Ageing? Adjust your attitude

Posted by Arlene Kessly

So what if you are getting older! It's time the UK followed the lead of France, Italy and Spain and started to appreciate the natural beauty of older women.

attitude to ageingToday's prevailing attitude, in the UK and the US - especially towards women - makes it easy to see why we often have negative feelings and thoughts about our looks and physicality, as we age. Many of us are brainwashed into feeling that allowing nature to take its course (or ageing gracefully) is no longer a viable option. Bah, to all that!  I, for one, have no desire to surrender to the epidemic of altered faces and create a fake, plasticised veneer - with the total lack of ability to show any real sign of emotion, or any true indication that I'm a human being with valuable life experience.

Cosmetic enhancements

Although botox, fillers and the lure of the knife may fleetingly and superficially seem tempting - especially on a day when one feels tired and can see the evidence - that path is far from the only choice or truly appealing - to me, at least. I confess that I don't always put out the bunting or want to celebrate the fact that I don't appear exactly as I did when I was in my early thirties, constantly being told how gorgeous and stunning I looked.   I've had my time of stopping the traffic and often I didn't feel comfortable with it or always welcome the attention. That's not to say that maturity means I no longer care how I look or allocate any time to my appearance; rest assured - I have no intention of letting myself go or turning into an old bag.

Time spent in France and Italy has helped, when my own attitude has required a little adjustment.  I recollect a holiday, a few years ago - in my mid-forties - visiting a new beau in the South of France. I remember debating (with myself) the advisability of wearing a denim mini (definitely decent, rather than ultra-exposing) with a pretty cotton camisole and a pair of flip-flops.  Throwing caution to the winds, I went for it, and felt completely at ease, as I took in the sights... including a remarkable (but not unique) 70-something, attired in halter neck and short-shorts, for her mid-morning promenade with her beloved, curly-haired, four-legged friend.

Stick-thin teens, or twenty-somethings, are far from the French female beauty icons of choice. Well-preserved objects of admiration, and desire, include 57-year-old, leading actress, Isabelle Huppert; 66-year-old wonder, MAC muse and recent YSL model, Catherine Deneuve and still-blooming, English-rose, 63-year-old, Jane Birkin.

Italians adopt a similar approach. When I was there, last October, I was impressed by a prime-time programme, on Rai 1, intriguingly entitled: 'The Irresistible Fascination of the 50+ Woman. Imagine that occurring in the UK!  Admittedly, it spent a good deal of time focusing on Sharon Stone and national celebrity, 55 year-old Milly Carlucci, sole presenter of the Italian version of Strictly Come Dancing.  But, programme makers also spoke with health, exercise and nutrition experts and real women. The whole approach and emphasis was celebratory, admiring, and empowering, without a catty or deprecatingly ageist utterance evident. Instead, the approach was more akin to extolling the benefits of maturity in a quality wine, exulting-in, and enjoying, the gloriously desirable patina of the years.

Ditch the age guilt

None of this is to say that we should continue to think of ourselves as exactly the same - when the years accrue - as when we were innocent young things. Obviously, evolution is an intrinsic aspect of ageing but that shouldn't encourage complacency or the tolerance of endless adverse connotations; nor should we allow ourselves to be bombarded with and oppressed by incessantly negative reinforcements.

It's worth bearing in mind, when looking to role models, that not all celebrities succumb to age-guilt or are quick-fix focused. I'm with 40-year-old beauty (and brain-box) Rachel Weisz, as she encapsulates perfectly, in an interview in Summer 2010's NatWest Sense magazine, stating 'Botox should be banned for actors, as steroids are for sportsmen. Acting is all about expression, why would you want to iron out a frown?...You get more confident about who you are as you get older. I find that really comforting. Being 20 is excruciating. At least it was for me...If the film parts dry up...I'll take myself back to the theatre. I can always be an old lady on the stage. It's so much more forgiving about wrinkles.'

Change - and ageing - are inevitable aspects of life (consider the alternative!), in order to transform them into a predominantly positive experience, an adjustment in attitude - combined with a little self-belief - can make all the difference to the quality of your existence.

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