For my 53rd birthday, which took place on New Year’s Day, I received many happy returns, the best wishes of family and friends, a dinner out – and the pleasure of reading a curious article on a website called Emaneya about the 10 pieces of clothing that an “older” woman should avoid like the plague.
Such articles, invariably written by women, should always be avoided, of course. Nevertheless, I immediately looked to see the possible bad choices I might have made regarding my own wardrobe in recent years.
“It is not unusual to walk around a mall or even on the street and find a woman dressed in an outfit that is not appropriate for her age,” the article began, before delineating what these might be for somebody at the incredibly old age of 53.
Items to be removed from my wardrobe, counseled the writer, include message T-shirts, trendy jeans with huge swathes of material missing, and costume shoes. On this, she was on solid ground, as far as I was concerned.
Other items which made her top 10 – but shouldn’t be on mine – I’m not so sure about. Like the white-ribbed cotton tank top – is it just the white one that is objectionable for women my age, or are other colors okay, I wondered. Hair gadgets and excessive cleavage should also be avoided. Hmm. Speaking personally, I’ve always been one of the “if you’ve got it, flaunt it’’ brigade.
Overly decorated handbags and inexpensive and unflattering underwear rounded it off. Not sure what constitutes the former, and I would have thought the latter wasn’t on anyone’s list, at any age.
But enough about the article.
Why the obsession?
HAVING DIGESTED the do’s and don’ts of what is supposedly acceptable for women of a certain age to wear, it dawned on me that I now fall into this category. Hard to believe it; in my head, I’m still 35.
In any event, what is this obsession with women like us, especially those of the celebrity ilk?
Madonna, so often the subject of online discussions and debates, is a good case in point. Men and women alike pick over her choice of attire and boyfriends. Her face and figure have also led to many opining about her predilection for plastic surgery, and what some say is her obsession to remain youthful.
“It’s the speculation around Madonna’s increasingly bizarre face shape that continues to intensify, and especially so by plastic surgeons like Dr. [Richard] Westreich – as she continues to post videos of herself online,” according to The US Sun.
While Madonna makes no secret of the fact that she has had “work” done, she prefers not to discuss it. “I am certainly not against plastic surgery. However, I am absolutely against having to discuss it.” Good for her.
Then there are those celebs, such as Jennifer Lopez, who has recently launched her own range of beauty-care products, and speaks openly about never having gone under the knife, or stuck needles in her face. Her youthful exuberance is entirely natural, she says, and can be attributed to a healthy lifestyle, liberal use of good face creams (her own) and sunscreen.
Harper’s Bazaar reported on her reply to a comment on one of her Instagram photos that suggested she had “definitely” undergone Botox: “LOL that’s just my face!!! For the 500 millionth time... I have never done Botox or any injectable or surgery!! Just sayin’.”
That hasn’t stopped the endless speculation.
In their blog, MYA Cosmetic mused, “With her flawless face and gorgeous glow, it seems like Jennifer Lopez hasn’t aged a day since she first topped the charts in the early 2000s. There’s no doubting her good genes (who wouldn’t insure that bum?), but her looks continue to defy her age. We’re all wondering, has J Lo had cosmetic surgery?”
Irrespective of the choices made by women in the public eye, whether young or old, they’re going to be judged.
But, really, whatever Madonna, J Lo or any other celebrity chooses to do with her body is entirely up to her.
Pressures on women
THE SAME goes for the rest of us ordinary Jos. This obsession with women over a certain age and how we look is unhealthy, intrusive and sexist.
Whereas articles about older men and how they’re keeping are few and far between, those about the fairer sex are ten-a-penny.
Such heightened interest only serves to put additional pressures on women who already have to deal with the many challenges which go hand-in-hand with growing older: exhaustion, bloating, hair loss, irritability and lack of sex drive. These are just some of the problems that are experienced by those who are going through the nightmare of menopause, something that comes to us all. Simply functioning on a day-to-day basis can be a challenge.
Being told how to remain youthful, while our bodies feel anything but, is an added pressure we don’t need.
We shouldn’t be subjected to endless, unsolicited pieces of advice that only serve to highlight our insecurities – especially on our birthdays and certainly not by fellow, younger “sistas,” decked out in ripped jeans, artfully messed hair, and Justin Bieber T-shirts.
Just leave us alone, please.
The writer is a former lawyer from Manchester, England. She now lives in Israel where she works at The Jerusalem Post.