There’s something that’s bothering me.
Last year when we were having dinner in an upscale city restaurant, you commented about our friend’s appearance in a way that made me immediately uncomfortable. You said she was looking old. It wasn’t just a passing comment, there were unmistakable tones of judgement and scorn. Letting yourself go is not an acceptable thing and she could be doing something about it.
I pointed out to you that she is a 51-year-old woman who looks like a 51-year-old woman. What do you expect? As the indignant voice in my head said, “Have you had a good look at yourself lately?”
Our friend is still striking at her age and in good shape, but she’s chosen to commit the cardinal sin of choosing to no longer dye her grey hair. She has brown pigmentation on her face, as do many men and women our age. As I do. As you do too, my love.
I’m a similar age to our friend but I choose to spend money on my hair. “Quite a lot of money,” in your words last night.
I also have chosen this year to spend “quite a lot of money” on trying to get rid of those other signs of ageing, the brown pigmentation on my face and the stray hairs on my chin. To hold the inevitable signs of ageing at bay.
I know for certain that if I chose to let my hair grow out grey and let the brown pigments continue unchallenged that you would start to think of me in the same way. That you would start to think that I’m looking old and that I could be “looking after myself better.” That you would start to feel less proud of me on your arm when we go out together.
I’m also sure that I would start to suffer in the business world as well, as so much of our value as a woman is placed on our looks.
I am as conditioned as you, and everyone else is, to have such high expectations of myself.
Beauty as a woman is loaded with so many societal standards and with it comes the labour and financial burden that men just don’t have to bear.
You are a 53-year-old man who looks like a 53-year-old man. Your hair is grey, and you also have some pigmentation on your skin, along with wrinkles and other signs of ageing that is normal for someone your age.
Yet no one is passing judgement on you. You don’t have a constant stream of advertising in your face everyday demanding you look younger and more beautiful. Telling you no matter how you look, it’s not good enough and to change yourself to please the eyes that happen to fall on you. You can get away with a short haircut every 3 weeks at the barber shop where your hair is cut by the first available employee. Fifteen minutes later you’re good to go.
It’s not fair, but there you go. It’s not fair.
Welcome to the world of beauty double standards. You comment about how expensive it is to get my hair done, totally oblivious that there is a cost to maintaining beauty and to living up to what you and the rest of society deem as acceptable for a woman. As my life partner, this impacts on our joint finances whether you realise or not.
The catalyst for this conversation was whether hair appointments should be in the budget as joint spending or taken from our individual spending money. Should I expect your money to subsidise my beauty? Social conditioning says no but what is the reality?
I guess the question is, how important is it to you that I, as your partner, maintain my appearance and “look after myself?” Would you be OK with the consequences of me not going to these appointments? I certainly wouldn’t be OK with it, I wouldn’t feel myself. And my take is that no, you wouldn’t be OK with it either.
*Author’s name has been changed. All photos posed by models.