When are we allowed to get old?

Ask any little girl how old she is and its highly probable the answer will involve how old she’d like to be or is about to be. She’s never just six, she’s six and a half. My ten year old is constantly reminding me that she is soon to be eleven. Do you remember that feeling? Desperately wanting to be older? Dreaming about the freedom each milestone would bring.

As young women we proudly announce our age, sometimes even adding a couple of years, particularly if we think people will take us a little more seriously. I loved my twenties and remember being told by an older woman that my thirties were going to be even better, she was right, they were.

When I turned forty a couple of years ago I had a party to celebrate. The night was exactly as I’d hoped, old friends, lots of silliness, good music and a requirement for a greasy breakfast in the morning. When I looked around at others my age I realized there was a quiet smugness that came with getting older, a confidence that has you revisiting fashions, but this time you don’t do the bubble skirt. You’ve learnt from past experience and you know what you’re going to regret. When I looked at my girlfriends, many of which I’ve known since my teens, I realized how far we’d come, how much stronger we all seemed.

Of late though, I’ve wondered about the smugness. It feels like it’s being stolen, there’s a sinister element creeping in, a conversation that keeps popping up, whether its a quick coffee, a chance encounter in a car park or a dinner party. We’re all starting to talk about our faces.

I guess the first thing I noticed was my neck, as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror I realized the skin was different, it was papery and thinner, I began plastering moisturizer on it, thinking it might be a temporary thing. It’s not.

At the traffic lights I looked in to my rear vision mirror and was forced to take a second look at my eyelids. How did that happen? I’m sure they didn’t look like that this morning? Did they just drop? I think it happened somewhere between the petrol station and the supermarket. I began to push my eyebrows upwards, I found the perfect pose, index finger lifting the eyebrow while my thumb pushed my cheek towards my ear. There, I don’t look stupid at all! Perfectly normal. Now I just needed to work out how to carry the groceries.

Then it was the bump on my nose, a little round ball that has just appeared out of nowhere, “It’s nothing” said the doctor at the last visit, “if you like I could send you to a plastic surgeon to have it removed but you’d probably be left with a scar”.  I thought about my potential visit to the plastic surgeon, about the cheeky add ons I could include while I was there, would anyone notice the eye and brow lift, the fillers, the injectables, the neck skin removal? When I came out looking like a spoon, completely unwrinkled and bump free, would the smugness return or would I just be waiting until I had to find another excuse to get back there again?
When do we get old? When do we allow ourselves to relax? When did wrinkles lose their respect?
Would I care so much about my droopy eyelids and papery neck skin if I didn’t have to see the weird perfection of my peers? If Kylie Minogue didn’t seem to have one eyebrow permanently raised? Nicole Kidman with her unusually full lips. Meg Ryan looking constantly startled. Like most women in their forties I’m not brave enough to never say never, but what I want to know is, if I started, when would I stop? Rather than look younger, aren’t I just going to look like another older chick that’s been pumped, lifted and filled? 
What I want is the freedom my Grandmother appeared to have with her friends. When she proudly told me that she loved her wrinkles because they were the evidence of the life she had lived, the laughter, all the good times. She said wrinkles helped the young people know where to come for advice. Let’s also not forget the practicalities, I am one hundred percent sure that if you discussed the cost involved with Botox with my mother, she’d tell you she’d much rather get the leaking pipe under the driveway fixed or put it towards the new kitchen cupboards.
I think I may have discovered a solution though. Like I said earlier, remember when you added a few years? Maybe we just need to start doing it again. Instead of telling people I’m 42, I’m going to tell them I’m 52. I look pretty good for 52, don’t I?!
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02397398447336655195 Georgie

    ‘… wrinkles helped the young people know where to come for advice.’ Love that. gxo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09574721273010056362 Annieb25

    Love this post. That is exactly how I think too. I may steal your idea about adding years so people think I look young for my age. Great tip!!!! I wonder when we do relax about it? My fear is we won’t. We are exposed to so much so called perfection we feel we can’t accept what nature has dished out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18254275544017629129 bigwords is…

