Old Around The Eyes 😎
It’s time for women to stop agreeing we shouldn’t age
I’ve been looking a little tired lately. I attributed this to my recent bout of poor sleeping (hello 4a) but as I catch up on my sleep, and things aren’t improving much, I’m starting to think, maybe I just look like this now?
A man once told me he was suspect of women who put up profile pictures with sunglasses on. Presumably because the eyes give away one’s real age, and who knows what awful thing is hiding under those shades? I feel the same way about men who put up pictures of sunsets or dogs as an opener. It’s as if to say, I’m not feeling great about what I’m presenting but here’s a puppy to get us started on the right foot.
Women know men don’t want to see our wrinkly eyes and hide them with glasses. Men become wrinkle detectives. It’s a wrinkles cold war. My contrarian nature wants to ditch the fancy eye cream and put up the droopiest eye picture I can find. Take that!
Of course, I don’t. Still, it’s worth thinking about what to accept as I get older. If my luck holds I’m going to get wrinkly, and why should that be so painful? I’m always on the lookout for older women modeling a version of aging that resonates with me. Frances McDormand is one. She is quality and truth embodied. Her face, body, self, are entirely natural. Just looking at her makes me feel less anxious about getting older.
Another is the actor John Slattery. I saw a photograph of him at a Mad Men party and two things struck me. One, yummy. Two, his face has aged naturally. He had droopy lids, deep wrinkles, and a furrowed brow any Hollywood actress would have long run to the dermatologist to fix. He has clearly stayed in good shape. His clothes were stylish, and fit well. That is exactly the version of getting older I aspire to.
I’m not wanting to be sexy and relevant because of my preternatural ability to look young. I want to be sexy right where I stand, exactly as I am. I’d like my face to age like a fine, linen shirt that’s been worn, loved, left in the sun, maybe taken to a campfire or two. In other words, I’d like the opportunity to get older like the men around me without veering into matronly territory.
Young women need to know they don’t have to compete in the youth and beauty olympics to be relevant. Stay sharp, do good work, develop your charm, and refuse to recede.
My first pass at being forced to accept myself as-is happened at thirty. By then I had been coloring my hair for nearly ten years. It was dark, straight, long, and shiny. I loved it. Out of nowhere I developed an allergy to an ingredient in the dye. For weeks I looked for workarounds, unable to accept the reality I could no longer color my hair.
I finally dragged myself to the salon and had them cut it to about an inch. I cried for two weeks. Once it started growing in I was shocked to find it was about seventy percent white, and that I liked it. It’s now my trademark of sorts, people remember the hair.
It’s a subtle way I let others know I feel good as I am. Unvarnished honesty, both in my look and manner.
Our culture doesn’t make it easy to feel we still deserve attention as we get older. Or, even worse we are desexualized and infantilized. No wonder women feel the need the need to preserve their youth. Who wants to opt out of romance and attraction?
I traded phone numbers with a nice man recently, giving him the correct digits save one. I was waiting for my new eyeglasses and could barely see anything. Thankfully, he had another way to reach me. Age-related eyesight decline, it’s sexy business.
No matter, I got that second date.
Listen to me read this week’s essay.
Rebecca’s reading list 👇🏼
Working to Disarm Women’s Anti-Aging Demon — The New York Times — www.nytimes.com
But trying to pass for younger is like a gay person trying to pass for straight or a person of color for white. These behaviors are rooted in shame over something that shouldn’t be shameful. And they give a pass to the underlying discrimination that makes them necessary.
Frances McDormand’s Difficult Women — The New York Times — www.nytimes.com
Frances McDormand, or Fran, as she is called in regular life, cuts a handsome figure on the street. She is 60 and sexy in the manner of women who have achieved total self-possession. She eschews makeup unless she is working, doesn’t dye her hair and despises the nips, tucks and lifts that have become routine for women of her profession. Her clothes are well made — she loves clothes — but utilitarian and comfortable.