Glamorous older women who are held up as ideals make life harder for those of us whose bodies bear the marks of 40 years' life experience. I resent the fact that I am permanently changed by pregnancy - a different shape and stretch marks. I feel that I look as if I've been clawed by a tiger. It's like having a secret: I would have to go through a tremendous process before I could let anyone see them. When my son was about two I went out with someone, and he said hadn't I done my post-natal exercises?
Men say they like older women, but they like older women of a particular kind, who dye their hair, wear make-up, and have enough money to invest in their looks. I'm resigned to keeping my image acceptable - although I'm really looking forward to not having to do that any more, to going out without make-up. I think I may be able to do that when I reach 50. I think about saying 'sod it' sometimes, but I'm not ready yet. I don't want to be more invisible than I already am as a middle-aged woman.
I know some women say they enjoy the whole business of putting on make-up and dressing smartly, but a lot of it is about disguising insecurity. I have grown less anxious as I got older; it is liberating that I no longer see getting a man as the main thing in my life. I feel more fulfilled than I did. But I never grew up with a sense of being; I grew up with a sense of appearing.
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