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When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable.  There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age….. Victor Hugo

I love this quote from Victor Hugo.. He, of course, was the author of Les Miserables so I love his words.  After what happened to me today, this quote of his seemed appropriate.  I was out shopping in one of those large, impersonal plazas that are identical, whatever city or country you are in. I tend to forget where I’ve parked my car in them usually, and am convinced someone stole it until I’ve looked in the right spot on every level and find it.  Anyway, it seems lately there is a trend for these huge conglomerates to squeeze even more rent from their floor size, by shoving pop up shops in the middle of the walkways.

For some reason, these pop up shops all have annoying shop assistants working in them who have to pop out, as you try to walk past unnoticed, trying to get you to sample their wares.  It is imperative to avoid eye contact at all costs.  Sadly, the human instinct to be polite and say “no thank you” to their approach, seems to spur them on to try harder.  It seems that is all the encouragement they need to follow you and try a different spiel.   As you walk along you can feel their eyes stalking you, waiting till you get closer to approach you and when they see the whites of your hastily averted eyes, they pounce.

I had just walked out of a store today, after having bought a hair dye to cover my greys when I got accosted by one of these swarming sales assistants.  The offending box of grey cover was well hidden in another bag so wasn’t on show. This could not have been the reason she chose me to try to sell her anti aging potion.  As I walked past this woman she jumped out in front of me. It is not in my nature to be so blatantly rude to another fellow human who is just trying to earn a living, so instead of being sensible and avoiding eye contact, I was stupid enough to give her the encouraging “no thank you” instead of ignoring her.  Sigh.. big mistake.. huge.

I kept walking and she walked over to me and said, “sorry, but can I just ask you a quick question” so of course I said yes.  She wanted to know what I had under my eyes, so I said brown eyeliner.  She said she wanted to show me something and that’s when I should have walked away from her, but no, my polite side was still the dominant voice.  She then proceeded to put a cream of some sort under one eye all the while talking ten to the dozen so I couldn’t get a word in edgeways.  She proceeded to tell me how old my skin made me look and how wrinkly I was. She pointed out my crows feet and the lines around the sides of my mouth.  She let me know (and thank God because I’ve never looked in a mirror to see my skin) how my upper eyes were wrinkly and that turkey like necks are so aging.  The conspiratorial tone she spoke in the whole time, was difficult to understand as she had a strong accent so being a glutton for punishment, I kept asking her to repeat herself.. If that isn’t encouragement, what is?

After she had treated one side of my face with the magic formula, she kept avoiding showing me my face in the mirror, all the while telling me how much less wrinkled I looked on that side.  Hell, I didn’t realise I looked that wrinkled in the first place but I was prepared to believe her. I started to have these visions of myself walking around like the phantom of the opera for the day, one side of my face smooth and white while the other was wrinkled and haggard and hanging down around my neck.  I was quite worried about how weird I would look while I finished my shopping.  People would be convinced I had had a stroke, such would be the remarkable difference.

She told me how this miraculous formula actually EXERCISED my face. Not exorcised.. exercised.  I had images of my face doing star jumps and push ups in trendy gym gear. I finally got to look in the mirror, expecting to see this miraculous difference that would make me hug and kiss her and bow at her feet for making me look so young and beautiful.  It was all I could do to stop myself from laughing as I perused my face, as there was not a single scrap of difference between the sides of my face. After another 10 minutes of her doing everything but offering me a set of steak knives I finally got away from her by convincing her that no matter HOW CHEAP THE OFFER WAS, I could not afford $300 if I took the products home today even if it was true that she was only offering ME this deal because she liked me. When I finally escaped I almost ran away from that spot.

When I met up with my friend and told her how stupid I was by not avoiding eye contact, she told me about walking past a few weeks earlier and hearing a woman tell the sales assistant very loudly, “NO, I don’t want you to tell me again how old I look”.  She had obviously been sucked in  on a previous occasion.  My friend had also been approached by them previously and got told that the skincare routine she used made her look so old.  Now, I’m not trying to be vain, but in actual fact, I think both my friend and I have pretty good skin for women on the other side of  50. Or I did before this swarming assistant told me how old I looked.

When push comes to shove, if I do have wrinkles, I’m okay with that.  I’m 51.  I’ve had 3 children. I’ve nursed both my parents until they died.  I’ve had to bury my 10 year old daughter.  I’ve raised teenagers.  I’ve had to wonder at times, where the money was coming from to pay the bills or buy food.  I’ve worked for bosses who were complete nut jobs.  I have laughed with friends until I couldn’t breathe. I have cried while holding my boys in my arms when they have had their hearts broken.  I have been happy, sad, angry, nervous, worried, joyful, heartbroken, playful and every emotion in between.  I wear all those emotions on this dial.  I do not have a poker face.  In short.. I’VE EARNED MY WRINKLES!

