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Jan 5, 2012

Random thoughts about aging, etc.

Readers, occasionally I have random thoughts about various topics, none of which warrant a blog post all their own, or which I might flesh out sometime in the future -- or maybe one of you would like to develop one of them on your own blog; feel free.  So here goes:

At the library yesterday, I passed a display of Suzanne Somers' latest diet/health book, Sexy Forever.  And I found myself wondering: sexy....forever?  Is that the new benchmark for health and happiness in the Twenty-First Century?  I'm exhausted and I haven't even read the preface!

There are -- and probably always have been -- celebrity women I'll call "professional beauties."  These are people for whom looking younger than their biological age isn't simply a goal, it's their job.  Suzanne Somers is one of those people, and you can probably say the same about octogenarian Mamie Van Doren, Victoria Principal, Connie Stevens, Jane Fonda, and even the late Mae West, though she (thankfully) pre-dated the infomercial.  They are their own guinea pigs for all sorts of (sometimes controversial) health, beauty, fitness, and diet regimens which may help them -- and us -- or not, but either way they rake in a lot of cash promoting them, and themselves.

I don't want this to be a judgment on Suzanne Somers and her personal self-help industry; a lot of women (her primary audience) relate to her and find the information she provides helpful, and she has always seemed like someone who'd be fun to have lunch with.  In the end, we all die, though, and while I can certainly relate to wanting to remain vibrant and lucid as long as we can, I'm just not sure if these rich celebrities are the best role models for the rest of us, though they certainly have the loudest megaphone.

On a somewhat related note, occasionally I visit the Advanced Style blog, which is very beautiful and fun, but there are times when I look at those stylish elders and think 1) when you're affluent (as most of the subjects appear to be) you can afford to dress well at every age, and avail yourself of the services you'll need to keep up appearances when you're too old to do your own laundry; and 2) there's so much more to life than the way we look and so much freedom in letting that go.  I already feel that way now (at nearly fifty), and I hope that just because I make my own leopard pants, you don't think that's the way I dress every day, or expect other people to.

This is not the same as not caring about oneself, but rather about focusing on the myriad aspects of being human that have nothing to do with how we assemble an outfit.  Personally, I think we can learn more from, say, frumpy Eleanor Roosevelt than the "fabulous older ladies" portrayed at Advanced Style.   Perhaps there's inspiration to be found from both.  Thoughts?

I think it was Erica Jong in Fear of Fifty who wrote something like -- I remember this from the book review -- as an older (post-menopausal) woman she could finally focus on being a subject rather than an object.  Even though I'm not a woman, let alone post-menopausal, that line stayed with me.

As a gay man, I experience a lot of the same pressures to continue to look "sexy" and appealing to others.  It's a basic human need to be seen (just as an infant needs mirroring from the parent to develop a healthy sense of self) and treated with dignity, but I hope that being considered "sexy" isn't a requirement too.  To me, the word sexy implies awareness of one's own sexuality and the implicit promise (or suggestion) of sexual availability -- hence, we considered Marilyn Monroe sexy (she seemed to be very aware of her own sexual power over others and flaunted it) and Eleanor Roosevelt considerably less so.  Errol Flynn was sexy; Gandhi not-so-sexy.

My point is not that it isn't nice to be sexy -- and, of course, living in a part of the world where youth and youthful sexuality are prized above all else, it makes sense that many of us will have internalized those values to the point where believing we look sexy feels good, if only because we're winning at the game as the game has been presented to us.  Nor am I saying that octogenarians aren't sexual.  I'm arguing that there are other games in town, games which don't sell diet books, beauty creams, or Thighmasters -- or anything at all.

Oh, my, I have gone on!

I wanted to share so many other things today.  My daily ditching continues!  I have gotten rid of a pile of tee shirts that were ill-fitting, in unflattering colors, never worn, or some combination of all three.  They didn't make me feel sexy.

Here are the dog stairs, now placed in front of the hot air blower in the living room.  As you can see, the dogs love lying on it.

Friends, I slept nearly twelve hours last night, and I attribute at least some of my success to herbal sleep aid, valerian.  It also helped that the dogs and Michael, who came in late last night from the opera, slept on the sofa.  Anyone who has taken valerian will attest to the fact that it smells absolutely awful, but I find it effective -- a mild relaxant more than a sleeping pill, though you're not supposed to take it and drive, so don't.

Do I need my own room?

In closing, friends, how do you feel about the concept of sexy forever?  If you're on the far side of fifty, do you still feel as sexy as you did at, say, thirty?  If not, do you long for those sexier days, or have you found that there are sources of satisfaction in life that, if not entirely balance things out, then certainly compensate?

Are there ways to be fabulous in our later years that don't involve big hats and flamboyant eyeglass frames?

Jump -- or gingerly pad -- in!


  1. I have reached the age that sexuality is not on my radar. as an older woman i know i am "invisible " to the younger generation--but you know that does not bother me. I have other things to concern me and at this time i have more peace of mind

  2. I am not in that age range yet. That said, I know I feel sexier through my 30's than I did in my early 20's. I know myself better, I like who I am, I'm comfortable in my skin, all that adds up to a sexier feeling me. I'm not worried about actually being considered sexy by anyone other than my husband. That isn't to say that other people wouldn't consider me sexy, but I'm not interested in their opinion in that respect. I suspect a lot of that won't change 10 years from now. I kinda hope I'm still interested in looking my best at any age and an aspect of that is feeling sexy in my own mind.

  3. As a Brit, I'm not familiar with this lady - my first reaction is that her face looks like its had a little "help". Maybe it's just the airbrushed photograph but my real life after forty face doesn't look like hers!

  4. Super interesting post, Peter! I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as my partner and I have been spending time with a young single man who pays a lot of attention to the sexual attractive of possible dates (and I fear that he writes off potential girlfriends if they are not conventionally attractive AND sexy too quickly). We've been having a lot of conversations about the subject and I must admit that I am too invested in my own sense of attractiveness, even as I also value my intellect and interests. In a recent profile of Carrie Brownstein (from Portlandia/Sleater-Kinney) she stated how much she hated being identified by her sexuality/whom she was with, but rather wanted to be identified by her work. Good reminder, Carrie!

  5. I love your blog, Peter; I can't remember when I first discovered it, but it's been a source of great wisdom about life as well as sewing. (What I've learned from you about vintage machines alone...!) This is one of your best posts. I'm one of your female readers on the far side of fifty, and letting go of the pressure to look sexy is enormously freeing. Not that I want to walk around town looking like a hag (perish the thought), but I no longer feel the terrible, crushing anxiety of trying all the time to be at my most desperately alluring best. Being in a good relationship helps a lot with that; so does cultivating other interests in life. (Such as sewing!) I will say that I don't love being offered seats on the subway, gracious though most of the seat-offerers are, but perhaps better posture and a little lipstick will help with that. Cheers to you and Michael, and Happy New Year.

  6. You are so wise Yoda. I totally agree with you. At 39 years of age, I say to my friends that contemplate bigger breasts etc .. "If we were meant to look 20 forever, we would." We are led to believe that youth is everything ... but is it?

  7. Sexy forever is ridiculous!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think beautiful forever is real, because beauty really does come from with in. I think we should always take care of ourselves for health purposes but not for the purpose of being sexy. I look forward to the day when i am in a place in my life where sexy is not even a thought in my mind.

  8. To quote 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee:"No woman has ever won the Nobel Prize for being sexy".

  9. I think it's insane: all those women with their Botox and their skyscraper heels that they can't walk in and their incessant drive to look young - there's nothing LESS sexy, in my book. I like it when people's faces look like they've laughed a lot, or they're interesting to talk to. I'm hitting 40 this year (egads!) and, like one of your previous posters, couldn't care less whether anyone finds me sexy other than my husband. In fact, I agree that it's something of a relief to be less visible. That said, I'm glad I'm not 20 now - the pressure to look good is SO much more intense, I think, than it used to be. Just look at film stars in the 70s and 80s compared with today - they used to look like real people! I caught 5 mins the other day of a film with Goldie Hawn and Peter Sellers, where he's obviously supposed to be a sex symbol - and he had a hairy chest - and back! I suddenly realised that you NEVER see hairy chests on men in films now.

    I used to follow the Advanced Style blog but gave up because I didn't find most of the women that, er, stylish. It's great that they're all so gung-ho, but a lot of them look a bit bonkers. If that's what floats your boat, brilliant, but a lot of it looks like yet another facade to hide behind, in some ways: "Look at my crazy clothes, not my face!"

  10. I might creep out of the woodwork for this one... I love a lot of what you've said here, but when I clicked through to 'Advanced Style' I had to disagree with your reaction! I don't see older women trying to look sexy, I see older women looking FABULOUS and being happy in their skin, which is inspiring.

    It's sad that some people feel under pressure to keep up their appearance as they get older in the same way that it's sad that everyone at any age is judged by their appearance (sad but almost inevitable, at least as far as first impressions go). But if style and knowing you look great is something you enjoy, why would you stop just because you've reached a certain age?

    A lot of the clothing and fashions that the sewing blogosphere loves, including a lot of vintage fashions, aren't especially sexy to the average straight male, but do we care? It's often said that women dress (and wear makeup) for each other, not for men, and that's borne out by how often men will fail to notice an AMAZING piece of clothing, or say that they prefer women to wear little or no makeup.

    Even better than dressing for other women is dressing for yourself. I try every day to get closer to dressing in what makes me feel fabulous instead of what I think other people will like, and I look forward to the day when I can wear a huuuuuge wide brimmed hat, big beads and a glamorous (home made?!) sculptural jacket as a mature older woman, paying no attention to the baffled looks of the husband in the corner...

  11. Oops, essay! But I've got to add, Lucha lovely,

    'Sexy forever is ridiculous!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think beautiful forever is real'

    Right on!

  12. Alec Baldwin's character Jack Donaghey had a memorable line that has stuck with me: "Rich 50 is middle-class 38."

    On the upside, getting lots of sleep makes everyone look and feel better! Congrats on the 12 hours.

  13. OK< I'll say it for all the world to see. I turned 60. It is a pain literally but to be honest my mind does not feel 60. When I get ready in the morning, I don't think sexy I think good...I just want to look good and it involves eye makeup and my hair done.Guys are lucky they can pretty much skip that time waster but if I didn't I don't look good. The nice thing is at the Dr's office the girl said...You don't look a day over 40! (I confess I get that alot, good genes. But sexy...No sorry...not much of a thought for me. but I never want to look dowdy, for that is very Un-sexy. BTW...Valarian Root...stinky!!! but works great but I take Melatonin and that works swell for me. :)

  14. So many things that I want to write.
    As for sleeping, sorry I should have posted this earlier, I use a sleep mask and buy disposable ear plugs by the jar. This has been a life saver on a busy street that also has a casino going up across from my home. Doesn't valerian smell like a bad litter box? If i ever make the tea, I add spearmint to it and it does't smell. Schiff vitamin company make an herbal blend called-Knock Out for sleeping. That's just hilarious.
    Sexy forever? Well, I have a whole different idea as to what sexy is and conventional ideas of it aren't always that attractive to me. For instance, Sonia Braga wore house dresses and ankle socks in a PBS show, and I thought was cute as hell. While I never understood Farrah Fawcett.
    I like the way Cary Grant aged. He stayed very attractive without surgery or dyeing his hair and just relied on exercise and cool duds.
    Something that doesn't appeal to me in the looks department is the Desperate Housewives/Real Housewives look. I'll gladly become Thelma Ritter rather than untouchable-plastic-too cool-for-you-looking.

  15. A very well-thought out and well-written post on aging, Peter. Thank you, and happy new year to you, Michael and the dogs. :-)

  16. SeamsterEast@aol.comJanuary 5, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    I certainly am on the long side of age 50.

    I assure you, if a straight guy on the far side of age 50 wants a social life, he must either A.) Buy a "Red Corvette", or B.) Master Sociopathic Charm, or C.) Get and Stay trim.

