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Age is not just a number

Vladimír Záhradník
July 18th, 2021 · 10 min read

About three weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine put a post on Facebook saying that “Age is just a number. You are as old as you feel…” And there was one more statement regarding intelligence. I wrote to him at the time that I could easily refute both of his claims.

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Age is just a number

My friend Havran sees it similarly, and I quote him: “Age is just a number only in certain cases. But in most of them it does matter. If age were just a number, pedophilia wouldn’t be illegal.”

Nature cannot be cheated

Did you know that almost all the cells of the human body change several times during our lifetime? However, mistakes, tiny mutations, occur when new cells are formed. And these are what we think of as aging. Our immune system monitors what is happening inside us and when it finds a cluster of excessively damaged cells, it intervenes. But if it is weakened and doesn’t notice them, these damaged cells can spread uncontrollably and cancer can develop.

However, there are also cells, namely our brain cells, which gradually die out over our lifetime and have a limited capacity to renew themselves. When I learned this fact as a child and that alcohol was killing my cells, it took me maybe 10 years to have a glass of wine. There is one other cell in a woman’s body that doesn’t renew itself — ova (the eggs). One interesting fact: did you know that eggs are one of the largest human cells that you can see with the naked eye without a microscope?

What fascinates me about eggs is that they are still forming when the future woman’s fetus is forming. In other words, the embryos of her future grandchildren are already forming in the mother’s body. These eggs age naturally and each month their number decreases during menstruation. While after birth a woman has roughly 6 million eggs, after the age of 37 she has only about 5 percent of her eggs, 25,000. The chances of fertilisation therefore plummet. And it’s not just the reduction in the number of eggs.

Pregnancy and childbirth are probably the greatest burden on the body that a woman can experience in her lifetime. Ideally, therefore, she should try to have offspring when she is in her prime, roughly between the ages of 20 and 25. At the same time, her eggs are still young and there is less chance of the baby being born with any birth defects. Conversely, a woman in her 40s may have trouble getting pregnant at all. Even if she does, she will probably have a high-risk pregnancy and runs a risk of miscarriage. And even if she does manage to successfully carry a baby, there is still a higher chance of birth defects. Just because she delayed getting pregnant.

Nature has arranged it differently for men. The only factor in the quality of their offspring is their sperm. However, unlike female eggs, male is constantly forming new sperm. They deteriorate in quality and quantity due to environmental and lifestyle influences (there are many studies), but because new ones are constantly being formed, there is more wiggle room to ensure that we have healthy offspring. For example, a man will start exercising, eating healthier, or wearing looser underwear. That’s why even a man in his seventies can conceive a perfectly healthy offspring, even though it’s not that common.

Even if we put biology aside, age is still not just a number. I once told myself that if I couldn’t have a family by the time I was 40, I probably wouldn’t even try. Not because I couldn’t, but I think children should have living parents. If I had, say, a son in my 40s, by the time I’m an adult I’ll be 58. I can still do that… But if I had him at 70, by the time he’s an adult, I may not even live to see him. I might not care anymore, but the kid will still be here, without a father.

When I was born, my dad was a year younger than I am now. This was such a trigger for me that I started to deal with starting a family much more intensely. Because I can imagine how old I’ll probably be when my son is my age. I know now, while I’m roughly 33-38, that’s still cool. Later on, I see it as a problem.

Towards the end of his life, Karel Gott (famous Czech singer) said that he regretted having put off starting a family for so long. Now his two teenage daughters live here after him, but only with their mother. However, Karel married a woman much younger than him. Imagine having a child by a 50-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman. Even if they succeed, it will have a huge impact on that child. Not to mention the fact that that child will probably lose its parents at a young age. It’s going to affect the child’s upbringing… It’s going to be like the child is being raised by grandparents. When you’re older, you don’t have as much energy as you did when you were young, your neuroplasticity hardens, your opinions and attitudes are set in stone. You’re less flexible, you’re afraid to take risks, and what’s more, you’re afraid for that offspring of yours that came into the world after several years of trying. What can grow out of it? Perhaps my fears are over the top, but I think that such a child may suffer from such an upbringing compared to other children who have been brought up by young parents.

Life is not fair

Occasionally, when I watch some foreign videos on relationships and dating, the term SMV or “sexual market value” pops up. What’s that all about?

Our value to a potential partner is determined by three things: money, social status (+ influence) and appearance (+ age). This applies equally to men and women. However, there is a big difference in how much weight we give to each component. Women look for different things in men than men look for in women.

Let’s look at men first. Let’s say I’m as ugly as Mick Jagger or Vaclav Klaus Jr. (Czech politician) However, I can increase my value by, for example, higher wealth or social status. This signals to my partner that I can take good care of her offspring. As far as appearance is concerned, aging doesn’t fool any of us, but we can at least compensate for it with exercise. It’s no coincidence that men with great wealth and influence have young women in their twenties as partners. And the richer and more influential they are, the easier it is for them to achieve this. Aging and old age play much less of a role here.

Václav Klaus mladší
Václav Klaus Jr. (Czech politician) Image by Seznam Zprávy

If you’re a woman, you might say to yourself, “That’s silly, I don’t think like that.” I get it, we’re all different, but at least try to think about it. Don’t you look to men for support and stability? Who can give you better stability than some millionaire who can provide you well even in times of crisis when others can’t even afford to eat?

And now let’s look at women. Men put almost no emphasis on money and social status in women. The most important thing for them is health and age. They want a young, beautiful partner with whom they have the best prospects of starting a healthy family. These decisions are innate in us, I think most of the time we don’t even think about it.

