This last week I have been told on more than one occasion, by different people, that I don’t look my age – soon to be 56.  What does not looking my age even mean?  I know it is meant as a compliment, and I usually accept it as such.

I acknowledge, without boasting or bragging, that the skin on my face is clear and generally wrinkle-free.  Thanks Mum.  But also (thanks Mum ) I am fat and so it is not easy for my skin to crinkle, although it does mean I have a tendency towards a double chin.  But this is genetics, not some secret elixir guaranteeing eternal youth.  And anyway – it is only the skin on my face.  Look closely at my hands, and not so closely at my  upper décolletage, and there it is – signs of ageing.  Aagh!  Horror.

I’m not bothered.  Well, why would I be?  My face is that of a child.  No seriously, I’m not bothered but I am intrigued why it seems sufficiently important for others to comment on it to me.  If I’m feeling negative about myself I think they simply want to find something nice to say to me and that is what they can come up with.  When I am less down on myself I accept that I am lucky, fortunate, blessed with good skin genes.  I also secretly thank my lucky stars that I don’t have wrinkles, that my skin has a pinky glow and I don’t look as old as her!  But only secretly – I try not to judge.

Even when I accept the compliment I sometimes want to start a discussion about what I am supposed to look like at this age.  Some old hag, with a crooked, warty nose and moles with a life of their own?  It seems the way I look, with my cherubic complexion, is not how women of a certain age are supposed to look.  But I study the faces of my friends and see very little difference – we are middle-aged women and we look fine.  No warts.

So why don’t I look like my age?  I am my age and this is what it looks like, on me.  Where is the template, model, specification of what a middle-aged woman is supposed to look like.  Wherever it is I think we need to update the library pictures so that I don’t get to feel like a freak when asked how old I am.

There is something odd about it all.  That somehow not looking your age is a good thing – but only when you are considered ‘old’ by society norms.  I had a hard time as a teenage convincing bus drivers that I was under 16 – I was bigger than everyone else and therefore must be older.  I never had problems getting served in a pub before I was 18 – so size does matter.  Perhaps there was a perfect time, when my age and the way I looked were in tune.  Not sure when that was – must have missed it.

So here I am.  A middle-aged woman, not ashamed of my age but having to accept compliments about looking younger.  And each time I do, I feel as though I am letting the side down.  That by accepting looking younger as a good thing I am supporting the myth that to be of any worth women mustn’t age.

So to challenge the images of women of my age I present three versions of me.  This is me, at 55, looking like a 55 years old.



4 thoughts on “Looking 55

  1. Brilliant. I think the: ‘you don’t look your age’ comments come from a deep rooted ageism in our society and they make me really cross. If we have good luck and good genes on our side we will all get old, as we get old our bodies do change so what is complimenting us on not looking our age about…… it implies that ageing is not good. Well I enjoy life and I think that ageing is great. Like you, when people tell me that I don’t look my age I tell them that they are wrong this is what 68 looks like and I feel wonderful.


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