COVID-19 Is All Fun And Games Until You Start Looking Like Your Grandmother

I’m sitting at home, dressed to the nines with nowhere to go.

Dressed to the nines during COVID-19 (?), I hear you ask.

Image of old woman with grey hair and moustache.
Thanks to Far Kew for this wonderfully appropriate image

Well…yes. But I do have two very good reasons for such crazy behaviour: The first is that like many of you, I imagine, the highlight of my week since social-distancing started has become my trip to the supermarket – and… standards. The second is because in recent days more than a handful of old people have allowed ME TO PASS BY THEM in aforementioned supermarket raids or during my “essential” exercise.

I may be paranoid, but I thought it was the over-seventies we were trying to protect (and I’m 54). So…looks like I’m not winning any “how to look great without make-up” competitions anytime soon.

COVID-19 is all fun and games until you start looking like your grandmother.

Admittedly, I’ve looked better. I’ve probably taken this short-term permission to live like a slob that step too far. Added to which, I’ve been suffering from a nasty attack of Rosacea that I’m praying hasn’t been triggered by the vast quantities of pink Gin I’m drinking for my anxiety.

But I suppose there was a certain inevitability about ageing prematurely during this pandemic, when you’re locked up in the house with your husband 24/7. After all, there’s only so much ice-chewing, golf-swinging, and farting you can witness before your body starts to revolt – as I alluded to at the bottom of my last post here.

I’m fortunate to have a son who consistently reminds me that anyone over thirty-five is ANCIENT, but I’ll be honest with you, I thought I looked okay for my age – hence my decision to drop any sort of beauty regime at the first opportunity which turned out to be this virus.

It’s not like I truly believed I was a walking advertisement for how to look good with no make-up, but I thought this new “surviving a pandemic” natural look gave me a Byron vibe. That was until the old man commented on how nice I looked the other day – the day I wore mascara for my last trip to Woollies.

‘What do you mean,’ I turned on him defensively.

‘I don’t know,’ he replied nervously. ‘You’ve got some nice colour to your cheeks.”

‘That would be my Rosacea,” I confirmed with a death stare.

Of course, NC would laugh out loud at my suggestion that I have any sort of beauty regime. If you call putting body lotion on your face at night a BEAUTY REGIME, I can hear her say. My daughter has always been appalled by my complete disregard for “products” and she still hasn’t stopped laughing about the time I used a brow pen as an eyeliner.

I miss my girl.

And in my defence, it doesn’t help that I can’t actually see the massive whiskers hanging from the corners of my mouth, the overgrown hedges over my eyes, and those orange blotches of rogue foundation that I can normally rely on her to wipe away in shame.

I won’t deny that my beauty standards have slipped to “Kathy Bates in Misery” level of late, which is why I’ve called Kurt in to my rescue. He keeps moaning about how we never do anything, so I thought I’d ramp up his Friday night and book him in for a plucking session in the bathroom tonight. I’m ignoring the fact that his latest experiment with his own mop is a Mohican that he’s threatening to dye platinum – mainly because it’s hard to care about anything very much right now other than the path of this bloody virus.

But if I do turn out looking like Lady Gaga in that scene from A Star Is Born when Bradley pulls off her stick-on brows, I promise to post a photo.

Middle Age: Time To Stop Worrying About Our Bodies And Start Focusing On Our Brains

I’ve had a mixed reaction in my circle about my decision to shed a few kilos. There are those friends who have been supportive – in that they understand the need to manage my weight gain through menopause, if possible. Then there is the other “life’s too short to be miserable” camp, who don’t believe I should worry about a few extra rolls at this stage of my life.

Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash

Truth be told, I’m not so vain that a few extra kilos worry me, but I am conscious that carrying extra weight at my age is no good thing. I had also reached that point where I was climbing the dress size mountain a little faster than I wanted and was starting to feel the effects – physically and psychologically. There were several nights over Christmas when I had a ‘nothing to wear’ crisis, because nothing fitted.

