference goes back to gender equality. I loved books like Pride and Prejudice, as I know plenty of people do. However, Jane Austen does expose the realities of marriage at that time. The romance was a lovely consequence of marriage, but it was not the main focus. Since women could not hold a job, the joining of two individuals was a monetary contract in its purest form. As Louise May Alcott put it in Little Women, it was an “economic proposition.” We know this from the specimen that is Mr. Darcy; women authors create the best male love interests.
Because of this male-centered environment, these bachelors are astonished when met with preferences other than their own. The first step to take is stopping the objectification of women (but quite a tremendous step to take). It is human nature to focus on physical appearance, but it cannot be the only characteristic perceived. Human qualities and experiences are the most critical. We need to meet these men’s opinions with accountability and change.