I was out walking one morning this week and I passed a series of small groups of young women (in their 30s I guess) running the same route. Some of them acknowledged me, but many didn’t. Why should they? They don’t know me, I was looking pretty uninteresting (bedraggled some might say), there was no reason to chat (although a Hello is always nice). It struck me that maybe I have become invisible. To begin with I was appalled at this notion, but over the past few days I have come to realise that maybe it is a relief. It got me thinking once again about the whole ageing conundrum.
I don’t think there is a fear of ageing per se, I think we are scared of bad health as we age, and then the sure-fire death which awaits us all.
“I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens” ~ Woody Allen
The ageing process is unstoppable. Trying to slow it down accounts for a very lucrative market though: all told it is worth an estimated £180 billion globally this year. That is a lot of creams, procedures, supplements and corsetry. Does any of it work? Well not if my neck is anything to go by. Much of the wording around these products is noticebaly negative: ‘anti-ageing’, ‘skin corrector’ and ‘time delay’ all found in the first 20 pages of a magazine I have to hand, all appealing to our deep-seated insecurities. Well, you can run ladies, but you cannot hide. Ageing is here to stay.
Nora Ephron, in her autobiographical book of short essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck, wrote
Oh the necks. There are chicken necks. There are turkey-gobbler necks. There are elephant necks. There are necks with wattles and necks with creases that are on the verge of becoming wattles. There are scrawny necks and fat necks, loose necks, crêpey necks, banded necks, wrinkled necks, stringy necks, flabby necks, mottled necks…..You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t have to if you had a neck.
If you are in your 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s or beyond and are as fit as a flea, your mindset won’t be in a negative loop about poor health and death. Or I hope it isn’t. But sadly there is a tendency that we start to hear bad news about friends in our and their sixth decades; people we know have heart attacks, strokes and get the news they have cancer. It can be a gloomy old time.
On the other hand, I would argue it is not all bad by any stretch of the imagination. The women I know in their 50s are more self-aware than ever before. We are savvy, accepting, stylish and have adjusted to life’s limitations and are ready to enter the FAB (fifties and beyond) era with grace and well-positioned scarves to hide the wattle. There are plenty of challenges (elderly parents, teenage children, an empty nest, menopause, divorce, health issues – take your pick) but I know I am much more capable in my 50s of dealing with these than I was in previous decades. No sensible shoes just yet then.
“It’s sad to grow old, but nice to ripen” ~ Brigitte Bardot
There is certainly truth in the adage that we are as old as we feel. Ageing is a process whereby at various stages we want it to go very fast – small children want to be older so they can stay up later; teenagers want to be older so they can go to the pub with friends or learn to drive a car; in your twenties you perhaps want to be older in order to increase your earning power, or fulfil your career ambitions. Then later on we want to slow it down or halt it all together – neither is possible of course. There are limitations imposed right through the various decades, but it is surely about accepting them and embracing the constant adjustments we all end up making throughout our lives which will give us the greatest happiness.
Portrait of an Old Woman by Graham Brindley
There are a few blogs I like which show that style is still available to the older woman and that it is worthwhile not giving in just yet:
So no, we are not invisible. Is acceptance of our age and all it brings the answer? Or should we fight against it?
I am not sure. What do you think?
Annie Bee x