    All else is for naught.

    Eating less/Exercising more costs less than a Red Corvette, and is certainly one heck of a lot more ethical than mastering Sociopathic Charm.

    FWIW, and related to sewing, I find a quality Brooks Bros type shirt (think $20/yard materials) over K-Mart type jeans to be well noticed by women of all ages (from those way too young to those way too old).

    In addition and to a different effect, a fitted knit Polo shirt and/or blue jeans with the waist re-cut to (quietly, yet noticably) snug 'em up well, and/or a tight wool sweater (to show the upper body outline), catches a more intense type of look from generally younger women.

    A ten-year old Corvette (the cheapest kind since forever) goes about ten grand, plus another five grand year operating expenses. More effective is a $17 pair of blue jeans from 8th Street K-Mart and an afternoon ripping off the waistband, cutting 1-1/4" from the front/from the back 3/4", sewing the waist band back on.

    Never met a Charmer (of either sex) who knew how to sew.

  17. As usual, your post made me think hard, and as a result I started formulating a response that would have taken up 9 pages of comments. I'll just summarize it: "forever sexy" is not one of my highest priorities. Sex is good; constantly showing off that I'm capable of it is stressful and unnecessary.
    Your dogs are SOOO CUTE on the hot air vent. The little ones get cold so easily. Mine will curl up in any patch of sun they find in the house.
    As for sleeping arrangements, I had to get my own room because someone snores like a tractor. Of course, I have the dogs sleeping with me, so I'm not positive I get any more sleep than before.

  18. Love this post. That's all I have to say!

  19. While my age lets me empathize with Ms. Sommers, I personally think she looks awful. The last time I saw her, au natural on Oprah, her face looked like a raisinette that needed diuretics. Her body looked pretty good but certainly not that of a younger woman. Now her energy level, that is a different story, and I would love to have some of that cure, but her cure scares me.

    I think we need to age gracefully and beautifully. Who was ever more stunning that Elizabeth Taylor? She loved being a grandmother, did not kill her self trying to have an 18 year old body, and let the age related normally increasing fat deposits fill out the wrinkles in her face. I thought she was a true beauty, with a glow from within as well as stunning beauty, even in her dotage. That's my goal, not Suzanne Sommers.

  20. Yet another thought-provoking post! How do you do it?

    I'm on the far side of fifty and I think you really nailed it when you said, “Perhaps there's inspiration to be found from both.” I try to take some pride in my appearance, but one can only do but so much against the forces of time and gravity, so I don’t get crazy about it. I prefer to aim for chic than frumpy, but sexy? Not so much.

    Do I long to be young? If I’m honest, yes, sometimes I do. But mostly I don’t.

    There’s relief in not having to bend my feet into pretzels so that I can wear the “sexiest” shoes. I find a happy blend between fashion and comfort. I am no longer so self-conscious. At this side of fifty, I find I am using fewer “beauty” products, cosmetics, creams and such, than I did at 30, because much of the anxiety about appearance is gone. And good riddance! There is so much more to do with my time and energy.

    Happy New Year, Peter, Michael, Freddy and Willy!

  21. a few years ago, about the time I turned 50, I slid into an intense "frump slump" (I blame it on living in Oregon), and I have felt (and looked) better as I've paid more attention to clothes, makeup, etc. But the other extreme--being utterly obsessed with one's appearance at every moment of the day--is not a goal of mine. I have so much more that I want to do with my life.

    Eleanor Roosevelt has always been a hero of mine, by the way.

  22. I agree with everything you've said here. I think the same thing when I see those Suzanne Somers books. I also have the same reaction to the Advanced Style site. For me (now well entrenched in my 50s), feeling healthy (well rested, appropriately fed, mentally alert) and comfortable (no tight clothes or high heels or pantyhose) are more important, and probably more germane to attractiveness, than anything else. As for sexy -- that's complicated. I don't think there's an absolute value of "sexy" but rather that it's a product of many elements, biological and psychological.

