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Age of enlightenment

Published Jun 07, 2013 01:45pm


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Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan
Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan
“You will never hear me complain about getting old; think of the people denied the privilege” – Anonymous

Ok, let’s talk about something we never talk about. You know, that thing that makes us cringe. The biggest taboo of all — our age. Or to be precise, a woman’s age.

We’ve all heard the jokes: how a woman would rather die than reveal her age. How we fight tooth and nail to keep our wrinkles at bay. How the use of make-up increases in proportion to the number of our birthdays. And the stereotypes ring true because, at some level, every woman is conscious of her age.

Of course, it’s not just women who suffer the punishment of growing old. Men too face the horror of physical infirmity, loss of independence and the ever-present spectre of death. But for women the repercussions of aging go beyond the obvious. Because, while everyone comes into this world with an expiry date, it’s only women, at least in our society, who bear the burden of a ‘sell by’ date.

It’s no coincidence that we speak of the single woman (in hushed tones and behind her back) as being ‘on the shelf’; we joke about the ‘marriage market’ ‘drawing room displays ’ and although they may not put it in just these words, ‘shopping’ for a bride is one of the most popular pastimes of aunties with even not-so-eligible sons.

Yes, even in our so called urbanised, ‘this-side-of-the-bridge’ society, a woman is measured by her marriage-worthiness, and while a fair complexion and a green card are an added bonus, age is the most crucial deciding factor.

And if you think the pressure eases up once a woman is ‘safely’ married, think again: of all the men who leave their wives, how many actually marry (or get involved with) an older woman? Obviously, while women may be judged by their age, men are the ones who feel defined by it — the older he gets, the younger a companion he seeks.

You see, though it is women who get to be the butt of the jokes, it is actually a man’s vanity that places a premium on a woman’s age. Is it due to the notorious biological clock — the younger the women, the better the chances of producing more children? Not really. Because even girls of 26 are deemed to be over the hill when it comes to taking part in the rishta race. A girl of 19 has been known to be rejected in favour of her 17-year-old sister — mind you, the prospective groom hadn’t seen either girl, he just made his choice based on age.

Younger brides are easier to ‘mould’ an auntie explains smugly. The older the girl the harder it is for her to ‘adjust.’ Husbands of course, never need to be moulded, they don’t need to adjust.

It’s no surprise then that women are programmed to be sensitive about their age, but that doesn’t mean they can’t change the script. Look around and you will see more and more independent, successful, empowered women who have discovered that turning 30 or 40 or 50 brings its own rewards. In a study which surveyed around 2000 women between the ages of 40 and 65, quoted by the Daily Mail, over 80 pc of the women said that they are happier in themselves than younger women.

The survey included a mix of all types of women: the married and the single; those with children and without, career women and homemakers. That this sense of security and confidence cut across all these demographics shows that it is not reliant on external forces. It comes when we realise that we don’t need anyone else’s approval to feel good about ourselves.

So does that mean we throw away the anti-wrinkle creams, cancel the gym membership and pig out on junk food all day? Of course not. This is the age when we pamper ourselves, stay fit and beautiful because that’s what makes us happy. Not because we want to land a husband or please a rishta auntie. And that’s the best reason of all.

Me, I just celebrated my 40th birthday and I’m off to treat myself to a day at the spa — see ya. ————————————————————————————————————————————————

enter image description hereShagufta Naaz is a Dawn staffer

———————————————————————————————————————————————— The following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Author Image
Shagufta Naaz is a Dawn staffer

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (24) Closed

Parvez Jun 07, 2013 02:25pm

A complicated subject handled very maturely and well. Let me say that I agree with what you have said because you have laid out your case intelligently but I do detect a small selfish strain in your thinking and I know its easier said than done but compromise is also a good thing.

Khalid Jun 07, 2013 06:23pm

My mother is (I think in her 70s) the best example of what you article talks about. She would not get into any discussion where her age might be revealed. We all know how old she is but we play along with her.......if it makes her happy, why not !!. She is such a sweetheart...

aaa Jun 07, 2013 08:16pm

Well anti wrinkle creams, spas etc are not for the average woman in pakistan when that is said. I have with time understood that its the who accept their age with grace are the ones who are elegant in every way.

The ones too concerned of their age actually never understand that they turned 45 and keep on acting like teenagers. All i can say is grow up and enjoy the age you are living its not coming back.

Observer Jun 07, 2013 11:45pm

Hope this article was cathartic! ;-)

Vijay Jun 08, 2013 01:49am

A human face, without the signs of age is like a clock without hands.

M. Umar Jun 08, 2013 08:44am

this article made me smile and i usually don't do that easily.. God bless you.

Munir Jun 08, 2013 09:16am

Age is in the Mind....and the mind is carried by the maintain Health....and there are Simple Measures for it...............One can be Active 50, 60, 70, 80, 90........................

Dr. Munir

ali Jun 08, 2013 09:54am

Nice article, age is no barrier in marriage. Our culture is stuck in the 19th century. Today, people get married in their 30's, because most people are in colleges and are independent!

S C K Vaid Jun 08, 2013 11:34am

I have liked this article and views which are true, honest and reveal psychy of male. Congrats.

Sa'adia Jun 08, 2013 01:04pm

Brilliant Shagufta! Keep writing :-)

indian nari Jun 08, 2013 02:50pm

With literacy rates touching new highs in the society where i come from, we went long past this scene. Not even looks or age for girls matter for us; its only girl's academic and career records that matter. Age for marriage has shifted to 28-30 years in urban India, not surprisingly. This 17-18 age brides might be available perhaps in rural India, never in our cities or small towns. Yes as a woman in my 40s, i feel most confident and happiest and secure as i never was in an younger age. Probably because by this age, most of us have grown-up children at home, neat savings in the bank, a steady career if we are working women and the stability and security of a good, solid home and marriage (including investments in fixed assets beside others). Women in this age group can probably afford the spa treatment or whatever because they come to afford it finally?

As for risthas, let me share with you the reality in my place the last few years. Because female population is highly literate and well accomplished in their careers and male-female ratio is forever on decline, its now women who are cherry-picking men in urban India. IT sector owes a lot to this new trend that set in sometime around the turn of the millennium. I have known of boys who schedule 'bride-seeing' for 5.00 clock in mornings or after 11 pm in late evenings so that girl will not have to take leave from work and can be at home at her leisure.

The change is trickling into second tier cities and towns as well. If boys don't perform, they are clearly not fit for marriage market. As for girls who have successful academic and career records, they needn't worry a thing about whether they are tall or short, fair or dusky, slim or obese. The ball is their court, finally.

Yet, i must confess, marriages are not as good or as happy as they used to be in our generation. Somewhere something is missing.

Faisal Jun 08, 2013 09:53pm

Passing age is a fact; one should not be intransigent and let it slip away from hands in order to prove the in-dependency.

Proud48 Jun 09, 2013 12:06am

you look awesome for a 40 year old....ooops! there I did it again...but you do look awesome!

sandeep sharma Jun 09, 2013 05:34am

Changing the script is doing urself a great favor ... keen observations and insightful suggestion based on fact ......all point to one thing live by and far ur self ....

Qaiser Bakhtiari Jun 09, 2013 06:15am

In an age of sexual abuse, religious intolerance and lack of general women's rights, this should be the least of a woman's worries in Pakistan.

ranveer Jun 09, 2013 04:12pm

hmm....Now we know a thing or two..:)

Agha Ata Jun 09, 2013 06:34pm

I just want to comment on one thing you said, ". . . but that doesn

naz Jun 09, 2013 09:33pm

interesting article, well said!

Haseeb Talal Khan Jun 09, 2013 09:52pm

Thoroughly enjoyed, reading your article. But its not always men, who look for young brides, we as men, prefer to have mature, educated, even a bit older companion, to have complete understanding, its the society of women, who promote the idea of getting married with younger women....Any ways, i always feel at ease with less beautiful girls/women because it makes me at more ease rather the company of being with the women with more NAKHRA's...

Haseeb Talal Khan Jun 09, 2013 09:58pm

@Indian Nari, you are only representing a mere minority in India, while the rest majority is facing the same age old problems, only metro's have been changed in thinking, while the majority of rural india is still following the same old traditions, so don't tell us about the opinion's of urban India, even the Urban Pakistan is also changed, while the rest is the personal offense...

hafsa Jun 10, 2013 01:32am

@Munir: nice advertisement dr.munir......:P

hafsa Jun 10, 2013 01:32am

@Munir: nice advertisement dr.munir......:P

Asad Jun 10, 2013 10:15am

Brilliant writing

Nayyar Rashid Jun 10, 2013 10:25am

it is just that most women are neurotic......... :D lets see how many dislikes for this........