Let us grow old without the guilt

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IN MY MOTHER’S ERA, middle-aged women were content to be middle-aged women.

They wouldn’t dream of trying to fit into their teenaged daughter’s jeans or befriending her friends on Facebook, if there was such a thing back then. I remember whispered concern about a particular woman who would walk miles to maintain a stick like figure, but mostly, women had a healthy approach to life. Manic walker aside, I don’t remember anyone looking like a whippet unless born that way, and there was no power walking with weights or hiring a personal trainer to work on ‘abs’. Cross-fit? That would be exercising with a bad attitude.

There were no gym junkies because there were no gyms and a weekly game of tennis was the sociable ‘exercise’ of choice. My mother had a friend called Lorna but she wasn’t a gym clothing icon, her surname was Smith, not Jane, and she made stuffed toys for the family’s farm stall instead of stylish sportswear for lithe bodies.

The more adventurous souls took up yoga when the fad hit my little country town, and I recall my nicely rounded mum proudly showing us how she could balance on her head on the lounge room carpet. She and her peers 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.

Surely kindness, compassion, humility, grace, love and a genuine bunch of friends we can laugh and cry with should be our goal instead of a narcissistic pursuit of perfection.

These women occasionally went on diet ‘on Monday’ after a particularly ‘naughty’ weekend of too much Chicken a-la king and Rhubarb Fool at Dorothy’s  (such a good cook!) but generally, everyone embraced their age without much fanfare. Well, that’s what is seemed anyway. Interestingly, they’ve mostly all reached a ripe old age of 80 and beyond.

Now that I’m seriously middle aged myself, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Some of my peers (you know who you are!), 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 at 30. Nor did once perfect Cindy-esque moles start propagating – or eyebrows gain a life all of their own. And knee wrinkles? These pins were once an asset, for goodness sake.

One of the blessings in disguise about growing older is that the eyes grow dim just at a time when every minute detail needs attention (wayward hairs etc) before leaving the house. I say blessing, because soft focus is what I get when I peer in the mirror sans reading glasses. Even former model, Jerry Hall said she prefers to check her face in the mirror without glasses. That way, she remains an eternal supermodel, no air-brushing required.

It’s not that I am against the middle aged embracing health – I just don’t like them sharing their fads with me. By all means, limit your intake of processed carbs and the evil affliction of sugar. Feel free to partake in age-defying potions or even take up triathlons, just don’t let us lesser mortals know about it, particularly since we’ve just discovered macarons.

And anyhow, fresh from watching the French sub-titled movie, A Lady in Paris, I am certain, more than ever, that it’s the character, not the body we need to be working on. The embittered, lonely, acerbic, wealthy, glamorous and once-feted old woman at the heart of the story was reason enough to forget the body and hone character. Surely kindness, compassion, humility, grace, love and a genuine bunch of friends we can laugh and cry with should be our goal instead of a narcissistic pursuit of perfection.

And while this grumpy middle-aged woman is at it, please don’t do ‘selfies’ on Facebook. Leave that to teens. And don’t change your profile pic every week.  Enough said.  One more thing … I’m not advocating letting it all hang out, I walk regularly and eat healthily, I promise. I can even stomach quinoa once in a while. All I’m saying is please give us middle aged women a break. Let us eat, drink and be merry should we choose to do so. And let us grow old gracefully, guilt-free and graciously.

We’ve certainly earned it.

© Lois Nicholls

An edited version of this article appeared in The Courier Mail – Click to view.

Filed under: Humour


Lois Nicholls is an Australian freelance journalist. She is also the author of "Aussie, Actually," which captures her heartfelt experiences as a South African migrant living in Australia. Her second book, "Bye-bye Bikini", published in August 2018, is a series of frank and humorous essays navigating everyday life from the perspective of a fifty-something former newspaper and magazine journalist. Her first children's book, "What Dog is That?" available in hardcopy from was published in May 2019. Her books on Amazon: