The help desk: A case of fading beauty


Q. At 38, I'm becoming fixated about losing my looks. I know there are so many worse problems to have, but privately, I mind like hell and I seem to have lost all my confidence. I've always been good-looking – I come from a good-looking family – and I admit I have taken advantage of this at times.

But every day I seem to notice another sign of ageing, and I'm starting to appreciate the advantages beauty has given me, in my work – I work in (though not on) TV – and my love life (I have been single for more than two years). Suddenly it all looks so fragile. I never thought I would consider Botox, surgery etc, but I'm now wondering. I feel a real sense of loss and I just don't know how to deal with this.

A. I once read an interview with Nora Ephron, screenwriter and author of a terrific book about ageing, I Feel Bad About My Neck. Then in her sixties, she admitted that yes, though she was sanguine about ageing, she did often wish she was 40 again. Forty? I was 40 at the time and not exactly celebrating. But this did put my decrepitude in a new light.

Take it from one with considerably more years on the clock: at 38, you're in your prime, like Miss Jean Brodie (though I dare say the Brodie-as-role-model thing should stop right there). But I know that doesn't help much when you're still mourning 25.

Ageing is hard, especially for women, and especially since we belong to a generation that seems to have decided to airbrush it away – can anyone remember what 38 is actually supposed to look like? And it must be worse for the likes of you, as you're a bit of a looker. You have got used to doors swinging open, waiters hovering, lovers queueing round the block.

So of course you have a sense of loss. But I think it's not your looks that are the big loss (I bet you look pretty fabulous actually), it's your mojo. It wasn't beauty that opened doors for you at work, but the shedloads of sass and confidence that went with it. These, you can get back. Your youthful looks, not so.

We both know you don't want Botox, surgery etc. You're feeling down because you feel you don't look like you any more – and these "fixes" will only make matters worse. Don't let the cosmetics industry persuade you that ageing is optional.

As for your love life, I take it you're not happy that you're single. But as a lifelong beauty, you may not have had the chance to discover that when it comes to love, looks aren't everything. Thank goodness. Try making a list of the people you know who have the greatest pulling power. My own list includes a lovely mix of mingers, wild cards and the wilfully style-free. Some people just have that je ne sais quoi. Maybe, with a head start like yours, you've never really got in touch with your particular je ne sais quoi. So you could see this as an opportunity.

Your problem shared

Have a dilemma? email your predicament, no matter how big or small, to louisa at thehelpdesk@

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