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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.

Now if you really want something to congratulate – that’s it.

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.

Now if you really want something to congratulate – that’s it.

2 comments

  • Posted on by Jacynth

    Thank you Mandy for your lovely comment and really great response. I agree that it’s almost human nature that we want to feel we look younger but I can’t help but feel this has been encouraged by fashion and beauty industry, media and beyond, to the extent that looking youthful is the only way to look great.

    I think language in particular needs to change. We need to be promoting ‘pro-ageing’ products, rather than ‘anti-ageing’ products for example – because ultimately there is nothing wrong with ageing and it’s just a natural part of the human life cycle!

    And with this I hope women will begin to feel less ‘ashamed’ of their age, and able to realise that at 50, 60, 70 or beyond they can be stylish, they can look great, and they can feel good about themselves – and even more so than when they were in their 20s or 30s. They don’t need to recapture their ‘hay days’ because actually their ‘hay days’ are NOW.

  • Posted on by Mandy Chamberlain

    I do like your latest post, Jacynth, and wanted to add a couple of comments.

    You’re right – why should age matter? – but to some women in their 50’s and 60’s it just does. After childbirth and as a result of that middle aged spread which crept up unannounced, they just want comfort, and that means for some flattery and the knowledge that they can still feel and look ‘attractive’. This is for a number of reasons but mainly some older women just need to be re-assured about their looks and their bodies. They want the comfort that after children and menopause, the declaration that ‘you aren’t that old, are you? or, you don’t look that’ When in reality they look ‘that’ and some, to actually be sincere. This is just human nature, with many women. After they’ve had families and have now slowed a pace, they want to recapture something of their ‘hay day’. The time when they were free to come and go and dress as they please, and even if they weren’t, they didn’t care and went for it anyway. That was then, but now it shouldn’t actually affect any suggestions that they’ve gained a couple of pounds or one or two ‘wrinkles’ but they still don’t want to give over completely to the suggestion that middle age is what they are. That’s just the nature of the beast. I agree. Age should not matter, and to me and many of my close friends and associates, it doesn’t, but I like the fact that you consider this and are sensitive to our concerns at The-Bias-Cut. I look forward to reading more, but if your previous blogs are anything to go by, you have inspirational ideas and advice in spades. Thank you. As ever Mandy

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