A few days ago I went to a fashion-networking event. Routinely I started mingling, introducing myself as the founder of a new online boutique for stylish women over 40. At one point, someone said to me “But you don’t look 40! Are you? If so, what’s your secret!”.
Now I’m not really sure anyone could genuinely mistake me for being 40. I’ve had more people think I look 17 than over 30. So I’m going to assume he was joking (or had been enjoying the open bar a little too much).
But it got me thinking about how we tend to respond when someone suggests we look older.
Our natural instinct (certainly as women) is to be offended. But why? After all, when we were kids and teenagers, we’d be flattered if someone suggested we looked older, because it implied maturity. Managing to get served at a bar was the highlight of our week. But after we hit our 20s that goes out the window. Suddenly the younger we look, the better. We’re applying anti-ageing products, looking for new ways to appear eternally youthful, and how to hide those inevitable lines and grey hairs.
Essentially what this bottles down to is the ageist view that only youth = beauty.
What’s wrong with grey hairs? What’s wrong with lines? Yes we want to project a glowing vitality, but why does that have to be coupled with trying to look younger? Because all age really means is wisdom, confidence and worldly experience.
Saying “you look amazing for 50!” is actually insulting. Because its subtext is that you should now look c**p. So well done you for not.
You can look 50. And you can look amazing. They’re not mutually exclusive.
Personally I don’t want to Benjamin Button. I just want to look my best version of myself today, whether that’s at 24 or 64. And if that means some thinking I look older than I technically am, that should be ok.
My mum at 64 and me at 24 - and both proud of it.
I say let’s redefine what it means to look older. Let’s scrap those nasty, prejudiced connotations that imply dreariness and being ‘past your best’. Lines show laughter. Greys are gorgeous. And you’re projecting an awesomeness that others can only hope to one day achieve.