July 18, 2014

What to think about that Esquire essay "In Praise of 42-Year-Old Women."

I'm really conflicted about this. I've been close to talking about it twice, and I find myself drawn back to it a third time, and I'm going to add that up to mean I've got to puzzle out the strange attraction, not of the 42-Year-Old Women but of this particular 55/56-year-old man writing about the 42-year-old woman... writing in Esquire about writing about the 42-year-old woman.

Instapundit wrote: "ADVICE TO EDITORS: Before you assign or publish an article, ask yourself, 'Will this article be more enjoyable than the Gawker blog post viciously mocking the article?'" which linked to Robert Stacy McCain, who was (obviously) linking to Gawker. At Gawker, Tom Scocca was eking humor out of paraphrasing the Esquire piece in plain speech, with lines like: "Tom Junod can name several famous women who are 42 who he would be willing to fuck. Right in their 42-year-old vaginas. Cameron Diaz. Sofia Vergara. Leslie Mann. Amy Poehler. He would fuck these women, despite their age, and even share a joke with them, because the 42-year-old woman, she is a person, or at least a person-like idea...." Which is funny, but it's only funny because Junod gave him something to paraphrase and the will to do it. But think about it: Much literary humor is done through the device of taking what would be crude to say and putting it in an elaborate form. Anyone can translate it back into the crude. And much internet hu


And so — in the middle of a word — a post fragment ends. I'm tired of looking at that Draft post in my list of posts. I can't throw it out and I can't finish it. I'm just publishing it because I'm amused that my effort ended so abruptly. I felt some urge to defend Tom Junod, but not quite that much.

And then thi


Oh, good lord! I did it again!

It's the Tom Junod jinx. But, hey, look, Tom Junod is writing about pit bulls: "The most ubiquitous dog in the U. S.—the dog in whose face we see our collective reflection—is now the pit bull. Which makes it curious that we as a culture kill as many as three thousand of them per day."

ADDED: I was able to overcome my writer's block and say what I wanted to say in the comments: here. That was weird.


John henry said...

Ben Franklin had something on point about this. He recommended older women for 8 reasons:

(Excerpted from http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/bdorsey1/41docs/51-fra.html)

1. Because as they have more Knowledge of the World...

2. Because when Women cease to be handsome, they study to be good....

3. Because there is no hazard of Children...

4. Because thro' more Experience, they are more prudent and discreet...

5. ...regarding2 only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one....

6. Because the Sin is less. The debauching a Virgin may be her Ruin, and make her for Life unhappy.

7. Because the Compunction is less. The having made a young Girl miserable may give you frequent bitter Reflections; none of which can attend the making an old Woman happy.

8thly and Lastly They are so grateful!!

John Henry

traditionalguy said...

The perfect 42 year old woman is a perfect woman. Every age has its completed look that is beautiful beauty for that age.

Life is a beautiful show that must go on.

Give me a loving 63 year old woman any day.

John henry said...

Point 8 also applies to us men of a certain age.

We too are grateful

John Henry

Michael K said...

A lot of this (and I didn't read either article. Life is too short) has to do with the trend toward younger and younger women in movies and TV and other celebrity haunts. Think about the movie careers of Barbara Stanwyck, who was making big movies in her 40s and then had another career in TV, and Joan Crawford, who made "Mildred Pierce," her oscar movie at 41. Both women had affairs with Robert Wagner as a young man, Stanwyck for four years. Both affairs were kept secret but, in his biography, he is grateful to both for helping him grow up and learn sophistication.

Today, if a women is over 30, she seems to be considered washed up. Plastic surgery has kept some women looking 30 when they are 50 but the age thing is much too important these days.

There was even such a movie 36 years ago. Movies are made for 14 year olds now. male and female.

pdug said...

I wonder what Candlejack thinks about 42 yea-

Paco Wové said...

I find it best not to think about it at all.

Ron said...

post blocked! Yeah, I hate when that happens...

TRISTRAM said...

