KERRE DECIDES THE RULES ARE THAT THERE ARE NO RULES WHEN IT COMES TO AGEING
For the past decade, as I have aged, I have vowed to do so gracefully. I promised myself I would never fight the ravages of age by spending huge amounts of money in an ultimately vain – in every sense of the word – battle against time.
It helps that I have never in my life been a great beauty. Oh, I don’t mean that I frighten small children when I remove my make-up. I have a perfectly acceptable and ordinary kind of face.
It’s just that I’ve never been defined by my looks and have always gotten jobs (and a husband) because of my personality, not my beauty.
It would be much more difficult to face ageing if your face was your currency. It must have been tough being Elizabeth Taylor. But these days, it’s not just actresses and models who are using cosmetic surgery, fillers, Botox, and nips and tucks to fight the effects of ageing.
Perhaps if women were treated with grace as they aged, it would be easier to age gracefully. Women who have spent years working to be at the head of a table, battling sexism along the way, know that inevitably they will have to fight against ageism and camouflaging the effects of ageing is one way to ward off detractors.
The most obvious, and probably the most common, way to hide your age is to dye your hair. I have a couple of friends who made the bold decision to grow out their hair and go grey in their 50s. But they were soon back at their local salons, getting the grey covered up. Both said it was the reactions of strangers that made them regret the decision to go au naturel.
They were, they said, invisible. It wasn’t just men who ignored them; young female retail assistants didn’t see them either. And being called “dear” by all and sundry, including one woman, my friend expostulated, who she knew for a fact was older than she, was infuriating.
It was a brave bid to be real, but ultimately one that failed and one I’m not yet willing to go down. Does that mean I’m not ageing with the grace I’d hoped for? And does opting to have frown lines between the eyes erased with Botox or getting your lips plumped up with filler mean you’re selling out the sisterhood?
When I worked in television, in my 30s, I was told by a make-up artist to go and get a prominent line in my lip filled to make her job easier. My lipstick kept ‘bleeding’ into the line and she would have to redo it. So I took myself off as instructed and it seemed to do the trick. It didn’t make me a cosmetic surgery addict. I’ve had the occasional prick of Botox over two decades and that’s it.
But late last year I had my lips done again. I have no excuse this time. Working in radio and as a writer, I’m not being judged on my looks. I kept telling myself not to do it. Having a mouth like a cat’s bum was better than a tragic trout pout, I said to my reflection sternly. But all I could see when I applied my lipstick was the mouth of a six-pack-a day smoker. Which I never was.
It seemed most unfair. And so, after several months of dithering, I did it. With great trepidation. But I’m absolutely thrilled. I told a couple of my friends what I’d done when they said how well I was looking and they told me they’d never have noticed – I just looked refreshed, said one, and as if I’d been on holiday, according to another.
So my new rule is that I won’t make any rules for myself. Getting older may have its nuisances – like grey hair and wrinkles and thin lips. But it also means I have the confidence to please myself and age as gracefully – or disgracefully – as I choose.