While queuing to get the jab in the Aviva one thing was obvious as day, the men were more banjaxed looking than the women.
There is something strange being somewhere where practically everyone is the same age and I’m ashamed to report I was not engrossed in thinking about the wonders of science and how lucky we are to have an almost perfect vaccine we could only fantasise about this time last year. No, I’m a superficial old cow, and instead I glanced surreptitiously around to see how I measured up in the aging stakes.
We were all a hop, skip and a jump away from our 45th birthday and while many of us looked it (I was defo in this crew), there were more sags and bags on the male side. Younger men are more into their grooming (have you seen all those beard products) than Gen X and with no glossy Millennials hanging around to dilute the scene, the men simply just looked older than the women.
Even the lean iron-men in attendance – and you can tell triathlon types a mile off even when not in cycling gear – looked more wrecked.
What also stood out was just how many more tools women had in their armoury to fend off the inevitable. There was the dye to cover the grey roots, the foundation to smooth out the red, scaly skin. The curled lashes and the velvet concealer to pep up the tired eyes.
Well that describes me anyway.
I would say I used 10 products that morning to make me look more presentable and less knackered.
I also noticed a lot of corrective tweaking in the house – the masks put more attention on the eyes and the forehead and there were quite a few unfurrowed brows and absences of crow’s feet on the female side. And more power to them.
It is not something I would do because I think if you start with these treatments out of insecurity, it’s never going to be enough. What did Arlene Foster say once about giving into Sinn Féin demands?
“If you feed a crocodile, it will keep coming back for more” and that’s how I feel about me getting Botox. That bank holiday Monday morning in the vaccination centres confirmed a belief I’ve always held – men have it harder with their appearance.
It starts with the teenage years.
Girls can cover the acne and tame frizzy hair but boys are more vulnerable with the flaws.
I remember being so thankful for my hair straightener and Rimmel concealer – I am sure I caked on the orange paste and looked even worse, but it gave me confidence.
Then come the wedding years – getting spruced up for the photos as a guest, or if you are the one strolling down the aisle, a lot can be salvaged with a savvy make-up artist and a decent hairdresser. For the groom a shower, shave and well-fitted suit go a long way but there’s little transformative potential there. Men can get their hair, make-up and Botox done too – of course they can, sure look at Simon Cowell and Joe Wicks. But do women want them to? When I was sitting in the observation area after getting a painless jab from a wonderful woman called Trish, I carried out a quick poll and asked four friends if they would mind if their fellas started using Botox and wearing facemasks in bed, and they were horrified. There is something so unattractive about vanity, commented one friend. She would put vanity in a man on a par with stinginess (which has absolutely nothing to do with income in my experience) when it comes to negative attributes and I totally agree.
But do men feel pressure to look good as they age? It is assumed women are more self-critical than men because they are judged on their appearance more but I don’t buy that. There is not much research on men and how they feel about getting older but a German study from 2019 published in the Frontiers in Psychiatry journal found body appreciation improves in women across age but for men it remained stable and was lower than that of women. And there is a big body of research to show appearances matter. Especially if you are looking for a job or love online, with the ‘bias for beauty’ operating in almost all social situations.
Apparently we react more favorably to physically attractive people with an irrational belief they possess more confidence, social skills, intelligence and even moral virtue.
Attractive applicants are more likely to be hired and in court are found guilty less often.
There is no doubt for women there is pressure and mixed messages on ideal body image.
On one hand, everywhere you have the sculpted and unrealistic curves of the Kardashians, but you are just as likely to see advertisements with women of normal proportions on buses and in magazines.
Maybe I am not looking hard enough, but male models seem more like aliens than the average man on the street.
Instead of David Beckham types posing in white underwear or chiselled slim men in tight suits, would you not flog more boxers and clothes if you grabbed one of the lads who go topless in Stephen’s Green every time the sun peeps out to model instead?
Despite all the research, myself and my friends think what is really attractive in men is being decent company and it’s nice if they look after themselves with a healthy lifestyle. A dash of moisturiser is acceptable but anything more is a bit much. If they can make you laugh, who cares if they look tired. I feel sorry for the men who are relying on online dating because in the fickle two-dimensional world of photographs, there is way too much importance on looks.
As I skipped out of the vaccination centre, I thought the sooner we get back to meeting in real life in packed pubs and offices where it is obvious personality is more important than looks, the better.