Take face, just add character

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While I was doing research for The Magic of Middle-Aged Women, I read a great deal about the nature of beauty.  Beautiful facial features all derive from youth.  (Young women are fertile, men are driven to reproduce: thus men want beautiful women.) 

Beyond that there was no encapsulation or description of beauty, no formula of features–sizes, proportions, and layout–that capture the beautiful face. However, it was discovered that if you enter a large number of faces into a computer and have the features averaged out, the result is a generically beautiful–if not particularly interesting–face.

This exercise was recently conducted not just for youth in general, but by ethnic type. The image above shows the average–and thus the essentially beautiful–faces of women around the world.

While this is interesting, I look at it and think how much more interesting it would be if the women were thirty years older. What does the essentially beautiful middle-aged face look like?  What happens when you add in not only age, but also character and kindness and peace of mind?

So you want to be in pictures? MILF porn is among America’s favorite.

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According to a statistical analysis conducted by one of the internet's largest porn sites, MILF porn is the third most popular category (among hundreds) in the entire country.

MILF, originally an acronyn for "mothers I'd love to fuck," has become a more general description of porn involving women considerably older than the young ladies who were almost universally favored in generations past.

Have gentlemen abandoned their time-honored preferences? No. The most popular category is "teen." But taste is widening, in a sense. Though the beauty of aging women is not celebrated, the idea of sex with aging women is.

The analysis breaks down site usage by states, and tastes are by no means uniform around our great country. In Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, and North Carolina, MILF porn is the favorite. In Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, it ranks in the top three. Other states are less enlightened.

The Republican ticket in the Presidential ticket of 2008 was certainly compromised by people's fears about Sarah Palin taking the reins of state; however, because of her oft-discussed MILF-hood, it must be assumed that it also gained some votes because of her.

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Mid-life crisis? We are not the only ones.

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I think of middle-age as the period of life that begins at the end of the mid-life crisis. This is not to deny the mid-life crisis, which is very real and occurs in one's middle years. But because my focus is the benefit of these years, I begin when the crisis has passed.  (An analogy: one might think of the beginning of the Cenozoic era not as the time the dinosaurs were killed off, but rather slightly afterwards, when the mammals began to take over the planet.  Putting a happy face on extinction.)  

For most people (in many cultures, "developed" and undeveloped, around the world) the sense of happiness or well-being is high in youth and high late in life, but plunges in the middle, usually at about age 50. If charted over a lifetime, this phenomenon makes a "U" shape, high on the ends, low and flat (because it goes on for a number of years) in the center. It is during the low flat time that people often despair, feeling their lives have no meaning, detecting nothing to look forward go, and leading some to get tattoos, buy little red sports cars, or have affairs with maids or gardeners.

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It has never been clear why this crisis occurs, especially since cultures around the world pose such different demands on people as they age. It can't be pinned down to children leaving home, or frustration at the stalling of professional ambition, and it seems immune to any kind of counseling.

A new scientific finding may help illustrate why.   Researchers assembled observations of more than 500 chimpanzees and orangutans in zoos, sanctuaries, and research centers around the world, controlling for genetics, physiology, social pressures, and stress factors.  What they found was quite amazing: When it comes to mid-life crisis, we are not alone. Apes have a similar U-shaped dip (or "lull in happiness") in the middle of their lives. Their life expectancy is roughly 50 years, and the dip is at about age 30. 

This means that we should stop struggling to pin midlife disenchantment on our lots or on each other. As one scientist said, for fundamental biological reasons (though the exact mechanism is not known) a midlife crisis is "completely normal," and "apparently out of your control."

What is the practical value of this information?  Perhaps those who have not yet reached it can think of it as they would a menstrual period: it's coming, it may well be unpleasant, during it the world will seem inhabited by oppressive clueless assholes who strip away all possibility of joy. But if you can take a longer view, you might see glimpses of life on the far side, when all will be back to normal.  Or better. 

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