I recently turned 57. Normally, that would be fine. I’ve taken good care of myself and have always looked young for my age. I am physically and emotionally healthy, intelligent and interesting (I hope). Yet, for the first time ever, I’ve become invisible to men. This is quite a shock, maybe because I’ve taken my looks for granted and cared more about my inner beauty and personality. I’m a swimmer and probably didn’t protect my skin enough from the sun; I can now see where my face is becoming softly lined. Repeatedly, I see men’s eyes go right past me to look at younger women. It makes me sad, scared and even a little angry. I’ve never been superficial, but I’m starting to worry my attractiveness is fading.
I’ve been divorced over 10 years and want to get married again. I recently tried online dating but very few men responded. Those who did seemed uneducated or in their late 70s. That’s not what I’m looking for. Other women my age say that men in our age bracket don’t give us a second look. I recently had a consultation with a plastic surgeon who suggested surgery. Someone else suggested I bleach my hair to a much lighter blonde. I don’t want to come across as shallow, trying to desperately get men’s attention. I just want to enhance my beauty without losing the real me.
It’s not shallow to want to be noticed by men, have them get to know you and possibly find a life partner. If you had a daughter and bought her new clothes, shoes and a new haircut that made her feel happy on her first day at school, wouldn’t that be supporting her in a positive way? Encouraging her self-esteem and a positive self-outlook isn’t superficial at all. It could, however, be considered negative if you focused all your energy into her being physically stunning rather than finding a balance between inner and outer beauty.
The same goes for you if you opt for a makeover. Self-care, if done in moderation, can be very attractive to potential mates. Update your hairstyle, have a manicure or a pedicure, buy new clothes. Do whatever makes you feel pretty and happy, gives you confidence and supports your efforts to be who you want to be. Do this for you, though. Don’t reinvent yourself just to find a husband.
The dating world can change as you get older. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for men of a certain age to ignore the online dating profiles and photographs of women of a similar age. It’s also a reality that it’s difficult to meet new people if you’re not working, if it’s inappropriate to date co-workers or colleagues, and if you’re not participating in ongoing social gatherings. Effort must be made to bring new faces into your life. Keep an open mind to meeting lots of people. You don’t have to marry a man to enjoy his company over coffee. He may be younger, older, less educated or have less money and still end up being a meaningful friend that opens your life to new avenues.
In my psychotherapy practice, I’ve had a number of men share what triggers them positively and negatively when dating women. They often talk about characteristics based more on inner beauty than chronological age. They say they want a woman they’re physically attracted to but also who knows the difference between being needy and loving and being aware of another’s needs and happiness as well as her own. They don’t a woman who agrees with them out of a fear of abandonment. Men like women who stand up for themselves and their beliefs, don’t cause a lot of drama, put excessive pressure on them, constantly complain, or have too many problems. Men appreciate women who have their own lives, interests, activities, circle of friends, are independent and emotionally mature. Men want women who have their own purpose beyond being in a relationship. They respond to women who smile and laugh a lot, are playful, relaxed and comfortable with their own sexuality. They appreciate women who can really listen and respond to the moment between them rather than being distracted or zoning out.
It may not be easy to find the right mate but there are great men out there looking for a stable relationship. With or without a man, keep your sense of purpose and passion, maintain close-knit bonds with others, live fully and vitally, and find a source of inspiration that’s bigger than you.
Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website, patticarmalt-vener.com.