    “We are only as old as the people we feel” I like to quote that to myself seeing that Twiggy is nearly 2 years younger than me. When he starts to look old I’ll worry! x

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

    Yes! I made sure I found myself a younger man for the same reason….not really, basically he was the only that would have me…but anyway, I agree, I also LOVE the logic my children have in regards to their Dad being younger “how come he’s taller than you if you’re older than him Mummy?”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08600427311498297800 Being Me

    Your mum is right! Hey, don’t hate me when I tell you this though… but I am 36 in a couple of months and still look mid-20s (if that), the amount of disrespect I get! From the younger folk especially! I find myself not wanting to do the unbecoming thing of mentioning one’s age (it doesn’t bother me how old anyone is, that went out with my 20’s) but I notice that people treat me differently when they discover how long I’ve been around. It’s a strange dilemma to have! Albeit a rather handy one. Think about it: when I’m 84, I may not look a day over 70 #ringa-ding-ding

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15999271127735997770 Naturally Carol

    Maybe it’s got to do with satisfaction in being comfortable and even happy with the what you’re accomplishing and becoming in life. If you’re at peace with where you are in your life you’re at peace with your face. Do we mind smile lines if we know that we’ve smiled at thousands of strangers as well as friends? Have lined hands made thousands of cakes extended in hospitality or held and caressed thousands of hurting hearts? Was Mother Teresa ashamed of her wrinkled face..or did she cast thoughts of that aside to continue her purpose filled existence. Maybe we only worry about it as the process begins and then we ease into our age more comfortably as time goes on.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08109018150566511128 traceyb65

    i’ve often wondered why people don’t say they are older than they are if all they are worried about is appearing “good for their age”! all i can say is, bless that oily skin i hated so much as a teenager — whilst there is little i can do about the droopy neck, at least the wrinkles on this 45yo aren’t too bad … yet! xt

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11497714541093217629 Blocks and Knocks

    I love this post. If I was braver I’d be the first in line for lifts, plumps, stretches, etc but I’m not. Alas I will never age gracefully but I will make sure I do everything in my non surgical power to delay the cards stacked against me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08939805218711968317 Mark

    I guess it’s like my bald spot. It’s there … it’s big, but it is at the back of my head. I don’t see it in the mirror … so I don’t care. LOL

    Until I was 40, if someone asked me my age I always knew immediately. After 40, I had to start thinking. (Memory totally went when I turned 50!)

  • Anonymous

    Nice words

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00071999450731273883 Beth

    You seem to always hit the nail right on the head with your writing Kirsty. I have also started to notice the same things and I laughed at the vision of one finger lifting the eyebrow the thumb pulling the cheek – Oh dear, I’ve done that a few times recently too!!
    My eight year old informed someone just today that she was eight and three quarters (she’s the youngest in her year, so it’s Very important) so that also rang true with me.
    I can’t say that I have thought about the more drastic surgery option, but I am definitely paying more attention when someone talks miracle wrinkle cream!
    x

  • http://carlaeknight.blogspot.com/ Carla

    I’m 62 and fortunate in that I just don’t have many wrinkles. Now when we talk about things sagging, I’m all about that. Still, I am comfortable in my skin and my face. I do have some difficulty with gray hair, but until I start to wrinkle I think I can get away with coloring it. No injections or surgery though I do wish gravity wasn’t such an enemy. One of my sisters, who is four years younger, gets Botox but I think it just makes her face look stiff.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17165208811776097332 Heather

    And you don’t look a day over 50, darling!

