Like a lot of other people, I’ve been giving my overall health and physical appearance even more scrutiny lately. The seductive allure of physical Beauty – the kind we chase with hopes, dreams and money — is genderless. Still, most marketing and messaging, especially on social media, targets women. Culturally, we’ve always been more susceptible to it. I have to smile (and nod, knowingly) as so many female celebrities nearing the age of 40 or 50 now offer their products and personal wisdom. Aging does that to you: suddenly things like your water intake, sun exposure, previous hard-partying, and the food you eat is reflected in the mirror. I’ll freely admit that the wonderland of products and “expert” advice is hard to resist. Some of the priciest, and even bizarre remedies – as long as they work – feel acceptable and do-able for me. But the unavoidable facts of aging requires – at some point — a reality-check. Which brings me, not for the first time, to thoughts of Timeless Beauty. What is it? Can I have it and maintain it, without adopting diets and routines that demand a total lifestyle change, not to mention lifetime subscriptions to curated cosmetics?
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, my narrow concept of what growing older meant was drawn from the beauty and fashion industries. Women over 40 years old seemed confined to below-the-knee pencil skirts and tailored jackets. A Little Black Dress that revealed only a hint of décolletage. Classics. As I think about my beauty idols back in those days – Catherine Deneuve, Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn come to mind first – I reflect on the fact that the women I admired most were actually twenty or thirty years older than me. And yes, I was in awe of their incredible physical beauty, but, more importantly, their presence. Not just in the films they made – some of which I’d take a hard-pass on revisiting now. But the way they carried themselves; the way they spoke (with utter confidence that beautiful women take for granted). What seems strange to me is that aging itself felt like something I could look forward to. Aging was something I needed, in order to become the best version of myself. I still feel that way today, and as life is unfolding I’m growing even more firm in that belief. But when I step outside of my own head, I don’t see or hear that message reflected back.
I can’t say for sure when I first heard (or, more probably, read it in a novel) the expression “A woman of a certain age”. It seemed like the perfect witty dodge an older, wiser woman might make, if or when someone asked her age. But by looking deeper into what this expression means, I discovered that it defines a woman whose age is unknowable. There’ve been moments (pre-Virus, obviously), when I’ve been out and about with a friend. We might be having coffee or strolling an art museum. One of us spies a fashionable forty-plus woman who’s totally striking. We play a game: “How old do you think she is?” We start by analyzing the basics: her hairstyle, her skin and her outfit. (It’s surprising how easy it is to recognize decades of women by these markers.) When we both agree, however, “Heck, she could be anywhere between forty and seventy!”, that’s the woman we want to immediately draw-into our circle. We want to know what her secret is. A secret that doesn’t involve aggressively resisting the aging process.
When I first started my blog, just a little over one year ago, I titled it “Aging is an Attitude”. I wanted to share with other women (and men) that aging well was mostly a state of mind. A state of being. I was, and am, (to my happy surprise) one of those women others snark at, during class reunions, for looking younger than my years. But things have changed. The lines are there; the grays are coming in slowly; my color palette has changed (didn’t expect that one); and daily exercise is no longer optional. What hasn’t changed, is what’s inside my head. Wanting to be Who I Am Becoming. Looking forward to becoming that woman, regardless of how many birthdays I’ve had. Of course I want to have and maintain good health and vitality for as long as I can; I’m actively engaged in the required habits. But the deeper glow I’m after is unattainable via cosmetics, injections, the latest-in-fashion clothing, or any other external means.
Sophia Loren, still an icon of style and elegance at age 85, was once asked – when she was still a very young film star – what she attributed her amazing beauty and body to. Her one-word answer was “Pasta!” I can’t imagine any celebrity today making that statement. But is today’s beauty ideal really concerned with ‘Timelessness’? It doesn’t seem so. I’ve learned, through role models and my own experience, that aging well means embracing the passage of time. Absorbing its effect on my face and body with grace (acceptance), compassion (toward myself), common sense (guiding my daily habits), and a persistent. For me, aging will always be an attitude 5 Reasons To Stop Stressing About Getting Older; Beauty, Aging, Perfectionism & Problem-solving
Inspiring quotes about Timeless Beauty: