Friday 21 October 2016

Men aren't supposed to worry about looking older, are they?

Colette Brown

Published 11/04/2014 | 02:30

Marty Whelan
Marty Whelan

Women in media have long been expected to defy nature and remain perpetually young but men are not immune to popular culture's tyranny of youth.

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Yesterday, it was reported that Marty Whelan has been dropped from Tesco ads with comedian Dermot Whelan (40) replacing him.

Meanwhile, it was manbags at dawn in RTE last month as rumours swirled that Whelan is about to be replaced as 'Winning Streak' presenter by another younger model – Marty Morrissey.

According to the grapevine, the theory is that 50-something Whelan fails to connect with young audiences while 50-something Morrissey will have them glued to their TVs.

No, I don't understand it either. If Whelan shaved off his moustache and started using sun beds, the two would be virtually indistinguishable.

While RTE has downplayed the reports, saying they're just speculation, it has conceded that Morrissey has fronted a pilot for a new lottery show. "We're looking at options to renew 'Winning Streak' and to trial new games and new formats," a spokesman said.

Options that may not include the moustachioed Marty.

The timing of Whelan's job woes couldn't be worse, coming shortly after he bared his soul about undergoing a hair transplant in an effort to improve his image and bolster his career.

"When you're working in the media you are super conscious – conscious that you have to look the best that you can. I am not a vain person but I am in an industry that looks at you every 12 months and says, 'hmm'," he said.

Little did he know, when he made his prescient comments, that RTE executives had him in their sights.

The story is notable for reasons other than the staggering levels of schadenfreude it spawned when it leaked. This isn't supposed to happen to men. Wrinkles and receding hairlines are not supposed to sound the death knell to their careers. Traditionally, age has bestowed gravitas and authority on men but shrouded women in a cloak of invisibility.

We have grown so accustomed to female broadcasters being put out to pasture when they have the temerity to get older that it barely registers.

Last year, when Whelan's former co-host Geri Maye (40) was unceremoniously dropped and replaced by Sinead Kennedy (30), nobody batted an eyelid.

The interesting thing about Whelan's candid comments about his cosmetic surgery is they reveal that men are not impervious to the pressures created by society's obsession with youth.

He articulated the increasing anxiety one feels when something you have no control over, getting older, threatens your livelihood.

"When you're in make-up, you're conscious of light and the bald patch. It can cause people to lose confidence and therefore maybe lose opportunities that they might otherwise have had," he said.

It is this perception, that cosmetic surgery is a necessary prerequisite to remain relevant, or even maintain your status quo position, which is so depressing.

But, his remarks also point to the placebo effect that these kinds of procedures can perhaps have.

By Whelan's own admission, when he returned to work after the transplant, "nobody noticed". Regardless, he immediately felt "better about me" and more confident. This begs the question, was his thinning hair ever an issue in the first place? Or just a perceived physical imperfection that he obsessively focused on until he felt compelled to rectify it.

Placebo or no, the statistics don't lie and Whelan isn't the only man who has resorted to surgery.

Disgracefully, Ireland doesn't yet have a regulatory body governing cosmetic surgery so national statistics are unavailable, but in the UK there was a 16pc increase in men going under the knife between 2012 and 2013. Liposuction saw the biggest annual increase, 28pc, proving that it's not just women who will resort to desperate measures.

Worrying figures also point to an increase in the numbers of men suffering from eating disorders, with 40pc of binge eaters, and 10pc of anorexics and bulimics, male.

Body image issues have long been seen as uniquely women's – a cross to bear by virtue of their gender, but that perception is out of date.

Perhaps Whelan's honesty about his cosmetic procedure can prompt more men to speak out about the pressure they feel under to attain the perfect physique, for both aesthetic and professional reasons.

As to who should present 'Winning Streak', it will be a sad day indeed if someone who has unironically worn a moustache for his entire adult life can't present one of the most kitsch shows on TV. And, it will be even more of a travesty if he's replaced with a clean-shaven doppleganger.

Irish Independent

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