May 4, 2021

The Hypocrisy of Beauty: Our Unwritten Set of Rules for Men & Women.

They drove by in their Mercedes convertible on a beautiful Friday morning, the sun shining on them like a spotlight.

They commanded my attention.

These two were the poster children for aging gracefully.

He was blessed with a full head of white hair and looked somewhat rugged in a scruffy beard. Men become distinguished as they gray, while women run to the salon for a touch-up. His low maintenance version of grooming is a style that has gained popularity during the pandemic.

He rocked a pair of hip sunglasses, and he was ready to roll. He may have splashed some water on his face when he woke up, and perhaps a dab of aftershave behind his ears. Oh the irony of it all—skip the shave, but slap on the aftershave anyway. We do love when our men smell good.

She sat in the passenger seat. Was she his wife, girlfriend, or daughter? This is South Florida. It is never wise to assume. You know what they say about those who ass-u-me.

Her hair was jet black. It would appear that she was very much his junior, though my guess is that they were actually quite close in age. She may or may not have recently colored her hair to maintain that particular shade. Her personal formula may be locked up in a vault, only to be shared with her consent permission. She likely visits her colorist every two to three weeks to maintain this standard of youth. While “going gray” has become a trend during quarantine, it remains the exception rather than the rule.

She’s likely had her eyebrows waxed or threaded within the last few weeks and may have squeezed in a facial or injections, if time allowed. She definitely has a standing weekly manicure and pedicure appointment, but then again, so do I.

My encounter with them was like two ships passing in the day. On further inspection, I may have been able to tell if her lips had been plumped recently or her chin had been tucked. If done well, none of us could tell. She appeared to be wearing a full face of makeup that was applied to look like she wasn’t wearing any at all…think Ivory girl.

I’ll crank my imagination up to the next level. I saw them only from the chest up, but if I had to guess, I’d say that this distinguished older gentleman was plump in his middle—the kind of plumping that doesn’t come as the result of an injection.

We tend to give some men a pass on having the perfect body, with more focus on his perfect wallet. I fondly recall a friend describing a man she was dating. She wasn’t comfortable with his lack of height; he was shorter than she was. Mind you, he may have been the greatest man ever born, but the height difference was an obstacle she wasn’t getting over. One day, her mother told her just to think about how tall he was when he stood on his wallet.

Let’s suppose that she prioritizes whatever activities keep her in tip-top shape. She may have taken a Peloton class or two this morning before they hopped in the car. Perhaps her yoga instructor came over for a private as the sun came up, or she took a run along the ocean.

She might have shaved her underarms and her legs. For whatever reason, our culture embraces a man for having facial and body hair, yet we judge when a woman is bold enough to do the same. We love a man with a six o’clock shadow, don’t we?

We aren’t enamored with the vision of a woman with whiskers. We have come to categorize men’s facial hair as a fashion accessory. If a woman dared to forego maintenance of her bikini line, people would look away in disgust. It’s possible “Ms. Beautiful” plucked a stray gray from her brow and may have discreetly removed a lone hair above her lip or worse even, under her chin.

When did our culture make such different rules about men and women’s appearance? When’s the last time you saw a man wearing Spanx, a push-up bra, or control top panty hose?

1. Do they even make such torture devices for men? No!

2. How funny would it be to watch a man’s reaction to trying them on? I’m thinking this could be a future “Saturday Night Live” sketch.

Do you suppose that Adam pulled a compact out of his loincloth to check his lipstick before eating the forbidden fruit? Not a chance—but I’ll bet Eve made sure she didn’t have lipstick on her teeth before taking a bite out of that fateful apple. She probably even checked her teeth afterward.

Who do you think is responsible for creating the custom of carrying a purse? Where else could she possibly have tucked away her makeup?

I recently binge-watched “Bridgerton” on Netflix. I was fascinated that the men wore clothing every bit as ornate as the women. I watched “The Great” immediately to follow. This was a story ever-so-loosely based on Catherine the Great in Russia. The women and men of privilege had servants dressing them. There was equal and extraordinary attention given to proper undergarments and elaborate displays of color, texture, and jewels for both genders. Fast forward through the commercials a few centuries, and notice that we now dress for success or to impress.

Translation: we dress for others rather than ourselves.

It is my humble opinion that as a society, we place limited expectations on men’s appearance—in both grooming and clothing choices. Women’s beauty standards are extensive, expensive, and excessive. Bazillions of dollars are spent annually to help us fall in love with who we see looking back at us in the mirror.

What would happen if women woke up one day and just accepted themselves for who they are and how they look? The beauty industry would be bankrupted instantly. The End.

These two 60-somethings were the quintessential picture of living the dream. A simple glance in their direction and look what stirred up for me—a volcano of indignant self-inspection and introspection.

I’m certainly not volunteering to be the first woman in my friend circle to stop shaving. I can promise you I won’t fire my colorist. She’s listed in my cell as “guru.” I have been going to her for 25 years. I’m as guilty as anyone of scheduling self-care on my calendar. Aren’t we supposed to?

This is not what I mean when I say in my yoga class that we we should put ourselves on the calendar.

I would categorize myself as low to no maintenance, as I believe my husband would—the true litmus test. Think of the time and money that could be saved if we all took one month off from the pursuit of beauty. If we took the year off, I believe we could end world hunger. Come to think of it, most of us did take 2020 off—one of the silver linings of the devastating impact COVID-19 has had. Note: I said silver, not gray! 

At 58, I still leave the house without makeup, often. I’ve never had Botox or “work” done. I may be pushing the envelope but until I scare someone, I’ll keep doing what I’ve always done. I’m intrigued by people who pay to have alterations to their appearance but want it to remain a secret.

Are we ashamed that we drink from the fountain of youth? And they think Starbucks is expensive!

“What are little boys made of? Frogs, snails, and puppy-dogs’ tails. That’s what little boys are made of. What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.”

It’s a curious culture we live in—one set of unwritten, universally understood rules for men, and another altogether for the women.

We’re all guilty of getting sucked in, whether big or small.

It’s just a clear cut case of, what’s good for the goose is clearly not good for the gander. Honk!


Read 18 Comments and Reply

Read 18 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Cathy Rosenberg  |  Contribution: 38,495

author: Cathy Rosenberg

Image: JJ Jordan/Pexels

Editor: Lisa Erickson