A woman who builds a career during her prime years often doesn’t even realize that she is missing out on what is most precious to her. That is, assuming she wants to have a husband and a family someday. Having an educated woman next to me who I can admire for what she has accomplished is certainly appealing. But if that woman is 35 or older, many men will prefer younger women, albeit less educated one. They don’t need a woman with a career and fortune by their side. They are not looking for in a woman what they can provide for themselves. Is that fair? It is not! But such is life. All we can do is adapt and play along to get the most of it.

A strategy for our life

If we know that women look to men for stability, financial security and protection, we men should strive to work on our education, and gradually acquire wealth and influence. In this way we can compensate for the uncertainties that the future will inevitably bring. And personally, I would also add the upper age of 40, so that the children do not have a father who is actually their grandfather.

If I were a woman who wanted to have a family someday, I would function differently. I would have tried to start a family when I was 20-25. A woman at that age has no problem finding a good partner in whom she can find stability and, I believe, happiness. On the contrary, she hardly needs education to start a family. I’m not saying she shouldn’t study, but I think that under ideal circumstances she could do it alongside having children. Starting a family is not the end of life, quite the opposite. By starting a family in her prime years, she will have healthy children and can pursue a career and other things, but no longer without the fear that she will miss the boat and the biological clock will start ticking mercilessly.

If you look abroad, you will find plenty of articles and blog posts where older women complain that they can’t find a partner. They’ve built careers and worked to be “the best versions of themselves” and they’re annoyed that men are choosing younger ones. They didn’t realise that they could work on being the “best version of themselves” alongside their family. And now they’re sorry they’re alone. Let’s take these women as a memento of what to avoid. They may tell themselves they have a happy life, but for many it’s not true and deep down they know it.

I was recently debating this with a female friend. She’s in her 30s and she told me that she still doesn’t feel that maternal instinct. I told her: “I don’t feel the paternal one either. It’s possible that it will come when the baby is born.” If I were her, I would spend some time thinking. She may not feel any motherhood cravings now, but by the time she does, it may be too late. I’ve spent some time thinking about what I want. I know I want a family and ideally at least three children. My own, not adopted. And that’s why I’m figuring things out to make my desires come true. I’m not just waiting because I don’t feel like being a father right now.

I’ve noticed that people in my neighborhood are putting off starting families. Either they want to enjoy a carefree life of traveling, building careers with their partners for as long as possible or they put off starting a family (or conceiving a second or third child) because they don’t have enough money. In doing so, they do not realise that they are missing out on the most precious thing of all — the opportunity to have healthy children, or the opportunity to have children at all. Finances, work or our convenience should never take precedence over family and children. That is, if we want to have a family one day, of course. Everything else are things we can deal with as we go along. After all, we have nine months for the baby to arrive. That’s plenty of time to figure something out, like finding a better paid job, or if that doesn’t work out, we might as well cut back on our expenses. Who says we need to go on holiday all the time and buy something all the time? I grew up in a frugal environment with two brothers and I think it made our relationships stronger.

What about me?

For the last two days, I’ve been thinking intensely about whether I would go back into a relationship with a woman older than me. And the answer is: “Probably not.” I’ll explain why the hesitation. My friend Havran recently told me that I have strange tastes. When I told him what kind of women I liked, he didn’t quite get it. But it’s clear to me now. I’m primarily looking for a woman who impresses me with what’s in her head, how she thinks. All the women who have so far attracted me have attracted me first because of their intelligence, and only then did I start to notice their looks and other things. But I always took age as a factor. I went into my relationship with Nely with the risk that we might not have children of our own or that we might have disabled children. But if I get along with someone and I love them, I’m not going to leave them just because there’s a higher risk that we won’t have children.

I try to go into a relationship and give it my all. However, when I am not in a state of infatuation and I am not too attached to a girlfriend yet, the question is whether to step into the same river a second time and be in a relationship with someone older than me. I don’t have a clear answer even after two days of thinking about it. Every friend I’ve addressed this question with has told me: “Find a younger one. Ideally 9-10 years younger than you. You can still mold her to your liking and you’ll have healthy kids.” I realize that, as hard as it is to admit, they are right. I would like a female peer, a woman of about 33, to join me, but by this thinking of mine, I am actually consciously suppressing my chances of having the healthiest offspring possible. If she were 34, I’d probably go into a relationship too. Because if we’re going to have trouble conceiving, at least we are in this together and we are of the same age. But if she’s even older than me, and after 30 every extra year matters, that’s really something to think about.

I think I would still go into a relationship with an older woman. But there’s one big “BUT.” Nely was very aware of her age and the risks involved. It’s no coincidence that we wanted to get married after a few months of dating. I knew that if I wanted even a chance to have a child of my own, at least one, every month was crucial. With a girlfriend who would look at it with the same sober perspective and realize that we couldn’t put off starting a family for long, I could probably still imagine a relationship. However, it would have to be a woman who compensates for her advanced age with other qualities that far exceed this physical limitation.

Conclusion

The world is not simple and there is not one right solution. While some do not want to have a family and children of their own, others are trying and failing. Today I have looked at this problem from the perspective of biology. I think that each of us can take something from this for ourselves. If I have made you think about it with this article, I have fulfilled my purpose. I would like you to think carefully about what you want out of your life. Now, at this very moment. So that one day you don’t end up unhappy and alone. If you are already at that older age and you are unhappy, even then all is not lost. You can always change your life if you really want to. But look at life as it is. Don’t dream of meeting Mr Perfect or Miss Perfect, because they don’t exist. However, if you humble yourself and take a sober look at who you are, I believe you too have a chance to change what is keeping you from achieving happiness.

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