Ageism and Singlehood: Ask Amy Columnist

(Click the “more” link below to read the entire post.)

The woman responsible for writing the “Ask Amy” advice column (let’s call her “Amy”) issued an apology today, after receiving a lot of critical letters, although I have to say it wasn’t much of an apology.

(I will reproduce the “Ask Amy” letters much farther below.)

Amy’s apology came across as rather half-hearted and “jokey.” It would’ve helped if she was more contrite, serious, and sincere.

Amy does not seem to realize or care that it is possible to be critical of the “cougar” trend without insulting or degrading women who are over the age of 40.

I am still in my late 30s, but I find the ageism against women (and men) over age 40 appalling.

I agree with “Amy” that the cougar trend is “silly,” as she termed it – and even annoying. My rationale for thinking this way most likely differs from Amy’s, however.

There are several reasons I dislike the cougar trend, one of which is that those in the media who discuss the subject act as though they are utterly amazed, bewildered, and confused that anyone, anywhere would find a woman over the age of 40 attractive or desirable.

Those in the media tend to treat the entire topic as though it’s a circus sideshow, as though age 40+ women who are considered desirable and attractive are akin to the “freaks” in old carnival shows – an attitude which I find offensive.

Perhaps journalists feel shocked, confused, and astounded because they themselves are part of the decades-old advertising and cultural push to convince the American public that only women between the ages of 20 and 25 are hot, sexy, and desirable.

Maybe these journalists, writers, advertisers, and pundits are stunned that people, even 20-something males, are no longer buying into that premise and perhaps never fully did.

Taking Amy’s tone into account (and not just from today’s column, but from previous ones where’s she discussed this, and other, related issues), my impression is that she believes that people, especially women, cease being sexy once they reach age 35.

(Please note: I am not directly quoting Amy. I did not see her actually say that people over 35 are not sexy or should only wear frumpy clothing, but I am saying that given her tone and attitude towards people over age 35, that would seem to be how she feels.)

Amy seems to believe that once women reach age 35, they should wear nothing but baggy “mom jeans,” because, she apparently feels, anything stylish worn by a middle- aged woman would not be “age appropriate.”

Don’t get me wrong here. I do not believe that men or women past the age of 35 should continue to dress in the kind of clothing that one would usually see a 20 year old kid wearing.

However, unlike Amy, I do not think people cease being sexy at age 35 and need to hide their sexuality or that they need to wear frumpy, unflattering clothing.

I cannot fathom why so many in the media assume that ’20-something years old automatically = hotness.

How about British singer Amy Winehouse, who is, as I write this, around 27 years old, but due in part to her heavy drug (and alcohol?) use, ugly tattoos, and heavy make-up, appears to be going on age 78? (There are probably actual 78 year old women who look better than Winehouse does now at age 27 or 28.)

Winehouse is in her 20s but is not attractive or sexy.

Check out photos of 24- year- old American movie actress Lindsay Lohan, who, while she looks fine in some photos, in others, looks to be age 80.

Lohan has very deep lines and wrinkles in her forehead, which further makes her look much older than her age.

I am more than ten years Lohan’s senior, yet I don’t have any wrinkles on my face, and I have only one very faint laugh line on one side of my face. I look younger than she does, yet I am older.

In my opinion, Angelina Jolie, who is in her mid-30s, is far prettier than 24-year-old Lohan.

Forty-something year old actresses such as Courtney Cox, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams, Salma Hayek, and Terri Hatcher are hotter, sexier, and prettier than 24- year- old Lohan (or any 20-something, famous or not, one cares to name).

I know 40-something actor Brendan Fraiser recently put on a bit of weight and got chubby, but I still think he’s highly attractive, as is actor Hugh Jackman, who is in his early 40s.

I think that one’s attractiveness, especially physical attractiveness, has less to do with age than it does in maintenance: how well do you take care of yourself and present yourself to others?

Do you exercise regularly, watch how much you eat, dress fashionably?

Or have you gotten lazy or given up, and run around without first combing your hair in the morning?

Do you buy into ageist propaganda by the likes of “Ask Amy” that the only acceptable way for a woman over age 35 to dress is in a shapelss, frumpy mumu and to behave as though you’re a humorless, stuffy 100 year old?

If you’re a woman, have you given up applying make-up before you go to church, your job, and other places?

If you neglect your appearance and don’t put effort into it, you’re going to look hideous, regardless of your age.

Over my lifetime, from the time I was a teen through my 20s, and now in my 30s, I have seen ugly, unattractive, or slobby 20-somethings. The lesson? Twenty-somethings do not own the market on hot, sexy, fashionable and attractive.

Here is the Ask Amy column where Amy offered a weak apology:

Dear Amy: I was seriously offended and disappointed by your response to “Experienced.”

When she wrote, “When I was 20, guys in their late 30s were mad for me. Now that I’m in my 30s, it’s the 50- year-olds. I can’t wait to see who I have to fend off when I’m 40,” you replied, “The answer to who you’ll have to fend off when you’re 40 is … practically no one.”

“Experienced” may be fending off 20-year-olds when she is 40 for all that you know, especially since the “cougar” is now running rampant! I found this response to be mean and inconsiderate! — Disappointed

Dear Disappointed: Scores of angry “cougars” have pounced on me for my answer to “Experienced.” All of these women want to assure me that age has only made them more awesome.

I was making a joke. I may be the only middle-age woman who finds this “cougar” nonsense embarrassing.

Of course Amy heard from “scores” of angry older ladies, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some males wrote her to tell her how wrong she is too.

I normally try to avoid reading Amy’s advice column because most of the time, Amy is offensive, rude, and insensitive when responding to people, but I live in a town with a very skimpy entertainment section: her column is basically the only thing they print, other than gardening tips and a comics page.

I bet all the Debbie Makens and “marriage mandate” advocates out there are equally upset by the new cultural fad of people being more open to admit that people over the age of 35 are hot, because this flies against their arguments that people should get married by the time they’re 25 years old because, their flawed and insulting reasoning goes, once you hit age 26, nobody will find you sexy, so you’ll never get married.

More and more women are having babies at age 40 and older these days too, which also goes against the arguments of the “marriage mandate” crowd that once you hit age 35, all your eggs dry up, and you’ll always be infertile.

I just saw a news article not too long ago, as a matter of fact, that said that women age 40 and older are more likely to be first time mothers these days precisely because such women have been programmed by the media and the fear mongerers (such as ‘Marriage Mandaters’) to believe that only women ages 20 to 35 can get easily pregnant.

The result:

Such women therefore stop taking birth control (they figure, ‘what’s the point in using birth control, since so many people say women over 40 cannot get pregnant’) -and wham bam, these 40 and up women get pregnant.

Here’s a British article that discusses the trend of more and more women becoming first time mothers at 40 and older; this article is from May 2010: Mothers Over 40 in Record Baby Boom

From the article:

In America, births to mothers over 40 are running higher than at any time since the Sixties – but British over-40s are still a third more likely to have a child.

I’m in my late 30s, and I find some men in their 40s attractive (the ones who take care of themselves, who don’t let themselves go and develop huge “beer guts,” etc).

I also see plenty of 40-something (or even older) females, both in real life and in Hollywood, who are absoluley lovely, and I see more and more people of all age groups who feel the same way…

All of which helps me to tune out the ageist “Ask Amy” types of the world, and the “Marriage Mandaters” who love to use scare tactics on people (i.e., “You better get married by the time you’re 25, or your eggs will dry up and no man will ever want you!!”)

Edit, July 24:

Today,the paper printed this letter in the Ask Amy column:

Dear Amy: I had to respond when you quipped to a woman in her 30s: “Who will pursue you when you are 40? Practically no one.”

I am a 52-year-old single male. When I was in my mid- to late 40s, I pursued many women in their 40s. They all had their “deal breakers.”

I wasn’t religious enough, I didn’t have a dog, I drank more than two beers per week.