Middle-age is hard enough when it comes to style, but it’s that much harder when you are heavier than you want to be.

However, I do believe that it’s important to put your health goals into perspective. It comes down to that balance thing that’s so hard to get right in life, which is why it saddens me so much when my girlfriends admit that they hate parts of their bodies. Because while none of us are immune to the ridiculous pressures of perfectionism created by women’s magazines and reality tv shows, I do feel that at some point we have a right (and it is healthier) to age and accept our age, along with the inevitable leaks and creaks that go with that.

I’ve mentioned before the glorious sense of liberation I have taken from the invisibility that has come with middle-age. I feel much freer when I go out without makeup, when I’m not wearing a bra, or can happily swan around the house in my pjs – and I’m loving the fact that I can get on public transport late at night without having to worry about being harassed.

In general, I feel much more confident in who I am.

However, there is no denying that we are the product of the expectations placed on our gender by the media. And many women have been victims of men who take their best years, use them as a vessel for their children, and then discard them during their mid-life crises for a younger model, thereby diminishing their confidence.

My body is a physical map of my life, that bears the scars of childbirth amongst other experiences. I am not ashamed of the physical evidence of that miracle of life or the way the intensity of my love has cracked the skin on my face. But I would point out that when it comes to ageing, there is no gender divide, and the old man’s body bears the same ravages of time as mine.

But imagine if women left men when they started to lose their hair?

I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like to fit back into a size 10 and have the choice of high street fashion, or that I wouldn’t like my teeth to be whiter or my jowls to be less like my dog’s – BUT WHY? I’m fifty-four, not twenty-three.

And for the record, I wouldn’t want to be twenty-three again.

So does it really matter if the skin under our arms swings with the wind or if our faces looked like crumpled paper? I’m satisfied that I made the most of the beauty of my youth, and I wouldn’t choose to turn back time. But now is the time for my brain to shine.

Let’s Stop Judging Ourselves By Our Bodies

I went on a girls night to the city last Friday night.

I’m ashamed to admit that it took me longer to get ready than usual because the outfit I had put together in my head that week looked crap when I put it on and I had a confidence crisis, which meant I had to go through every other outfit in my wardrobe until I came back to the original one.

Seriously, I thought that by this age I wouldn’t care how I look, but apparently, I’m not alone – all four of us “girls” that night had our own personal what-to-wear crisis before we met up.

Comments about fat thighs and dog jowls were bandied about, and sadly they’re not unusual. Honestly, anyone listening in on our conversation would have thought we were teenagers on the pull, not a group of middle-aged women praying we’d be home in bed by 10pm at the latest.

Who has done this to us? Who or what has driven a giant bulldozer through the confidence of women when it comes to their bodies? Because you’d think that by your fifties we’d have accepted ourselves for who and what we are, wouldn’t you? And that when we tell our daughters that it’s what’s inside that counts, we’d really mean it?

Sadly, our problem is pretty universal. Check out The Bikini Rant below:

I need to take her advice. I mean it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever wear a bikini again in public, but why do I still care so much about how my body looks at this stage of my life? Who do I want to impress? I should be proud of it. It’s been a reliable vessel to two children, a ton of junk food and a veritable Tardis when it comes to Chardonnay.

And it’s not like the old man ever worries about what his bum looks like.

This week I listened to one of Yumi Stynes fantastic podcasts from her Ladies, We Need To Talk series – during which she discussed this very issue.

Yumi mentions the importance of us having some self-compassion when we think about our bodies. She asks if we would say to our friends what we say to ourselves when we look in the mirror?

Like ‘Shit, Lou! You’d be quite pretty if you didn’t have those three chins!’

But of course, we wouldn’t, because a) It would be rude and hurtful, b) It doesn’t matter, and c) there’s probably nothing that I can do about them even if I really cared.

So, whose standards of beauty are we trying to live up to and judging ourselves by – because they’re not universal standards. Countries such as Mauritania, Tonga and even Fiji embrace a little extra weight in women.

