“You Don’t Look 50!” Is That A Compliment Or A Stereotype?

You Don't Look 50
“Wow, you don’t look 50 at all!” What do most people, when faced with this statement, perceive it as? When said as a compliment, it is meant to be a gift, presented without any intent to outrage. Of course, when said to remark on a person’s evidently ageing attributes, it comes across as criticism. But what compliment-givers don’t often realise is that their apparent appreciation carries an inherent shade of bias.

This well-meaning compliment showered to hail the receiver’s sparkling fitness levels at a certain age could actually be a generalisation that implies everybody else in that age bracket is not looking after their health. Is that really the case though?

Author Preeti Shenoy, in a recent social media post made to mark her 50-year milestone, spoke about that supposed compliment and “how annoying it is because it implies that at 50, you’re ‘supposed to look a certain way!'”

“I had a goal when the pandemic had just started in 2020. I wanted to be the fittest I have ever been in my life , when my 50th came. Even on the days that I didn’t feel like, I pushed myself and trained hard,” she wrote alongside two snaps of herself, flexing her muscles and working out.

She added, “At fifty, I’m grateful for many things—including my grey hair! I no longer care about ‘looking young’. I am simply grateful I’ve lived to see this day—a privilege denied to many.”

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Of course, the general perception around 50 stems from the observation of middle-aged people around us. For so many of them, streaks of grey hair and lines of wrinkles become external evidence of their age. They may have to pop medicines to keep their overall health in check or take a begrudging evening walk to keep their limbs running. But the latter consequences of age have wider acceptance than the former in society.

We don’t bat an eyelid when 50-year-old talks about the results their latest medical report yielded about their blood pressure. ‘Oh, it happens at this age,’ is the common reaction. But what about physical appearances? Why does judgment seep in when middle-aged people – women, more than men – go and grow beyond normative beauty standards? What is “pretty” and why are they still expected to look it?

Can women at and over 50 be given space to comfortably settle into their age without the pressure of having to look “youthful”?

Alternatively, those working towards fitness levels that apparently aren’t congruent with that of their age group being told – “You don’t look 50!” – can also be a bummer to some who are not trying to win points for “looking young” but are simply on health journeys that suit their lifestyles.

The bodies we live in endure a lot to sustain us. In what can only be called mutual love, we must give some care and kindness back to them and keep them well-oiled in our service. Part of that comes from regular exercise and part, essentially, from respecting, being true to and going easy on yourself. When you do that, you will always be at your best at any age!

Views expressed are the author’s own.