Does a woman’s power fade with her youth?

Recently, I was part of a conversation discussing “What is your biggest fear?” Some said a fear of failure, others merely feared crickets. My answer, to me, was obvious: centipedes: centipedes…and ageing—the latter, perhaps, more concerning.

While the scuttle of hundreds of TERRIFYING legs moving way faster than that number of legs has any right to move, ever, is an understandable fear, why should the thought of ageing panic me so?

Let’s take it all the way back: on women, long hair, pink cheeks, and an overall youthful appearance were seen as attractive attributes, promising better likelihood of the production of heirs—important, if you wanted to avoid beheading. Fast forward a bit, and despite less importance placed on childbearing, all of these characteristics remain deemed attractive. I’m only 24-years-old, and I’ve already found myself thinking, “I better get my career going, because I need something to offer when I’m no longer young.” Without meaning to, I’ve placed a large portion of my self-worth in my age. I am a living, breathing, Lena Del Ray song and I can’t think of anything worse than that.

On the other hand, George-Clooney-syndromed, silver-foxed men seem almost applauded for ageing. Men don’t grow old, they grow wiser, experienced. When you call a woman “experienced” it sounds like an insult. When you call a male as much, it’s an attraction. An experienced man can support a family; a youthful woman creates one. These beliefs are archaic—we’ve moved on from the need for the nuclear family or male heirs—but they’re still indirectly affecting our self-esteem in a world where youth equals beauty.

Just take a look at the modelling industry, for example: in an industry dominated by women, wherein female models are paid exponentially more than their male counterparts (for once) the careers of men still outlast those of women when it comes to age. Female models expire or, if lucky, move into a niche market.

So why can’t older women be deemed attractive without being marginalized or referred to as MILFs and cougars? In the sentiment, “She’s hot…” why is the suffix always “…for an older woman”? Honestly, I don’t have an answer for that, but I’m both affected by and guilty of perpetuating it.

What can we do about this? Saturate the media to make men think they need lip injections and perkier pecs? Force the phenomenon of stay-at home-dads world-wide? Bring up age-induced erectile dysfunction more often, perhaps casually at the dinner table? Maybe. Or maybe people like me, both male and female, need to realize that there is no truth in the industry standard that beauty is exclusive to age…because the idea of ageing should never be compared to the swift, disgusting, abominable movement of a-million-legged HIDEOUS centipedes.