What single women in their 40s want out of life

TOKYO —

Here’s one entrepreneurial magazine editor’s philosophy: “I want to change the notion that marriage equals happiness, that love equals happiness.” The editor is Yuki Yamamoto and his new magazine, Dress, is due out next April. Its target readership is limited but growing – exponentially.

Two Japanese neologisms are key to understanding what’s happening here: “arafo” and “bimajo.” The first is deliberately garbled English: “around forty.” The second means literally “beautiful witch.” The point, explains Aera (Dec 3), is a quest for eternal youth and beauty by mature single women determined to stay that way.

Single life is spreading, elbowing married life aside. As of 2010, government statistics show, more than 10% of Japanese women in their 50s were single, having never married. The technical term is “lifetime singles.” As for women in their 30s, 34% are unmarried. Yamamoto’s philosophy is for them. What constitutes fulfillment for these women? A career, for one thing. And if not that? Beauty. Unfading beauty.

Take note, entrepreneurs: here’s a new and expanding market, and the time to penetrate it with suitable products is now, says Aera, before competition crowds the field.

What kind of suitable products? Anti-aging ones, primarily. Traditional women’s magazines have always filled their pages with beauty tips, but it was beauty of a certain kind – beauty “befitting one’s age,” namely middle age. Out with that. Single “arafo” women don’t want to look “arafo.” They want to look like “bimajo.” Dress magazine will be aimed at them.

Career women have other priorities, and Aera shows us something of them too, in a separate piece titled “Unmarried elder sister versus married younger sister.” That’s the typical pattern nowadays: elder sister ditching marriage to pursue a career and living at home with her parents, while younger sister moves out, marries and has kids. “Versus” suggests rivalry, and there’s plenty. One younger sister Aera speaks to, a single mother of two, resents her elder sister’s monopoly of their parents’ attention. The younger, juggling a job and child-rearing, is run off her feet; her parents would be handy babysitters from time to time but are too busy dancing around the elder sister to have time or energy to spare. The last straw, as far as the younger sister is concerned, was overhearing the elder one say to the children one day, “I’m counting on you to look after me when I’m old.”

Another family in a similar situation – except that the younger sister’s marriage is intact – lives with different submerged resentments. The sisters’ mother, in her 70s, does all the housework and grumbles, “I have two husbands,” the second one being her demanding elder daughter. The mother is healthy now but may not be forever, and the younger sister wonders, “Who will look after her if she gets sick?” She doubts her sister will. She wonders, too, what the elder sister has to look forward to, and fears, despite her remarkably successful career, it may be no more than a lonely old age.

  • 23

    paulinusa

    I for one would like to meet attractive fortyish women who want to stay beautiful and have no desire to marry. Nothing wrong with that.

  • 18

    ebisen

    After reading this article, I haven't found one single explanation for "What single women in their 40s want out of life". R U sure this is the correct title?

  • 16

    Tessa

    Good questions, choiwaruoyaji. I think women in general are far more interested with impressing other women, rather than men.

  • 14

    choiwaruoyaji

    If there is no man in the equation, why do they want to look young and beautiful?

    Is it just for their own satisfaction... to be able to look in the mirror and think "I've still got it."

    Or is it to garner praise from other women?

    What's the objective?

  • 14

    Ivan Coughanoffalot

    Single women in their forties often need some kind of special treatment to remove the all-pervading scent of cat out of their clothes.

  • 13

    Maria

    From what I can tell from this piece, Dress is a new mag with a male editor (and no women staff cited here) which aims to tell women what they want and how to make money off them.

    No thanks.

    Aera, too, says it's all about business - how can companies get some of those single women's hard-earned cash off them? Spread the insecurity, that's how.

    No thanks.

    The second Aera article has 2 undoubtedly fictional family situations, both of which show the single woman in a bad light.

    No balanced reporting? No thanks.

