Since I’ve been home for the holidays, I’ve availed myself of my mom’s People magazine collection. Actually, she doesn’t buy People very often. She mostly likes the year-end roundups – and, as I noticed this week, the “World’s Hottest Men” issue.
I guess I’m my mother’s daughter, because I like hot men, too. But darn it – of People’s 110 picks, there were just two men older than me who rated individual features: George Clooney (48) and Alec Baldwin (51). Then there were two pages of miniscule pictures devoted to the theme of “hot at any age,” which included one man for every age, up through Gabriel Byrne at 59. So that added another 10 “older”men who were in their fifties. They were quite evidently only included to make the politically correct point that men over 50 can be handsome, provided you only look at tiny headshots that don’t cross the dangerous threshold of 59, after which all hotness apparently plunges off a cliff. It’s a pity, because the aged-59 slot was occupied by Gabriel Byrne, whom I rather like and would prefer not to see fall off a precipice.
Now, I’m not actively averse to People’s number 1 hottie, Johnny Depp, who’s just my age (46). I positively adore Robert Downey, Jr. (44 but perpetually endangered), and I plan to enjoy him for as long as he can stay alive and out of rehab. Harry Connick (42) is charming and a pretty decent musician. George Clooney (48) is sexy, smart, and classy. Any list that includes him can’t be all wrong.
Otherwise, though, I wasn’t taken by the list so much as taken aback. Suddenly, it seems as though men, too, have to be young to be hot. Or maybe it wasn’t so sudden, and I just wasn’t paying attention? And what’s with all the hair product, fer goodness’ sake? Since when did plastic become sexy? Dudes who wear more hair gloop than I should just go ahead and get themselves laminated.
I’m still all in favor of women enjoying men’s visual charms, but if boy toys now must be actual boys, we’re all going to miss out on a lot of fun and beauty. And yet, that appears to be the trend. A few months ago, I groused about how the young blokes featured in Filament magazine were, well, very young. I’m now starting to grasp where they fit in the overall pantheon of contemporary male beauty. They rock more of an alt-aesthetic, but their general youthfulness is actually perfectly mainstream. (Suraya of Filament pointed out in comments to a later post that they plan to include more older models in future issues. I think that’s a wonderful plan, and I also admire the thoughtfulness Suraya’s investing in Filament’s development.)
Of course the tyranny of youth is nothing new for women. But while turnaround may be fair play, it’s not fun play. It’s limiting for heterosexual women and men, alike. In my mid-forties, I really dig men a few years older (as well as a few years younger). But with the fifty-plus men already mostly disqualified from hotness, what will I do when I’m a randy old gal in my seventies? My mother (who’s north of 70, herself) agrees with me that George Clooney is the bee’s knees. It’d be lovely if he could inspire a new appreciation not only for older men’s charms – as, in fact, I thought Paul Newman had already done – and for older women’s sexiness, too. And yes, at least some men appreciate women over forty and fifty. Just to pick one data point, my husband digs Sandra Bullock and Madonna as much as ever.
So what would it take to turn the trend around, and celebrate our potential for sexiness at every age, for every gender? Short of a revolution in which we seize control of the media, that is?