Advice for men on looking good in middle age
In our youth-oriented culture it can be hard for middle-aged men to compete in society as age sets in. Yes, it’s tough for women too. But I can’t speak to that problem for the simple reason that I’m not a woman. But guys, here are a few basic strategies to avoid the worst mistakes in middle-aged grooming.
Understand that men show signs of aging in a different ways. Some men lose their hair. Others go gray. Many put on a middle-aged paunch. Faces sag. Eyelids get droopy. Hair suddenly grows quickly in places you’d rather not have it grow; the ears, nose, back and front of the neck. Sometimes these little issues creep up on you before you know it, and then some snarky young person says “nice ear hair” to make you realize middle age can be quite unkind.
You don’t have to rush off to the plastic surgeon or have an affair to make yourself look (or feel) a little better. But you may need to pay attention to your appearance so that creeping signs of middle don’t take over your persona. Let’s begin with some middle-aged flaws that are eminently avoidable…
Lose The “Combover” at all costs
No man should part their hair by one ear and comb it over the top of their head to cover a bald head. Combovers have never, ever looked good on men. Nothing says insecurity and “lost in middle age” like a comb-over.
Instead, it is better to bite the bullet and buzz your hair short. There has never been a better time in history to be bald. Even young men now shave their heads. Their fashion trend can be your salvation. Many men actually look younger by buzzing their bean.
In college we had a campus pastor with a combover that when from his forehead to the back of his head. When the wind blew it would stand straight up like a bird in distress. Not the look you want to achieve, now is it?
Lose the toupee too
I have yet to see a toupee that really works for the long term. Sooner or later people figure out that mop glued to your head is not your real hair. And then they can’t stop thinking about it. Call it a “rug” or whatever you want, there is nothing attractive about sticking a chunk of fur on your noggin. So lose it. Trim your hair close on the sides and get used to living with your “real” look. Honesty really is “in” these days. If you’re wearing a toupee to impress women that you’re not bald, forget it. If the relationship goes anywhere she’ll soon enough see you with out the mop, so what’s the point?
Try the “counterweight” look
Some men can pull of the “bald head but cool beard” look. That means growing an intelligently groomed bit of facial hair that takes the focus off the top of your head. It also sends forth a little manly message that while your pate may have given up on hair, you haven’t.
Trim the ear and nose hair regularly
One of nature’s annoying mysteries is why ear and nose hair suddenly starts to grow faster after age 40. It’s annoying, but it’s true. So do something about it. Unkempt ear and nose hair tells people you never really look at yourself in the mirror. That means you might not care what other people see when they look at you. Which might mean you don’t care about a few other crucial things in life, like how you you think. So rid yourself of excess ear and nose hair on a consistent basis. You’ll feel better knowing that person behind you on the train isn’t studying an Old Growth Forest growing out of your ear. There are great ear and nose hair trimmers on the market. Or you can go low-tech and tweeze the stuff. Just do it.
As for neck hair, nothing says “old guy” like a band of unkempt white neck hair sticking out from your collar. Unless you’re going for the absent-minded professor look, take a razor to the back of your neck every couple days when you shave.
This can be a tough one. Everyone suffers from bad breath now and then. Real dental health takes work at any age, but particularly as you age. And know this: there is not a breath freshener on the market that lasts beyond your next meal. That means you should not go anywhere–especially not on dates, business or job interviews–without being prepared to freshen your breath if need be. Some men prefer gum while other choose mints. Job advisors recommend breath spray because it is quick and efficient. Those mouthwash “tabs” that come in little packs can be quite effective as well. Just be careful not to let them go through the washing machine. Your $2.00 will simply melt away.
There are some really great teeth-whitening products on the market that can help your choppers look their brightest. Whiter teeth can be sure way to look younger. Once you floss and brush your teeth and gums to good health, it is medically (and socially) acceptable these days to whiten your “toofers” with an over-the-counter teeth whitener. Brand name whiteners are best and usually cost around $29. But they’re worth it. Cheap teeth whiteners usually don’t work. Spend the extra $10 and be sure to get a decent result.
Have you noticed that these changes are getting a little tougher and more personal as we go along? That’s how life goes, my friend. So you might as well get serious and take a look at yourself in the mirror. Are you fat? Push yourself away from the table now and then. Eat a light lunch at work. A simple beef and bean burrito only costs $1.50 at Taco Bell and will fill you up reasonably well. Watch out for “stealth” fat-building foods like carbohydrates, soda pop, beer and sugars. Stop pigging out before bedtime and watch out for stress binging. Show a little discipline and you’ll show a little less spare tire. You can do it.
