50+ AND SEXY
Forget dictates. You can feel alluring no matter your age,
Forget dictates. You can feel alluring no matter your age, writes Nicky Pellegrino.
The other night I went to a party. I wore a dress that reaches my ankles and buttons demurely to the neck. Through the gauzy fabric there was a glimpse of my fabulous new Lonely bra and, checking myself in the mirror, I realised I looked sexy.
This came as some surprise, because never in my life have I seen myself as sexy. In my 20s I didn’t think I was thin or beautiful enough. In my 30s I was trying to establish myself as a novelist while working full-time (fatigue isn’t sexy). In my 40s ditto to all that plus I was coming to terms with getting wrinkles. So what has changed in my fifth decade? Why suddenly do I feel sexy at a time when traditionally women are meant to be anything but?
Well, more to the point why not? Surely for 21st century women lots of things are changing. And being in your 50s and female should free you to explore your own sexiness, if you choose to, in a way it never has before.
No longer are small children dependent on you. Ideally you’ve established yourself in your chosen career and created some financial security (worrying about money isn’t sexy). And yes there is the spectre of the menopause but the good news is HRT is back on the table. The North American Menopause Society has just updated its guidelines to say that, for many women, the benefits outweigh the risks.
For me there is a new acceptance of my appearance. I’ve forgiven myself for the dimply, wobbly bits, happy that my body is mostly healthy and does what it’s supposed to. I’m 53 and I gave up on Botox and go out in the sun too much. But I’ve stopped expecting to meet the same physical standards as fashion models and movie stars and I can’t tell you what a relief that is.
This feeling fine in my own skin, I think there’s something very sexy about that. Okay, so it’s not the sexiness of short skirts and bold cleavages. It’s much more about concealment and a teasing glimpse. Plus a LOT of grooming. When I was young I used to wash my hair, cycle to work and call that a blow dry. Now I have half the amount of hair and triple the fuss.
Women my age need an armoury of products and beauty therapists (may I recommend Olaplex for dried out middle-aged locks and a really good colourist because a shade too dark or light makes a difference). Dishevelled stopped looking hot decades ago but, conversely, it shouldn’t be obvious how much effort is being made. It’s only sexy only if it’s a kind of magic trick — layers of makeup that end up seeming like none at all, a casual sleekness, a subtle looking like yourself only better.
French women have understood all this stuff for years. At 62 I’m sure former Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld feels creaky of hip at times but she smudges on her trademark black eyeliner, dons an elegant fitted jacket and steps out looking smoking hot. “The most important thing is posture,” she has said. “When you get old it’s the way you walk; the way you stand.”
Isabelle Huppert is 64 and was provocatively sexy in director Paul Verhoeven’s 2016 movie
Elle. Juliette Binoche (53), Vanessa Paradis (44) and that grandmere of sexiness Catherine Deneuve (73), none of them are bothering to fade into invisibility as convention once dictated.
And what about the actual sex? Well I’m pleased to report that some of the longest married couples I know are having the raciest relationships. They don’t talk about it much; in that brash way we did when we were younger. But they’re still attracted to each other and they’re confident enough to ask for what they want. They’re doing it in interesting places and exciting ways. Who has time for pedestrian anymore? Who can be bothered wasting precious energy on a lack of satisfaction?
For singletons Tinder has been a game- changer. I know older women who are doing a lot of pelvic floor exercises while stopped at red lights in their cars. They’re not embarrassed to say yes to sex, nor are they fearful of being judged as slutty. They’re having a good time.
A lot of fuss has been made about the midlife sexiness portrayed in the show Apple Tree Yard screened by TVNZ. Actress Emily Watson (50) plays a scientist who has sex with a stranger in a broom cupboard then ends up paying a high price for it. Don’t read too much into that. Apple
Tree Yard is a drama and meant to be exciting not accurately reflect life. Frankly it’s enough of a breakthrough that midlife women are on mainstream TV being portrayed as having sex lives.
As for me, I’m hardly going around being madly sexy all the time. I trudge through mud to feed out hay to horses, clean the bathroom, cook supper, put out the recycling without a hint of it. But then surely at any age sexiness is a state of grace not a way of being?
I’ve never liked people telling me what I can and can’t do and as I get older I’m becoming even less biddable. So I don’t especially care what anyone else thinks — or even if they notice. I’m the one that matters. And, at 53, I’ll feel sexy if I want to.