  • 11

    Victoria Maude

    As a woman, I can say that at least for me, looking good is more about a competition with other women than impressing men. When you go out for the day, you're unlikely to have men you don't know approaching you trying to start a romantic relationship (unless you're at a bar or some such place), but you will always be looking at other women and comparing yourself to them. Being less attractive than others makes you feel self-conscious about yourself.

    I for one see nothing wrong with staying single and childless if it makes you happy, though I don't think one should leach off their family either. If you're single without kids, that means that all the money you make after taxes stays with you! That should be more than enough to support yourself and your parents!

  • 10

    Alex Einz

    Whats wrong with a single career woman... whats this need to get married,although the article is just a marketing piece... I dont think there is anything wrong with not having kids or family and living the life how you want vs what the society expects

  • 9

    Mocheake

    "Beauty" cannot last forever. Clothing, cosmetics and cosmetic surgery can't make you beautiful. If you are in your forties and don't realize this, you have much bigger issues and they are probably the reason why you're living in a fantasy world. I think this article just shows how sad most of the people really are.

  • 8

    Jechan

    They want Disneyland, cute little outfits for their dogs and weekly eikaiwa classes.

  • 7

    combinibento

    This article brings to mind that lesser-known Christina Aguilera B-side track, What an Obasan Wants.

  • 5

    cornbread1

    "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • 5

    gaijinfo

    Women want to stay beautiful because they are genetically programmed to attract males, whether they like it or not. Men are genetically programmed to chase beautiful women, whether they like it or not.

    I seriously doubt the cosmetics industry needs a new magazine to tell them this. As if they are going to read this guy's mag and think, "Now why didn't we think of that?"

  • 5

    TheInterstat

    Judgemental lot, aren't you.

    I know quite a few women in their forties who are single, and enjoying themselves a great deal.

    Leeching off ones family is an entirely different issue altogether, but one which is just as lame at 25, and just, if not more, common.

  • 4

    HokoOnchi

    Even though some similar phenomena can be found elsewhere, I cannot help but think that this trend in Japan is due to the intractability of the "old ways" when it comes to gender roles once marriage and having a family enter into the frame.

    Are there men looking to have a family who are willing to be more engaged with the effort? Sharing more in the household maintenance and upkeep. Looking after the kids? Are there employers who encourage fathers to go home at a decent hour instead of sitting in offices reading the paper or looking busy or hanging out with the boss after hours so that they can be family men instead of just bread winners?

    It seems that today, it still mostly is a matter of the the wife and mother taking on all of the work to keep a family together while the husband only shows up on weekends.

  • 3

    daviddd1212

    FREEDOM!!!

  • 3

    cierzo98

    @LH10

    If you're for real......

    I'm sure what you are saying is correct - for some ladies. There are no doubt women who are totally happy on their own with out a man (or a woman?) They are happy and fulfilled - good on them. There are men like that too. It's not the prerogative of women only. But let's face it, we all know they are probably a minority. Then there are the others - possibly like you - generally the ones who can't get or can't keep a partner because of your sour attitude and your predisposition. Maybe the men cheat understandably for good reason. So you don't need one. You clearly suffer from a massive dose of cognitive dissonance.

  • 3

    Mandy Findlater

    I am a white woman in her early 40's from Africa, I worked for a Japanese Company for nearly 9 years. Believe me being single, having a GREAT career is the way to go. No regrets at all, I love my salary, which affords me lovely things, with also being able to take care of my widow sister and aging parents. There is no sterio type, everyone must live their own life :)

  • 2

    kurisupisu

    When all these women are old and childless I wonder if a life in front of a looking glass would be fulfilling ?

  • 2

    hereforever

    Mocheake, beauty can last forever because beauty is in he eye of the beholder. Beauty is not only about looks. I have met some women who look beautiful at first glance, than after talking to them a bit, .....well I guess you know what I will say next.

  • 2

    passingtime

    I know a certain drop dead beautiful 40 year old woman who has had not just one but several high profile high status dream careers concurrently who would be happy to drop them because she is desperate to have a child and a husband.

  • 1

    Eppee

    The family image needs to change, women(and men ...) should understand that career and family are not contradictory, and could be even more rewarding.

