In Defence of Aging

People often talk as though the worst thing that can happen in a woman’s life is when she looks at her aging face in a mirror. Well, yes, and no. No-body likes to grow old, but providing you have health – and that’s a big providing – old age can be a good time. We enjoyed our sixties very much. With more leisure than we’d ever had before we travelled to places we’d always longed to see, Richard joined a choir and I went to Life Drawing class, we spent time with our grandchildren, walked on the hills and generally had a good time. There’s an aged character in one of Anne Tyler’s novels who says that while she’d never want to be young again, she’d quite like to be middle-aged. Extreme old age probably isn’t much fun for anyone, but the foothills are different.
I think it’s young women in the public eye that I feel sorry for these days. As far as the media are concerned, all they’re valued for are faces and bodies. If the Duchess of Cambridge, however efficiently she carries out her royal duties, were to put on a stone, she’d be mocked and reviled in the media. Female TV presenters are put out to grass while their male counterparts are allowed to go on becoming grizzled and fat (looks distinguished on a man, apparently) It’s sad when you see one of these pretty young women leaves our screens for a few weeks and return with a peculiar puffy face. After a certain age, year by year, Hollywood actresses look odder and odder, and presumably they’ve ruined their faces for ever with the ‘work’ they’ve had done.
Well, I’m seventy now, and while I must admit that I do spend some time looking at the wrinkled old bag in the mirror and slapping make-up on in a vain attempt to neutralize her a bit, I don’t spend too much time at the mirror. She’s what I am now, and I live with her without too much regret.
And I’m cheered by the appearance of many women of my age. For women in their sixties and seventies can be quite extraordinarily beautiful. Certainly it’s a different kind of beauty from that of the unlined twenty year old, but given a bit of good bone-structure to start, an older women’s face shows all the intelligence, humour, kindness, intuition and insight of her years, and surely that’s as good, if not more desirable, than clear skin. Of course these women don’t stop doing all the things they’ve done all their lives; they keep active because they see no alternative. They don’t moan about the terrors of old age. And they don’t spend long peering in mirrors – they simply don’t have the time.

2 thoughts on “In Defence of Aging”

  1. The only thing I’d quibble with is the title. Do we really need to defend old age? For one thing it’s inevitable, should we be so lucky. For another, it’s liberating.

    As you say, extreme old age and the infirmity that will probably go with it, are not much fun.

    Foothills? Yes please, any day.

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