The world looks better when you look outwards.
In any case, I have discovered a fabulous new anti-ageing trick. It involves removing half of the mirrors in my house. There is one of those annoying skin-cream ads on the TV at the moment featuring Claudia Sheiffer talking about what a struggle it is getting older and she actually uses the word ‘heal’ – the implication of course being that if you are getting older you are ill in some way. Wrinkles are called “damage” in this new world where women must fight, fight, fight against getting older. Ageing is the new disease. It has to be cured, or “reversed” and, at all costs, made to go away.
If there is one thing that you can be sure is going to happen to you in your life it is this: you will get older. Then, at some point down the line, you will die. That’s the only, the only certainty there is.
So, as if my life isn’t hard enough – with kids and work and having to have a perfect house, and a perfect wardrobe and enough groom time to keep my highlights up to speed – now I have to actually defy nature and not get old. Or at least hide the process from the outside world with every bit of energy I can muster.
I’m sensitive about this subject right now because in the past few weeks I feel I have crossed some kind of threshold visa-vi my physical appearance.
I do try not to be overly neurotic about what God gave me. I would like to be slimmer and brave enough to wax, but you can’t have everything. I achieve a certain level of laissez fair about my looks – or lack of them – because I have always been able to rely on an ability to put myself through hair and make-up and come out transformed at the other end.
I can happily push myself forward into the public eye knowing that once I have whacked on the slap and thrown in a few heated rollers I will come out the other end looking fresh and groomed and ready for my cocktail – if not my close-up.
However, the last few times I have gone out, there has been a point in the evening where I have caught sight of myself in a mirror and gone “Rah! Who’s that!”
I have never gone in for the no-make-up-make-up look. As far as I am concerned if you are going to go to all that effort, you might as well go the whole hog. But as a woman who has been sauntering through her forties, happy and confident – I have suddenly hit the brick wall of looking like somebody I don’t recognize. When, exactly, did I become a middle-aged woman in too much make-up? Or a jowly bag lady? There does not seem to be any middle ground. When I am not made up, I look like my brother in a wig. When I make an effort these days I just seem to look like mutton dressed as lamb. When I tone down the cleavage and the big hair and the smoky eyes and the glitter, I look tweedy and old, like Angela Lansbury.
I suppose the real truth is, I’m fighting against glamour more and more as I get older. I am a sensible old-lady novelist trapped in a Joan Collins make-up routine. I want to be Angela Lansbury. I want to wear high-waisted beige slacks, and nice blouses and tweed jackets and have my hair blow-dried into a solid “do” and take my lipstick out of my bag in taxi’s, slick it and pucker it without looking in the mirror. I want to be slightly portly, and rather clever, and have young people defer to me in a mystery-solving, amused but respectful way. I want to be my favorite aunt, and wear smart-casual jeans to prune my garden, and sensible shoes, even when I am out and clip a nice broach onto my lapel and go for lunch in hotels and shrug my shoulders and say “this is lovely.”
What I do not want to do is have to go to the gym every day and slather myself day and night in “serums” to try and make myself look twenty years younger than I am so I can go out late at night because I am the new breed of “cougar”.
When did female role models for women of my age become such hard work, and frankly - so undignified. Madonna? Now there’s that ghastly U.S. drama Cougar Town where Courtney Cox and her co-horts go around clambering over teenage boys. Looking, and acting your age has become synonymous with “Letting Yourself Go” when it should be Copping Yourself On.
Getting older should be an invitation to embrace dignity, wisdom and the experience of a life full of adventure and education.