A call to giggling: Middle-aged men unite

March 12, 2012

Middle-aged men should do crazy things (Image AndYaDontStop via Flickr)Kelly Noble, editor of the fashion and events magazine, Glam Adelaide, stated in a blog last week that there is ‘nothing great about middle aged men giggling‘.

For the record, it was a tongue-in-cheek post, I think, and she didn’t say they were not allowed to giggle, only that they probably shouldn’t because, one assumes, it does not befit them. Interestingly, she followed that statement with the assumption that the bloke she based this opinion on must have been heading off onto his first dirty weekend with the female companion he was travelling with. Why else would a middle-aged man be giggling?

This made me think, especially given it was International Women’s Day last week, about the hidden stereotypes even well-rounded and politically-correct people still adhere to, like these:

  • A middle aged man giggling means he is up to no good or has lost the plot
  • The ‘pretty young things’ fluttering eyelids while downing flutes of champagne at Adelaide Cup day today must be dizzy airheads and potential trophy wives

In my various marketing workshops last week, I met a number of people who coyly shared that they have two hats – their current career and a new venture they are developing in their own time. They were shy about it because they feared people would not understand there was ‘another side to them’; some complexity in their character that defied first impressions.

First impressions count for too much

It is certainly true that human beings are particular primitive in our perception skills. As I reported recently, first impressions are stored deeply and profoundly impact our ability to judge people, places and situations fairly.

From a marketing point of view, we must, sadly, acknowledge and work within this serious limitation. It means these entrepreneurial souls need to be careful about how much and when/where they disclose these new aspects of their lives so as not to undermine their credibility for either hat.

Ironically, Glam Adelaide, which celebrates the fun aspects of life, shares lots of pictures of coiffed women in pretty frocks smiling gaily for the camera (and hunky blokes too). As someone raising two girls, I often reflect on innocent pictures like those and wonder if they program rules of behaviour and expectation into young people, forming anxieties and expectations based on surface-level concerns.

As a parent, I often wonder how best to guide these young women toward life-affirming choices about self-esteem, societal integration and bold dreaming for what they can achieve in life.

The last thing I want them to be programmed with is how to conform to very limiting roles portrayed in the media or the vacuous, ‘Adelaide Confidential’ pages of our newspaper.

I want my girls to buy the latest lipstick if they want to but not because they feel they have to. I want them to choose a career or profession (or a few) based on their intrinsic drives and interests, not on expectations of what certain women of a certain age must do or seek.

Be free, giggle

And so, likewise, to middle-aged men everywhere I say, take the lead and set an example. Conventional wisdom has you pegged as the most liberated, enfranchised ‘type’ in society; everything aimed at redressing imbalance in society uses you as its benchmark. Use it. I dare you, publicly or privately or both, to laugh, giggle, wear pretty frocks, express the fullness of your emotional capacity without regard for the tut tutting of people who want you to behave a certain way.

In many ways, if more middle aged men were prone to giggling, we might have a healthier and friendlier society! There might be fewer cock fights in Hindley Street, there might be less tension in homes and offices, and their might be large doses of ‘mental fresh air’ in the corridors of power leading to better, more balanced decision making.

So, Kelly, I know you did not mean to force a restrictive behavioural stereotype upon a particular segment of society. I simply thank you for your post because it helped sharpen my awareness of how intrinsic archaic stereotypes can be within my belief system and those of others.

Tee hee.