Kathleen Turner talked of once getting a script that described her character as “35 but still attractive.” (Feels like the writer wanted to put the word “somehow” in there.) Ah, men.
You can’t say aging women are afraid of “losing their looks” because we are all aging women. I was aging when I was 24, I just didn’t think about it. (And I should have. #sunscreen) But a lot of women “d’un certain age” do get depressed, very depressed, about “losing their looks.” As Nora Ephron and, well, all of us know, youth is highly valued in women and some feel their price dropping with each revolution around the sun.
I don’t look like I used to. Sometimes I catch my face or body in a shop window and I’ve been surprised that it’s me more than I’d like to admit. That lady isn’t me. First of all, I’m not a lady. I’m a girl. Me, I’m all the Spice Girls rolled into one. (Though less Ginger now, more Sporty.) But outside and inside, I am a ma’am. I can’t eat whatever I want, I really shouldn’t wear whatever I want, and what’s with these crazy kids today with their music and their iPhones and… (Yep, I am a ma’am.) I used to walk the city streets in 1940s dresses and 1930s nightgowns but if I did now I’d look more like a Diane Arbus photo of a Grey Gardens girl than the youthful oblivious old movie lover I was. They’re no longer called hot pants when I wear short shorts in the summer, and that’s not just because it isn’t 1976. I never leave the apartment without wearing a bra and my prescription glasses.
But are we losing our looks, or are we losing a look? As we get older we do indeed shed one look, but instead of constantly mourning that loss (give yourself 6 months, tops), look forward to your next look. And the next, and the next. Yes, your paper-doll-you did lose one look that you will never get back, NEVER. It doesn’t matter how many injections, surgeries, lasering, plumping, or thinning you do. That version of you is gone. You’re sad. You want it back. Of course. But think about it; anyone who likes you less, or values you any less, is absolutely not worth it. That person is a shallow jerk. F*** that person. Seriously, don’t waste a precious second of your time or energy trying to please that worthless dope too dumb to see your worth.
But let’s get back to your looks. That old look is gone, long live your new look. That is, your new looks! As Dr. Seuss might say, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” Let your freak flags fly, ladies, and be yourself, for yourself. Be every Spice Crone you want to be. Be that cowgirl, that hip-hop goddess, boho badass, goth grandma, dramatic doyenne. Be one on Monday, another on Tuesday. Or embrace a consistent look.
Annnndddd, part of that consistent look, ladies, will be yo’ face. Don’t try to recapture your former face. That was your ‘old’ face. Your new face is the one you’ve earned, with all its implications of experience and wisdom. The authentic new “older” face you now wear reflects who you truly are, as well as the self-assurance and confidence it implies. It shows you’re comfortable in your skin, and the value you put upon yourself and your worth. Don’t you feel kind of sorry for those desperate faces of those who clearly felt a need to go for the generic Kardashian mask (I’m looking at YOU, Khloe Kardashian – you’re unrecognizable!). We get distracted by the faces of “Real Housewives” and actresses with the face-lift horizontal “Joker” mouths and weirdly plumped-up lips. I am so diverted by their procedures I don’t focus on the women. It’s not that I don’t understand the pressure or empathize with the insecurity. But it’s a losing game, so why play it?
Tempting though it is “fix ourselves” with a nip here and an injection there, it is impossible to regain your “looks.” That “look” is gone, you can’t get it back, and it’ll just get sillier and more pathetic with each passing year. Lean into your new looks with grace and self-respect. They’re who we are and where we’re going.
We’re here, we’re older, get used to it!
Dixie Laite has been a second-grade teacher and mechanical bull operator, and for the past 25 years she’s worked for a variety of TV networks as a writer, editorial director, trainer, advice columnist, even an on-air personality. But primarily she’s trotted around New York City in one cowboy shirt or another, lurking around flea markets, gyms, and anywhere they’ll hand her French toast. Currently she lounges around her apartment with one husband, one dog, five parrots, and roughly 2,000 pairs of shoes. Dixie is the main lady behind Age Against the Machine, a column about empowering women over 50. Sign up for the Jumble & Flowdown newsletter to stay in the know about Dixie’s latest columns.
Follow Dixie on Instagram @dixielaite
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