Most ubiquitous dog? I don't think that word means what he thinks it means (http://www.akc.org/reg/dogreg_stats.cfm):


Labrador Retrievers
German Shepherd Dogs
Golden Retrievers

Okay, this is breed registrations, but while the majority of pit bulls may not be registered, a lot of other breeds don't register most of their individuals.

Now, most commented on in news? Yeah, maybe. Most feared? Perhaps. Most seen? No way. Every where I have seen dogs, retrievers, poodles, hounds (Beagles in particular, but basset, daschunds, and larger hounds too) and a few yappy dogs dominate the types seen every day, no matter where I have lived.

MadisonMan said...

Why is it curious that the most common dog is also the one most commonly put down?

How mathematically illiterate is Tom Junod? Plenty, apparently.

Richard Dolan said...

"I felt some urge to defend Tom Junod, but not quite that much."

I suppose that captures one of the unique features of blogging. The idea used to be that, if you were going to publish something, then it should be polished and finished. That was especially true for lawprofs -- articles submitted for publication in law reviews were often the product of multiple drafts, all duly noted in an early footnote with thanks to those who had plowed through them. The only exception was for posthumously published writings, typically literary works where the author was, alas, unavailable to do that.

But we're in a different world now.

ErnieG said...

I know what you mean. Sometimes I don't finish my

Paul Sand said...

Writing about 42-year-old women and pit bulls, hm? I was reminded of Bob Hope's punchline in The Muppet Movie: "Don't get 'em mixed up."

From Inwood said...

Elvis died at 42.

Heartless Aztec said...

One of the best things about being a guy over 40 is that 50% of women look better.

George M. Spencer said...

Looks like what would have been a standard feature in Playboy circa 1960, maybe, though the text would not have been about women who could be grandmothers.

Makes you wonder what Playboy does publish these days. Totally off the radar. Has been for....30 years, at least.

Great Stephen King short story in that issue...Something bad—very bad—happens on a Peter Pan bus to a woman, a 42-year-old woman, probably.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I have lived in neighborhoods where the Pit Bull is the most seen dog. I'm pretty happy to be living in a 'Lab/Shepherd/Small Dog' neighborhood now.

It's not that Pit Bulls are inherently bad, but that the social signalling involved with pit bull ownership often points to attributes which make people less than savory neighbors.

tim maguire said...

I think the deeper truth about Tom Junod's article is that the most alluring women in the world are about 15 years younger than the man contemplating them (unless that leads to a round number, in which case add or subtract a couple years to arrive at a more thoughtful sounding number).

rhhardin said...

It's up to the 42 year old women to turn that into something they want.

Sexual attraction just gets the ball rolling.

Smilin' Jack said...

Younger women are more attractive than older women. This has been apparent to everyone since the dawn of time. One of the more absurd aspects of feminism has been the attempt to deny/change this simple biological fact.

rhhardin said...

Pit Bulls were America's dog, akin to the English bulldog, in WWI, for gameness, heart and courage.

Which traits they still have, but the media discovered they were more valuable as villainous menaces in the 1980s, which narrative has stuck.

It's simpler that way.

Ann Althouse said...

I think it's a literary trope.

You make the subject over-specific for the purpose of examination. Here, it's: 42-year-old women are ideal. Obviously, not all 42-year-old women are great and there are many great non-42-year-old women, but you posit it anyway and you run with it.

Step outside the area where we're concerned about sexism and you can see how it works.

The perfect day is… blah blah blah… there is milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges too… or whatever.

Yes, there are other good (even better) days and what's so special about that day you are fixated on? You could take umbrage at the specificity.

It's poetic. It's a device.

If people didn't get so darned mad at nothing, they might enjoy the essay. It's rather typical Esquire fare, actually.

Ann Althouse said...

That's what I wanted to say.

It was much easier to write in the comments.

The pressure is off in the comments.

mccullough said...

His article would have been better if he had sampled the fare. What kind of review of 42-year-old women is it without first hand details? Firmness, lubriciousness, etc.

George M. Spencer said...

The real tragedy is that a once great and serious magazine that published Tom Wolfe, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Michael ("Dispatches") Herr, and others is reduced to tarting up its cover with Cameron Diaz who is promoting her tawdry new movie...a bomb. (Why aren't feminists howling about that mess?)