No, they are magazine and social media standards – hello, Instagram – that push men and women to to attain impossible standards of perfection. In the same way that porn influences men to believe that women should be hairless down below, some of them now see a women’s size 6 as the norm.

Kim Kardashian has launched a new range of shapewear called “Solutionware” – a name which has the ‘built-in implication that there is a problem’, according to India Knight of The Times. And Kim’s range isn’t targeting mid-lifers like my friends and I, who are showing the normal wear and tear signs of ageing, they are aimed at our daughters.

Which is why we have to demand better role models for women and our girls. We don’t want our kids fawning over Love Island and Bachelor wannabees; we want them inspired by “real” women – true heroines, whose success isn’t derived from their looks, but from their magnanimity, their intellect and talents. Women such as Ashleigh Barty, Nakkia Lui, Malala Yousafzai, Lady Gaga, Jacinda Ardern or Tiera Guinn, to name but a few.

Historically, women have been prized for their looks and ‘valued for their sexuality’ (Darcy Steinke), because we used to live in a man’s world. But not any more. However, if we are to be taken seriously as equals, we need to value ourselves so much more.

Arty-Fartiness And A Celebration Of The Naked Female Form

image4One of the best parts about this stage of life is having the time, finally, to concentrate on what we love doing; the ability to explore new avenues and discover new passions. And if you’re not one of ‘those that can’, it’s just as pleasurable to appreciate the passionate endeavors of others, stand in their shade, and lap up their success.

I was invited to view an art exhibition the other night. Three female artists (Jane Park, Laurie McKern, and Petra Pinn), and one male artist, Evert Ploeg (whose work is represented at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra), get together weekly, on Monday Nights, (hence the name of the exhibition), to paint the naked female form. The exhibition included framed pieces, canvases as well as sketches of their experimentation and exploration of the process.

Those of us that can’t draw or paint stood back and secretly wept with envy at the talent on display by the four artists, who had not only depicted the female form in all its glory and strength but had also created an intimate backdrop for the event, with a distinctly South Amercian flavor. As Jose strummed Spanish music on his guitar in the background and a gorgeous life model lit up a makeshift stage – in top hat and garters, and very little else – it was difficult not to imagine yourself in nineteenth-century Valencia.

Sadly, my purse doesn’t stretch to the price tag of real art (that’s the problem with being married to a tightarse/heathen), yet something else stopped me from my typical impulse buy compulsions, and it bothered me. image2

I identified it as I ummed and ahhed over whether it was appropriate for me to approach the young model to ask for her photo. Stupidly, I worried that she might think I was some seedy older woman about to exploit her, in much the same way how I sensed the old man might feel if any one of the images of strong, semi-naked females appeared on a wall at home.

Like many men, he’s not as comfortable with the naked female form, or indeed femininity, as perhaps he should be for a man of his age.

Many men associate imagery of naked women with sex, porn and desire and some struggle not to objectify it. It is an attitude that we need to change if we are to alter the culture of the abuse of women and domestic violence, and perhaps by making art such as this more accessible, we can change that attitude. Another way – of which I am a staunch supporter – is by getting more penises on the screen and in the media, and ahem, fewer under boardroom tables.

image1As a side note, my friend and I were reassured to spot the preponderance of lush female bush in the depictions of the younger models – a sign (we hope) that this ridiculous concept of shaving everything off down below is finally demode.

‘Perhaps that’s because the models are South American?’ she queried.

‘But isn’t that where the Brazilian originated,’ I asked her, confused.

Of course, shaving off your bush is every woman’s choice and thereby wholeheartedly approved of by feminists such as myself; the only caveat being that women are doing for their own reasons rather than for men who struggle with the distinction between real life and porn.

image3

This piece, by Jane Park (Instagram page is at Janeparkart.com), was my favorite of the evening – possibly because it reminded me of how I look in the morning – and I seriously contemplated buying it to hang over our bed to terrify the old man. Had I been brave enough, I am certain that it would have forced him into the spare room, once and for all.

