Listen up ladies – we need to call time on midlife body bull***t – it’s a short life let’s use it well

getting out of your comfort zone ,and being a little bit ridiculous, is known to be good for healthy ageing

So apparently TV producers are finally realising that, outside of a programme called Love Island (proud to say I have NEVER watched it), if one exiles older people, like Mary Berry or that white haired lady on The Apprentice, their ratings fall. Doh! Media is about narrative isn’t it, it’s supposed to be a mirror for all of us to have our best and worst bits reflected back. We want to feel less lonely and see people living lives like us – rich, interesting, messed up ones. The good thing is we are likely to see more and more oldies on our screen as we have the buying power and our demographic is growing fast.

The fashion industry too is finally taking note. One’s body changes shape as we age – not necessarily in a bad way, but it is different. Personally I want to see how a dress looks on a lady of my age; it just doesn’t interest me otherwise. As someone who has seen so much illness, I delight in my body. Years of yoga means it doesn’t hurt at all and everything is working very well for now (about to take up horse riding again so I’ll keep you posted on this one). Curvier, sure, but I kind of like that as it makes me feel more female/more Motherly and less worried about enjoying one of life’s top pleasures – CAKE!.

Helen Mirren is everywhere

A quick flick through magazines today and it was noticeable how many more different shape/age/heritage models are coming through and Helen Mirren, aged 76, is absolutely everywhere. Good things are happening in the traditional/social media too. This feels really positive and a step away from the industry’s previous misogynistic obsession with 15 year old androgynous shapes as a “perfect” female specimen.

Yep I know there are darker forces at work too. This week I listened on Radio 4 to a UK surgeon calling for “Brazilian butt lifts” to be banned, following the horrendously high death rate of young women. This bizarre fashion (spent years trying to reduce my big bottom so really don’t get it) is also, the surgeon claimed, storing up huge problems for the NHS in the future as these women age. Gravity and butt lifts are not a good combination. Why, why, why!!!!!! would anybody subject themselves to this.

Courage, dignity and resilience

I watched my head turning beautiful Mother suffer terribly at what she saw as the fading of her “main commodity” – her model looks. I too could have lived with this depressing message ,had I not have seen so many teenagers and children with cancer. Their courage, dignity and resilience changed me forever and I find it so terribly sad that young/middle-aged/older women still find such fault with a perfectly healthy, or even well enough, normal female form.I bitterly regret the time, during my younger years, when I spent hours measuring the circumference of my thighs (yup I did this) and wouldn’t go out if the bathroom scales tipped over 8 stone. What a terrible waste of youth, vitality and promise. Please young people don’t repeat my mistakes.

So here are my musings on midlife bodies – but I also hope you younger women will listen too. You are way too lovely not to:

Life does not end when you hit the menopause

  • Life does not end when you hit the menopause – in fact in many ways a whole new life opens up and my experience has been rather wonderful. If you want to be invisible, which has it’s advantages, wear no makeup, an anorak and don’t blow dry your hair. If you want to still “own the room” invest in a beautiful silk gown (Kate Spade for high end, Monsoon for mid range and Next has some great bargains) killer heels and the right shade of red lipstick. Works every time.
  • Midlife is a great time for reflection and reinvention. But make sure this is first and foremost an inside job. Who do you really want to be? What are the messages you’ve been given that no longer serve you? Cherish those friends who make your heart sing and make new friends – there are so many of us out there. Keep connecting it is the absolute lifeblood of contentment.
  • Women are nicer as they get older. There’s less competition and we’re all a bit battered and bruised by life. Open up, be honest and watch the magic happen. Friendship is so very precious and, as a journalist I know this to be true, it’s really hard to find somebody who doesn’t have an interesting story to tell.
  • Take risks – within reason. But staying at home under the duvet is a fast track to depression and frustration. Embrace that feeling of really not giving a s**t what others think – as long as this is done in a kind way. This is your life and it’s a short one – make sure you find your authenticity and then live it big. I love that Helen Mirren quote. When asked about her life regrets she said “…not telling enough people to f**k off”.
  • If you focus only on what you look like, at any age, you will be deeply unhappy. This is a fact!
  • Self confidence, a smile and knowing who you really are is way more sexy, more beautiful, more wonderful than anything else at ANY age. Do not rely on anybody else to endorse you, it doesn’t work. Be lovely, be kind but be YOU.
  • Social media can be brilliant. Social media can be dreadful. Like many things in life, both are true. The key is discretion and finding what works for you. But do check out sometimes and read a book. Middlemarch has stood the test of time and is food for the soul . It also provides pretty much everything you need to know about life. Enjoy
  • Please read this from the wonderful wise writer psychotherapist Susie Orbach (author of the 1970s classic Fat is a Feminist Issue Here she is writing about her latest book Bodies in an article in The Guardian . “Bodies are no longer seen or experienced simply as things to be washed, deodorised, dressed and perfumed before getting on with our day. Bodies now are our ever-malleable calling cards, either erasing or articulating our class, geographic and ethnic backgrounds and gender aspirations. Appearance is crucial and the look, once achieved, has to be endlessly shared and approved through selfies and sexting. Teenage girls sculpt their appearance to garner “likes” and approval, which, sadly, they rarely achieve. Research done for Dove showed that it takes 124 likes to feel OK, but most tend to receive under a fifth of that number, not because they aren’t likable but because everyone is chasing a like, and time is against them.

Have a great week.

Debbie x

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