From our archives: The fascination with retaining youth
In this column, Lesley Stones looks at the fascination with retaining youth.
When I was a kid I used to think anyone over 20 was ancient. What an idiot! Now I indulgently describe people as immature youngsters if they’re still merely in their 30s. Age is a relative thing, and as you acquire it, you turn into that ancient relative who the younger generation can’t believe is still alive.
But when I look in the mirror, I don’t see middle age. Probably because I’ve whizzed way past it, unless I’m going to live to 100. Instead my reflection gives me a cheeky, confident grin as I get ready for an evening out. My parents’ generation certainly looked and acted far older than we do today. Now we have lotions to plump up our skin, dyes to hide the grey, bras to push boobs up, Spanx to push bellies down, and gyms to hold it all together.
Recently at Soweto Theatre, I was surrounded by gorgeous young girls whose heels were longer than their miniskirts. It was invigorating to be among such loveliness, but when I peered in the mirror during a loo stop (and since when did they become so frequent?), I realised my skin has lost its vibrant youth.
“Perhaps I should start wearing more make-up,” I suggested to my partner, knowing he would gallantly dismiss the notion. “Perhaps you should,” he mused, watching a girl walk past in a skirt so short it could have been a T-shirt.
My bottom lip quivered, until he backtracked and told me I’d earned my wrinkles. I don’t want a mask to disguise this lived-in, laughed-in face, furrowed by proud laughter lines and eyes crinkling with glee. Supported by a body that’s absorbed more wine and cheesecake than my doctor needs to know about.
I don’t treat it carelessly, of course. It’s hard work not degenerating as you age, so I hit the gym four times a week, dye my hair, try to fit in regular facials, and pat expensive Polyfilla-type potions into the deepest canyons. But staying young is all about the mindset, not the make-up. There’s an attitude adjustment that comes with growing older, as you earn your place in the world and don’t worry so much what people think of you. You’ve endured emotional upheavals, but you’ve reassessed, reinvented and recovered.
It’s wonderful to see actresses still looking delicious in their dotage, and Tina Turner at 73 the cover girl for Germany’s Vogue magazine. Maybe that’s all down to nips and tucks, but I’d rather nip to the bar and tuck away a drink. Besides, the common link with gorgeous older gals is that they’re out and about living a vigorous life, unlike my parents, who brought me up and then conked out with the effort.
So what if you can’t compete in the looks department with youngsters half your age? If an impertinent genie offered me the chance to be 20 again, I’d give him my fierce old-lady stare and tell him to shove off, so I can carry on growing old disgracefully.
Lesley Stones is a freelance travel & leisure journalist based in stunning South Africa and a frequent columnist for Longevity magazine. This article first appeared in Longevity magazine in 2013.