Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Wait to see what age means for circumstance, then respond to it
Woman growing older: One of the things I find difficult about trying to be an intelligent, educated, therapized, mentally and emotionally healthy, content with singlehood, etc., woman in her 30s is … I feel like I'm not supposed to be afraid of having an "expiration date," when men are no longer interested in me.
But I really, really do have that fear; I just don't like to admit to it. I know more than one woman who was shocked by becoming completely invisible to men at 40. I wish it weren't real, but ignoring it solves nothing.
I feel incredibly angry that this happens to women at all. I've struggled with a weight problem for most of my life, so I know what it's like to go from visible to invisible and then back again as my weight fluctuates into and out of some strange permissible attractiveness range. I know what it feels like when the curtain drops, and I'm dreading the day it drops forever.
Carolyn: Aging out of desirability isn't a fact of life just for women or just in dating. As the recent recession underscored, being a later-career job applicant also has its perils, since they're in the same pool, often, with people who are less experienced but also far less expensive. There are laws against age discrimination and not against hot-chick discrimination, but this hardly means that being 50 and laid off isn't scary.
This answer is starting to sound like, "You think that's depressing? No no, THIS is depressing" — an unhelpful way to help. But I'm trying to disrupt your tight focus on the "nobody will date women over 40" problem. As we age, our bodies and circumstances change. Inevitable. But that doesn't preordain your personal struggle. You may be happily paired by then, or happily uninterested, or more comfortable in your skin and thus more attractive than ever, or your genes or self-maintenance routine might vault you ahead. Who knows.
You do know you'll be just like all people, who must accept that growing older brings its own challenges (and gifts). So, wait to see what they are, then respond.
Re: Growing older
Anonymous: Isn't it possible to "become invisible" even to your partner? Theoretically one loses youthful sexual attractiveness regardless of relationship status — right? Yet people still get married and stay married, without cheating.
You stay "visible" based on what you offer. I think this insecurity about the future — and I have it too — is really about a fear of not mattering to anyone. Of being interchangeable with someone else. If you're not a cute girl anymore, but you're also nobody's cherished wife, then what are you?
I try to have many answers to that question for myself — ones that will strengthen, rather than weaken, as I age.
Carolyn: Good stuff, thanks — though I slap my forehead at the whole concept of cuteness/cherished-wifery vs. a yawning void. Beyond looks and linkage are nothing less than who you are inside and what you do for the world, both of which are largely within your control.
And maybe I'm just an old fart, but I can't think of any group of humans more "interchangeable" — based solely on surface value — than cute girls. Just ask Hollywood.