I will be the first to admit that I don't know much about women. Or maybe the second, if my wife is in the room at the time. But one indisputable life lesson I have picked up about the fair sex is that no woman, regardless of race, creed, religion, sexual preference or even gender, will ever mind being told that she looks young for her age.
I take advantage of this piece of knowledge whenever possible, such as when I'm introduced to a woman who tells me that she's a grandmother.
"You have grandchildren?" I'll ask, incredulous. "I refuse to believe it. You're obviously much too young to be a grandmother." I might also add a teasing demand to see a driver's license for proof of age.
In return I almost always receive a smile and an earnest, "No, really, I am." No woman has ever responded by affixing me with a steely glare and saying, "What are you, some kind of wise guy? See these age spots? I look old enough to have dated Calvin Coolidge."
Of course, the truth is that in our youth-obsessed culture, almost everyone wants to look younger. Which explains why American women get suckered into spending millions of dollars every year on phony "age-defying" creams advertised on TV. An actress like Salma Hayek will appear on the screen and explain that any woman over 40 can look every bit as terrific as Salma does. All they have to do is use the advertised product every day. That and look like Salma Hayek to begin with.
We men may have our shortcomings, but at least we would never waste our money on worthless, phony-baloney anti-aging creams. Not when we can spend our money on worthless, phony-baloney "male enhancement" products, that is.
But generally speaking, men's aging-related concerns are less about appearance and more about performance. That's why the erectile dysfunction product commercials featuring men in their 50s alongside sexy, thirtysomething wives are so effective. Imagine the horror, these ads imply, of finally dumping your wrinkled old wife, taking up with a young hottie and then being unable to perform? What's the point!
These ads are also remarkable for the subtle symbolism they employ, as in the Levitra commercial in which a man with graying temples repeatedly tries but fails to throw a football through a nearby tire swing, while his young, attractive wife looks on disappointedly. Until the Levitra theme music kicks in, that is, at which point the man starts firing frozen ropes through that baby and, not surprisingly, the missus' spirits perk up considerably.
Some people feel these ads are in poor taste, but not me. Frankly, I'd like to see erectile dysfunction product ads more like the feminine hygiene product commercials where two women talk about their intimate body odor issues as casually as most people discuss the weather. My ad would open with two train engineers, clad in striped overalls, engineers' caps and red handkerchiefs, sharing a cup of coffee. One would say to the other, "Bill, have you ever had times with Alice when you just couldn't, well, get the train into the tunnel, if you know what I mean?" The ad would end with the same engineer, having found out about the latest ED pill, speeding his train into a tunnel while excitedly whooping and repeatedly pulling the steam whistle.
Realistically, however, there's not much we can do to slow the aging process, so instead we pretend that age doesn't matter, employing silly platitudes like, "50 is the new 30" and "60 is the new 40." Frankly, rather than reassuring me, these sentiments tend to make me worried that there's a government conspiracy afoot to deny us Social Security benefits.
Social Security Agent: "Oh, I'm sorry. It says here that you're only 65. Officially, that's the new 50. You won't be eligible until you're, um, hang on, let me check my chart, 78. That's the new 65."
To date, one of the only proven effective methods for extending longevity has been a practice known as "calorie restriction" that involves eating such a limited diet that the body shifts into a perpetual "survival" mode that delays the aging process. While achieving a small international following, calorie restricted diets have not gained much of a foothold in the United States, perhaps proving that the only thing Americans care more about than looking youthful is that we get to keep on stuffing our fat faces.
Of course, ultimately, all this focus on looking young is merely a cover for our worries about what happens when we actually do stop aging. So we'd probably all be a lot better off if we stopped fearing the inevitable and started embracing the fate that awaits us all. If it helps, I recently heard that dead is the new 70.