An open letter to Esquire’s Tom Junod:
Dear Tom (now you won’t go calling me “Ma’am” just because I think we can be on a first-name basis, will you Tom?),
I’m writing today with a friendly, writer-to-writer suggestion: You might want to get your head out of your arse and have a sensible conversation about your August Culture Blog in Esquire. Mind you, I’m not one of those Screaming Mimi Jezebel types who wants to call you out or anything. No, Sweetcakes, I’m here to help.
Your esteemed magazine has just declared 42 to be the most “alluring” age for women, and what got you in hot water is that you wrote about how shocking you found this. I can only assume your fourth wife is still in her 20s, right?
As you wrote: “Let’s face it: There used to be something tragic about even the most beautiful 42-year-old woman. With half her life still ahead of her, she was deemed to be at the end of something — namely, everything society valued in her, other than her success as a mother. If she remained sexual, she was either predatory or desperate; if she remained beautiful, what gave her beauty force was the fact of its fading. And if she remained alone… well, then God help her.”
Really Tom? Tom, Mrs. Robinson was 42. And since I’m 64, that makes me old enough to be Mrs. Robinson’s mother. Actually, according to Wikipedia, it seems you are old enough to be Mrs. Robinson’s father. So I’m a little perplexed about how you came to the conclusion that a woman at age 42 can still be alluring. And by “alluring,” we know you mean “sexy in a boinkable way.” You see, Tom, the truth is we were always alluring for men whose brains weren’t located in their tidy whities.
Just to be sure, I checked with my husband and he confirmed it: We still have sex and we most certainly were having it 22 years ago when I was 42. In fact, he just called me a hottie. Actually, what he said was “Are you making chicken again for dinner tonight?” But I knew what he meant. Old people have buzzwords too, you know. Wink. Wink.
So, I’d like to educate you about 42-year-old women — assuming I still have enough memory cells intact and don’t start hot-flashing — things I know you must be familiar with given your exhaustive study of “older” women. For one, 42-year-old women don’t all look like Sofia Vergara. And for two, I can state unequivocally that they always have been having sex — even the 42-year-olds of decades ago. Dare I suggest that maybe they just weren’t having sex with you?
Tom, I wish you could meet my Aunt Sylvia. She was what you would have called a “divorcee.” She lived in Far Rockaway, Long Island, in the 1950s — long before getting rid of jerk-husbands became fashionable or was easy to do. Solo Sylvia would strut around the community swimming pool on weekends in her sexy two-piece bathing suit and big sunglasses, with a tan so deep you’d have thought she had a man to support her and nothing to do all day but sunbathe. But you see, Tom, that wasn’t the case. Sylvia took the train every weekday into the city where she worked full time and then commuted home to take care of her young daughter as a single mom. She always looked fabulous, by the way, and had a constant line of boyfriends — well into her 80s.
Then there was my Aunt Sophie, one of the first women to pass the Arizona Bar — something she did at that oh-so-magical age of 42 after returning to high school to get her GED at night and then continuing on to college and law school, all the while holding down a full-time job as a legal secretary. She had a bunch of husbands who she picked up along the way. The last one was 15 years her junior; she gave him the boot on her 80th birthday because, she said, he “couldn’t keep up.” I actually always thought she said he “couldn’t keep it up,” but I’ll stick with the official family story line here. A nice guy, that last. He spent a lot of time at the gym hoping she’d change her mind.
My Aunt Faye, still alive at 100, buried her one and only true love — the man she married as a teenager — and every photo I’ve ever seen of them together has his arms lovingly wrapped around her. Yes, even when she was 42.
So you see my point Tom? You are wrong when you suggest that it was the women’s liberation movement that made it possible to find a 42-year-old woman appealing, or that 42-year-old women flock to yoga and pilates classes to be appealing to men. It isn’t that at all. We’ve been beautiful and smart and ambitious forever. You just can’t see it.
And while you may write these crazy-ass posts in the pursuit of fun and web traffic, how about you just pause a sec and recognize just how insulting it is to tell us how far we’ve come because 42 is the new nubile 22.
No need for a “Thank you, Ma’am.” You’ve said enough.
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