I have to admit I’m a great fan of photo-chromic lens, you know the ones I mean that go darker in sunlight. As someone who suffers in bright sunshine they are a huge help to me, especially when driving, but I have recently been thinking about how ageing they are. I was struck by the thought when seeing photos of a family party on one of the few nice days we had this summer. As usual I had convinced myself how good I was looking and was boosted when my daughter’s friend told me I was looking “amazing” (and that was before I had plied her with copious amounts of alcohol). BUT then the photos appeared on my laptop. Aaaargh! I won’t go into the normal moans about the face and hair (been there etc etc) but I was struck about how ageing my glasses were. Again it’s one of those dilemmas, comfort/usefulness v looking old. I have been told a number of times by people how much my glasses suit me but perhaps they just mean they are appropriate for a woman of my age whereas I want to tell me that they make me look 25! It’s the same when I go to the hairdressers and she asks what I want her to do and I always reply “make me look twenty years younger”. I never get tired of the remark though I’m sure she did many years ago…. I just don’t recognise myself as a woman in my mid 50s when presented with the evidence. I simply don’t want to look like that, but I already carry two different pairs of glasses in my handbag so I really don’t have space for a pair of designer shades as well. I’ve tried avoiding being in photos but my children have got wise to my disappearing into the kitchen routine so I have to grin and bear it. Well just bear it anyway and try to believe them when they tell me how lovely I look when all I want to say is “lovely but OLD!”
I was reading an article yesterday (that I can’t find today) about how to apply make-up once you pass 50. Here’s a link to a similar thing:
I went to get my make-up done last year at one of those lovely counters in John Lewis. You know the thing: they charge you £10 but take this off if you buy products. The “girl” (and I think I can use that term here as she can’t have been more than 23) did a lovely job on me but I did think that the way she did my make-up was a one size fits all exercise. She was horrified when I said I didn’t wear eye shadow every day (I tend to use a bit of eye liner to provide some colour) and I went away with a bag full of expensive products, most of which I did actually continue using once I got home! Although I enjoyed the experience I was left thinking it would be so much nicer if there was someone who specialised in women over 50, wouldn’t it? Someone who understand the problems of powder going into creases etc, someone who knew you didn’t want to look like you were trying to look like you were in your 20s rather you wanted to look like the best version of yourself.
Another dilemma with make-up (and why I decided to have mine done in the first place) is the make-up rut. Just because it looked good on us in our 20s doesn’t mean it still does and I’m not even sure it looked right to start with but I don’t suppose we cared very much and there doesn’t seem as much photographic evidence as we have nowadays. How do we know whether new trends will suit us? How about eye liner? I’ve never used it a great deal but now I find it very helpful, or at least I hope it is. It’s always going back to that tricky balance between looking good without looking as though you are trying too hard. Another case of less is more?
There’s been a couple of articles in the papers lately about whether women of a certain age (yes, that means us) should or could wear a bikini. First of all it amazes me that people have got nothing better to do than debate issues like this, well it isn’t really an issue is it when you think of everything else that’s going on in the world. I’ve talked before about the mutton problem but is a bikini part of that question? First of all you only tend to wear a bikini when on a beach or by a swimming pool where there is a much more relaxed way of dressing in any event and secondly there is the whole issue of what a person’s body looks like anyway. One of the great advantages of getting older is having confidence or a I couldn’t care less what you think attitude so if you want to wear a bikini just go for it. Of course there are many people who doubt whether their bodies would look good in a bikini but surely that’s the same regardless of your age? If you feel comfortable who else should be bothered? On the other hand there is a sort of rule about what women should or should not wear at certain times of their lives but who is to say that it’s right. In the past people have heaped praise on Helen Mirren, for example, having a great bikini body despite or maybe because of her age but then the debate becomes more about the body than the age of the wearer.
A friend of mine who is a year older than me was asked by a woman she worked with whether she had packed her bikini for her holiday in a very jovial way, obviously thinking the idea was ridiculous. When my friend replied she had the woman looked non-plussed for a moment and then replied “Well, good for you”. I have to say that my friend looks good in whatever she wears but obviously the other woman thought that no woman in her 50s would consider a bikini. It’s rather sad and aren’t there more important things to think about?
My son is 21 and was buying a car. When he came to pick it up and was driving me home he casually mentioned that he hadn’t driven since passing his test nearly 2 years before! This did nothing to quell the butterflies that were doing somersaults in my stomach at the time, though I tried not to show it (though I’m not sure how successful I was, you’d have to ask him). When he left to drive back to his house I made him promise to call me as soon as he got there. It was the longest hour of my life: I had a whole feature film of images of him crashing on the way home, writing off the car and worse. It’s so hard to accept that he’s a grown-up, even though he has a grown-up job, pays his bills every month and, of course, drives a car. I didn’t have him until I was in my mid-50s and still think of him as a baby, as I do with his three sisters. It’s hard being in your 50s and having so-called grown up children; it doesn’t seem natural that something you gave birth to can drive a car. Logically I know that of course it’s possible, especially as I was an “elderly” mother but they never stop being kids to me. It’s all very paradoxical: I’ve brought them up to be independent, self-sufficient, able to deal with things in life and yet there is a huge part inside of me that stills wants to protect them from life, that worries about them when they are out of my sight (which is most of the time now) and wants to make the world all right for them.
