Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How Old is Too Old?

Is it even a fair question to ask? Fact is that as we age, our bodies break down. Things that we did when we were in our 20's and 30's become much more difficult in our 40's and 50's, and in most cases they become downright impossible when we hit our 60's and older.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Some people are, or at least are very close to being, as healthy, attractive, and fit well into upper-middle age as they were in those younger days. They eat right, exercise regularly, and otherwise take care of their bodies. An even smaller group simply has a genetic 'gift' if you will that keeps them looking youthful longer than the rest of us.

Many people can stretch out their youthfulness by simply refusing to 'act their ages', maintaining a fun-loving, positive, youthful attitude that exudes energy. Call it 'mind over matter' if you will. You know, you're getting older, but if you don't mind it don't matter.

However, the fact has also been that there are some professions that embrace and even require youth. Take female news anchors for instance. Anyone who follows local news broadcasts over a period of time has seen a parade of young beauties take over for one another over the years, and Philly is no exception. From Jessica Savitch in the 70's through to Alycia Lane in the 21st century, local news has seen it's own parade of gorgeous women in anchor chairs.

The issue of 'how old is too old?' for the ladies is playing itself out in a couple of high-profile instances right now. Up in Canada, 44-year old Kimberly Ouwroulis (pictured) and 45-year old Barbara Sanderson are suing their employer, New Locomotion, for firing them in what they describe as an act of age discrimination.

Kim and Barbie, you see, are exotic dancers.


The management of New Locomotion says they want to go with a younger lineup of dancers. Ouwroulis counters that she is in great shape, still looks good, and still receives good tips and rave reviews from customers. She says that she was one of the hardest-working and most-liked employees.

"I was the older girl but the girl who looked great," she said. "I was never in trouble at work. I've never been reprimanded. I don't have a criminal record. I am just a professional worker who takes dancing very seriously." 

Sanderson, a mother of two, has filed an official human rights complaint. Does the business have the right to let them go under these circumstances? At what point is their claim to still be 'hot' and fit enough to do their job in a business where those are the primary requirements trumped by the opinion of their employer on those counts?

For Sanderson, Ouwroulis and New Locomotion, the issue will play out in the courts. Ouwroulis has sued the strip club to the tune of $100,000 which represents approximately one years wages for her.

Carol Alt is now 47 years old, and her story has a more positive outcome. If you recall the name it is because she was a high profile model back in the 1980's. Alt, still looking fit and gorgeous, is the covergirl on the latest issue of Playboy magazine, and has the inside photo spread to prove her beatific bona fides.

Sure, the good folks at Playboy do a nice job of air-brushing out any small blemishes. But when you take off your clothes for the highest profile purveyor of such images, you just can't hide enough if the basic package isn't there.

If all of this sounds like a discussion of pure sexuality to you, then you got it dead-on straight. Fair or not, whether you personally like it or not, women are often judged on their appearance by men. Young, attractive women get more 'benefits' in life from a large segment of the male society, and even from a segment of the female society.

How much of that partiality towards youthful attractiveness should be allowed to stand in the business world? How difficult is it for a woman like Carol Alt to continue to compete with younger models who seem to grow on trees?

Men love good-looking women. There's a news flash. And we also recognize that many women are extremely physically attractive into middle-age, and sometimes even into old age. But is there a limit for certain jobs like news anchors, models, and yes, strippers?

I would take the position in these instances that, especially in those industries where appearance is a key factor, employers have the right to decide when to move on with their employee base. But there are many legal and social issues when addressing the larger question: How old is too old?

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