As for the cover design itself, George Lois who designed literally dozens of masterpiece covers for Esquire must be reeling.

tim maguire said...

Ann Althouse said...That's what I wanted to say. It was much easier to write in the comments. The pressure is off in the comments.

For most, the pressure of comments is all we know.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Ann Althouse said...

The pressure is off in the comments.

Easy for you to say. You control the moderation, the front-paging, and the awarding of the coveted tags. You have no idea what it's like for the rest of us.

Krumhorn said...

I don't understand what all the fuss is about. If Gillian Anderson would take my call, I'd invite her up to the house for a long weekend.

- Krumhorn

Ann Althouse said...

I would actually feel pressure if I were on someone else's site, in their comments, more pressure than I feel on my own front page.

In order, from least to most pressure for me:

1. In my own comments.

2. On my own front page.

3. Commenting elsewhere.

4. Front-page writing elsewhere.

The Godfather said...

The older I get, the better I think 42 year old women look.

The formula for determining the youngest woman a man can date without looking like a fool is: Half his age, plus 7 years.

So, I'm 71. Half of that is 35, plus 7 is 42. Perfect!

traditionalguy said...

You're the best, Professor. And you keep getting better.

The moderating job you've done since last year has made commenting feel like a pleasure. The stone throwers are leaving us alone. So less concern spent on push backs frees up creativeness.


Rusty said...

Krumhorn said...
I don't understand what all the fuss is about. If Gillian Anderson would take my call, I'd invite her up to the house for a long weekend.

- Krumhorn

Or Kate Upton.
You know.
I wouldn't keep either of them very long.

Anonymous said...

Tom Runod stared at a bowl of carefully arranged oranges at the center of a house in a carefully arranged suburb. The smell of honeysuckle and new Honda Accord interiors hung in the air. Lace doilies adorned the table.

Somewhere in another room, a surprisingly loving pit-bull rested his head upon a baby girls' chest. Somewhere, a 42ish woman sighed and it reminded someone else of a delivery truck's brakes.

Runod had bartered for the dog not 3 months earlier, exchanging "Jace' for a car stereo and another dog he was watching for his cousin's girlfriend who probably skipped town without paying the rent because her baby daddy violated parole.

Runod was under deep cover, cover so deep he went places....places only a writer could go.

Hot alleyways, dark cages where the pitbulls moved anxiously, shouting, pot smoke wafting in the air, rusty fences, dirt yards...the memories washed over Runod like movie analogies seem to wash over everyday Americans giving interviews immediately after tragic events.

He felt his shirt pocket for a pack of Menthol cigarettes. Force of habit.

Race and class in America. Culture and morality. Love and meaning.

What does it all mean?

Jim said...

Arnold Gingrich wanted Esquire to have "ample hair on it's chest, to say nothing of adequate cojones." Does Juno's article pass this standard? I learned to read long fiction by reading material written by Gay Talese and Tom Wolfe and published in Esquire. I don't think this is exactly "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold."

Jim said...

Did I say fiction? Because I met to say non-fiction.

Ann Althouse said...

Before I went to law school, in my artist period, I had a day job coding and counting the material in magazines for a monthly report (used by advertisers).

Esquire was one of the magazines in the report, so I read every issue of Esquire in 1974 and 1975.

My view of what it's about is influenced by that experience.

It was also in the house where I grew up, alongside Playboy, coffee table reading.

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up in the 1970s, Playboy was quite common, but it was not coffee table reading. It was bathroom reading. Am still not sure who hid several issues in the basement bathroom behind all the towels.

Sam L. said...

What to think? I think it proves there is no need to read Esquire. Or reason. I will say that older women can be very attractive. I also recall reading some 40 or so years ago that plain-looking women can be better in bed because they're willing to work at being better in bed.

Ann Althouse said...

In my childhood home, in the 50s and 60s, Playboy was proudly displayed and anyone, including us kids, could read it.

Guildofcannonballs said...

"The stone throwers are leaving us alone."

But I've been throwing my biggest stones as hard as I can. You sir, are inconsiderate