New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... -

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.

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