Taboo Week: What no one tells you about getting older

Lori, photographed in June 2016 by James Rees

I haven’t had a guest blogger week on Rarely Wears Lipstick since the days when I used to post regularly and wanted some content to schedule in before I went on holiday. At first I asked friends to write something, then I started to put callouts to my followers on social media. Every guest post has been a worthy addition to this site and I’ve been thinking for a while about inviting some more excellent writers to contribute.

Recently, I’ve been discussing a few interesting topics with friends that I realised were the types of conversations that are so important but very rarely had. The sort of topics that may seem shocking at first, but that you often wish you’d talked about sooner. Before long, I saw a theme emerging… these were all topics that mainstream society would label as taboo. So, this week on Rarely Wears Lipstick, I thought I’d have a themed ‘Taboo Week’ featuring a few guest bloggers, and I thought I’d kick it off myself with a short chat about getting older.

I was born over four decades ago, in January 1975. Although I’m not yet ‘old’, I am no longer ‘young’ and I have to admit that’s taking a lot of getting used to. We think we know what getting older is all about, but we really don’t at all because most of the stuff we get fed about it is only part of the truth.

We get told that ageing is wrinkles on your face and grey hairs on your head, which we can ‘fight’. Truth is, you see ageing very slowly appearing in the crepey skin on your neck and décolletage. You feel it in being tired for no reason. You see it on your jawline, as your face slowly begins to slide south. You feel it in being thrilled at the prospect of another night in, with actual Netflix and chill. You see it spreading around your middle. You feel it in the aches that weren’t there before. You see it when that older relative you always resembled actually starts to stare back at you from the mirror in the morning.

Lori, photographed in June 2016 by James Rees in This isn’t me, you think. I’m twenty five and full of energy. I love getting dressed up for nights out. That person in the mirror is not me. Not yet. Despite a lack of desire to keep up with popular music (I somehow can’t believe I ever listened to Radio 1 past the age of 30), a suspicion of new technologies (no necessarily fear, but more “why would that be useful to me?”), and an increasing love of comfortable shoes, I still don’t really feel… old. When does that kick in?

I don’t think it ever does. I remember having a conversation with my mother, who is now in her 70s, where she explained that she still felt 21 and was always surprised at the “old lady in the mirror.” At the time we spoke, I didn’t have any of these visible signs of ageing that get mentioned in the skincare adverts all the time, so didn’t think much more of it. Now, I get it.

The weird ‘getting older’ feeling occurs when your internal image of yourself doesn’t match what others see. I’m getting that now. When people in their 20s treat me like someone their mum’s age, I get freaked out… which is daft as I probably am the same age as their mum! When someone over a decade younger finds me attractive because I’m in my 40s, it bothers me a bit… but why should it? Instead, I need to work on embracing my age and really feeling it, rather than being in denial.

I’m going to start by sharing this lovely image of me by photographer James Rees, shot nearly two years ago. I didn’t like my squishy, jowly, blemished face when I first saw the photo because I thought I looked old. So I saved it and didn’t look at it again, until today. Maybe I need more photos of me that show what other people see? Maybe I need to embrace being old enough to remember the 80s… and the revival!

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