If women in their 40s would relax their “deal breakers,” they might find a man out there who cares for them.

— Kelly from Chicago

Dear Kelly: Amen, brother.

So, “Ask Amy” not only previously offered an insincere- sounding apology to women ages 40 and up the last time she insulted them, but here she is about a week later printing a letter from an older guy who is being critical of women age 40+. Does Ask Amy just hate women over age 40 or what?

A note to “Kelly from Chicago:” I’d rather remain single than lower my standards. (Not that I would personally turn a guy down just because he has two beers a week or won’t get a pet dog, but to each her own.)

Why do people always lecture single women to ‘stop being picky,’ or ‘drop the deal breakers,’ but men almost never get that lecture?

Why are women expected to “just settle” but balding, middle- aged men are not told how unrealistic and gross it is for them to try scoring with 23 year old women who look like Barbie?

Jan 22, 2011 Update

Just in the past two months, I’ve heard of more women over the age of 40 getting pregnant or having babies.

Just recently in the news was a story about an abortion provider named Dr. Gosnell. One woman who died due to Dr Gosnell’s filthy, germ-infested medical establishment and his incompetence was a pregnant 41 year old woman named Karnamaya Mongar who came to him for a late term abortion. You can read about her ordeal here:

Dr Kermit Gosnell ‘killed babies’ at abortion clinic

While watching the TV show “Life Today” hosted by a Christian couple, the husband, whose first name is James, mentioned that he was the product of rape: he said his mother was raped and became pregnant with him when she was 41 or 42 years old.

Apparently, women getting pregnant in their 40s, or giving birth to their own biological child successfully in their 40s, happens more frequently than one would think.

Related post at this blog:


Post by a different blogger about Ask Amy’s obnoxious attitude towards older women:

All About Arliss: What’s With the Advice Columnist Ask Amy?

Related post at this blog:

Ageism and Singlehood

3 thoughts on “Ageism and Singlehood: Ask Amy Columnist”

  1. I don’t really understand why you spent your post discussing infertility, since that was really only a tangent to my original post.

    The overall point of my post is that people are ageist (especially against females), and you displayed that very attitude in your own reply.

    As far as child bearing in later ages goes, I only raised it in my original post to buttress my views against the “marriage mandaters” who try to scare people into getting married before they turn age 26.

    Some people are not going to be fortunate to find and marry their true love before they reach age 26.

    It is a fact (as links to news articles in my post show) that more and more women are waiting until their late 30s or early 40s to have their first child.

    And regardless of whether these older ladies use fertility clinics to help induce conception/pregnancy or not, they are in fact having children later, and these kids are turning out okay.

    As for me, I’ve always been ambivalent about having children.

    I’m neither strongly for or against having my own biological children, but I see more and more articles reporting that most women are putting off child bearing until their later years, and their kids are turning out healthy and okay.

    You said, “All in a desperate race to have a child because they ignored their biological clock long past their sell by date….”

    First of all, do you have any clue how offensive the phrase “sell by date” is?

    I am not a product. I am not a bottle of milk on a store shelf.

    I’m not spoiled, ruined, bad, or undesirable just because I’m over the age of 35.

    Not all women are “ignoring” their biological clock, as you seem to imply.

    I’ve been aware of my biological clock going back to my twenties, and most women are.

    The problem is, meeting “Mr. Right” is very difficult.

    I did not place my career above getting married, either. Nor am I a feminist who hates all men. (Those are other false assumptions people tend to make about never married women who are over 35.)

    I did not choose to be single at my age.

    I just never met the right guy.

  2. Unfortunately a woman’s fertility begins to wane and fade away when she turns twenty-six and for most women it becomes next to impossible to conceive in their late thirties and early forties. While those who do have a much higher increase of delivering a genetically defective child just as Sarah Palin did. Hence these are the very females who are fueling the rise of the fertility clinics all across the western world and paying the salaries of the Dr.’s who operate them. All in a desperate race to have a child because they ignored their biological clock long past their sell by date….

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