I’ve earned my grey hair too but as I am also naturally blonde and have been dyeing my hair since I was 16, it’s probably too late to stop that particular vice now.  I choose to dye my hair to give it color, not just hide the greys, although that is one great benefit.  When it comes to my skin, I look after it, I avoid lots of sunlight on it, I use a good but reasonably priced moisturiser and I try not to frown as much as I am naturally inclined to do when I’m concentrating. I refuse to spend the national debt on a plethora of skin “miracles” that I won’t bother using anyway. AND I’M 51! I’m supposed to have signs of age.

My mother used soap and water all her life.  She never moisturised and  she had the softest skin I have ever felt.  Mum’s skin always felt beautiful and her skin was relatively smooth when she earned her angel wings aged 76.  I am showing the same signs of aging she did. I am after all her daughter and I do look like her.  I am starting to get a bit saggy around the jowls and my neck and hands are looking a bit like a chicken’s foot with each passing day but I am quite happy with how I’m looking at this age.  My hands have worked.  They have washed and changed nappies and decorated and sewed and chopped and all sorts of other jobs. They are the hands of a woman who has used them to raise a family.  They are the same age as me.

Why do I have to try to look like a 30 year old when I’m a 51 year old.  I have earned the last 51 years of wrinkles, why should I have to try to erase them to fit into society’s image of what women should look like? Why am I expected to have breasts that are as perky as they were when I was 17? Why should I feel guilty about having stretch marks on my stomach when they are as a result of carrying my 3 children? Why do I have to conform to the media’s youth obsessed stereotype of the ideal woman?

When I was 18, I wanted men to see me as some sort of beautiful goddess.  It never happened but it’s how I wanted to be seen.  Over the years, I have been guilty of dumbing myself down to fit in.  I’ve kept opinions to myself to avoid being perceived as a know it all.  I’ve even acted useless to make a man feel needed. Nowadays, I want people to see the intelligent, opinionated, strong, competent, slightly damaged “but getting it together” person that I am. I’m happy to show myself warts and all nowadays.  If my imperfections include stretchmarks, wrinkles, chicken skin hands, a pot belly and saggy boobs, so be it.  Love me, love my imperfections! They are a job lot.

Years ago I got cast in the lead role in an amateur play.  The role called for an attractive woman in her 30s.  I was thrilled to get the role but was horrified when I heard that a discussion had taken place with the director who had cast me and another member of the drama group, as I was overweight.  The person in question felt that having breasts and hips automatically put me on the unattractive list.  Now, once again, I’m not blowing my own trumpet, but at that time in my life, I could still turn a head or two when I walked into a room.  Never classically beautiful, I still knew how to make the most of what Mother Nature had given me and I scrubbed up well.  To hear some of the details of that conversation shattered me.  I’m never going to be Twiggy… Hell…. even Twiggy isn’t twiggy anymore.  She has breasts, hips, wrinkles and perhaps even stretch marks nowadays.

If you have seen the movie The Calendar Girls, the true story of a group of older women from Yorkshire who posed for a nude calendar to raise much needed funds to buy a new couch for the waiting room of their local hospice, you’ll remember the poem that John Alderton’s role said to his wife.  “The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. Every stage of their growth has its own beauty, but the last phase is always the most glorious”. Isn’t this the most glorious phase of our lives.  We have raised our kids, they are grown and independent.  We know ourselves.  We know who we are and what we like, what we don’t like and what we want. We have learned how to cope with what life has dished out, good and bad.  We understand more of what life is about.  We are old enough to know all this, but still young enough to enjoy it all.

I’m proud of my wrinkles – they show that I have survived, what has been at times, a very tumultuous life.. I’m proud of my stretch marks and pot belly – they are proof that I have been blessed with the miracle of birth.  I’m even proud of my saggy  breasts – they are healthy and they nurtured 3 babies for a short while.  I’m proud of the mistakes I’ve made – they have taught me what is right and wrong. I’m proud of the path I’ve walked so far – it’s brought me to where I am today.  I don’t want to be 18 again. It didn’t suit me. I love this age. I love being able to be me.

Let’s start to celebrate whatever age it is we are.  If we always wish we were a different age, younger or older, we spend precious time wishing it away.  I intend to grow older gracefully…. or disgracefully whatever the case may be.  I may even come to terms with my grey hair one day. I envy women who have persevered with the growing out period and love their silver locks..  Trouble is, my hair doesn’t go white or silver. I have the salt and pepper my mum had. If you choose to have treatment for your wrinkles.. or a breast job, or a tummy tuck or a facelift…  GOOD FOR YOU!!!… as long as it’s because YOU want to do it, not because the media tell you that you need to look like an 18 year old. As for me,  I think I’ll probably be one of those old ladies on my scooter, racing round the nursing home, with fire engine red hair, embracing life, wrinkles and the whole shebang…

Happy wrinkling…. Livvy 🙂

will rogers