When age stops at 40

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In the cruel world of today, ageing is no longer tolerated. In the olden days it was something women bonded over with lots of noisy proclamations and great drama and, then having spent their energy, a hot cup of tea! Now, however, it is one long hard survival story, in which all these women are pitted against each other in a struggle to determine the ultimate winner. Sometimes they go too far. They tend to want to look like some well-known star or famous celebrity or an airbrushed, streamlined and reconditioned version of their former selves. The shift is not healthy. It is suddenly like a whole new army of women coming off the conveyor belt.

by Kusum Lata Sawhney

A look at what happens when some women refuse to acknowledge the ageing process.

Some women, though no longer young, do not change their attitudes towards ageing. In some cases one wonders how fabulous some women in their late forties and upwards look and how they fight age with a more realistic attitude. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, unfortunately, there is another side to the picture, albeit a small one but one that should not be overlooked.

In the cruel world of today, ageing is no longer tolerated. In the old days it was something women bonded over with lots of noisy proclamations and great drama and, then having spent their energy, a hot cup of tea! Now, however, it is one long hard survival story, in which all these women are pitted against each other in a struggle to determine the ultimate winner. Grooming today is big business and it is all about survival. A slight show of extra flesh on your arms is sacrilege as is the beginning of a double chin; these are enough to proclaim to the world that you are over the hill!

There are so many mind-boggling anti-ageing procedures available in the market, they test your reasoning and beguile with images of a younger, somehow better, you! And while you are presented with a wide array of possibilities, at the back of your mind is the adage; it’s a downward spiral from here; the minute you touch one part of your body, the others are also going to need help.

I’ll say this again and again. Women in urban India have definite ideas of their own. They are smart and savvy, look incredibly good and dress well. They can converse with ease and knowledge discussing the fine points of a baked potato and a drill machine, classical overtures and the price of onions. It’s a whole new world out there and women of all ages have succumbed with both ease and gusto. And have come out on top!

Changing attitudes

The trouble is some of them have started to push this good thing too much and don’t know where to draw the line. Take the case of Neela. Not long ago   she was a middle-aged 40-something mother of two, who held a powerful position in an investment bank. She wore lovely vibrant cotton saris and printed salwar kameez. Today she is still working  in the same bank but she is no longer the sari-salwar kameez type, as she herself tells me. Today her body is well honed and taut after spending months on end in the gym. She has a private   trainer and refuses to eat more than 12 morsels for lunch and breakfast and no carbohydrates after seven. It is all very commendable as on most days she looks good and is wearing her forties well. But health wise? I am not so sure.

Shilpa is a business woman. Not so long ago she had steaks of grey in her hair, was quite honestly nondescript in her dress sense and her way of conducting herself was normal; nothing out of the ordinary. She even had a slight moustache! I met her recently and was jaw-droppingly surprised at her transformation. This was no mouse in front of me. She had a great body, the grey in her hair was jet black and the clothes were quite risqué. The blouse was too low showing  an inordinate amount of cleavage and the skirt was too short and inappropriate for a woman her age. Her manner of talking had also undergone a strange transformation with foul language thrown in. She seemed to be in a space of her own.

There is, however, a funny side to the whole thing. Big sunglasses are worn whenever possible even when not needed; even indoors, especially in a mall or restaurant. Not only do they disguise fine lines but they give the lady wearing it the illusion that she is “someone,” as people cannot help but wonder why she is wearing shades indoors! Make-up is another point. They fail to understand that they need to go easy. Less is best is not easily understood.

At evening parties and restaurants, the big bags, big hair-dos, jet black hair, short mini-skirts, false accents and simpering baby talk are some of the things these women indulge in. It is quite ridiculous, very painful to watch and sad that they have to resort to this. In my new book I have talked about this insecure age phenomenon. What goes into the making of this new picture?

Grand old age

The strange thing is that some women refuse to give in because they refuse to acknowledge the ageing process. For all of us, the early years simply fly by and soon we reach the grand old age of 40. Then the clock just stops right there. Before 40, you are what you are and you can proclaim it to the whole world. After 40, you just stay at that age for as long as you possibly can. In this cut-throat environment, if you look older in the conventional sense — cellulite bums, sagging knees, a tiny bit of tummy, lined hands, one or two age spots — it means you are not part of an elite set up and the goddess has not bestowed her largesse on you.

Today hair is mostly dyed and lines are pulled  and pushed from every conceivable angle. Bodies are wrapped in skimpy and skimpier attire. Women are seduced by beauty products that promise to rejuvenate and revive (read: happiness, more sex, friendship, admiration,)… the panacea to all ills. And to achieve that  perfect picture they are willing to undergo surgery or get their face syringed.

Sometimes they go too far. They tend to want to look like some well-known actor or famous celebrity or an airbrushed, streamlined and reconditioned version of their former selves. The shift is not healthy. It is suddenly like a whole new army of women coming off the conveyor belt, all looking good, but identical and you know what? It starts to look boring. No individuality – now that is scary!

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