How Americans Really View Aging: Really?

I saw this article in the HuffPost yesterday and knew I’d have an opinion about it. First, I’m a trained social scientist, and I need to know a lot more about how this poll was conducted (there are no links in the article to the original research, just notes that it was conducted by Allure Magazine, PlasticSurgery.org, and BuildMyBod).

Second, I’m a middle aged woman and I got the sads/mads about how youth-fixated we are. The men surveyed said female beauty peaks at age 29, women said at age 31. Both genders agreed women are most sexy at age 30. Oh, rubbish.

See the entire graphic here. And feel free to disagree.

If the respondents were all age 18-35, then I accept that this is their youthful opinion. They have limited exposure to and experience with midlife role models. If this is the collective opinion of Americans of all ages, woe to us! My “peak” was almost 30 years ago? I’ve been on the steady path to decrepitude for 30 years?

Here’s my response to the survey questions, and I’d love to hear yours in the comments:

  • Women’s beauty peaks at: any given day, when she’s feeling smart, strong and loved. Oh for sure, my skin was smoother and my waist smaller when I was 30 but that wasn’t my “peak”.
  • When is a woman most sexy?: same answer, when she feels smart, strong and loved. Or is listening to a great Springsteen song, or dancing in the dark, or laughing.

Have a wonderful, zesty day and stay fabulous,

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patti

35 Comments

  1. How can I subscribe to your blog please help me with the subscription, I appreciate your authors writing skills they write everything in detail, and I suggest you please give a share button in your articles so we can directly share it.

  2. Well, just look at who conducted the survey. We also don't get to see the actual questions or how they were framed. I call Bulls&%t on this "survey."

  3. Patty,
    My name is Kelsey Rypl and I am the Marketing Director for BuildMyBod. I like your take on the Huff Post article. You are right, they did get some information from BuildMyBod that was included in the infographic. If you ever blog about cosmetic surgery and need an expert to consult with, please reach out to me and I will connect you with Dr. Jonathan Kaplan, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and Founder/CEO of BuildMyBod.

    Regards,
    Kelsey Rypl

    kelsey@buildmybod.com

  4. I take with a huge grain of salt any body image survey sponsored by PlasticSurgery.org (!!). Rubbish indeed!

    Why do we even have to have a "peak"? I love your idea that it happens all the time.

  5. How depressing Patti! I'm so glad you posted a riposte. I've stopped reading this type of faux social science that this type of press puts out – they are all just dedicated to youth worship anyway so the message they are sending out is always going to toe that particular party line. It's just a shame that it is the sort of thing that perpetuates the type of prejudices about aging that EVERY generation is going to face sooner or later, that is unless we change the way we see aging.

  6. Blah, blah, blah. I'm just getting started at 52. Some days I feel better than others but I do the best I can. My husband says I'm more beautiful now then I was at 30; so there!

    Spashionista (Alicia)

  7. Joyatri – sorry, I didn't mean to down vote down your comment. I actually agree with it completely. We need more education of younger men (and some women) that beautiful doesn't equal sexual desirability.

  8. Most beautiful? Most sexy? How on earth can such terms be quantified and measured? As others have noted, the organisations conducting the poll tell you everything you need to now about it. Age 30 was a lifetime ago, but I don't recall thinking it was a peak of any sort! xxx

  9. I too am mortified by our youth fixation- beauty and grace in all age groups should be celebrated- every stage of humanity should be celebrated.

  10. What a hoot! The graphic author should take a gander at the VOGOFF magazine. After 40+ you don't give a flying feck, you know it is all b.s.

  11. Two things are quite obvious; one, the target age which Allure Magazine is going after, two the women who have the means to invest in these products (which would be the more mature, smarter, and more lovely women of over 40) will STOP buying these products and Allure magazine. I agree with you and others, the survery is lacking a lot of scientific background and is rubbish. When I was 29-31 I was busy changing diapers and taxing children everywhere, I really didn't have time to worry about myself during that period of my life. I certainly didn't feel sexy and terribly beautiful then.

  12. Coming from a similar field, Patti, I have to agree with you in that there's just a lot of information missing here. For example, no citations to research as you said, no reference to the age of the participants in the poll and especially no definition of subjective terms like "beauty" and "sexy".

    This is just an example of a pop pole for the masses. The reader can read into it whatever they like and use it as a topic of light, social conversation. Or, it can drive others who think they are NOT "beautiful" or "sexy" to Allure Magazine, PlasticSurgery.org and BuildMyBod. Rubbish.

    I agree with Judith in that your Visible Monday indeed has value. Congratulations on its 100th post! ๐Ÿ™‚ xxx

  13. I agree with you, Patti! I feel sexier and much more beautiful now than when I was 30. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Good grief what a dumb survey. I work for a scientific publishing firm so anything that wasn't peer reviewed and published in a journal is pretty much as un- scientific as it gets .. lol. But ya know .. magazines have to print something ๐Ÿ˜›

    Monica, http://www.pear-shaped-gal.com

  15. My dentist also offers botox injections. Gaaaa! At least I haven't been offered that service yet as he shoves a needle into my wrinkle-fringed gaping maw. It would hurt to bite that off.