  • 1

    Maria

    @sourpuss - you underestimate the power of target advertising. It can suck anyone in, even you, when they find your weak point!

    I didn't say that these family situations don't exist. They do, as do many, many other situations. I do think that a) the family situations in the Aera article will have been made up and based on this stereotypical image; and b) they weaken their argument by not showing both sides. I can tell you all about a fabulous woman I know who supports her parents and her married sisters' kids. She offers up a very positive image of the successful, happy, fulfilled single career woman. Why not tell her story as well as the other side? Why not? Because that doesn't fit into the editors' aim of making these women feel low, useless, unfulfilled; and of making society look down on them.

  • 1

    flygirl1221

    My heart breaks for the old mother in the second family scenario.

  • 1

    tmarie

    Don't forget someone to pay for it all Je!

  • 1

    choiwaruoyaji

    If a woman has a career... that's great.

    No kids... that's OK too.

    But I can't understand the single thing.

    Isn't it wonderful to come home to someone you love and talk about the days ups and downs? To support each other and enjoy things together.

    What's the alternative?

    The singleton may well have lots of clothes, accessories and toys... but how to enjoy them alone?!

    Coming home to an empty apartment just seems so sad to me, no matter how many luxury goods it is filled with.

  • 1

    midnull

    It's a stigma. Is it an isolated incident in Japan? No. I just don't like how people corrilate marriage with happyness. I don't like how people pay more attention to single women in their 40's like is an some horrifying thing, while for men in their 40's and who are single doesnt' get as much attention.

    As far as leaching off of people, in general it's wrong...but hey...look at the damn economy. Maybe there are reasons behind it. And if those are single career women...they have money...so they're not leaching, in fact I think it's safe to assume that maybe they're helping their parents? Wasn't it old tradition in Japan where the childeren grow up and take care of their aging families? If this article was about leaching single women, it wouldn't have had the word "career".

  • 1

    Equality

    LH10 - it sounds like you have been quite 'unlucky in love'. Be that as it may, there are still lots of warm, supportive, loving men out there who are in fulfilling, long-term relationships with equally warm, supportive, and loving women. Just because you have been given the short end of the stick, doesn't mean you should deride and disparage all men.

  • 1

    ObviousDemon

    Just because these women are "not married" does NOT mean they are 'without a man' or 3 or 7.

    I personally can say I did my bit to salute the massively underappreciated non-child females of Japan.

  • 1

    Cos

    guys and wigs.

    Wigs in Aichi ? In Osaka, they are getting the English lawn... I mean they put them seedlings of hair on the head. I've had a dozen of male coworkers (2/3 gaijins) that had it done. The final result, if it's a success, is not really natural, but during 6 months that's terrible. And some of them would have looked great bald, but they told me "I want to look young, not great or hot...".

    the women focussed on in this article

    They are not real. As Alex said, the guy tries to sell a vapid hand-bag catalog full of ads for cosmetic and clinics... that's what he tries to sell. So he says to women : "That's what you want to buy...". Surely many in mid-life crisis are lured by this artificial youth industry. But single women particularly ?I doubt it. All those that can afford it, like married DINKS of both genders too, any wealthy people. The "woman's biological clock" OTOH is used as a classic pretext to promote a big old concept with men living for pleasure using a few young women over a lifetime and women having to merrily accept a role of disposable servant for the man and maid for his house.

    I would much rather hook up with a Japanese girl in her 20's versus a Japanese mid-40's year old

    No problem if you are full of dough.

    he'll probably only be with her while waiting for a younger catch to come up.

    So will your 20 yr younger darling, after emptying your bank account, she'll look for love.

  • 1

    vctokyo

    a ticket to the next smap concert

  • 0

    Nessie

    If your goal in life is to look eternally young, you're setting yourself up for some disappointment. I have two women friends around sixty who are always complaining about men, while simultaneously complaining about never having married.

  • 0

    Fadamor

    COUGARS ON THE PROWL! RrrrOWRrr!

