Stop Calling Women Ageless: One Senior's Rant

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

I’m 62 and have never been happier in my entire life (no lie).

But I’m starting to get very irritated (no, make that pissed off) about the beauty industry’s latest catchphrase: ageless beauty. Commercials either try to sell me some anti-aging cream to erase my wrinkles or tell me I need to wear an age-defying push-up bra. Well, I don’t need either.

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Why? I’m in love with my wrinkles. And as far as my boobs go, I don’t want them hoisted up to my chin like those of my 28-year-old daughter. Nope. I’ll take ones that match the rest of my more senior body, thank you.

Let’s be honest. The word ageless isn't about “not looking your age.” It’s not used to compliment a woman who, at 20 is mistaken for a 40-year-old. It’s about looking younger. So it’s ageist. My boobs must appear 15, my face 45 ('cause 40 is the new 60), while my hands, elbows, and knees stay 60. Some older women often become an odd montage of separately aging body parts. Which, I guess, is why no one has a clue as to their actual, chronological age.

Promoting ageless beauty is also profoundly sexist. No one admires George Clooney for looking “ageless.” But when tabloids and magazines run glamorous photos of Kris Jenner (age 62), the next paragraph criticizes her for using Botox or undergoing plastic surgery. You'll find similar stories about Jane Fonda (age 80), Cher (age 72), and others. Yep, we aging women can’t win either way. Age-defying campaigns are a way to make women feel shitty about their outer appearance, even when we buy into the ageless beauty trap.


Kris Jenner
Photo credit Reuters

I’ve got no issue with any woman who dyes her hair, whitens her teeth, or goes under the knife. (Full disclosure: been there, done that.) Women should have autonomy over their bodies. My style makes me happy, but it's not right for anyone else. It's an expression of who I am, at my age. What's maddening is when actresses like Frances McDormand and Annette Bening (both 60), are referred to as "brave" for not playing the “ageless” card. It’s a not-so-subtle criticism of anyone who happens to choose a different beauty regimen.


Frances McDormand
Image credit: Katy Grannan for The New York Times

Is there any age where we honor women for their accomplishments, without referencing their looks? It was refreshing to see Glenda Jackson (age 82) win her recent Tony Award. Watching the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsberg (age 85) made me realize how hungry the younger generation is for octogenarian role models. And I've loved seeing Gloria Steinem (age 82) grow and blossom through time. Getting older takes nothing away from her inner or outer beauty. It's inspiring to witness these badass elders living full and exciting lives. But I don't want to wait another 20 years for others to see me in the same light.


Glenda Jackson accepting her Tony
Image Michael Zorn

The fashion industry relies on women buying into unobtainable and aspirational beauty goals. The irony is that now that I've reached my 60s, I don’t give a fuck if anyone knows my age. There's no need to lie. Also, most of my friends wouldn't trade their arthritic knees and saggy boobs to be 40 or 50, again. (Cher can sing "if I could turn back time," but few of us would go back, given the option.)


Elisabeth Dale
Behind the scenes photo by Sarah Nelson Makeup

I find it liberating to be an older woman. We can reinvent ourselves, dress however we want, and even change our sexuality. So give us old broads a break. Let us look, feel, and be ourselves.

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