Last week, I had a much-needed moms’ day out (sans kids!) with a couple of my best friends. We had lunch, we shopped, we got manicures…the whole nine yards. It was amazing!
And, like I said, much needed.
During the course of the day, we chatted about all the things: keeping up with housework and career and everything else, potty training, spending/saving money, and on and on…as mamas tend to do when they get together without the hubbies or kids.
But one comment was made that I can’t seem to get out of my head. As the three of us talked about how often we have mani/pedis and hair appointments and how much we spend on skincare, one of my friends revealed just how she keeps her husband off her back about the money all this self-care costs:
“I just ask him if he wants me to let myself go. After all, he’s the one who has to live with me.” I’m paraphrasing a bit, but that was the gist of it. And we all had a good laugh because, well, it was funny.
Until it wasn’t.
Because something about that innocent, witty comment just kept nagging at me, and it wasn’t until a couple days later that I realized what.
Men’s Aging vs. Women’s Aging: Letting Yourself Go
That thing that took me a while to put my finger on was this: Why is it that, as women, we’ve “let ourselves go” simply if we don’t get mani/pedis regularly, have our hair done at an expensive salon a few times a year, or spend insane amounts of money on skincare products every month?
And, more importantly, why aren’t men held to the same standards? Nobody ever comments about a man “letting himself go.” I mean, OK, maybe occasionally. But not nearly as often as it happens with women. Instead, men are called “distinguished” and “handsome” as they age - gray hair (or bald head), “dad bod,” and all.
What is up with that?!
You don’t see men rushing to the salon every six weeks on the dot to cover their grays, or slathering expensive creams all over their faces twice a day. Nope. Not happenin’.
Why is that? Because there’s no pressure for them to look model-perfect at every single stage of life.
It’s OK for a man to have fine lines around his eyes. It makes him look dignified. Nobody cares if a man’s cuticles are neat. After all, he works hard with those hands. A man loses his hair? Now he’s even more attractive because he looks like Vin Diesel or Jason Statham or Bruce Willis.
But us ladies…well, we spin around in never-ending circles just to keep up with it all.
On top of trying to be the most beautiful and youngest-looking versions of ourselves - which takes a TON of work and money - we’ve gotta maintain a spotless home at all times, excel at work, do complicated crafts with the kids, and, of course, be physically and emotionally available for our husbands anytime they need us.
It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.
The Pressure To Not Get Caught “Letting Yourself Go”
This leads me to wonder: where is all this pressure coming from? I’m just gonna go ahead and say right now that I don’t think it’s our husbands.
As much as we do a lot of these things to please our spouses (especially if you’re a natural people-pleaser like me), I honestly don’t believe they care about some of it as much as we think they do.
For example, my husband has seen me at my absolute worst. I’m talkin’ no makeup, leg hair as long as tall grass, dark under-eye circles, bad morning breath, etc., etc. Not to mention being with me during two pregnancies and the resulting c-sections. None of that is pretty.
But, somehow, he still finds me desirable. He still loves me. Does it sometimes blow him away when I actually get dressed up, fix my hair, and put on makeup? Yeah, or so I think. Yet even when I look disgusting, he sees my intelligence, my love for our children, my dedication to him. My soul.
And while he certainly doesn’t have a problem with me having my hair done or getting occasional mani/pedis because he knows those things make me happy (I mean, who doesn’t love being pampered?), he doesn’t expect me to meet some impossible standard.
The same is true of our home. I’ve discovered that having a messy house usually bothers me more than it bothers him. In fact, if I were a betting woman, I’d say he’d rather me sit down with him on the couch every evening and binge watch our favorite shows than worry about doing the dishes.
And, if I were a betting woman, I’d say most husbands out there are pretty much the same. Even men who like a clean house and an attractive wife aren’t going to stop loving their women if they sometimes fall short.
So then, again I ask, where is this pressure coming from?
I want to say society…but isn’t society made up of men and women? If husbands aren’t the source of the pressure, then is it the unmarried men? Maybe. Or maybe…it’s us.
Maybe it’s our desire to compete with other women. To have the best hair, the best skin, the best nails, the best house. Maybe it’s our inner desire to be desired, to be valued.
Don’t get me wrong. I am ALL FOR taking care of yourself. I truly believe there are mental and physical benefits to being pampered every once in a while and doing things that make you feel better about yourself. Am I personally gonna stop having my hair done or getting manicures every once in a while or looking for amazing skincare options to erase my wrinkles? Nope.
But still…it makes me wonder. Have we been sabotaging ourselves and jeopardizing our own sanity all these years just to keep up appearances, and then blaming it on men?
If not, then why do we refuse to “let ourselves go,” all the while finding men of a certain age “distinguished”?