Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Self Image and the Mature Woman

Over the past few years, I’ve read articles on menopause, wherein certain agencies have published the results of surveys given to mature women in that phase of life. One of the queries always concerns whether or not the woman’s sexual desire has diminished. There is usually a short list of possible ‘physical’ side effects of menopause listed on these surveys. Side effects that may be causing her decreased interest in sexual intimacy. I have yet to see a ‘psychological’ list of reasons offered. Having spoken to a number of women fifty and over, I can state unequivocally, psychological reasons for decreased libido may well far outnumber the physical. In addition, it’s my belief that today’s society may be in great part responsible for the psychological damage from which these women suffer.

In our modern society, the mature woman seems to be non-existent, as far as the visual media is concerned. Anyone watching television, viewing films, or thumbing through popular magazines, can easily verify this fact. Women over a certain age are just not represented. In the rare instances they are seen, it is usually not in the role of a feminine, desirable, woman. Most advertisers hawking products in the women-related categories of cosmetics, fashion and intimate apparel, completely ignore women past the age of thirty. It’s quite amusing to see ‘anti-aging’ beauty product ads, trumpeting ‘fantastic’ results, using models barely out of their twenties. Interestingly enough, older men are quite prominently displayed in ads, usually in the company of much younger women. We women have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed. We have been programmed, consistently, to base our self-worth, our sexuality, our ‘womanliness’, on youthful, physical looks alone. When I read of women in their late twenties, early thirties, opting for surgical cosmetic enhancements, in attempts to stave off the natural effects of the aging process, I’m appalled!

What message does the visual media send? Quite simply that mature women are neither visually attractive, nor sexually desirable. Access any online women’s magazine, and peruse its message boards. There you will find postings from women desperately seeking to halt, or alter, the aging process. Endeavoring to transform themselves into the youthful, enhanced images they are bombarded with daily, may become an obsessive quest, one that is doomed to failure. Is it any wonder that many mature women suffer from low to no, self-esteem? Is it any wonder, as well, many of these women find themselves less inclined to sexual intimacy?

‘I just don’t feel sexy’. This was a statement made to me by a fifty-year-old woman I’ll call ‘Betty’. When I asked her reasons for this statement, her reply was quite to the point. Betty told me she despises her looks. She said the image she sees in her mirror is not one she would call attractive, or desirable, based on the prevailing ‘beauty standards’ of today. As far as sexual intimacy with her partner, she told me although she enjoys sex, she finds she increasingly avoids the intimacy. She is simply too depressed over her looks, feeling totally inadequate.

Another woman I’ll call ‘Sue’ told me she had much the same opinion of herself as had Betty. She admitted the steady stream of images of young, nubile, firm, smooth-skinned women appearing on her television screen nightly, made her increasingly self-conscious about her physical appearance, with her husband. She remarked that he constantly presented her with expensive lingerie that she refused to don. The woman told me she felt ridiculous wearing it, regarding herself at the age of fifty-four as ‘too old’ for such attire. Therefore, the lovely lingerie wound up unworn and stored away. Sue added that her relationship with her husband had been strained for quite some time, and though she realized it was due to the lack of sexual intimacy between them, she was unable to get past her feelings about herself. Eventually it appeared that their twenty-five year marriage was heading for dissolution. Sue’s husband was ready to call it quits, because, as he told her, he felt she no longer loved or desired him. His pronouncement led to Sue’s being completely open and honest with her husband about her feelings concerning her own self-image.

It’s vitally important, today, for we mature women to begin realizing our very real value, and setting an example for our daughters, and granddaughters. We must chart a course for them, that they may realize that women over thirty do not fade away, and just disappear! It must be taught that youth is a convenient mask we wear for awhile, concealing the unformed ‘self’. They must realize that as we mature, and ‘self’ forms, the mask of youth fades away, revealing who we are, and what we have become, as human beings. We must demonstrate that mature women, who have developed interests, who have continually striven to enlighten and enrich themselves intellectually, and spiritually, and who possess a genuine love of life, and living, are incredibly attractive. We must prove the truth. They must come to realize that a mature woman’s confidence, insight, accumulated wisdom, and self-knowledge make her intensely desirable, and her sexuality is heightened by her ability to be an equal partner in the art of lovemaking. We must endeavor to de-program them, teaching them that what they see portrayed in the visual media as to women, is contrived illusion. It’s up to us, ladies, how our daughters and granddaughters will one day greet their maturity.

Jeannine Schenewerk is a freelance writer residing in Atlanta, Georgia. She maintains an inspirational, informative, upbeat site for mature women. Her site contains articles on positive self image, and common sense tips on make-up, skin care, diet, exercise, fashion, and more.

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