I turned 39 in January and I have to face the fact that I am ageing. My body is subtly changing. Lines have started to appear around my eyes that weren’t there before. My metabolism has slowed down a little bit and if I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, I pay for it with big puffy bags under my eyes and extreme sleepiness that even huge quantities of caffeine can’t fight.
Most of the time I’m ok with it. After all it’s inevitable and none of us are getting any younger. But sometimes lying in bed late at night, I find myself being visited by a couple of unwanted house guests. Insecurity and Self-Doubt. “You’re still single and you’re going to lose your looks” Insecurity tells me. “Then who will want you? You’re going to die alone!” I turn over and try to ignore her but Self-Doubt is sitting on the other side of the bed. “Maybe you should change the way you dress now. You’re not 25 anymore. You shouldn’t wear sexy clothes anymore. People will laugh at you. They will think you are desperately clinging onto your youth.” I cover my head with the pillow but I can still hear them discussing whether it might be time for me to think about getting Botox. It’s going to be a long night…
I know I’m not alone feeling like this. Society makes it very clear that women are not supposed to age. If they do, they become irrelevant and invisible. Objects of pity. The cosmetics industry bombards us with advertising playing on our insecurities about our ageing skin. Try the new retinol/collagen/hyaluronic acid/ceramides face cream to halt the ageing process! As if that were even possible.
It doesn’t seem to be the same for men. Ageing female actresses are under much more scrutiny and pressure to stay forever young than their male counterparts. Many are forced to go under the knife in order to keep getting parts and stay ‘relevant’. Guys, on the other only hand become sexier with age apparently and don’t face the same stigma and shaming that older women get.
There are so many derogatory clichés about older women. There’s the spinster who (god forbid) never got married and had kids and is therefore condemned to a solitary existence with only her 14 cats to keep her company. Then there’s the frumpy middle-aged mother who lost all her sex appeal after dedicating her life to her children, which is great and what society wants, but how could she let herself go like that? Tragic. What about the older woman that still dresses sexily and has the nerve to express her sensuality? Oh yeah, she’s a MILF or a cougar. Whatever choices we make, we can be sure that society has a label for us.
There is definitely a double standard here because ageing men are not labelled and pitied by society. Quite the contrary in fact. It’s seen as something to be congratulated if an older guy manages to find a partner half his age. Nobody calls him a cougar. It’s not considered a big deal if a guy decides not to have kids or get married. He’s a bachelor not a spinster. Neither is he subject to constant advertising about anti-ageing face creams because it’s ok for him to get older but ladies, we don’t get that privellege, sorry.
So yes, sometimes I feel insecure about ageing and it’s hardly surprising all these things considered. But whenever I feel like this I remind myself of a few things. One of these things is that my sensuality and sexiness is much more about my attitude and how I feel than how I actually look. The world of burlesque has taught me this. Go to a burlesque show and you will see that the performers are often far from society’s image of the perfect woman. They come in all shapes, sizes and ages but one thing they have in common is their sex appeal. They love their bodies and accept every beautiful flaw they have.
Learning to love and accept our bodies for all the miraculous things they do to keep us alive and healthy is imperative. After all, not everybody is lucky enough to get the luxury of growing older. Sadly, some people are cut down in their prime due to illness or tragedy so ageing is something to be celebrated and to be grateful for.
Another thing that I do when I start to feel doubts creeping in, is to remind myself to look for inspiration in some of the amazing women around me. Women like my friend Gloria for example. She is one of the most fabulous ladies I know. Her energy and zest for life is infectious. She does not let ageing hold her back from anything. She does burlesque, CrossFit and recently took up pole dancing. Her sensuality and vitality shines through her effortlessly and she is still gorgeous without the need to resort to surgical procedures. You are my idol, Gloria! I hope to age like you, bravely and fearlessly.
I also remind myself that as I have matured, I have become so much more confident and connected to my sensuality. When I was in my 20s, I had my youthful charms but I was painfully shy and awkward and I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment about expressing my sensuality. Now in my late 30s, I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin and I care less about what people think. I definitely think sensuality develops with age and experience so really I wouldn’t want to go back to those days. I love the woman I am becoming now and I am looking forward to who I am going to continue to evolve into.
So ladies, f**k what society tells you about being an older woman. Remember that your sensuality is something inherent, it’s inside you, not outside and it’s always available to you and it has no age limit. Embrace the ageing process and never forget you are a goddess. I leave you this quote from sensual diva Monica Bellucci who is 56 years old.
Photo credit: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en