Aging American Women Should Move to France


I’m passionate about sexy, older women, because I am one.

Sunday’s excellent Washington Post article on the sex lives of French women rings true to me. Thankfully, I spent endless weeks of my life as an aging Victoria Secret executive, working in France and Italy.

Just to reinforce Pamela Druckerman’s hypothesis that aging French women have it better, Dove’s 2006 Global Study ‘Beauty Comes of Age  confirmed a 20 year difference between American women and French/Italian/Brazilian women on the topic of when a woman’s beauty peaks.

Imagine looking in the mirror at 25 and believing that it’s all downhill from there. Yes, I’d rather be French!

Age of Ideal Beauty

Dove (Campaign for Ideal Beauty) asked the question ‘what is the age of ideal beauty’? By country responses to the answer ‘twenties’ were:

USA 48%; GBR 41%; FRA 11%; ITA 16%; BRA 18%.

Conversely, by country responses to the answer ‘forties” were:

USA 12%; GBR 22%; FRA 39%; ITA 38%; BRA31%.

Simply stated, American women believe that we reach the age of ‘ideal’ beauty before 30. We are ALONE in that belief among women around the world. The British women aren’t far behind us, and both groups have a staggeringly different self-perceptions than French, Italian and Brazilian women.
Serious and Sexless

In some respects, American women have themselves to blame.

Strong cohorts within the American feminist movement branded women like myself as traitors, simply because I never gave up shaving my legs and cared about my looks. As for wearing stilettos … well I was considered a hopeless sellout to the patriarchy.

Those arguments seem trivial now, but Druckerman’s point that French women weren’t expected to forgo high heels and chivalry in exchange for equality rings very true.

Father Knows Best

Religion also gets into the mix. France and Italy historically finessed the balance between women’s sexuality and respectability, much better than we more Puritanical Americans.

These two sensual European countries have remained both Catholic and non-monogamous, playing by the Pope’s rules some days, but enjoying ongoing, sexual affairs and staying out of divorce court the rest of the week.

In America, we want matters black or white. Grey areas, the nuances of life and human behavior don’t interest us much. We want rules to live by.

I suppose we should blame American men for promoting the idea that, even as beautiful women, we’re “depreciating assets with looks that will fade”, whereas the sought-after rich man “has money that will only continue into perpetuity.”

My pursuit of this Fall 07 Craigslist story suggests that at least the guy’s response to this ad was a hoax. Nevertheless, his acerbic words delivered a believable shot, straight at the psyches of American women, leaving an enormous digital footprint around the world.

Fixing Me

Personally, I hold myself responsible this psychological morass. No one can fix this problem but me.

I think American women must come to grips with this psychological aging and beauty dilemma by nurturing and yes, kicking butt, in pursuit of our health and wellbeing.

When we love the woman in the mirror, others will, too.

In my experience, an America woman over 40 — even 50 — who takes care of herself and enjoys success in her career, or a level of happiness with herself generally in life, will probably be dating if she wants to.

An updated AARP survey confirms that one-third of those women over 40 will be dating a man seven years or more younger than they are. Our media is behind the curve in reporting this data.

As in France, women who are dating probably take better care of themselves. Looks matter to both genders.

Curvaceous is beautiful, but Duke University researchers have established significant links among obesity, low libido and self image.

Out With the Old

When it comes to media, brands, and business, I do have a bone to pick with Victoria’s Secret, my alma mater. The very brand that could have helped American women have a more Euro attitude about aging, slammed the door in our faces.

When I write a book about American women’s sexuality, I will say that Victoria’s Secret originally did more for American women than any other brand, in terms of telling us that we can be both respectable and sexy. American women are in perpetual angst on this topic.

Until the Angels, Victoria’s Secret enjoyed a private, unique, emotional relationship with American women. The company squandered a customer relationship that money cannot buy, moving their message and target off women’s sexuality, with supermodels in a supporting role, and onto supermodel sorority girls.

We Don’t Need Your Money

Unlike the French, Victoria’s Secret does make sexiness about age.

On three occasions after leaving the business in 1996, I was asked in VS stores if I was shopping for my daughter.

In Dec. 2006, buying $750 in lingerie in New York’s Westchester Mall — all my size and similar taste level — the sales associate asked me the dreaded daughter question, as I pulled out my AMX card. If I didn’t need most of the product for a business presentation, I would have walked out of the store.

My argument is not that Victoria’s Secret should become a brand for aging women, although the mother brand is looking so much like Pink lately, that I can’t tell the difference. OK, they’ve got young girls covered.

My only request from VS is that they not insult me at the cash register.

But We Got the Money, Honey

I agree with Les Wexner that Victoria’s Secret owns supermodels, and they are gorgeous. The photography is beautiful, although the in-store presentation doesn’t look nearly as art studio as the Esquire photos.

Victoria’s Secret in Esquire magazine Feb 2008

What he hasn’t owned for years is the lingerie wallets of  higher-income American women who buy $40 bras.

Frankly, Victoria’s Secret’s sagging-for-years same store lingerie sales (sans Pink) could use an old-fashioned lift.

It astonishes me that such a successful, beloved American brand, occupying privileged, sacrosanct space in the psyches of American women, threw us away, rather than strategizing a new brand, to keep our lingerie dollars in the Victoria’s Secret cash registers.

A Toast of Bubbly

There’s a reason why French women spend 25% of their clothing budget on lingerie. They are sensual, beautiful, sexually-robust women well into their 50s and older, not washed up at 25, as we are in America.

C’est la vie. Viva la France! Anne

Obesity Alert | French Women Have More Self-Respect Anne’s Sensual and SuperYoung