  23. Love you blog and your sense of humor! I also follow Advanced style, and I agrre with you, it's beautiful, but I don't think the sense of style should always go with affluent ladies. For example, in Mexico, I've seen women who were rather underprivileged but, to my eye, had a great fashion sense, and I'm not referring to the traditional folk costumes, but the way they dressed in Mexico City: the color coordination, the shape of the skirt. Or a nice accessory, though all items were almost tattered due to the use, they've still managed to caught my eye.

  24. Fabulous post! As a woman who recently celebrated a double-digit anniversary of my 29th birthday, I feel very conflicted about the "let it go" vs the Demi Moores and Suzanne Somerses of the world approach. My perspective changed a lot when I went through some health stuff two years ago, and I decided that I would keep on working on myself to stay healthy and fit, but not necessarily try to look like I'm in my 20s or early 30s. And I really dislike the frozen forehead look that you see on women who should have at least some wrinkles! No knock against botox and the like, just against plasticity.

  25. I think it depends on what your interpretation of being sexy means. Everyone has a different concept.

    I think for me it has never been an issue. I am not attractive and was never sexy to begin so I have never focused on it. I have other things that mean more to me.

    However, I think it is much harder for beautiful men and women because people always expect you to remain beautiful, when your unattractive it is a given that you are going to get uglier :).

    My stepfamily are full of exotic women, and they do adorn themselves and try hard to keep their figures and youth. They have been told all their lives how stunning they are, and they feel they have to strive to keep themselves this way.

    I had an uncle who was gay. He was striking and considered "pretty". He couldn't even fathom looking old.

    It doesn't matter how much plastic surgery you have, you will never ever look young again. It just doesn't work that way. You cannot compete with someone in their 20's. The same as older women who have great bodies trying to dress like teenagers. Wearing young clothes doesn't make you young. If if makes you feel good, then go for it.

    So for me, I will just grow old and get uglier. My husband loves me for me, and my kids think I am the most beautiful woman in the world (for now).



  26. I agree with snippa. I'd be more prepared to take Somer's advice were her pic not so photoshopped!

    I'm the same generation as you Peter and inevitably, this whole business of getting older has been preying on my mind. I absolutely hate what it's doing to my face and body and would gladly follow whatever steps would turn the tide, unfortunately I don't believe there is much out there that works beyond the genes you're given. I have a couple of very attractive friends already dabbling in plastic surgery and, you know, neither looks better or younger for it, just 'interfered with' (as does Suzanne Somers)...

    'Sexy' is such a bind to shackle oneself with, and I'm glad it's not one I ever subscribed to. I feel much freer now than my friends who worked at being sexy when they were younger and now fear it is vanishing. Still, there's an abyss between that and giving up oneself. I've gone back to swimming four times a week, I'm trying to sleep more... Not because I harbour the illusion that I'll somehow recapture my youth, but if it can delay the onslaught of physical decrepitude then it's something worth working on.

    What I'm hoping as I get older is to care more about my appearance, developing a look that evolves with me, without caring two hoots what others might think of it.

  27. I am almost 50 (end of this year) and its great and not-so-great. I remember something the writer Elizabeth Berg said about women becoming "invisible" in middle age and I can give that a Big Amen. In my youth I got used to turning heads, I even found it annoying as in "Good grief, can't I even walk by a construction site without being subjected to whistles and catcalls? What a bunch of bums".

    Well I finally got my wish, 'cause now I have been rendered "invisible" by middle age. What I took for granted and found annoying when I was young, I kind of think upon wistfully now that its gone.

    But will I go to Suzanne Somers extremes to appear younger, sexy and hot? No! I want to feel "youthful" which is to feel healthy, vital and energetic - not to be confused with that "faux youth" that some women of a certain age aspire to. Its much more about how I FEEL than how I APPEAR.

