The other week on Twitter I came across a tweet from ‘Coronation Street’ actress Kate Ford defending being and looking 41. As someone who has spent most of her life sucked into the idea that women are only worth something if they are beautiful and look good (and young) it got me thinking; why is it such a bad thing to look your own age?
Were I to say to a lady celebrating a milestone birthday that they looked the milestone age they were celebrating I can’t imagine it going down as well as telling them they looked younger. It’s like we have been programmed for years to aspire to look younger than we are. Most of the anti ageing products and gadgets out there are aimed at women (and usually advertised by a teenager who very clearly doesn’t need to use the product) continuing to pedal the idea that youth is what makes us attractive and worthwhile.
Even the terminology is nicer for men; as they age they’re are described as ‘dashing’ or a ‘silver fox’ and women are ‘old hags’ or ‘spinsters’.
On TV it’s either women who are young or women who look young for their age presenters gracing our screens. Look at Good Morning Britain; all beautiful women who definitely don’t look their age and are trim with no grey hair alongside Piers Morgan who does look his age (no offence Piers) and has salt and pepper flecks in his hair. The same goes for Holly and Phil on This Morning - now I absolutely love their dynamic and think they work brilliantly together but I feel the likelihood of seeing a mixed sex presenting duo with the same age gap (He is 56, she is 37) but the other way around is slim.
Now I am not saying women can’t look after themselves, I am writing this as someone who does not want to look old and because I am now heading towards my mid-thirties and noticing changes in my body and appearance am exercising for the first time in my life and using more skin care products than ever before. I don’t want to look young but I don’t want to look old either and envy women that really don’t give a shit about ageing.
I can’t help wondering would I feel different if it were more normal to see women of a certain age on TV, who also look their age. Women that have grey hair and a bit of a thicker middle. Women with a less plump face than their twenty-something counterparts thanks to the menopause and a few more wrinkles. I know so many middle aged women who look their age but are also beautiful with it. Yeah they don’t look twenty but that doesn’t mean they don’t look great for being 50 or 60.
It’s almost like it is still a taboo for women to show the effects of ageing which is why I admire Loose Women - because at least they talk honestly and openly about getting older and everything that comes with it rather than hiding it away.
When I spoke to my friend about this she agreed there seems to be more pressure on women than men to stay looking younger but stated ‘men age better though’. Now I know I am not the only woman who fancies actors more now that they look a bit rough around the edges rather than when they were youthfully plump and wrinkle free (Hugh Grant anyone?) but why doesn’t the same thought process apply to older women?
What is wrong with a woman having wrinkles and grey hair too? It’s almost like society is programmed to just not find women attractive once they get past a certain age unless they look younger than their age and while I hold my hands up and say I am guilty of being sucked into this mindset and would never say no to a bit of botox and will always dye my hair, I also don’t aspire to look 20 again and will never shy away from telling someone my age.
Sadly I know far too many people who have died far too young, even younger than I am now so know that ageing and old age is a privilege denied to many and while we all have the right to grow old how we wish can’t we also celebrate old age a bit more by showing a more honest depiction of what old age looks like on TV?