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Throwing Off The Shackles Of Young And Handsome, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:41am


“Wait,” you just might be thinking. “What the heck is going on here? Why is a photo of Josh Holloway greeting me?”

Reasonable question. Mr. Holloway’s photo marks the last time I found a young, Generally-Touted-To-Be-Handsome man attractive. Now we could launch a debate over long hair, blue eyes vs. brown, and Just What Is It About Bad Boys? But leaving the points of different taste aside, we can probably agree that when Lost first aired, Holloway was a) a heartthrob to young women b) 34 years old himself.

I was 47, and I too thought he was cute. That’s what we used to say, in the olden days, cute. To call someone hot would have questioned centuries-old strictures. And High WASPs shouldn’t even be writing a post like this, but never mind.

Don’t tell my dad.

However, now I find myself completely mystified by the heartthrobs du jour. Ryan Gosling?

"Drive" Photocall - 64th Annual Cannes Film Festival

Puppy dog eyes. Why not just get a puppy?

Adam Driver, in his role as Lena Dunham’s boyfriend in Girls?


Reminds me of a forest creature, or jungle man. His character’s primordial, almost ape. And pretty much non-functional in the modern world.

Both Ryan and Adam are tall and muscular. Is their popularity fueled by the odd fact that America’s height has stagnated? Did you know that the Scandinavians and the Dutch are now significantly taller on average, than we are? And that holds true even when data is controlled for the broader ethnic spectrum of the USA?

Both men also appear to be devoted to their mates. Are young women consciously or unconsciously realizing that when women make up the majority entering medical and law schools, bad boys aren’t terribly fun? That more substantive, less harmful thrills are to be had on the job? Home as comfort?

Hard to say. Amusing to consider.

I don’t think young women are wrong, per se. I just think I’ve crossed over. Society, hand-in-hand with biology, pushes young women to find certain men attractive. Since neither society nor biology need us 50-year olds to find anyone in particular attractive, we’re free to set our own criteria.

To be sure, I am not saying I’m out of the game. I just got married, after all, sighing over my handsome husband like any bride. But I no longer find young men in the cultural group-think cute. Or hot. More than my failing connective tissue, more than anything happening to my hair or skin, this is a felt marker of aging.

A remarkably liberating one, at that.

Have a wonderful weekend.


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81 Responses

  1. You aren’t alone – even when I was much younger I didn’t find these types of men interesting. It’s a bit offputting when I think I could be some man’s mother.

  2. Hmm…Oddly, my MIL finds Channing Tatum to be gorgeous. She cannot wait to see him on TV every week and she’s 84. I had my fill of bad boys in college (1 or 2); one still keeps in contact with me sighing over days gone by. He’s very happily married and has two adorable children but although he got past his rep and outgrew immature behavior; he somehow looks at me as the One Who Got Away. He knows darn well I’ve been married for 30 years and is incredulous I’m a simple woman with no kids living in an art-covered bungalow with the same guy and that I never have and never would cheat on my husband. Some boys may *look* all grown-up, but, they’re still the bad boys now they were then. I’m very happy I got away and don’t regret my luge or my choices as I might have once upon a time.

  3. One of my three sisters recently started dating a guy who’s sweet and gentle but big and hairy. The men and the family don’t really get the appeal but my sisters and I have all spoken about the strange biological appeal of a big, strong hairy man. Some thing primally attractive about the appeal of a man who looks like he could cut down a tree and build you a house, keep you warm, kill stuff for you to eat. I’m a feminist and the primarily breadwinner for my family and am married to a very non-neanderthal-type but I still find men like Adam Driver undeniably sexy.

    1. Not a strange appeal at all! I always go straight to the worst-case scenario: there is a nuclear holocaust and we have to fend for ourselves. Or maybe just a hurricane. I would much rather have a strong man who can cut wood to keep us warm and shoot a deer so we don’t starve than one who can talk about post-modernism. :)

  4. First of all these three twinkly twits couldn’t shine my avatars shoes. Lisa, just take a nice long look at that fancy boy in the top pic with that pretty hair tousled just so and that head cocked in a manner that Liberace would find quite fetching.