  16. This is something I'd expect to read in Cosmo. What a load of rubbish.

  17. Everybody comes into their "peak" at a different time. Some people are gorgeous when they are young and some as they get older. We can blame the media for trying to convince us that youth=beauty. Maybe I'm in the minority but I love to see people that are comfortable in their own skin. That is beauty.

  18. Infographics like this totally annoy me! As another scientist/ engineer *high five!* the response bias is so bad. I feel like they're only using these "studies" to further their own ideas of beauty and attractiveness.

    You are radiant! I definitely believe a woman is most beautiful when she's happy with herself and living in the way that makes her happy.

  19. Allure is a magazine dedicated to the promotion of beauty products. The other two "sources" are organizations that promote plastic surgery. If there was an actual survey, the respondents were probably their customers, that is, people who were already convinced that youth = beauty = sexiness = happiness. I think this graphic was more of a justification for their existence than a major discovery about America's social outlook.

  20. The survey had to be conducted on people who were exactly 30 years old. All the women of my acquaintance who are in my age group (over 50, let's say) seem to be very comfortable with who they are and how they look.

    It's is just so shallow to expect people to value themselves purely based on how they look. Yes, at 30 my skin was smoother and my legs firmer, but I like myself as I am today much more than I liked myself when I was 30. And certainly that counts for something.

  21. Wow, this makes me so sad. So basically, at nearly 29, I have only a few good years to look forward to? I think NOT! I feel so much better as I get older and so much more confident. I can't imagine peaking now, I feel like I have my whole life ahead of me. This is truly tragic that society conditions us to think this way…shame on them!

  22. Wow, at 30 I didn't feel as beautiful as I feel now. My husband tells me that there is nothing as sexy and beautiful as happy, confident woman. I think I'll keep him and just not read articles like this.

  23. Dearest Patti,

    This is by no means a representative poll about 'Americans'. First of all the phrase Americans is wrong. South or North Americans or what? Canadians or US Citizens or Mexicans… As you also rightfully stated: conducted by Allure Magazine, PlasticSurgery.org, and BuildMyBod – more than gives away its true value.

    It has become a hype for having to look like Barbie Dolls without any character showing as we 'ripen' in wisdom and experience. It is way too commercial for being of any real value! Growing gracefully old is far more than anything manipulated by cosmetic surgery or from an expensive bottle.
    They better write about eating healthy and nurturing the balance between body and soul.
    Hugs,
    Mariette'sBacktoBasics
    gplus.to/MariettesBacktoBasics

  24. Laughing, dancing in the dark with the Boss!!! Yep, that about sums it up for me.

  25. Interesting that women think that 30 is the peak of beauty. When I was younger I wouldn't exercise religiously, ate processed foods and didn't concentrate on taking care of my skin. I would look bloated and tired from nights spent at bars. Now I take care of my body, so I think I look great every day!

  26. Ugh–sheesh i was a blithering mess of insecurity when i was 30.
    I am far more fabulous now–with AGE comes wisdom and acceptance.

  27. One has to wonder how the demographic target readers of the AARP magazine would have responded to this. Bulls**t methodology aside, I'd think it odd if their demographic answered any differently. The subjective nature of the question and answers is built in to surveys like these … you know and I know how these results can be skewed from the get-go.
    Yes, it's annoying, and exhausting.
    Frankly, I'm almost as offended at being expected to be sexy at any time.
    Every woman who speaks up helps. Glad you did. We are all aging, we're all going to die, and so are all those who think it's down hill from 30. They have some surprises ahead, don't they?

  28. Ummm – even if the methodology was valid it would still be crap.
    'Scientific' crap – but still crap.

    Women shouldn't be valued by ANYONE based on the smoothness of their skin, their waist measurement or some measure of feeling sexy – dearie me.

    We're all going to get old and die – so why waste time reading/rationalizing guff like this ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also, "conducted by Allure Magazine, PlasticSurgery.org, and BuildMyBod" LMAO – no vested interests from advertisers then hee-hee ……

  29. Hear, hear! I think you're on the right track, Patti – it has nothing to do with an age. It's an attitude.

  30. Aargh, don't get me started. Oops, too late.
    I found amongst male friends that there was confusion over what 'beautiful' as it applies to a woman meant. I finally figured out they thought it meant "sexually attractive" and it took some education on my part to make them aware that the two were not the same — that someone that they wouldn't consider having sex with could still be 'beautiful.' I wonder if the respondents to this survey have the same confusion.

  31. Personally, I feel better about myself, stronger and more truly me at 61 than I did at 31. Pretty is different at 61 or 71 or 81 but there are lots of lovely older women. Think Leslie Caron or Judy Dench. You're right about the ages of the respondents.

  32. Wow, you really do have to wonder about the ages of the respondents to this poll, there's no way it can be considered scientific unless it included a broad range of age/social categories of folks.

  33. I think a lot of people consider true beauty to be a combination of the outside and the inside. I don't think I was smart or experienced enough at thirty to be truly beautiful.

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