‘Popular wisdom insists that you’re not allowed to hit your fifties and be gorgeous.’ ~ Cassandra Khaw, science fiction and fantasy author.
It’s true that people are surprised when they come across an ‘older’ woman who is conventionally good-looking, i.e. slim, shapely, sexy, well dressed.
When it is confirmed that she is in her fifties (sometimes even forties) or older, and, yet, all or at least two of these things, people act like they want to give her an award.
The belief is that the older you get, the less attractive you will be.
The belief is that it’s important to women to look attractive whatever their age.
The belief is that to qualify as looking good (for your age or at any age) you need to tick certain boxes.
What if, unlike Ming-Na Wen, you were fat, grey-haired and wrinkled at fifty? Would you be seen as having let the side down? Would young women look at you in horror and, shaking their heads, say you had ‘let yourself go’?
Why is a twenty-something author concerned with the physical appearance of women in their fifties? Why is she rooting for these women to look ‘gorgeous’? Are gorgeous fifty-somethings more worthy? Would a fifty-something woman who didn’t live up to conventional standards of beauty be seen by Ms Khaw as a disappointment? A failure? And why isn’t someone fat, grey and wrinkled gorgeous anyway?
These are tired, old questions, and I’m feeling very tired and old. People say, admiringly, that I don’t look fifty: I am fifty so I must look fifty, or fifty must look like me. Right?