Best if used by …

One of several arguments in favor of Ogden Nash’s “A Lady Who Thinks She Is Thirty”:

I also like the poem because it flies in the face of “best before” dates (and yes, there is an abominable program on one of the networks — Fine Living, maybe? that talks about a woman’s “best before” date. Which makes me both sad and angry) and reminds us that we all have value regardless of how old we are or what we look like.

Some otherwise-serious people actually believe in that sort of thing. Three years ago, John Derbyshire at NRO came up with this:

While I have no doubt that Ms. [Jennifer] Aniston is a paragon of charm, wit, and intelligence, she is also 36 years old. Even with the strenuous body-hardening exercise routines now compulsory for movie stars, at age 36 the forces of nature have won out over the view-worthiness of the unsupported female bust.

It is, in fact, a sad truth about human life that beyond our salad days, very few of us are interesting to look at in the buff. Added to that sadness is the very unfair truth that a woman’s salad days are shorter than a man’s — really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20. The Nautilus and the treadmill can add a half decade or so, but by 36 the bloom is definitely off the rose.

You may be sure that I gave this at least a fraction of the scorn it deserved.


  1. Charles Pergiel »

    3 February 2009 · 9:13 pm

    Am I getting old? Women under 30 look like kids. And yes, some women are visually attractive. They are nice to look at, but it’s what they talk about that counts. A cheerful disposition is very attractive.

  2. sya »

    3 February 2009 · 10:25 pm

    “Best before”? I thought a lot of people these days were heading in the direction of questionable foods with indefinite shelf life due to the relative availability of plastic surgery and other youth enhancement procedures.

    Too bad more people don’t follow the examples of cheese and wine.

  3. paulsmos »

    4 February 2009 · 12:16 am

    There is still that old double standard when it comes to aging. When they get older, men become more distinguished….
    Although I love my wife dearly, when she was 25 she was a veritable sex kitten… at 39 she’s merely a mangey old cat. As far as “it’s what they talk about that counts”, is pure sophistry…..all I want to hear from a gal is about my inhuman sexual prowess and how I want my grilled cheese sandwich.


  4. fillyjonk »

    4 February 2009 · 6:31 am

    Well, I’d argue that Sophia Loren (the woman I would be most likely to choose to look like, if I could do such a thing) has gone the wine route. (And yes, I suppose someone will now tell me she’s “had work done,” in the infelicitous phrase).

    If we’re going to argue that men age better than women, I would just ask if anyone’s seen Carey Elwes lately. (He was on an episode of one of the Law and Order clones a few years ago and when I realized who it was, I just gasped. Westley, what HAPPENED?)

  5. CGHill »

    4 February 2009 · 7:04 am

    Loren herself says, “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” I knew there was a reason I was fond of the stuff.

  6. McGehee »

    4 February 2009 · 8:06 am

    As much as I appreciate a well-crafted package, if there’s nothing inside worth opening it up for, what’s the point?

  7. fillyjonk »

    4 February 2009 · 9:05 am

    Actually, it occurs to me now, that perhaps one of the blessings of never having HAD looks is that one doesn’t have to worry about LOSING them.

RSS feed for comments on this post