Wearing what you want

I used to love hanging out at the pool at Mom's seniors' apartment in Florida. In the company of a fun-loving crowd in their seventies and eighties, I, in my forties and fifties, felt fit and sleek. It's all relative.

Now I'm nearly 60, beginning to look like them, with spreading and softness and bits that exercise won't alter. They have become my role models. Aside from sunscreen, Mom's friends didn't cover up. They wore shorts, sleeveless blouses, halter tops.

Last week a forty-year-old friend lamented the arrival of spring, because her "loose" underarms would show in her tank tops. "I dread the summer", she said, "I feel like hiding."

I'd just returned from Florida, where I met older women at the beach every day. They looked at home in their aged bodies.

They are not are giving up or letting themselves go. They are just not going to obsess about perfection.

There's a point where you say, this is a beach, dammit, it's a sweet, sunny day. If my underarms jiggle or my varicose veins show, well, I'm walking at the ocean's edge, smiling at passers-by, watching a three-year-old leap into the waves, squealing with joy.


Deja Pseu said…
Bravo! I get to see the same ease when we visit Palm Springs and hang out by the pool. It really does remind us that what matters most is enjoyment of life, not worrying that we don't fit some cultural ideal appropriate only for a very young and genetically select group of people.
greying pixie said…
What a lovely article! I've always loved watching sporty older ladies at the beach; that relaxed acceptance of their bodies results in such dignity in my opinion. In fact this year I have gone one step further than just watching them, I've decided to start using one of those towelling tents that older British ladies use to change under after a swim. So I've already bought to two medium sized bright orange beach towels to sew together leaving gaps for arms and insert a drawstring at the neck - well, surely one of the luxuries of growing older is that you have carte blanche to be as eccentric as you want!
Duchesse said…
GP: I can see it, a kind of DIY cabana! Add sun hat and eccentricity is within reach.
Anonymous said…
isn't it wacky that just 'being', just simply aging without intervention is considered brave? i think it too, and i hold those women you described as role models. i guess beauty got caught up in our fear of mortality and if you don't (futilely) fight it, you upset people. my mother was told, by the stone cutter for her mother's grave stone, that she (my mom) should dye her hair - this happened last year - the woman is over 60.
when i was a teenager, i pleaded and pleaded with my mom never to dye her hair, and she, thankfully, agreed. i don't know why i felt so strongly, but i did. now it's my turn. the whites are sprinkled all over, and especially in front, and i am having to learn the meaning of resolve, because there are many days when i don't want to have a glaring reminder of mortality hanging over my eyebrows. i don't like that when i was drawing last night, a hair fell on my notepad, and it was white. i don't like that the white hairs take me right off the flirt list of guys passing me by, guys i would never want to carry out a conversation with (even if i weren't happily married, which i am), but it still feels unfair that when once i used to get a second glance, now i'm invisible. and yes, i feel like an idiot for caring. looking forward to gaining more wisdom, along with the other changes....
greying pixie said…
Three cheers for you, up and down town. You have put into words what many of us don't have the courage to even think. I also have issues regarding my greying hair (aka greying appearance). There have been at least two occasions when I've found myself in the hair dye area of the local pharmacy, calling my friend to find out the name and shade she uses, only to be talked out of it by her. I was cured of the temptation when she finally admitted she saw me as her role model and was giving up the dye bottle herself.

My problem is further exacerbated by my hairdresser who hates grey hair and gives me a running commentary every 6 weeks on how much longer I can get away with not dying! I would ditch her but she is a brilliant cutter.

I love people watching in France, Switzerland and Italy where women (and men) show less fear of ageing and much more concern with grooming, which is completely different. Also, men are much more generous with their second glances!
Duchesse said…
The grey thing is deep. I begged two hairdressers to let me try; when I asked one what I would look like, he said, "Practical." Yet on some women it is the essence of elegance.

I think it depends on skin tone, hair quality and whether the grey-haired woman has some style. Some women look Brown Wren, while others are ethereal and it's utterly "them".

Have a friend who went gray and found men stopped looking (and she missed that- she was hoping for some company). Went platinum blonde with a pixie cut- looks superb, sort of a supercharged Isabella Rosselini- and is certainly enjoying life!
Anonymous said…
greying pixie, i have to tell you, i ADORE your name.

i used a punky pink temporary wash-in color once, which only adhered to the whites, as i had anticipated, and i felt incredibly less white, and more stupid.

i got 2 haircuts in one week (this was only 2 weeks ago). i have definitely found that if i'm going to live with whites, i need a stronger shape to my hair to underscore that it's intentional, the whites, and not laziness or 'earthiness' or any other adjectives attributed to white hairs that have nothing to do with style and independence and stubbornness. so anyway, the 2 cuts. i was having a little personal crisis so the hair is always the first to go. i walked in to a new salon, no appt., got a well-trained stylist and let him have at it. he informed me that i was entitled to a free color consult as a new client. he was shocked that i was not interested and repeated the offer TWO more times in my one hour there. i was not apparently entitled to go white. the first mention made me disappointed in him (i just don't like sales pitches of any kind) and the following mentions just ensured that i would not return. and once he saw me as someone with white hairs, he gave me a cut that he felt was suitable for someone who had given up, i guess. i was not satisfied when i left.
the following week i walked into another salon, no appt., but this time armed with a picture from japanese vogue of 2 women wearing hot pink wigs (not for the color mind you, but for the shape), and when i saw the hairdresser i would be getting, dreadlocks, facial piercings, and all, i sighed a sigh of relief. wouldn't she be a hypocrite if she did not understand rebellion (even if mine was in the form of pro-reality instead of anti-establishment?), and i quickly positioned my white hairs as my badge of punk, clarifying that i'd like to use the white that i have to add my own funky twist to the cut. she got it. and i'll be returning to her, for sure!

i always figured, to age the way i wanted to, i would have to 'take it up a notch' at certain points, make more of an effort. i always thought i would know when the time had come, but it snuck up on me this year and it wasn't until i saw a picture of myself that i realized, the time has come. i'm trying to remember to use lipstick OR make a strongly-lined eye more often. it makes a difference, sad to say. can't rely on dewy youth any more, but it's interesting that internally i'm not aware of this external alteration...until of course i read the birth year of some model and realize i graduated from high school BEFORE SHE WAS BORN. crap.
crappity crap.

duchesses - funny you should mention rossellini - i'm putting pictures of her up on my other blog (retailrecovery.blogspot.com) tomorrow - she's a brilliant (mind) beauty (face), but i have to confess, i would love it if she went grey.

duchesse - sorry i went on for so long...
Duchesse said…
Up & Down: thanks for concrete testimony re what one has to do! Would LOVE to see a photo of your Japanese Vogue cut. Would you consider posting on your blog?

Also- a stylist can be well trained but that does not give him "the eye"- that's a talent.
Anonymous said…
duchesse - i totally totally agree re. the "skill" of a stylist. the first guy, he cut for a full hour, and hair was flying. the end result, however accurate, was terribly dull though.
i did slip a clip of my hair inspiration on to my blog actually. and i know, to have that true cartoony effect that i love about this picture, i would need the color and product and appliances that i am not willing to do.


The posts with the most