Everyone knows: aging is so much easier for men than women, especially if you happen to be in the public eye. It’s a constant lament in Hollywood that male actors continue to get leading roles as they age—in fact, many of them are considered to look even more handsome as they ripen and mature—and nobody thinks twice about men like Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson dating women half their age.
Yet the truth is, not all men over 40 look like George Clooney. In fact, some middle-aged men, especially those who start experimenting with different styles, begin to look…. well, frankly, rather like old lesbians. Or at least, let’s say, like middle-aged lesbians.
Now, before you start getting all indignant, have a quick poke around the inspired site, Men Who Look Like Old Lesbians, and you’ll soon find yourself in agreement. The great thing about MWLLOL, as with all the most compelling websites, is the way it takes something familiar (in this case, publicly aging men), and gives it a very slight push, a tiny little spin on its axis, and suddenly you’re seeing everything from a totally new perspective.
In fact, you’ve landed in an alternate universe populated entirely by middle-aged lesbians, where Barry Manilow is the owner of a Tucson-based chain of doggy day spas, Al Franken is the Art Director of the Land’s End Catalogue, Robert Redford is the Head of Women’s Studies at the Community College of Denver, and Kim Jong-il is a soccer mom.
When I asked him where he got the idea for the site, founder Keith Mays recalled seeing a recent picture of athlete Bruce Jenner, whom he remembered rooting for in the Olympics as a kid; he happened to remark to his wife that Jenner now looked like an old lesbian. A couple of weeks later, Keith’s wife saw a picture of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, and made a similar observation. After that, Mays kept a list “very casually,” he says, “and when I had about ten people, I started the blog.”
If MWLLOL seems a tad cruel, consider it as an act of retaliation, a small attempt to right the balance in media discrimination against middle-aged women. Whenever the site seems snarky, it’s important to note that the hits are directed not against old lesbians, but against aging men who vainly attempt to make themselves look younger than they actually are.
In fact, lesbians are a major constituent of the blog’s fan base, notes Mays, though he’s not sure whether they’re old or not. “Conservatively, I’d say 35 percent of the e-mails and suggestions I get are from lesbians, although they usually don’t indicate their age,” he said. “One of my favorite comments was from a woman who said her ex- looked like Patrick Swayze—but she couldn’t dance.”
Like it or not, certain men do start to look a little femme as they age, and in the worst cases, this impression is enhanced by bad style choices. According to Mays, the most common mistake made by the men featured on his site is “having eye work done,” and the second most common mistake is “spiked, streaked or feathered hair.”
There are a multitude of lesser sins, too. Turtlenecks, single earrings and designer glasses may look great on Ellen, kd lang or Melissa Etheridge, but, as MWLLOL woefully demonstrates, they don’t look nearly so hot on Kyle McLachlan or Joe Piscopo.
I asked Mays what was his favorite contribution to the blog, and he told me he’s always been fond of the Bruce Jenner gallery, but added “I love the picture someone sent of Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs.” I mentioned to Mays that I know a middle-aged lesbian who’s the spitting image of Robin Williams, and he confessed that he’s been looking for the right picture of Williams for a while. “He’s tough, though,” added Mays, “He’s always a little too hairy.”