  • 0

    badsey3

    When you are a woman the clock is always ticking and working against you. These women are fighting that clock.

    Men need to understand this and get their act together and not expect women to wait so long. Families and parents must work harder if they expect families to continue thru marriage.

    Single women: Is it better to have two incomes (marriage) or just one (single). As the women you are the head of the household and hold the purse strings. Wealth is concentrated in families.

  • 0

    sikdjgugu

    I would much rather hook up with a Japanese girl in her 20's versus a Japanese mid-40's year old who looks like she's in her 30's. Chasing eternal youth for these older women is worthless as men will always choose the younger, more fertile counterpart. Even if they were attractive enough to get a man, he'll probably only be with her while waiting for a younger catch to come up. These women should just invest in a plane ticket to Mid-West and find themselves a nice american who will be happy for the exotic asian look, despite the older age.

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    "The point, explains Aera (Dec 3), is a quest for eternal youth and beauty by mature single women determined to stay that way."

    Sorry, but eternal youth does not exist, and these women who yearn for it end up the bitterest lot of the bunch. I'm not saying marriage is necessary, or even a relationship with the same/opposite sex, but opposing something for the sole purpose of opposition is silly. Most of these women end up buying a dog and fawning over it until it becomes a nuisance, then put it in a box-called-dog-house outside their homes. Too late, women like Yuki lament what could have been if they had someone meaningful in their lives, then they blame it on everyone else.

  • 0

    hobart_mark

    Used to be japanese single women over 25 were called Christmas cake. Nobody wants Christmas cake after 25th.

  • 0

    Cos

    When you are a woman the clock is always ticking and working against you.

    And men are immortals.

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    Cos: "And men are immortals."

    Not at all, and we both know that too well, probably. But the comment you quoted is true for the women focussed on in this article; trying to achieve 'immortal beauty' can only end in one way.

  • 0

    yokatta

    Love those arafo's AND those bimajo's!

  • 0

    Ranger_Miffy2

    Got news for you. By the time you are 50 or 60, those wrinkles will look "bad". They will be REAL signs of your character. Do you smile a lot? Frown a lot? It will show. Forget botox and other nonsense. Sometimes botox results in hideous lumps that will have to be rooted out by doctors. You will never look as good as if you avoided botox entirely. Same with other cosmetic surgery forms. Just learn to dig who you are at any age.

  • 0

    Zen student

    If these women want to never get married and never have kids, that's fine. As JT readers, we all know how many horror stories about bad mothers and fathers are out there so some people are just not cut out for parenting, let alone marriage.

    What dose concern me though is how plastic, superficial and materialistic Japanese society is.

    The Martin Luther King quote above is a good one and very true and I often find it sad how many Japanese are not interested in helping others and 'seeing the bigger picture' of life but I blame this on all the advertising propaganda which ENCOURAGES people to focus on their beauty/looks or have the latest whizz-bang gadget or car etc. To some extent we are all victims of this and women wanting to stay beautiful forever is no different.

    There is nothing wrong with trying to look after yourself and make yourself look beautiful but for some women it's an absolute obsession which does not allow much time for anything more FULFILLING in their lives. But that's modern life unfortunately and it's not just Japan either.

  • -1

    Tessa

    Yes, I have noticed this family dynamic. I've been accusing SAHMs of selfishness, but it looks like more than a few single "career" women still living at home are contributing their fair share of it, too.

  • -1

    GW

    Although these stories are obviously fake there are bits & bobs that you do see here & there, more reasons why I am glad I wasnt born here, the odds at being happy are pretty low whether your married or not

  • -1

    Robert Dykes

    Marriage = happiness and love = happiness Well. Love does equal happiness. Sorry to burst your bubble. And I think your first problem may be that you EVER thought marriage equaled happiness. There are happy moments in marriage, and happiness is often hopefully found in marriage. But it's work! Nothing worth doing is easy! And not all great things are pleasure. The majority of marriages in the USA and Japan end in divorce and many that don't are miserable probably becuases they had fairy tale expectations of nothing but "free" garrunteed happiness

  • -1

    blooms

    its the cultural marxism who finances feminist movement. These kind of magazines changed and continue to change the woman mentality. Its not a trend, its a social engineering. The majority of japanese girls are becoming unmarriable. The cited editor Yuki Yamamoto is likely to be paid to push this philosophy (as all feminist icons like Betty Friedan, etc) Unfortunately the girls are being trapped and the men dont see who is behind this all.