  28. Oh how wise you are! At 46, with many friends the same age, married, divorced and single, I think we are phuquing phabulous in ways we never were 20 years ago. My sexiness is focussed on one man these days and so I don't get much attention from young uns any more, which is a little sad but mainly fine. I think it's about self assurance, not sexiness. I don't like the idea of sexy being a synonym for confident or self assured. Sends a bad signal.
    Why oh why is there such a widely held assumption that we should all aspire to be younger and thinner? Young, thin people don't appear to have anything inherently more to offer the world than their youth and svelteness. Yippedeedoo.
    I'm a bit intrigued by Mr Corvette a few comments up. I couldn't follow his reasoning at all until I worked out, I think, that the jeans and shirt and Corvette are about snaring the younger ladies? Because as a woman in a more appropriate age group to his, it all sounds ghastly. Mr Corvette, genuinely lovely and loving women in their 40's and 50's are attracted by eyes, smiles and humour, not cars and cuts. Hmm, but knowing a man can recut a pair of jeans, now that is kinda sexy ;-)

  29. I am not sure I ever felt sexy ! I have a photo of myself on honeymoon, that my husband says 'Is the best photo of me ever' I admit I look nice! That was 12 years ago-I'm well on my way to 40 now! I like being comfy in my own skin and knowing which clothing styles suit me. The pic of the lady (as another Brit-No idea who she is)is a bit scary & plastciky looking! (sorry)

  30. As a female engineer, being sexy was never an option if I wanted to be taken seriously. Neat and attractive, yes, sexy, no. This has never affected my ability to find a date or a mate. When I was very young, I noticed that if I looked sexy, the men I attracted were the ones who were only interested in sex. And I'd really rather have a man who wants to be part of my family-- so no, I don't feel any pressure to be sexy. Now, staying healthy and fit so I can enjoy my husband-- that's another matter.


  31. Great post. As a woman approaching 50 I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever did, and still a little sexy, which is as it should be. The main reason being that I'm in a solid happy relationship now. As a single woman in her 40's a few years ago I felt so much more pressure to look good, which I guess is true for all single folks. However I did feel that many men my own age were looking to meet much younger women so I don't judge or decry what those ladies like Suzanne Somers are trying to do for some women. I just wish they weren't given so much coverage.

  32. as a gay man about to turn 50 in June I feel like I am kinda at a crossroads..not young..but not really old either. I think I look better at my age now than I did say in my 20's and 30's...but I can relate to the "invisible" comment. If I change my age in my profile to say 40 or even 42 I can all kinda hits on my social networking sites..but have my real age 49..nobody wants to chat.

  33. Peter, I have to say that I agree with you on this sexy thing. Young forever, bah! I honestly prefer 46 year old me to 26 year old me. She spent way too much time worrying about superficial things.

    That being said, we do have a difference of opinion about the ladies of Advanced Style. I adore them! What do I like, you ask? I love their spirit. Rather than accept society's mandate than seniors should just retreat to their corners wearing polyester (and I'm not talking good polyester) pull on pants and ugly shirts, they put on their Sunday best and hit the road. Plus, it's a style blog, so the folks they pick for the blog are chosen because their sense of style appeals to the blog's author. I think it's less about money or social status and more about seniors refusing to be what society says they should be.

    I love that they continue to do their own thing despite what the world says they should be doing. I read the blog every day (and am anxiously awaiting the book) just to hear their wonderful message about life. Their messages all seem to be the same -- do what makes you happy. Wear what makes you happy. Don't spend time following the crowd, find your own style and wear it proudly. I especially love the fact that they get dressed up (when compared with today's standards of dress) when they go out. They dress as if each day is a special occasion and I, for one, agree with them. Each day that we get out of bed and draw a breath is indeed special and a cause for celebration. If sparkles make you happy, then by all means, sparkle away. I also note that those women take care of their clothing. Many of them have stated that they have had clothes in their wardrobes for years and, because they are confident in who they are, continue to wear them because it makes them feel good to wear them. As for the big glasses ladies, aren't many of them artists? I get the feeling that they aren't dressing any differently than they did when they were younger. Okay, I'll stop speechifying now (yeah, I make up words too!) God willing, if I live long to be considered a senior, I'll be walking around town, wrinkles and all, in a sparkly evening gown and red lipstick because it makes me happy -- the world be damned!

