By Peter Lawrence Kane

As if Silicon Valley’s rampaging whiteness and maleness weren’t enough, the tech world is also full of another regrettable form of meritocracy-fail: its ageism. Valleywag reveals how the Bay Area is becoming the new capital of plastic surgery among men, a place where job seekers of a certain age are instructed to lurk in corporate parking lots before an interview to see how people dress, and then go get Botox. The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber noted that, “It’s better to be perceived as naïve and immature than to have voted in the 1980s.” Sha, bro, that would make you at least like 44. Shouldn’t you have cashed out a decade ago?

Men are striving to look as young as they were when they first got an audience before the thrones of venture capital, in the humiliating event they haven’t become filthy rich before they’re eligible to be elected president. While it’s not surprising to find a bit of darkness behind techno-utopia’s tightly clenched smiles, the vanity becomes startling when you consider that dressing like a bit of a schlub is usually OK over there. A young schlub, that is. If you’re not coding for 40 straight hours fueled only by Coke Zero, you have to look like you could.

It’s not as baroque as the beard transplant boomlet, but definitely more intense than Seth MacFarlane’s love affair with spray tanning. This is a combination of many things: an industry – already associated with California in the popular imagination – that chases moneyed insecurity wherever it goes, wedded here to an economic sector where the ability to disrupt old paradigms apparently fades after age 32. Whether there’s a scientific basis for that assumption, or whether it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – which would be doubly sad, in that data-driven world – it’s clear that the Valley cannibalizes its own. Some men seeking pre-emptive hair transplants are even getting turned away by doctors because their hairlines aren’t even ready. It’s sad too that men are concealing surgical expenditures from their spouses, but this is an industry where climbing the traditional corporate ladder is basically impossible when a company that lasts for ten years feels like a peer of Bethlehem Steel or A&P. 

Still, if Larry Page were to go under the knife so many times that he looked like an actual Android, he probably won’t be raked over the coals like Kim Novak was at the Oscars. Because the increased acceptability of cosmetic procedures for men only reaffirms men’s natural right to project strength and vigor, not desperate freakishness (unless you’re Bruce Jenner). The real question is, will we be better off three decades from now when Mark Zuckerberg (29) and Sergey Brin (40) have acquired the wisdom that comes with age, or will they simply have shed every last vestige of their youthful idealism while presiding over a world of instability and fear, looking not a day over 40? If they’re still around, that is.

Photo by rilueda via Thinkstock