On allowing ourselves to age gracefully

Apologies for the long absence, faithful readers (all five of you). Sometimes life gets in the way of my productivity. But today I’m back, and I’m here to discuss the importance of allowing ourselves to age gracefully.

This topic is inspired by the tabloid media’s scrutiny that recently befell the crown of the Duchess of Cambridge’s head.a  The Mirror reported that while the royal couple paid a visit to the Royal British Legion volunteers in High St. Kensington, her roots were showing.

How ghastly!

imagesWhile grey hair is often considered distinguished or sexy on men, it largely thought to be disheveled and messy on women.

The Mirror wasn’t on the offensive however, duly informing the public that breastfeeding mothers are often advised to go easy on the hair dye during the first 12 weeks. Although the chances of significant amounts of chemicals leaking into baby George are pretty low, this extra cautiousness on Kate Middleton’s part shows what an incredibly good mum she’s proving to be.

The highly trivial daily also speculated that it was possible that the busy royal, beset with a heavy public appearance schedule as well as baby duties, simply didn’t have time to devote a full four hours to getting her hair did. Which doubly emphasises her wonderfulness as a mum AND as a public figure!

Catherine-Duchess-of-Cambridge-at-the-Royal-British-Legion-Poppy-Appeal-2686651The photo from The Mirror zooming in on the Duchess of Cambridge’s centre parting. Because that’s clearly the most important thing that happened on the news cycle yesterday.

Who cares?

The Guardian’s Daisy Buchanan for one, who very rightly sums up what it is exactly that’s so infuriating about The Mirror’s pronouncement that, Kate, as an exemplary new mother, is permitted to have some grey hair, whereas Mary Beard, a professor of classics at Cambridge University, was subject to severe media bashing last January, the focus of which was her “witch-like” long, grey hair.

Unknown-1Mary Beard does not look like this, I promise. 

Ms. Buchanan hits the nail on the head when she points out “the weird double standard of beauty that promotes the ‘natural’ look, and then, when women actually dare to look natural, straps them to a stretcher and sends them somewhere for enforced waxing, bleaching and straightening.”

Another example would be this sort of online commentary on Katie Holmes’ daring to appear in public, you know, just living her life, without having gone to the salon to deal with those greys OR putting on any makeup! As a celebrity style-icon so many women look up to, how dare she leave her house in such a state? How dare she reveal that she isn’t always perfected coiffed and meticulously outfitted for the paparazzi’s prying eyes?

And I care too.

In a post way back when, revealing some horrible yet absolutely relatable things about yours truly, I discussed the womanly preoccupation with battling the grey hairs that plague us all by the time we enter our 30s and 40s. I mentioned the strategy I was planning to opt for when my time came to battle the silvery creepers.

Namely, nothing at all. I fully intend to embrace my new-found lack of pigmentation.b

I cited both my laziness and a possibly attempt at thriftiness (not one of my stronger qualities unfortunately) as reasons for contemplating that as an approach. But one more reason is that, well, if that’s the direction my hair wants to go, then maybe it’s telling me something about where I should be heading aesthetically.

Because women are not just preoccupied with the signs of ageing their hair betrays. The loosening elasticity in the skin on their faces, their crow’s feet, drooping beneath the eyebrows, vertical ridges above the lips, creases that mark foreheads of habitual frowners, not to mention sagging bosoms, wobbling waddles, and expanded waistlines — we’ve been programmed to fight against these niggling reminders of our perpetual decay and eventual mortality tooth and nail.

Like most women these days who care about their appearance, I buy into skincare regimens and products. I dutifully exfoliate, tone, micro-dermabrase, cleanse, moisturise (with SPF!), and dab soothing goopy gels at the dark circles and the bags around my eyes. Because I want to maintain my youthful skin for as long as possible, I stick to preventative measures like these to battle those onset of ageing skin.

But to some, the meticulous application of sunscreen, moisturisers and whatnot simply does not cut the mustard. I have friends and acquaintance, who, at 26 years old, talk regularly about getting (or are regularly getting) Botox treatments — you know, to prevent the wrinkles setting in in the first place.

And of course we’ve all seen women, once beautiful women, nary having had celebrated their fortieth birthday, checking in to private clinics to have swathes of skin removed, cheek implants glued in, and litres of fat pumped into their faces, on the quest for a more youthful look.

The result? A face that’s been stretched taught, like the skin on a tablah — a wholly unnatural look that isn’t fooling anyone.

joan-riversFunny woman Joan Rivers’ refusal to age hasn’t served her well. You done fucked up there, Joan.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not wholly against a subtle tuck by a skilful plastic surgeon — one day my vanity, a force that my good sense often has to reckon with, may prompt me to consider a face lift, so I’ll never say never.

But rather than trying to pretend that I’m 35 when I’m actually 68, I think what I’ll go for is looking like a young 60 who has aged gracefully — a spry, healthy woman who has taken care of her looks but hasn’t resorted to any (obvious) surgical intervention.

Helen-Mirren-fair-skin-gray-hair-112551421-252x336Whereas Actress Helen Mirren, reportedly having received a surreptitious face lift and neck tuck looks refreshingly lifelike with a tasteful grey hairdo and some well-placed wrinkles.

Ageing is an inevitable fact of life — I think it’s best if we accept that as a truth we can’t escape from forever, and allow ourselves to age gracefully.

  1. For a wonderful discussion of the British media complex’s obsession with royal personage, read Hilary Mantel’s Royal Bodies in the London Review of Books. When this article was published, it’s contents were taken hugely out of context and whipped the lower-brow constituents of said complex into a furore. I really did enjoy reading it, and often think to myself, “hmmm, I should definitely read the LRB more often.”  (back)
  2. My one concession would be to go a little shorter with the length, but I’m naturally inclined to think that short hair is an excellent choice for me. Being rather lazy by nature, the shorter shampoo timing is a real draw.  (back)