Here’s a great letter that a reader wrote to me recently. It brings up so many great issues — for younger women, older women, pretty women and women who worry whether they’ll stay pretty:
Hi Dr. Alex,
I’m depressed, bummed (child of 70s) and I need help. At least I hope you read this…
Some background: I’m from Nashville, an only child, and looking back I realize I did have a charmed background. I’m not rich but my parents gave me what I wanted.
Honestly, I knew I was drop dead gorgeous. And I thought it would last forever. Now, I’m over 50 – 56, actually. It sounds old to even write it. I’m in Tennessee, did I mention that? Key point — people in the South get married after high school. I’m still attractive but with wrinkles, etc!
So, I’ve been on the dating sites – and I have to admit most men over 50 are old in their heads. They don’t do this or that, just because – so they tell me. Absurd to me, so I tend to be attracted to anyone that doesn’t look old and act old.
But, bottom line is it doesn’t matter what I’m attracted to ’cause I think all men see is that number, and it is over 50. It’s like you’re 49 and 23 hours and one hour later, making 356th day, you hit 50 and the world has stopped and you’re ready for the grave. It’s crazy the way the US thinks of 50 plus, and it’s a fact I’m not dealing with well. Somewhere on this planet there must be someone, some age, within reason, that still is young at heart and acts that way, too. Plus, it helps if they have good genes and haven’t gotten a pot stomach like so many down here (think Budweiser). Gross.
I’ve read that in Europe older, over-35 women are admired and cherished – not here. Someone somewhere has got to get past the number and see me. It would take a long time to try and explain how I got here, single, and I’ve spent the last 2 years coming to grips with it and getting past the anger, though every once in a while that still creeps in, big time.
So, that might have been something someone “heard” – but not now. Just the 56. You say we are supposed to be happy, and blah blah, I know what everyone thinks, but reality is I’m really not. So, I’m wiritng with it all out there. I probably should be sending you 100.00 just for answering this email, if you have time. This is a huge imposition on my part so perhaps too, an apology is in order, for your time. At any rate, what I’ve seen and read from you strikes home more so than anyone else out there.
Thanks for the letter, Sherilyn! In general, the short ones with a specific question tend to get a quicker answer. In fact the German word for letter is Brief, hint hint :)
You didn’t really have a specific question, so I’m just going to bring some things to your attention here.
Now that it’s been over a week, re-read the letter you sent me. Notice that the darkness in it is pretty unrelenting. I’m detecting contempt for where you live and its people, contempt for their values, contempt for yourself and your age, for potbellies, for non-European attitudes, how you’re an imposition on my time, etc etc.
We need to stop that immediately. It’s okay to go a little dark every once in a while. And going 100% Pollyanna isn’t the solution either. However, indulging in the darkness and wallowing in self-pity indefinitely is a Very Bad Idea.
This letter isn’t just an apology for being old and wrinkly, as you put it — it’s sounds more like an apology for living. We tend to get more of what we focus on, and we’re responsible for creating our own world, mostly according to our beliefs. So if you’re convinced that you’re undeserving and unappealing, then that’s the most likely outcome.
Now, let’s get down to the facts: attractiveness is the name human males give for the outward signs of fertility in a woman. Naked mole rats don’t think Heidi Klum is attractive; evolution has rigged things such that human brains find certain proxies for fertility — eg clear taut skin, youth — appealing. When the woman is no longer fertile, those proxies go away. Things wrinkle, sag, widen, rearrange in inconvenient ways.
At the same time, the deterioration of those surface proxies for fertility have nothing to do with the development of your soul. In fact, the more time you have on this earth, the more opportunity you have to grow through meditation, devotion and open-hearted service. Many women attain a glow and beauty in their older age that they couldn’t possibly possess in their 20s and 30s, when they were at the height of their physical beauty.
Here’s what I suspect is going on in this particular case: the only stuff that can come out of someone is what’s already in there. So if you’ve got a torrent of contempt coming out of you, it’s because it’s always been there. It was masked until now, since things had gone reasonably well. Now that the youth and beauty have diminished, it’s manifesting as anger.
My observation is that many gifted people — ‘drop dead gorgeous’ people amongst them — tend to have an underlying contempt for those who aren’t nearly as gifted as themselves. They use their accidental gift as an excuse to beat people down. Because of their appearance (or smarts, or athletic prowess), they always have attention so don’t realize that they have a problem. Moreover, they’re always getting positive reinforcement for whatever they’re doing, so they’re under the illusion that they have a working strategy.
This works for a few decades, during which they’re unconsciously cultivating contempt and ego-based strategies for relating to people. There’s also an opportunity cost here: they have put less time and energy into developing themselves as conscious human beings. Open-heartedness, selfless service, joy, elevating others – these are skills that are cultivated over time. You don’t practice them, you don’t get better at them.
