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Who's afraid of ageing?

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Different people react to ageing in different ways

Have you *splutter, splutter* heard this one? `Women typically marry men who're slightly older, as they age very quickly; otherwise, they might end up looking like his elder-sister!' Clearly, whoever formulated this theory was frantically covering up the fact that women marry older men only because the ones closer to their age are still vaguely juvenile. But look around you... and you'll find this highly biased message reiterated in several ways - 50-something heroes boogie with nubile young things (because of course, men age much slower!); 60-year-old men with a head full of grey hair are considered `distinguished'; but women pushing 50, with a scattering of salt among the pepper is already an `old-bat'; every second advertisement reinforces the fact that when women leave `youth' behind, they almost always leave beauty behind too (and so we have sexy sirens selling us everything from soap to soda!)Call it the power of suggestion, or that of the high-precision mirrors that show up every age-line, more and more women are, of late, moaning that they're oh-so-old even as they just turn thirty. I should know... between checking the blessed mirror every five minutes (to see if I had started looking like my husband's big-sister) and griping that it was all-downhill from then on, my 30th birthday was, to put it mildly, a great disaster. But is it an all-woman thing?Women, down the ages, have been parodied as creatures who're constantly in a state of denial, desperately trying to `look young' and what with the advent of botox, (which, after asses milk, has helped many women regain/retain their faces/figures) the ridiculing has surely scaled new, dizzying heights! That's when one begins to wonder... are men really so nonchalant about their age? Do they, without demur, `accept' middle age (which is a polite term for early-old-age) - when one suddenly has more wrinkles than hair? And since the only way to find out is by asking around, we did just that... "Age is something that's at the back of everybody's mind - men and women, once they cross 30; only, they react to it very differently," says Sujatha Ravi, home-maker. Ah yes, it's generally assumed that men laugh off laugh-lines, while women go through life hand-mirror-in-hand, worriedly applying anti-ageing creams, and eternally searching for that elusive elixir of youth! But how much of this is really true? "I do think ageing affects women more negatively than it does men," agrees Padma Ramesh, senior manager in a s/w giant. "There is, undeniably, a lot of pressure on women to look young and pretty and I personally feel women nearing menopause tend to get more stressed out about this."Srinivasan Krishnaswami, chartered accountant, feels though men and women are now conscious of their looks, men come to terms faster with their `changed form' than women. "Also unlike women, men don't go to great lengths to preserve their youth," says M. Sriram, technical director in an MNC, adding that men are usually happy to look bright and fresh. (Except that, as Padma rightly points out, a man is considered `wiser and more mature' as he grows older, while a woman is automatically `past her prime'!)The over-flowing coffers of the cosmetic industry giants vouch for the love affair that most women have with mud, algae and seaweed - which are of course (ugh!) cutting edge beauty ingredients! The only heartening thing is several big names are now busy wooing men. Which indicates that men aren't as immune to the outward signs of ageing as they claim to be! "But it's only a greying mop or balding pate that really gets at men," points out Sriram. "It certainly plays on his confidence and that's when he dyes his hair or sports a wig." "For men, holding on to youth is all about staying physically fit, and they simply obsess about diminishing strength and stamina," quips Sujatha. Young, physically or mentally?But, ultimately, is ageing merely a physical thing? "No! Ageing is purely in the mind," counters Srinivasan. He cites the example of his wife's granddad, who looked absolutely majestic at 80! "It's only when somebody loses their grip on life that aging is just round the corner." Agrees Padma, "It's all in the head. One is only as old as one feels!" And this, at least, should hopefully apply to both sexes, isn't it?APARNA KARTHIKEYAN

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