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IN MY MOTHER’S ERA, middle-aged mothers were content to be middle-aged mothers.
They wore comfortable clothing and would not have dreamed of trying to fit into their teenage daughter’s jeans or befriending her friends on Facebook.
There were a couple of ‘glamour pusses’ in the small town in which I grew up – perhaps the local boutique or beauty parlour owner – but on the whole, they were all of similar elk. I don’t remember anyone being particularly reed slim unless born that way, and I don’t recall anyone power walking with weights or hiring a personal trainer to work on their ‘abs’.
There were no gym junkies because there were no gyms and a weekly game of tennis was the sociable ‘exercise’ of choice. The more adventurous souls took up yoga when the fad hit town and I recall my nicely rounded mum proudly showing us how she could stand on her head. They settled into middle age with an accepting sigh and laughed off a couple of gained kilos or a midriff that bore testimony to three children and a tad too many cream scones.
They occasionally went on diet ‘on Monday’ after a particularly ‘naughty’ weekend of too much Chicken a-la king and trifle at Daphne’s (such a good cook!) but generally, everyone embraced their age without much fanfare. Well, that’s what it seemed anyway.
Now that I’m the same sort of age – middle aged and beyond, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. I blame it partially on middle-aged women such as Elle and Cindy – the supermodels who are now super-middle-aged. Cindy graciously admitted recently that even she doesn’t look like Cindy Crawford with the amount of air brushing prior to a magazine spread. Even so, she’s undoubtedly a hard act to follow.
And Elle? Well, let’s just say that Elle has great genes and leave it at that. She is not your average 48-year-old woman and no-one should even aspire to measure up. She also confessed recently that her flawless school run paparazzi shots are the result of two hours of hair and make-up prior to going to work. She gave us that, at least.
The problem, it seems, is that certain middle aged women are buying into the idea that middle age is the new 30-something. Here’s a thing: It’s not. I don’t remember maintenance being part of my general beauty routine. I don’t recall sprouting hairs in wholly unreasonable places in my Thirties, finally putting to rest the theory that God has no sense of humour. He does. Why else would he suddenly allow eyebrows to sprout unusually long hairs? And why, after all these years, would he consent to benign and once fondly-regarded moles to start propagating? We did not see that one coming.
He is compassionate too, allowing the eyes to grow dim just at a time when every minute detail needs to be taken care of before leaving the house. Soft focus is what I get when I peer in the mirror sans reading glasses. Former model, Jerry Hall, says she never wears her glasses when checking her appearance for this reason – her vision may be blurred but her self-image remains totally in focus. Go Jerry!
Those who have bought into the idea that they should, at 45- plus, still appear 30-plus should stick to themselves. By all means, hone your bodies to unnatural perfection, severely limit your intake of carbs (pass the potatoes, please!) and partake in every age-defying potion out there, just don’t let us all know about it. You clearly have far too much time on your hands and should not be allowed to inflict your skewed take on middle age on those of us who are graciously trying to acquiesce.
I speak, particularly, of a rather acerbic remark directed at a fellow middle aged friend recently. She had returned to her country of birth to visit family with her two teens and husband. Her ticket home was booked a few days earlier than her family’s, who were invited out in her absence, by long-time friends. Back home, her daughter relayed a question from her family’s glamorous host who asked, supposedly without a hint of rancour, whether her mum ‘had lost any weight yet’. The shocked daughter said, no actually, she hadn’t but she was quite content with the way she was.
An observation: There was no mention of ‘how is your mother?’ or ‘how is her business going?’ or even, ‘is she well?’ The friend in question is a perfectly adequate size 12 to 14 – she has character, a brain and far more to offer than a weight loss report.
The shallow comment brings me to another point. Surely, at this age, women should work far harder on honing something rather longer-lasting and important – such as character, for example. Surely goodness, kindness, compassion, grace, love and laughter should be our goal. Perhaps we should pursue reaching out to others less fortunate and dare I say it, taking an interest in others, instead of a narcissistic pursuit of unattainable perfection.
And while this grumpy middle aged woman is at it, please don’t do ‘selfies’ on Facebook. Leave that to the teens. And don’t airbrush your profile pic. Posing in a bikini is also not acceptable – I don’t care how gorgeous your bod has become after those daily two-hour gym sessions, I really don’t want to see you posing in cyberspace. Cover up already.
One more thing: I’m not advocating letting it all hang out and not taking care of yourself. There’s no harm exercising and eating properly to remain healthy and strong. All I’m saying is please give us middle aged women a break. Let us eat, drink and be merry. Let us grow old gracefully, guilt-free and graciously.
We’ve certainly earned it.
PS. Perhaps my headline should have been Middle-Age Dread and Revenge of the ‘MERDS’ – that’s Middle-aged, Enlightened, Robust, Delectable Sisters. Feel free to join us!