Ageism has crept into Love Island – and it’s yet another example of how differently we treat men and women.
Ah, Love Island. It’s all good fun, isn’t it? Sex, daft colloquialisms even your grandma is au fair with (grafting, muggy, type-on-paper) and Carry On style games which interject endless conversations about “getting to know you a bit better”. But let’s be frank, it’s not exactly a lesson in transparency. “I just want to find love” usually translates to “I’m desperate to sell weight loss tea for a couple of grand per Instagram post”; seething tensions and great romances are nudged along by a merry band of producers and those gleaming white teeth and gravity defying body parts are courtesy of cosmetic ‘doctors’, rather than good old fashioned nature.
We know we’re being treated to a nightly façade but we’re happy to play along in the name of light entertainment. But, in this series, there’s an illusion the media and Twitter are not so happy to ignore: the apparent age of two of the contestants.
In the pink corner: Laura Anderson, a blonde air hostess from Scotland whose bio states that she’s 29. From the offset some viewers weren’t convinced she was telling the truth about her age – apparently she looks older – and took to Twitter to air their views on the matter.
“Laura is a big Jez who should be getting engaged and a mortgage like her age mates but instead she’s being a cougar to a 20-year-old.”
“Love Island should have an age limit, go home Laura.”
“The way Laura doesn’t say her age but everyone else does… I f**king knew it, she’s in her late 30s. WATCH.”
“Omg Laura IS Olivia Attwood [contestant from 2017 series] – she looks like a 47 year old version of her, right enough, but genuinely believes everyone fancies her. Tragic.”
“Nice of them to send Olivia’s mum in.”
In the blue corner: Adam Collard, a personal trainer from Newcastle whose bio states that he’s 22. Apparently, also fibbing:
“Are we sure Adam isn’t lying about his age? He looks like he could be my dad #LoveIsland.”
“No, but seriously who lied about Adam’s age, ITV2 or Adam himself? Because there’s no way in hell he’s only 22???????”
“HOW IS ADAM 22 THOUGH?!?!?! What did his momma feed him as a baby? Because I’m same age and he could pass as my dad.”
Objectively (I say objectively but this is based on a simple office poll), it’s Adam’s age which is the most surprising. What’s not surprising, however, is that it’s Laura whom the press have gone for. Countless articles have appeared in tabloids and ‘news’ websites loaded with innuendo about this ‘older woman’ (she’s paired with 21-year-old Wes Nelson) who is clearly lying about her age. Viewers have gone through her old photos to prove she’s a decade older than she claims, with many running them alongside snaps of Magda from There’s Something About Mary and last year’s Olivia as a point of comparison.
Adam, on the other hand, has gotten away with a line or two at the end of a handful of articles.
As it happens, neither is lying about their age: Laura’s birth certificate has done its way around the internet, and Adam’s friend has backed him up. Conspiracy resolved. But what the situation has highlighted, yet again, is the ridiculous double standards we have to encounter when it comes to ageing. And love.
It seems that, as well as not being able to look your age, women past a certain age aren’t actually allowed to actively look for love. They’re definitely not allowed to talk about it. Laura has said that she’s on the show to find a husband and instantly “GOLD DIGGER” headlines and memes and tweets circulated the internet. Because as we know the narrative for women and love in the media goes like this: Carefree and single at 22; wounded and looking for love at 26; desperately seeking love by 30; goddam miserable spinster by 40. Men, on the other hand somehow jump from player at 20 to bachelor at 40 with nothing in between – no heartbreaks that leave them full of issues, no pining for babies. And when a man does state he’s looking for love he’s met with encouragement – “What a man, so honest, so brave, so emotionally intelligent.”
Never would you find a 29-year-old man described as the ‘older man’ and yet, not one article can resist referring to Laura as that when discussing her relationship with Wes.
While we’re here, who decided that women are not supposed to age? Who says we should peak at 21 then stay suspended in time thanks to a Harley Street doctor on speed-dial? The age-defying creams and potions that encourage us to erase our wrinkles and lines are tenfold that of the men’s market. The fillers that plump our faces like cheap supermarket chicken breasts until they’re line-free but devoid of the marks that show we might have smiled once are promoted largely at women, not men. Every aesthetic trend – from the multitude of photo filters to heavy contouring make up promoted by Kim Kardashian and friends – suggests we should look like ageless avatars, while men’s lines mark them out as distinguished and wise.
But perhaps the most frightening issue here is that we’ve lost all perspective of what a woman past a certain age looks like because we don’t see enough of her. Past the age of 35, women in the media fall of our screens in droves (just 18% of tv presenters over 50 are women) and it’s clearly muddied our vision. Men, on the other hand, have no expiration date. We’re happy to see them age on our screens.
It’s time we changed the script. Time to stop treating women who age as pariahs. Time to stop the characterisation of women over thirty who are looking for love as desperate gold diggers, hungry to snare a man. And time to ensure our actresses, TV presenters and magazine cover stars don’t stop being visible after 35. Love Island might be daft, but it’s highlighted once again how deep the need to stop our double standards is.