    I suggest you curl up with a Dr No, Thunderball, or The Great Escape to reference young, handsome, and virile.

  5. The last time I found myself attracted to a young man who was generally touted to be handsome was David Duchovny in The X-Files. It was September 10, 1993. I was turning 40, he had just turned 33.


    He still looks good, too. Better to my eyes than his younger self.

    I can objectively see why young men are appealing, but…maybe they’re too close in age to my son? They all look like kids to me.

  6. I find RG attractive, and I definitely don’t usually go for a mainstream type fella. Have you seen Drive? He can play a meanie pretty well.

  7. These men look like babies to me! I’m 43 and only have maternal feelings when I see these young men. I think I know why: my very cute son who is 6’4″ and a no-denying-it handsome guy (in spite of his long hair and earrings) will be 21 next month, maybe that’s why young men under the age of 40 all bring out the maternal in me.
    My friend Bryna is 56 and loves the blonde guy from Sons of Anarchy: I don’t get it at all. To me he looks like he needs a time-out and some clean clothes. He’s a baby!

  8. Perhaps the standard of handsome changes with each generation. For my generation, it was Robert Redford after all. I did find the actor who played Mr. Big in Sex and the City (Noth) to be attractive.

  9. The first guy looks pretty much like my Marlboro Classics man ( clothes design brand ).
    Whenever I see someone resembling “him”, I feel weak.
    Perhaps the ads are just too good! Not feeling guilty about my secret crush = not so secret anymore ( lol ) on the Marlboro man.

  10. The gents above may be more appealing in motion that in freeze frame. Adam is kind of a postmodern Keanu Reeves and Ryan has been coding as a safe feminist crush, probably for the sensitive characters he plays (I’ve seen only “Blue Valentine”).

    So what handsome, smart, contemporary 40-something actors are out there for a discerning woman of a similar age to find appealing? Alessandro Nivola fits the bill. (But my younger self would have swooned over Joaquin Phoenix, with flattering haircut.)

  11. Yes, well, my oldest son-in-law will be 40 this year. . . rather puts a damper on any temptation to admire younger men. . . wouldn’t quite say I’m impervious though. Sometimes when I’m watching an escape show, it’s my younger self who gets pulled in. . . .

  12. For me, it depends on the guy. But even Slim Paley agreed that Josh Holloway is cute and she has excellent taste. I think it’s more the confidence, that little swagger, the gleam in the eye that does it. In general though, I’m a softie for Kyle Chandler, Cary Grant and the like …

  13. Tom Selleck and I will ALWAYS be simpatico. I lusted after him in Magnum, and he still makes my knees weak in Blue Bloods.

    He’s older than I am now by a few years, but my feelings for Hawai’i-Tom are still there and still strong — and only mildly inappropriate because then-Tom is younger than my now-sons.

  14. Great post. I kind of agree that none of these guys seem so appealing. Not sure what the draw is to them…Talk about Dutch guys..They are very tall and handsome. We were there this summer and I was amazed at all the gorgeous guys!

    I do think older guys are just a lot more appealing..Now wouldn’t it be great if men thought the same? Well, I guess some do. The smart ones.
    Happy weekend!

  15. You couldn’t find two more dissimilar men than RG and Adam. I admit that I am attracted to the RG type as Mr. Pom is surely one of the finer examples. I can be a groupie over any good-looking man, regardless of age, but it’s mainly like looking at a really pretty pair of stilettos – I’ll never wear them again, but I sure think they look nice on others.

  16. One of my sons looks very much like Ryan Gosling- even gets asked. He’s tall and lanky (as I think of Gosling, more than muscley.) Anyway, I just watched “Breathless” last night and recalled my VW-sized poster of Belmondo on the dorm wall. He was called ugly; I still find him mesmerizing.

    I never liked cute and those men don’t age well.

  17. Thanks for the morning’s thought detour Lisa! Give me a mature sensible intelligent man in a suit any day. I always loved Robert Redford before he had his eye’s ‘fixed’, he won my heart in The Horse Whisperer, even though he always had it. Intelligence, integrity and savvy. That pretty much sums up my tastes. I even love Geoffrey Rush.