What happens is that one day, some of these pretty people wake up and realize, “Holy cow. I’m not pretty anymore, and I’m lonely, and I have no idea what to do to fix that.” Because they haven’t developed the skills for heart-based connection for the past 20-30 years, they have no idea what to do. They become bitter and angry at the world that seems to have taken away their power for good.
Some resort to plastic surgery, dieting or other ineffective surface measures to get their power back. They don’t realize that no matter how much they change the wrapping paper, the gift contents won’t change. These people can remain unfulfilled for a long time.
Unless they wake up in time. Then they realize that they have a choice: at any moment of any day, they have the power to make people around them feel fantastic. A word of appreciation, a helping hand, a devoted glance — that’s often all it takes to raise someone from ho-hum or beaten down to fantastic.
Don’t be mistaken — this is real power. My definition of real power is ‘power that cannot be taken away from you.’ Status, phyiscal beauty, riches — those can be taken away in a moment. Spiritual beauty, on the other hand, is yours to keep, and yours to share forever.
So go ahead and dare to be the light. Make men (and women) around you feel fantastic. When you do that, you will start to glow. And the good men will have no choice but to notice.
I also want to examine briefly a couple of other popular issues Sherilyn brings up.
So, I’ve been on the dating sites – and I have to admit most men over 50 are old in their heads.
This is classic poverty-consciousness. Other versions of this: Men in their 20s are immature. Men in their 30s are too career-minded or just want to play. All the good ones are taken.
Poverty-consciousness, or the scarcity mindset, is the polar opposite of practicing abundance, which is the most important of the 5 themes of The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible.
For every 50yr old man who feels old, there’s another one running for Congress and climbing Mt Everest. Your job, Sherilyn, is to work on yourself and be the most radiant, open-hearted version of yourself so when Mr Right comes along, he notices you’re ready. If the sign outside says ‘Closed’, people ain’t gonna knock, so make sure the sign says ‘Open!’.
Besdies, radiance and open-heartedness are their own reward. It just feels better that way.
But, bottom line is it doesn’t matter what I’m attracted to ’cause I think all men see is that number, and it is over 50.
Let me ask you: does thinking this way make you feel young or old? Which do you prefer? Go with the story that makes you feel better. You beliefs determine your experience.
Plus, it helps if they have good genes and haven’t gotten a pot stomach like so many down here (think Budweiser). Gross.
So let’s say a young-at-heart, handome, super-successful man comes long who abolutely adores you and gets along with you famously — but he has a pot belly. Would you say ‘gross’ and walk away?
Ladies — make sure the criteria you have for selecting a companion serve your long-term fulfillment, not the other way around. You may be shocked and amazed that 30% of married women report not even liking their future husband when they first met, let alone finding him attractive.
As a woman, you have the unique gift of reconfiguring your brain to make a guy who makes you feel good look good (guys aren’t quite so versatile). This is straight out of The Tao of Dating for Women, Ch. 5, ‘Understanding Men, Understanding Yourself’, p. 88. If for some utterly unfathomable reason you haven’t read the book yet, it’s time to get yourself a Christmas present.
Be the light,
Wow, Alex, I couldn't agree with you more here. Sherilyn is not living in abundance mode. I am 55 years old, and I have NO trouble meeting men. I'm actually having better luck with this NOW, because I attract the right kind of men for ALL of me, not just those who are attracted to my outer beauty.
That being said, I think women who are beautiful often grow up with that as their only “skill.” Later in life, they are severely handicapped when it comes to attracting men, because they have not developed any other attributes or depth as a person.
Also, beautiful women often accustomed to downplaying their radiance or sexuality to keep players at bay. They are often not even aware that they are doing this.
Age is a function of vitality and energy, not a number.
That being said, according to the 2000 US Census, Nashville has 193,ooo unmarried men to 230,000 unmarried women, a ratio of .84:1. So Sherilyn has a choice. She can move to somewhere like Jacksonville, NC, where there are two unmarried guys for every one woman. Or she can let go of her limiting beliefs and refuse to be a statistic right where she is, in Nashville, TN.
I am a “hot”, very active, attractive 66 year old woman. Wheehoo! I glow from inner peace. I am grateful for all I have, ( including some wrinkles,) and all that I can do. I am comfortable in my own sin (whoops, that's too funny. I meant skin! *wink*)
I am friends with my sons' friends, around age 40. We hike, ski, kayak, bike, jam the blues etc, together. I look and act young. Most of my friends are younger, as well. It just happened that way.
So, here's the deal…I am been told by some that I need to drop my age down a decade. So, on Match.com, I am 59. I feel guilty about that and yet, I have attracted more men in the 58-69 age range, and have had lots more “hits”. I tell them my age when I feel it is approprite.
Others say it's starting off on the wrong foot. I never would have done that before. I just want an active, fit partner and so many men whom I could be interested in are looking for women younger than themselves. I don't want to start out with someone who doesn't have a shot at the same level of fitness and health as me. Maybe aged based websites are not a good venue. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Thanks Dr. A.