Two business men are sitting at the bar, checking two women. One man says to the other: "Women after 30... they look like the lights went down on them". The other replies: "What do you mean?". "Women are glowing before they reach 30, they loose the glow after that", and he smiles nodding at one of the women.
The scene is from Mad Men, the popular TV series about advertising world in 1960s New York. It's set in the 1960s, but it could well be set in the 2000s. After all, that's when a female friend of mine was interviewing for an advertising position but she didn't get it because... well, let's put it this way, she wasn't a Barbie doll. Of course, nobody in the top management would ever admit to that, but they whispered off-the-record that she doesn't have what it takes - the looks.
But I'm not at all surprised, really! You see, I went to school with some of the men now in advertising. I remember a conversation we had - a conversation which only mirrored avant la lettre the world of Mad Men. We were talking about women, and my male colleagues were quick to make the distinction between women you marry and women that are best to be your lovers (in other words, women you cheat your wife with). Just like Don Draper, who kept a lovely wife at home (here's his mistake, according to my colleagues, she was just too beautiful) and a lovely yet fiercely independent lover, my colleagues argued that you marry the not-too-beautiful woman who worships you and waits for you at home with the hot soup on the table. The other ones - whether you are attracted to beauty or wits or both - are best kept outside the home.
Why is that, we asked? It's because you don't want to worry too much about what is at home. You want to come home and be taken care of. If you want the thrill, the fight, that's what lovers are for.
You think this is the past? Think again! This is very much today. And this is going to be the future as well. There will always be lazy and insecure people who want the quick way out. It's always easier to buy into stereotypes and live accordingly. And, truth be told, the society in which we live favors your looks, your appearance, your compliance to mainstream standards of beauty. Yes, there's way more room for contestation - but there's a difference between being tolerated and being seen as part of the 'normal' definition of everyday life.