The media lies – don’t listen to it.
But you knew this anyway, didn’t you?
Despite what the media says (American sitcoms in particular), you’ll be pushed to find a woman in her thirties who doesn’t recoil in horror at the thought of reverting to her younger self. As women, we grow with confidence and empowerment with each turn of the clock and changing of the seasons.
Because yes, despite what television likes to tell us, we do not peak at 16. Or 18. Or 20. Or, even 25.
In fact, the notion of ‘peaking’ is an entertainment-churned, Hollywood-spread myth.
There is no such thing as ‘peaking’. There is only change; transformation and evolution of the self.
[I should also add here, for reference, that I am 27. These thoughts have perhaps been triggered by approaching 30. But I love to get excited about the woman I am becoming, and it makes me so happy to see examples – whether it’s Grace and Frankie, or an ultra-glamorous, enviably accomplished woman 30 years my senior.]
We are in our constant evolution, and that is an beautiful thing.
Whether we are young, old, or something in-between, our personhood is our own construction. We learn how to hold our bodies, we learn what makes us feel our best and look our best; life experience can give us a wisdom and understanding
And yes, there is a natural charm to youthful beauty. Youthful beauty is charming and fresh; it’s eyes wide open and new discoveries and experimentation; it can be serious and silly and sweet and sharp all at once.
But, as we get older, that beauty becomes power. We are expected to admire a youthful face that is dressed up to be pretty; but this attention is a-given. An older face primed with beauty demands our attention and takes our breath away.
The crux? As you age, the power lies in taking care of yourself. In demanding that power through care, art and construction. Maybe I will look back on these words and hate them when I, too, am older. But an older woman who takes care of her skin, her body, her hair, and her style, who seeks beauty as a timeless and unique-to-her concept rather than stuck in a generational loophole (think middle-aged hair cut and an all Marks and Spencer outfit) is a powerful, extraordinary creature.
Beauty as you age is not, as I have observed, trying to look and emulate youth. It is pure aesthetics. A woman who has a face-lift to look younger simply looks odd; a woman who has one because the altered lines would be more aesthetically pleasing is striking, and stunning. (No one needs plastic surgery to be beautiful, at any age; this is just an example).
Beauty isn’t a slave to trends, but it is in touch with contemporary culture. Understanding and learning and growing with the world around you is beautiful, and intelligent, and very, very powerful.
A sea of faces ~ a study in aesthetics.
These are my observations from working in a recent, excruciatingly unglamorous customer service job recently, while between internships and as the Christmas season approached. I was working in a well-known British department store that was frequented by ‘older people’ (that’s its reputation, plus I live in a fairly rural part of the country).
Long, boring days had me playing the game of spot the glamorous customer. Predominately little old ladies and frumpy middle aged customers endlessly filtered through, with a few trendy younger people thrown in. It was an endless sea of (beige) faces, I could hardly tell one from another.
Which is when I began to notice the profound impact of beauty in older women (and for older men, it really is less distinct, or perhaps I was just paying less attention, as I shall never grow into an older man and so it was of no real interest to me. Women are far more interesting to observe. anyway).
A beautiful – or glamorous/ stylish/ aesthetically considered – older woman stood out to me like a flashing neon sign.
I am currently reading Ageless Beauty by Clemence Von Mueffling on French beauty secrets. I can’t put my finger on what, exactly, Ageless Beauty is yet. I will have to let you know. It could be a chic bob, beautifully applied make-up, good posture, a timeless outfit… Or maybe it’s waltzing in on high heels, leather midi-skirt and oversized Mui Mui sunglasses, a la Carine Roitfeld (Oh, how I would like to dress like this now, let alone when I am fifty). Whatever defines ageless beauty, one thing is certain: style is s t r i k i n g.
But I do know that Ageless Beauty is hard to achieve in your youth. And why should you want to? It’s a time defined by unknowing and play; it is a wonderful, but stressful, time of experimentation with looks and style and ridiculous identities and just about anything in life (discovery never stops, and never should stop – of course – but, but teenage/ early twenties years are unique to a particularly type of self-experimentation).
As we get older, we better understand who we are, and we intimately know our own physical appearance. Ageless beauty, I would say (at this point), is a commitment to aesthetics. It’s not trying to achieve someone else’s standard of beauty, it’s understanding your own standard, your own beauty and expression as a women. It’s understanding the message you send to the world through your self-presentation; you should revel in this self-expression, because whoever you are, it’s a wonderful, exhilarating, enchanting thing to master.
There are no rules, there is only art.
Weather it’s the restrained grace of a forties move star or the leather mini skirt fashion editor look you desire; the art is in carrying these things off, not in the actual adornment of your body. If you don’t have the je ne sais quoi (the attitude, the understanding, the way you hold your head and the way you look people in the eye), you simply don’t have it, whether you are 20, 40 or 60. I can’t tell you how to achieve it, either. Or not yet, at least. However; it can be cultivated, with observation, exploration, intelligence and action.
Youth does not equal beauty; age does not equal power. Only fools believe these two. But mastering your beauty, your style as you age is powerful. You demand respect, and your importance in the world (as personal care and worth, not how the world values you).
And while there are no rules, there are a few things beauty is not: Beauty is not conforming. Beauty is not the airbrushed girls you see in magazines. It is not the sexual fantasies of Hollywood producers. It is not keeping your hair long because you think it’s feminine and filling your lips with collagen because you believe that’s the only way you’ll be desirable. Beauty is you; it is in the realisation of you and the cultivation of you and the art that you create your physicality and inner world to be. Beauty is not objective. Beauty is subjective. Beauty is you; you just might have to work at it to materialise your own beauty. This work could be a state of mind, or it could be a new wardrobe; a diet change, some tweaks with surgery; it could be utter self acceptance; a redefinition; it could be throwing out all the mirrors in your house in the name of being a free spirit or it could be taking a good, hard look in the mirror and deciding what you want to be. I don’t know, and I can’t tell you. It’s unique to you. It’s you, it’s you, it’s you.
Beauty is yours to claim.
That’s what age teaches us; those of us consumed by the power beauty holds. And, I think this is something many women (and men) forget as the years go by. When you’re young, popular culture demands that you play the Game; as you age, you have to make the choice.
But, the BIGGEST beauty secret of all?
Shapes and lines and styles matter – but without nourishment from within, you will never glow. I mean this on a nutritional and personal level. Eat well, sleep well, and you will shine. Your skin will take on a healthy glow; inflammation in your body will disappear, leaving you feeling free and light and radiant. But live with joy, and you will be lit from within with an ethereal, expansive magic; living without joy shows. It just does. Look at the face of someone who lives without joy and you will see it. And that is the most important thing. Style and beauty or not. The style is the fun part, how you show yourself, but the joy of living is everything.
What do you think?
What does beauty mean to you? How old are you, and what’s your perspective? Who do you admire for their attitude and style?