    *ducks*

    I dunno what the answer is. It’s hard to be confident in who you are when everyone around you is pointing out the flaws in themselves and how to fix them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12099758957492165428 Wanderlust

    Excellent post. I agree with Heather. I want to feel good about my body and appearance and teach the same to my daughter, but it’s tough when our society gives us these unattainable images as “the norm”. That is so damaging. And I also agree with Mark, once I turned 40 I could never remember my age!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08149746029214947585 Sarah

    I am like Kirrily – 33 but often get mistaken for ten years younger. I’ve been asked for ID a few times in the last 12 months – and I don’t get out much! It’s unbelievable to me that people constantly mistake me for being much younger than I am – to me, I’m just me, and although I still look similarly to the way I did 10 years ago, I don’t look the same. I can see the differences, the subtle changes as I age.
    I know it must sound disingenous to protest that I find it embarrassing and don’t know how to respond when people express surprise at my age – the common reaction is “you’ll be ecstatic in 10 years” – and yes I probably will. But it was hard enough for me to be taken seriously as a woman in a corporate environment without having people subtract however many years off my age as well. Even in social situations I get talked down to a bit as people assume I am much younger than them – their attitude does change, even if subtly, when they realise otherwise. Oh don’t worry I’m not sobbing myself to sleep, I just think it’s an interesting reflection of the double-edged sword of youth – we are told that youth/beauty is the aesthetic ideal, but not if you want to be taken seriously or respected for your opinion. Ironically, as soon as we are deemed by society to be old enough to have a voice, is just when we start to become invisible. So it would seem you can be seen OR heard as a woman, not both.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02809544604769858045 t
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09646026064261601469 Happy Homemaker UK

    It has been interesting to move from the US to England. It was rare to see an older looking person with no work done. Coming to England, having plastic surgery done is less common and I have to say the wrinkles look natural and beautiful. Quite refreshing!

  • http://denisebomfim.blogspot.com/ Denise Bomfim

    Salam, beautiful young writer! Your text is amazing.
    Here in Brazil we count our years for smiles not tears…
    And because of that we feel ourselves always young,(of course the sun and the beaches help a lot too)
    kisses from Rio,
    Denise Bomfim.`.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10010049814419812468 Looking for Blue Sky

    I don’t know how many older women have Cosmetic surgery, but I agree that most of them still look old, just with wrinkle-free brows or whatever. I’m nearly 50 and have escaped all this stuff so far, so I’d say there’s a good chance I’ll change my mind when everything does start to sag…

  • http://sianlovesbooks.blogspot.com/ sian

    Say NEVER, say NEVER! We should all rebel against plastic faces and botox and be happy with what we’ve got! Yes, I am lucky, I have great genes but I am also happy with ageing and wrinkles (laughter lines mainly!). We can exude beauty and glamour in our eyes and with our legs…we don’t need to look younger! Come on, let’s rise against the tide of Media marketing and photo tampering and recognise that the ideal is what we are, here and now, 50, 40, 30, 20. this is what we are, this is what you get, this is what we want, hairy or hairless, wrinkly, made up or not, fat, thin, saggy, we are women, proud and beautiful!

  • http://therhythmmethod.wordpress.com/ therhythmmethod

    I blame our celebs. Madonna, Kylie, Nicole. Women who want it all, but not the lines and cracks that come with it.
    I’d rather join the ranks of your Grandma: wrinkly, saggy but ultimately, well loved.
    Great post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12854453381743816249 Alexandria D.

    Love the part about looking in the rearview mirror during stopped traffic. Haha! I do that constantly and I can’t stand it. Trying to become less obsessed with always peeping a look into that mirrow. 😉

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08666523444451347960 Misfit Mommy

    52? Brilliant! I may follow you on that…

    I was considering a botox visit for this really deep wrinkle I’ve been developing between my eyebrows. But when I point that wrinkle out to my kids and say “see what you did?” I can guilt them into just about anything.

  • http://swrightboucher.wordpress.com/ swrightboucher

    I used to say “there is nothing as beautiful as a natural smile” and then neon white teeth became fashionable. sigh.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12854453381743816249 Alexandria D.

    Love the part about looking in the rearview mirror during stopped traffic. Haha! I do that constantly and I can’t stand it. Trying to become less obsessed with always peeping a look into that mirrow. 😉