Taking care of your skin is one of the forgotten secrets of retaining a youthful look. Using a moisturizer on your face and arms can soften age lines and prevent dry, scaly skin from sending bad impressions. Go outside and get your Vitamin D with a little sunshine, but protect your skin from excess rays that can cause leathery skin and skin cancers. Wear sunglasses when necessary to keep from squinting your eyes into a map of crow’s feet.
Engaging in a regular exercise program is vital to keeping yourself healthy and younger looking. You don’t need to run marathons or do the Ironman to keep physically fit, but you do need to exercise hard enough to make a difference. The best, most basic starting point is a solid, 5-times-a-week walking program. Each walk should be at least 3 miles at a brisk rate. Through this simple program I’ve seen people strip dozens of pounds off their bodies. Plus, walking works off the stress and lets you think. Walking has also long been the “exercise of choice” for some of the world’s great thinkers. Exercise is known to generate endorphins that can lift your mood (a good choice if you fight depression) and many people get their best ideas while out moving around.
Cycling can also be an excellent way to exercise year round. Swimming and running are great if they don’t bore you and your body can handle them bio-mechanically. The more adventurous might like mountain biking for its ability to get you places where you can be alone and thrash off some negative energy.
One of the disciplines people neglect when they consider their age is their style of conversation. Learning to constructively control (read: limit) what you say to get your point across tells people you’re respectful, thoughtful and engaged. Going on and on about some topic until you bore someone is not only disrespectful, it makes you seem like an old blabberheaded coot. So zip it. Take pride in measuring your words. Look for pertinent points in conversation to make your entrance. Then people will want to hear what you say and get a better impression of your. Let wisdom guide your speech and you will appear to be drinking from the fountain of youth.
Make an effort to establish social connections with people of all ages, both older and younger. Do not exhibit ageism at all if you expect to be respected in middle age yourself. That said, it does not hurt to be seen working or socializing with people younger than you are, especially in the work environment. But a word of caution: Do not ever be a lecher or make comments that could be construed as a sexual advance toward younger women. Do not make lewd jokes or innuendoes. Nothing tabs you quicker as a dirty old man than untoward comments or overly long stares at young women. If you happen to be gay, the protocol can be extra delicate when approaching younger men, especially in or around the workplace. Overall, simply be reserved and smart and let genuine relationships emerge from social contact rather than setting yourself up for gossip, speculation or worse.
Update your e-life
Staying vital and connected these days means keeping your digital and technology skills up to date. It certainly doesn’t hurt to leverage social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to build new connections and keep pace with how the modern age communicates. Social media is one of the new measures of youthfulness.
Accept some facets of age gracefully
Once you turn 40 or 50, you simply may not be able to keep up with the youngest members of your running or cycling club. In some cases, you should not even try. Athletic prowess does not always fade rapidly with age, but if and when it does, daily laments about what you used to be able to do not endear you to anyone. Learn to project confidence and class as you do your best. Everyone will respect your efforts if you do.
The same goes for the workplace or socially. Whether you are socializing at work or church or some other location, complaint is the surest way to sound bitter and older than you’d apparently like to be. Don’t groan about physical ailments, for example. It’s okay to discuss athletic injury at the water cooler with someone who brings up the topic, but it’s best to keep your personal health and fitness personal. “Too Much Information” is just that. So generally keep it close to the vest. Let people guess about your age because you seem younger than you are.
Last reminder: Can’t say enough about The Hair Thing
We’ve already discussed comb-overs and toupees. But neither should you get a tortured perm, install hair transplants, dye your hair out of a bottle or mousse it up in spikey highlights to make yourself look younger. All these things make you look desperate, not better. As for formulas that are supposed to make your hair grow back, the world has yet to see a firm claim that any of these products can cure male pattern baldness. Otherwise every bald man from here to eternity would be using it, don’t you think?
These hints about grooming for men in middle should keep you in the ballpark when it comes to not looking older than you should. There are literally dozens of men’s magazines chock full of other hints. But remember that you can’t fight age forever. The goal is to know yourself well enough to project health, vitality, energy and a youthful spirit. The best fountain of youth is to enjoy life, plain and simple.