How old do you feel? Apparently when we look in the mirror we see someone ten years younger than we really are! I know that’s true in my case. I don’t really look until I’ve applied level one make-up (concealer, brow pencil, mascara and blusher) and better still until I’ve had breakfast and walked the dog.
Whether it’s gravity, make-up or genetics, middle aged (let’s say 45+) ladies’ faces need time, and first thing in the morning is not their best moment. Twiggy knew that when she did those M&S ads and, so I’m told, insisted on being photographed in the afternoon when she knew her face would have ‘settled’. Twiggy is a wise woman (and a good-looking one) and probably has the sense to know that whether you spend a small fortune on face products or you are a soap, water and a blob of cold cream person, there is only so much we can do to stave off the passage of time.
Why not take a look at the wise woman inside rather than judge the way she’s looking on the outside? There are myriad physical changes that happen north of 50. Hair growth that has left one place and moved to another. The rounded, fleshy bottom that appears to have moved round to our tummy. The spaces between teeth that catch every fibre of food and raspberry pip. The drip that appeared (was it actually on my 60th birthday?) under my nose and which causes my daughter to gesticulate like a simpleton squinting and sniffing the back of her hand. (Yes, of course I would rather know.)
This is to say nothing of the general descent of most of our best features – face, neck, boobs and the once firm thighs. It’s all too easy to take a pop at ourselves about these physical changes, to say nothing of the minor memory lapses that worry so many of us: like what we have gone upstairs for, and when we momentarily forget the name of the people we have just been on holiday with. It’s all just age.
My aunt was widowed before she was 60. She nursed her late husband for six years after he had a totally debilitating stroke in his early sixties. Then, six years later, another one killed him. Those six years must have been very hard and, though she adored him, there must have been an element of relief when he died. So what did she do? She rekindled her career as a china-mender, she became a house-sitter and (I don’t know that it was a conscious thing) she had a lot of younger friends, who hadn’t got around to talking about the ageing process, and she never has either. She’s slowing up a bit now but, fair enough, she’s 95.
I am sure the answer is to avoid thinking too much about that passage of time and to appreciate what we have become – older yes, but wiser too. And instead ask the question ‘how old do I feel inside?’ I bet it’s at least twenty years younger than that woman we see in the mirror. And then think about your mother (ask her, if you are lucky enough still to have one) and I bet she does (did) not think of herself as an old woman. Deep inside she’s probably about 40!
A GP friend of mine once told me about a woman he met at the end of her life. She was new to a nursing home which he regularly visited and it was their first meeting.
She was in bed when he went to her room, lying on her side with her eyes shut, and he bent down and said her name and she slowly opened her eyes which were a stunning shade of blue.
He asked her how she was feeling and she smiled at him and said she was comfortable. Then she said “And Doctor, behind these eyes there’s a girl who’d love to kiss you!” She was 93 and later that night she died.
That story really resonated with me because it made me realise how easy it is to dismiss the woman inside, and in ourselves too, just because she is older.
I think that how old you feel is part temperament, part genes, and part choice. I am talking now to those who are lucky enough not to suffer from a serious illness, but who are simply ’feeling our age’.
We all feel older sometimes; stiff and cranky, whether it be from barometric pressure, a poor night’s sleep, or overdoing it in a gym class – and the best thing is to do some stretches. There is nothing wrong with sharing with a friend that moment when you’re brushing your teeth and an important one falls out and rattles down the plughole (happened to a friend of mine, twice) or mourning the loss of your eyelashes. But let’s not make a habit of it.
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