  18. Sean Connery for the way he looks, not necessarily the way he behaves. Santa Claus is also one of the sexiest men ever. Go figure.

  19. Hmmm. I don’t believe I have even heard of Adam Driver, although I do know of Mr. Gosling. He is actually kind of cute (Mr. Gosling), but definitely not “hot” in my book. I’ve always been kind of cerebral in this regard, which explains the looks of pity, revulsion or confusion I receive on those rare occasions when I speak aloud about someone being “cute”.

  20. I’ve never gotten the Ryan Goesling thing either. I think it was his turn in The Notebook that gained him that status…the kissing in the rain, the brooding stares set against the lush backdrop of that old southern plantation house……not his actual looks or persona. So really, I suppose millions of women everywhere are in love with the art director from The Notebook, as opposed to Goesling himself.

    Me? Nah.

    I’m in Camp Clooney.

  21. Paul Newman stole my heart long ago and these young movie stars don’t even come close to his magnetism when he was 70!

    1. @Erica, New to me;). My actual digital crushes these day? Idris Elba in Luther and Jet Li in Unleashed.

      And that, my friends, is called burying the lead.

  22. I like older men…George Clooney will do nicely thank you.
    I prefer men who have some worldly experience and having a son who is 33 next month I cannot even consider a 30 something !

  23. oh dear god, I just had a December crush on a 19 yr. old who was helping us in the shop.

    Messy hair, very fit, listened to blue grass and very, very politically correct. at least to my way of thinking…

    I also have a crush on a very handsome, very fit, 80 year old customer of ours.

    We all do. Whenever he comes in we all flutter around him like doves, cooing and fluttering our eyelashes.

    For me it’s not the age, or the gender. I wonder what it is…

    Not bachelor #2 or #3 for sure.

    xo J

  24. Josh Holloway in Lost (I was also 47) blew me away. And I felt incapable even then for simply falling for a man’s looks. So I analyzed my attraction. His perfect jawbone, the way he threw his head, his uncontrived swagger, that combination of vulnerability and masculinity–and the way he said “Sugar, ” his Georgian roots, his confidence, his comfort in his Southern drawl, his perfect skin and natural grace–well, I couldn’t find a thing not to love. And he was so aptly named–“Sawyer,” Twain’s seminal bad boy whom I fell in love with at 10. Or was Huck the seminal bad boy? I just wanted to be Becky whitewashing the fence with Tom. And I so agree that today’s cinematic stars seem to be a watered-down version of masculinity and symmetry. Not sure this is good for our daughters or our sons. As you rightly point out, today’s young men are having a harder time by traditional standards of success than our young women.

  25. I’d take David Tennant or Robert Carlyle over ANY of the above mentioned! That is (cough) assuming all parties were single….

  26. What , no mention of Steve McQueen ? Not just his looks but the way he moved . No one else ever came close , apart from the gorgeous man I met at seventeen . Married forty five years now & he’s still gorgeous

  27. You’re definitely not alone. I’m in the same age group as Gosling and Driver, and I don’t find either of them attractive (neither of them appeal to me physically, and I find Driver’s character on Girls repulsive, so there is that). Josh Holloway, on the other hand, on a raw, primal level, YES.

    Then again, other men in my general age group who I do find attractive in a mix-of-perceived-personality-and-physical attraction way include Andrew Garfield, Darren Criss and Penn Badgley. None of them are Holloway-style heartthrobs, but they do better reflect the kind of men I’ve been attracted to in real life.

  28. Alas, my heart will always be JFK junior. I would have given up a pay cheque just to have lunch with him.

  29. I’m with you, there are not many men out there these days that I “get”, although Josh is looking good in that photo and there is the exception of Jason Momoa (for me). Adam Driver’s character in Girls is the single reason why I can’t watch enough of it to see the phenomenon of the show – in season 1 I found him so repulsive and creepy that I was done. I dipped in for one of the new shows this season and I felt no different about him. I do think that George Clooney is classically handsome and has never been more appealing than he was as a bumbling dad in The Descendants.