  • -1

    Tessa

    I personally can say I did my bit to salute the massively underappreciated non-child females of Japan.

    And I appreciate your efforts! wink

  • -1

    bajhista65

    What single women in their 40s want out of life... Whatever the author want to promote is fine. But for woman who stays single for the rest of their life but chooses VANITY is quite not ok to me. Of course this women will have relations here and there and worst might produce a child out of marriage. ILLEGITIMATE child. Just because she wanted to maintain her physical appearance.

  • -1

    lwsydney

    Personally I can't complain as I make my living from the goodwill of ladies like these. ㅎ ㅡ ㅎV

  • -2

    sourpuss

    Maria,

    They're supposed to be adults. If they are duped into such a mentality, it's safe to say that they were ripe for the duping in the first place. And I wouldn't say that these families are entirely fictitious. I know of a couple of very similar situations myself.

    I realize that you don't want to be lumped in with such types, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

  • -2

    lostrune2

    Out of life? Cougar

  • -2

    tmarie

    So working women in their 40s living home with mom and dad are spoiled princesses who think they are too good for marriage. Little sisters who have kids are ticked off because they get more attention paid to them and they both are concerned about their looks? Yep, sounds about right. End of the story is that many women here are superficial, nasty and vain. I didn't need this "article" to tell me that.

  • -2

    LH10

    "Isn't it wonderful to come home to someone you love and talk about the days ups and downs? To support each other and enjoy things together."

    lol yeah right~ then the arguments starts! lol single people have friends no need for those lousy lovers lol single is better ^^

  • -2

    ikemen

    Are there men looking to have a family who are willing to be more engaged with the effort? Sharing more in the household maintenance and upkeep. Looking after the kids?"

    Enough with this outdated late 20th century feminist whining!

  • -2

    nedinjapan

    Ever considered that Japanese people are so much influenced by the media? All those ads that scare them from getting old, programs that teach them how to avoid skin wrinkles, and that stress can make them age, even the stress of a relationship .... If the Japanese economy did not depend so much on its own domestic consumption, its people would not become the victims of a large brainwashing campaign ....

  • -3

    Probie

    @choiwaru

    If there is no man in the equation, why do they want to look young and beautiful? Is it just for their own satisfaction... to be able to look in the mirror and think "I've still got it." Or is it to garner praise from other women? What's the objective?

    I'm betting they're the type who say they don't need/want a man, but only say that because they're obnoxious hags and no-one will touch them. They want to try and look "beautiful" so they can find some dummy rich guy to keep them as a pet, but don't want to people to know how desperate they are or that they're chasing a day-dream. So they pretend that they don't want a man.

  • -3

    iceshoecream

    What single women in their 40s want out of life?

    A man who can give them kids and marriage no matter if they love each other.

  • -4

    Robert Dykes

    Oh yeah. Btw I'm happily married :)

  • -6

    LH10

    "I think women in general are far more interested with impressing other women, rather than men."

    it's a fact that women do wanna impress other women. women become jealous of other women fashion, beauty, lifestyle etc. therefore they keep on looking better like a competition ^___^ screw men! they just stress us women, cheat on us if we don't have sex with 'em, bringing an std on our lives etc. LONG LIVE SINGLE LADIES! WE SO DO NOT NEED MEN

  • -6

    tmarie

    Women get the bad rep for the beauty thing but come on, guys and wigs. Need I say more??

  • -10

    sourpuss

    PaulinUSA

    Nothing wrong with what? Being a narcissistic leach?

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