Middle Aged Hair And Bad Grey Days

When I part my hair in a section that falls outside of the eight-weekly dye zone, I’ve noticed some ominous course grey hairs sprouting through. Do you ever wonder how they grow so goddamn quickly before you get the chance to ambush them? cat-1280122_1280

 

I haven’t been too concerned about this tell-tale sign of ageing before, because peroxide has been my best friend since my early twenties. I have noticed that my hair has begun to thin out over the past few years, mainly because of how often the old man complains about the hair accumulation on our bathroom floor and in our food, but I’m not even close to the step of letting myself go grey, even though I have great admiration for the confidence of those who do.

 

Like most women, I’ve played around with my hairstyles and colour over the years – one year short, the next long – but I always end up going back to the same tried and tested formula where I feel most comfortable – a choppy, mid-length, honey-blonde cut – nothing too dramatic. If anything I could be accused of being boringly safe.

 

Whenever I see middle-aged women with blue hair or scarlet hair, or balayage, I’m in total fucking awe of their strength and freedom of expression to be so ‘out there’, and of how ready they are to demonstrate to the world their new confidence in their own skin. My natural instinct is to merge into the scenery rather than be the focus.

 

Perhaps I’ve learned my lesson about hairstyles over time. In my mid-twenties, during a testing point in our relationship when the old man refused to move in with me even after my ultimatum, I booked myself the first appointment I could get, had all my hair chopped off and reinvented myself as Lady Diana in a typically impulsive ‘fuck you’ gesture.

 

Then there was my first and only perm in my late teens, which ‘took’ a little too well and ended up in the sort of mesh of tight curls a bird could happily nest in and definitely not the natural waves I’d hoped for. It meant I had to wear my hair in a French plait for the following six months.

 

There have been several colour disasters experiments – something that every girl needs to do as part of her journey to a woman – although NC will tell you that I begged her not to do it each time she got the home dye out. My most recent experiment was a few years ago when I decided to revert back to my own particular shade of ‘mouse’ to save on hairdressing costs and ended up looking like some prison escapee who had dyed her hair to avoid capture.

 

I’m not fixated on my hair like some women, because thinking about how to conceal my muffin top and eight chins is a pretty full time job. On the whole, it’s not ‘great’ hair like Jennifer Aniston’s – whose style I asked for numerous times but which sadly never quite materialised out of my hair ‘type’ – but it’s never been too demanding; never really let me down.

 

Which is fortunate because another of my pet peeves is visiting the hairdressers and being forced to fork out hundreds of dollars as well as make inane conversation with someone half my age with whom I have zero in common with, when I’d much rather make the most of two hours of peace and devour their trashy magazines.

 

In fact, it’s quite shameful how rude I am to hairdressers. I figure that if I tut enough, slurp my coffee loudly enough and make it patently clear that I don’t want to communicate with them they’ll eventually get the message and leave me alone to ‘Who Wore It Best?’

 

I may have to change my attitude with the advent of these ‘Bad Grey Days’.

The Brazilian Conspiracy

I’ve always believed that there’s enough unwanted hair on women’s bodies to deal with at this stage of our lives, without us having to go through the pain and cost of getting our fannies waxed every few weeks. 

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I think SOME body hair is attractive

 

 

I reckon I could start a profitable business in wigs if I have to shave down there as well.

 

But from what I’m led to believe on Social Media, those of us who prefer the kempt garden as opposed to the shiny limestone courtyard are now in the minority, so I’m getting a bit of a complex in the communal showers at the pool.

 

When did this Brazilian conspiracy happen? When did we move from the hirsute Chewbacca look of the seventies to Gollum, without me taking on board that my thatch is now deemed demode.

 

To be honest, I’d assumed that the rise of the Brazilian was a phase, something silly that Gen Y did – not some new beauty expectation of all of western womankind.

 

And those women that do it, insist they do it because they prefer it, (which I find hard to believe when it’s akin to tortures developed in Guantanamo Bay), and nothing to do with the preferences of their partners as some of us more skeptical feminists suspect.

