Do you feel Absolutely Fabulous?: LIZ BROWN, office administrator

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I HAVE always been self-conscious about my looks: I stayed indoors for a whole weekend when I was a teenager because I had a spot. But I probably pay even more attention to them now, because of the added stress of trying to disguise ageing.

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.

(Photographs omitted)