And yet conversely I want them to sort out their own problems, I don’t want to have to worry about them, I don’t want them to tell me about all their issues but just come to me when it’s all over with an anecdote, with them as the hero/heroine and a happy ever after ending. I want them to be settled and able to deal with the normal ebbs and flows of life. They do say that you only ever grow up when your parents die but that’s probably a bit too much to ask of me to help them to mature.
One of the compensations we are meant to have for getting older, for facing the wrinkles, the greying hair, the middle-aged spread, is the value of our experience. It’s meant to be like those tribes for value their elders, look up to them, put them in positions of authority and influence because of their age and their life experience. Sounds good so far, doesn’t it? But the trouble is that it doesn’t really work like that. Try and apply for a job in your 50s and employers are hardly rushing to your door to offer you employment. Looking at your cv, they can see your employment history and the skills and talents you have and the pension age keeps getting higher and higher but still they don’t seem keen. If you’re expected to live into your 80s and not get your state pension until you’re in your late 60s then why aren’t you employable in your 50s? Is it just that employers think they are taking a risk, so they think we’re likely to keel over with the effort of work, or do they just want the safe option of employing someone younger, even though the chances are they won’t stay any longer than an older person?
So what do you do if you want a job when you’re well into your 50s, especially if, like me, you’ve spent years at home bringing up a family so you haven’t got any up-to-date employment history? One answer might be to omit your age or date of birth but the problem is listing things like O levels rather than GCSEs gives a massive hint. That’s the trouble with having to sell yourself via a few sheets of paper, there’s no real way of knowing the person behind those neatly-typed words. Some companies extol the virtues of employing those in their 50s, talking about their work ethic, reliability etc etc but those companies are very few and with most you won’t even get beyond the first stage. I’ve been to employment agencies who tell me how well I come across face-to-face but on paper I’m not so impressive despite my exemplary qualifications and many years of experience. I know we’re all meant to be loaded and enjoying our pre-retirement years, being the envy of younger people, but that’s not the case for everyone. So if anyone is out there, reading this, have you got any jobs?
I have been to quite a few care homes. Sadly my parents died long before they might have become residents but as my partner’s parents both ended their lives in different care homes I entered into a world that I might not normally have inhabited. Apart from the seemingly inevitable semi-circle in the communal lounge, where they sit there waiting to see who is going to die next, the one big thing that struck me is the smell. I don’t know what happens when you enter into one of these homes that makes the people who run it think that you have lost all your senses: the smell of the food is enough to put you off eating for life (maybe they could run health farms in another wing?) and don’t get me started on the tea – cheap tea bags, too much milk and never hot, what’s all about? The other smell is often, depressingly, of wee, urine, or whatever else you might want to call it. I know from my own experience that my pelvic floor is not what it once was – I blame my children (they say I blame them for most things….probably true but I had hoped they didn’t notice). So once entering my 50s I vowed that I wouldn’t be going down the path to Eau to Urine.
I remember watching tv one night when an ad for Tena pants discreet came on (Discreet – you’d hardly wear them if it was obvious would you? Not like those lovely Dr White sanitary towels from the 70s…oh how the world has moved on, thankfully) and my partner made a disgusted noise (hard to convey in type) and muttered something like “how disgusting” whilst I thought “what a good idea”. I have to admit (or maybe not admit) that I have never bought or worn any Tena pants, with or without discretion, but I am very prone to a specially designed panty liner. I am not saying that I have a huge problem with incontinence but sometimes my defences are a bit shaky and I don’t want people thinking “what’s that smell?” when they are talking to me. Of course, they might be doing that anyway but that’s another blog! So I’m all in favour of something that will mask any slight (I do have to keep stressing that just so you don’t get the wrong idea) nasty niff. The only problem is hiding the evidence if things get a bit heated before the nylon nightie is on….if you get my gist?
Along with drinking another thing I find I’m not as good at now I’m in my 50s is staying up late. Over the last few years I would never classify myself as a night owl but looking back to my 20s and 30s I don’t remember staying up late as ever being a problem. Perhaps it was all those years of non-sleeping children that made me slightly obsessed with sleep? Perhaps I’m just trying to catch up with all those hours I missed out on but now I can think of nothing nicer than an early night. Sad, isn’t it? Occasionally I can stay up late, even past midnight at times, but I do spend ages trying to catch up. My ideal night out is eating out at 6 to 7 and being home long before ten. When I go away with friends who suggest not eating until 8 I find it all slightly worrying but not worrying enough to suggest eating earlier. Don’t want to seem like an old biddy, do I?
When I’ve had contact with people in nursing or care home I’ve noticed how often they are put to bed very early. I don’t know if this is because they want to go to bed or whether it’s more convenient for the home to know they are settled? Does everyone want or need to go to bed earlier or is that they have nothing else to do? They say that as you age you need less sleep so if you are going to bed before 7 how long are you going to spend in bed. At the other end of the day I hear of older people waking up much earlier so perhaps they are going to bed earlier as well just simply shifting their body clocks.
I suppose it’s just adjusting my sleep and bed hours to how I am feeling at a particular time, feeling able to stay up late on occasions but also appreciating the joy of an early night even with a lie-in to follow. As I mother of four I know I’m worth it….