Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Age May Be An Illusion


With forty on the horizon, I’m having to deal with the arrival of a more than generous sprinkling of platinum hair, physical droop in places and mental deterioration (see Headless Chicken Reincarnates). However, thanks to today’s Observer, I’ve just discovered that I’m only 15. Check this out:

Britons’ annual spend on anti-ageing products is approaching £1bn. But cosmetic scientist Gisele Mir has put a spanner in the works by claiming that ‘many anti-ageing creams accelerate ageing rather than prevent it.’ If this proves to be the case, maybe consumers could demand pro-ageing creams, in the hope that they’ll do the opposite of what’s claimed. Meanwhile, the word on the anti-ageing scene is that pouting is a no-no, food should be strictly all-mauve, and that, when averaging out the regenerative cycle speeds of all parts of the body, a person in their late-thirties currently has a body that’s only 15-and-a-half years old.

Though I have been known to pout, I do eat aubergines and would adore to eat purple sprouting brocoli if it were only available in the Ladenburg metropolis. I also do not use any anti-ageing products, so I’m probably only 14. Which is great given that I have three children and a mortgage – I still have a chance to raise them, pay off the mortgage AND get to Ibiza, wear miniskirts and go clubbing for nine days solid.

Magazines exploit our obsession with the youth cult, by promoting products to make our skin younger, clothes to make our bodies hipper and objects we need to own in order to feel like the teenager that lurks inside. I am slowly relinquishing my magazine habit in protest. There are a couple I still read: the German magazine myself and when I can get it, the BBC’s Eve. Both are grown-up publications, with interesting articles about people who have actually achieved something, not too much celebrity worship and fashion for adults. However, they are packed with ads for creams to make you younger, articles on how to stay young and fit, info on spas and beauty treatments. Let’s face it: youth sells.

When I was on holiday in France a couple of years ago at a yoga retreat I met a guy who was in advertising in London. He was in his mid-forties and had travelled to the Lot on his motorbike (speaks volumes, non?). He had just started a new agency staffed only by people under 25. The reason he gave was that people in their 30s and 40s, while experienced, are unable to sell to youth because they don’t understand them. At the time I thought it was really funky and interesting, but now, in retrospect, I think it’s sad. We want to look like, if not even be, under 25 but we don’t know how to talk to them.

My little rebellion against this cultural tide is to embrace my greyness (of hair, not personality) – okay, so I may still get highlights but I won’t dye. When it’s hot, I’m going to wear spaghetti-string vests even if my bingo wings flap. I’m going to love the wrinkles as they arrive and while I’m going to dress as I choose, I’m going to try really really hard not to emulate teenagers. While dignity does not have to mean pleated skirts with pearls, it does mean no pelmets, no visible belly while not at the pool and no more G-strings. I think we all have a right to act as young as we feel, but perhaps it’s best not to dress that way. My body may have a mental age of 14, but in a few years’ time I’m going to have to step into the wings and let my kids get on with being the disgraceful teens.


Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

5 thoughts on “Age May Be An Illusion

  1. Funnily enough, I have recently decided to stop dying my hair. I can’t be sure but suspect its true colour is grey. The roots certainly are. It looks terrible at the moment but I am consoled by suddenly noticing lots of women around with grey hair who actually look quite good.

  2. Grey hair is beautiful. For me it associates with intelligent and distinguished (only because I am starting to get them myself :-)). I will never ever dye my hair because of it.

  3. I’m not sure if husbands are allowed to comment here. I feel as if I’m overhearing a bookclub meeting that I shouldn’t but anyway…

    I dont see any grey or droop, just a gorgeous wife, more gorgeous than when we met 20 years ago…

  4. I like the idea of feasting on blackcurrants and grapes.

    I’ve taken the mauve/purple idea a little further with violet streaks which enliven my grey hair without pretending to be younger. It’s amazing how many total strangers stop me in the street and say “I love your hair” – all women! I have the impression many of them would love to have violet hair, but don’t quite dare.

  5. I rather liked Agatha Christie’s comment. She said it was great being married to an archeologist because the older she got, the more interested her husband became in her… sounds like your husband is quite ready to embrace the archeological point of view!

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