  30. Toy boys don’t flick the light for me….older intellectual with hornrim specs have my knees knocking!!

    1. @Judith/Ida,

      “older intellectual with hornrim specs”

      Double triple sigh, amen. Always and forever, and I’ve never strayed all these years – Atticus Finch [Gregory Peck, in To Kill A Mockingbird].

      Wonderfully fun post, LPC!

  31. Benedict Cumberbatch for me, he plays smart intelligent roles, is attractive albeit not in a obvious way and tall. I also love his quirky style and that in interviews he seems able to laugh at himself. Maybe it’s a British thing ?

  32. Pretty is as pretty does. I would rather have my slightly nerdy engineer husband who comes home every night, who can repair things, and who has a steady job than a Bad Boy. Security and dependability are hot to me. (And my husband is a hottie, so I have it all!)

  33. Stop Intellectualizing!…Simply Stated…Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder and Ageless by the way…

  34. I remember my 72-year-old mother gazing in horror at People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive!” cover with a shaggy Brad Pitt: “Him?!?!”

  35. The main reason Americans are shorter as an average is our diversity. There are more Americans, every year, from Asia and Central America, which are two regions where the average height is shorter than other places. Americans tend to inter-marry more than residents of most EU countries. Nothing to do with nutrition–just genetics.

    1. @Belinda G., Belinda, that’s what I thought too, before I read up. In fact, the studies have corrected for ethnicity. The trends are for the same group of Euro-Americans that used to be getting taller.

  36. What’s with the two day beard? I saw a bridal ad, and while the bride looked beautiful, the groom had a two day beard. Don ‘t you think that would be the one day you would take the time to shave?

    Before my time, but my favorite movie star is William Powell.

  37. Same phenomenon here with the young ones. My instincts go like “they wouldn’t be worth the trouble”.
    That said, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are perfect in historical/fantasy garb, hair flowing and all.

    (And I’ve always had a soft spot for Alexander Siddig.)

  38. Ok this post really made me smile Lisa. Hawt? I can’t even imagine using the word without irony, to describe my body’s woefully life-long uncooperative heating and cooling system.

  39. I’ve been saying for several years now that the standard of “leading men” has slipped precipitously! Many a movie has been ruined by Joaquin Phoenix, Tobey Maguire, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shia LaBeouf, or Bradley Cooper in the leading man spot – they wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near a film set ‘in the olden days’. They’re fine guys, to date, and to marry in the real world, but NOT leading man material! All is not lost, thought, as we do have Channing Tatum, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Will Smith, Leonardo Dicaprio, etc., and I just saw the new movie “Song One” with the wonderful Johnny Flynn, who’s very good leading man material!

  40. Jeremy Irons over any of these pups thank you very much!

    Ryan Gosling has a tiny squeaky voice, best seen semi naked. (him that is)

    Love this post!

  41. Ladies, ladies! Why no mention of Harvey Keitel? Yes, he’s getting on a bit now, but he certainly hit all my buttons a few years ago! A sensitive soul who could certainly be a bad boy… (Of course, I married the most reliable man in the world)

    1. @Margaret,

      Oh oh, it wasn’t until AFTER The Piano that I began to fall for Harvey Keitel. I LOVED the character Baines [HK]. One of the opening scenes with Sam Neill and HK watching the boat arrive w/ Holly Hunter coming ashore. Sam says “Well, what do you think?” and Baines says “I think she looks tired.” Classic.

  42. Late to the party, but today’s the day for catching up on your posts :)
    As for toothsome younger men, I’ll have a heaping order of Henry Cavill (Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, in “The Tudors,”) please.

  43. Hmmm. The bad boy. Had one once and he broke my heart but when I had the chance to take up with him again I went for the boy who worked at Disneyland on the Jungle Cruise. I am more the Richy Cunningham type. For over 30 years it’s worked out pretty well. So glad I wasn’t totally seduced by the Dark Side. :)

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