 

I get that the invention of barely-there briefs and g-strings makes it harder to contain those rogue pubes. Which is why I’m all for some DIY landscaping – and not for the old man’s benefit I hasten to add, but because I’m a swimmer and errant pubes might affect my speeds.

 

But getting rid of the whole shebang? It’s just not right.

 

I’m reading Caitlin Moran’s book ‘How To Be A Woman’ at the moment – not for the pelvic-floor-challenged amongst us, I hasten to add, because it’s wet-your-pants, laugh-out-loud, OUTRAGEOUSLY funny – and she’s in agreement with me on this topic. The hair ‘down below’ serves practical, biological purposes and shouldn’t be messed with to appease the fantasies of men who think they know everything about sex from watching porn.

 

Her innovative take on life is that there are four things every woman should have and one of them, is what she prosaically describes as a ‘…a proper muff. A big, hairy minge. A lovely furry moof that looks – when she sits naked- as if she has a marmoset sitting in her lap. A tame marmoset, that she can send off to pickpocket things, should she so need it – like that trained monkey in Raiders of the Lost Ark.’

 

Moran goes on to discuss how we are living in an era of ‘pube disapproval’ and questions how we got here.

 

Because if I have to groom the dog, surely these days of equality demand that the old man go ‘metro’ and wax his tackle too? (gags). It might give him some definition – not that one wants to turn up the spotlights on the penis, which requires some natural shade to hide its fugliness.

 

To be fair, though, I can’t imagine that the fully exposed, ageing female vulva could ever be deemed a model of great beauty.

Can I Body-Shame All Middle Aged Men Who Wear Speedos?

There is this bizarre conspiracy in Australia where middle-aged men, no matter what the size of their girth or tackle, believe they can wear Speedos in public and remain beyond reproach.

 

Middle-aged women on the other hand, are demonised if they dare squeeze their middle-aged frames into a bikini.

 

I  might question the style and sanity of a tubby middle-aged man’s decision to wear a pair of Speedos, but I have no serious issue with it; what does offend me, however, is the double-standard, whereby women are picked out, shamed and publicly flogged for flaunting their bodies in public, whereas men are largely ignored.

 

I should point out that I also have nothing against the brand of Speedos, which I wear myself whenever I pound down the lanes of my local pool in an effort to control my wobbly bits, just as I would not be averse to marketing their wonderful products here on this blog, should the opportunity arise. They just happen to have given men the means by which they can display their beer bellies and sagging testicles in all their glory.

 

Below is the proof that some men look good in Speedos. And for the record, this not an ageist blog post, because even Tony Abbott – who I can commend for very little other than his obvious aversion to the middle-aged beer gut – has proven that Speedos, even on a dad-bod, can be acceptable.

 

michael-phelps-560x421

 

Although if you’re Prime Minister, they’re still a bit ewww!

 

And I don’t hear the younger generations bemoaning their Dad’s choice of Speedos over the more reserved short, quite as vocally as I hear them berate women of a certain age and over a certain size for wearing bikinis in public.

 

For the first time in a very long time I bravely donned a bikini this year. The decision might have been borne out of my new fifty-plus ‘fuck it’ attitude, the wisdom that my child-bearing wobbly bits should be something to be proud of, or simply because it’s been a fucking hot summer, I’m menopausal and the more hot skin exposed, the greater the relief.

 

And I can imagine that it might be a bit of a drag (literally) for men to have to wear surf shorts when they’re swimming.

 

So we’re on the same side. We just need a little bit of equality here.

 

I’m happy to ignore the beer bellies, love handles, extra tyres and tiny, almost embarrassing tackle, if men can ignore my muffin top, saggy boobs and thighs that touch all the way down. Let’s all agree that there is no greater natural feeling than the sun on skin, and that it’s really not important what we do or don’t wear …unless we’re talking nudist beaches, which obviously brings up the problem of penises on the loose and all sorts of horrible awkwardness.