Women are beautiful at every age, so why do people feel its a need to qualify your appearance ?
No one tells a 20, 30 or even 40 year old that they look beautiful for their age. And yet it happens, sometime after 40, there is an invisible beauty boundary that people cross where they feel the need to qualify their compliments or assessment of your appearance.
“The thing is, women are constantly given these backhanded compliments, which might as well have big fat asterisks at the end of them. In fact, according to a study from RoC, 82 percent of women have been told they look “great for their age” in the past year alone, though most say they’d rather not be complimented at all than given one with such a qualifier. While the intention of such comments may be good, they’re actually loaded with the implicit bias that being younger is better and that the recipient’s best years are behind her. In reality, a true compliment would sound like this: “You look great.” Period. RoC and Allure have teamed up with a group of gorgeous, accomplished women to explain why thinking twice before saying, “You look great for your age,” is so important.”(1)
I had this experience , yet again, the other day visiting my son at work. I settled in at my table and asked the waitress to please let her manager know I was there and wanted to speak with him. She said “who should I tell him is here?” I said “his mom.” She immediately seemed shocked and said “Wow, I didn’t know and you look so young for your age.” I quipped back with a funny line, I had him at ten or something. She then rambled on “ He is like 30 or something right, you still look great.” She continued on about good genes, cosmetics and I should go girl! I wanted to blurt out, what were you expecting a crone!
My son walked over in time to save her from my indignation. I told him what she said and he said “mom, I always say you look young.” At thirty something he didn’t quite get that “looking young” should not be the baseline for beauty. What will happen when I stop looking young, will I suddenly become something or someone else?
I know both were trying to compliment me, but at the same time, why is the expectation that the mom of a thirty something or more has to look or be old ? These types of compliments are a double edged sword. We all appreciate being flattered or complimented, why is there the need to add in “for your age “?
“Language matters. When talking about a woman over, say, 40, people tend to add qualifiers: “She looks great…for her age” or “She’s beautiful…for an older woman.” Catch yourself next time and consider what would happen if you just said, “She looks great.” Yes, Americans put youth on a pedestal. But let’s agree that appreciating the dewy rosiness of youth doesn’t mean we become suddenly hideous as years go by. “(2)
Getting older does not mean you’re still not beautiful inside and out. It does not mean that we have to accept being considered less because we have reached some time stamp with a cultural age bias on beauty. What it does mean is we are all aging gracefully!
I am convinced part of combating this is how we carry and counter these situations when we are faced with them. I choose to always have the heart and spirit of my twenty year old self with the wisdom and patience of my true years. This makes any woman a beautiful force to be reckoned with at any age.
For me, I simply smiled at my son and said I will take that martini now.