When age is an afterthought
Recently a friend in Britain sent out invitations for her upcoming 45th birthday celebrations. Her sentiments were unambiguous: “45 is Old, Old, OLD!! Come commiserate with me over a drink or 45!”.
Having just turned 45 myself last November, I responded to her saying, “Oy! 45 is not old, ok? I only feel it when my knees occasionally creak when I climb stairs – or when I see stars if I get up too fast! Anyway, mentally I’m still somewhere in my 20s.” She responded with several laugh-out-loud emojis.
Another female peer stoutly refuses to divulge her age – although I may have already done her a disservice by calling her my ‘peer’. A WhatsApp group of former schoolmates calls itself “Forever18”.
While I personally have no issues revealing my true age, one thing does get my goat. It’s the archaic statement that women of “a certain age” should dress and behave in “a certain way.”
Having never been one to toe the line, especially when it comes to dressing, I am pleased that this statement is rapidly becoming redundant as “old” women proudly strut down catwalks, grace the covers of magazines or have large Instagram followings for simply embracing life – warts, grey hair, and all. I look at many of them and think that “I want to be her when I grow up!” (See what I mean when I say I’m mentally in my 20s?)
That is why it thrilled me no end to read recently that a record 27 models in their 50s and 60s walked the Spring 2018 shows in New York, Paris, Milan and London this year. They included 69-year-old Maye Musk, the mother of billionaire entrepreneur and Tesla founder Elon.
Though she started modelling in South Africa at the age of 15, her career has only really picked up in recent years, and she claims that she’s “never worked as much over the past 50 years as I did in 2017.”
The grandmother of 10 is signed to IMG Models, the same agency that represents supermodels like Gisele Bündchen and Gigi Hadid. Besides gracing the covers of New York Magazine, Elle Canada and VOGUE Korea, she was also the oldest brand ambassador for US cosmetics company CoverGirl.
Then there’s the Accidental Icon, the überstylish 64-year-old Lyn Slater. She was famously “discovered” during Fashion Week in New York in 2014 as she strutted down the street, impeccably garbed of course. Photographers thought she was one of the Who’s Who of fashion. That thrusted her into the limelight and shifted the focus to the unique blog she had just started, after noticing a dearth of fashion blogs by women over “a certain age.”
I recently watched a video of Slater sharing some nuggets regarding aging and dressing. When she attended a private school that required her to wear a uniform all the time, she found loopholes in the rules; for instance they were allowed to don religious symbols, so she fashioned accessories out of rosaries.
Having attended a missionary school myself and been forced to wear a uniform for 13 of my formative years, this anecdote resonated with me. I believe that my love for fashion was born over the years of not being able to express my individuality for at least five days a week while at school.
Slater says that “fashion is a tool of rebellion” and her typical blog visitors are professional women between the ages of 38 and 60 looking to reinvent themselves. She wants to give people a different way to think about aging. The young people who follow her Instagram account have told her: You are really making me not afraid to get old.”
And that’s the point isn’t it? To embrace life and it’s evolution as we know it. For, unless some science fiction theory becomes reality, none of us is immortal – at least for now. And let’s face it; we start aging from the time we are born, right? So why is it that the process of aging becomes a taboo topic after an acceptable number of years, after which we’re expected to be grey both in outlook and looks while waiting for the Grim Reaper to come a-knocking? Why not wait while looking – and feeling – absolutely fabulous?
And while we’re at it, perhaps we should bid adieu to that oft-repeated adage, “age is but a number.” It should ideally be an after-thought.
Perhaps Maye Musk’s hashtag says it all: #justgettingstarted. Now that’s something to aspire to.
Author: Brenda Haas
Editor: Anne Thomas
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Date13.02.2018 | 15:04
Tags#justgettingstarted, age, aging, Baddie Winkle, Brenda Haas, Iman Abdulmajid, Iris Apfel, Lyn Slater, Maye Musk, women's rights