    Okay, I'll shut up now.

  34. Hmm, what an interesting topic today. I go in and out of love with fashion & style. Currently, I am back in love with it, and dressing nicely in the morning is a very important part of my day.
    Fashion, as seen on the bodies of young models is too one-note. I can see older women on Advanced Style, but where are the middle aged women? On other sewing blogs.
    If I ever get plastic surgery, I want it to be the kind where people assume I am "aging gracefully" and say "good for you!"
    ha ha!
    If they can tell I've had anything "done", that seems to be the same thing as looking plastic (to me).
    I dunno. The outward image is a creative expression. Oh- this was about sexy? Well. Sometimes yes, guys still hit on me. And I am old.
    I completely agree with what anon "lw" said. Men who only want sex are not men I want in my life. I shun them!

  35. I'll be 52 on Monday and I am very lucky to have a husband who accepts me for me. I am much heavier than I was when we were married 24 years ago ('I've struggled with my weight all my life) and as unsexy as I feel, he always makes it a point to reassure me that he still finds me sexy. I may be rounder and grayer, but I'm a happy woman.

    Oh, and FYI, 52 is the new 32!

  36. GREAT post!

    I agree with Lucha Lovely - Beauty forever is what I would like to strive for. I definitely do feel more beautiful and sexy now at 36 than at 26. I think my face has more character with some lines on it and I think that having invested in my inner self - my interests and hobbies - has made me confident in myself and my abilities. And confidence is the most beautiful thing that a person can wear at any age. So, I guess for me, the more I feel like I am a subject, the more sexy I feel, too.

  37. SeamsterEast@aol.comJanuary 5, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    I'm a bit intrigued by Mr Corvette ... I couldn't follow his reasoning ... that the jeans and shirt and Corvette are about snaring the younger ladies?

    Sorry if I included the word "younger", but that was not my intent. I far and away prefer "age-appropriate".

    But let's be candid here. Trolling (clothing is an extremely important part of and facilitator of that behavior) for partner(s) pulls in some "younger ones", too. Particularly tighter, more form fitted clothing.

    Yet, how does one understand the impact of "409's" and "Duece Coups" if one has never seen either one, of "Cathy's Clown" if one has never heard it?

    Clothing is an extremely accurate statement of, and very public display of, age/sex/social status/intents of the wearer.

    Good clothing is cheaper than buying a "Red Corvette", if the intent is to announce that one is available.

  38. Peter,

    It's a small wonder you don't spend your days on those stairs chatting up those dogs! TOO CUTE!

    As for Suzanne...I saw her enhanced face on the cover of a magazine some months back (from a slightly different angle, not as flattering), and it looked even more "Michelin Man plump", not quite out of square (from tucks and pulls distorting the geometry - think Leona Helmsley), but over-stuffed and unnaturally puffy. That's not youth, that's simply having the wrinkles stretched from the inside and the remaining divets filled from the outside. Do it if it makes you feel good (and less is more, for those considering!), but rest assured, most people you know are aware of your age.

    Meanwhile, life is going on. Going on with people who do, or will, acknowledge you as something other than a potential sexual conquest. Dress by your own definition of personal success, and the rest will follow.

    @James: ween off the screen, those who are BOTH lazy & shallow litter that scene. Good men do not tend to go door-to-door. Get out and about doing things you truly enjoy, that's where like-minded others come into your world, and ineligible though many of them will be, they will introduce you into new social circles (vastly more entertaining than getting old in front of a computer).

  39. A beautiful post Peter... I hate all that rubbish about "looking fantastic" blah blah. So many women (mostly) fall for that rubbish and perpetuate it with their children (girls mainly). I have seen two people from the back - my impression; two girls out shopping together, but lo and behold when they turn around it is a mother (forties) and a teenage daughter. I often wonder what the daughter feels if she is competing with her mother. I have no problem people looking their best but that's different to trying to look younger all the time. "Be here now" we say in yoga! p.s. I am turning 50 in March!

  40. Wow, what a great post. I'm about to turn 49 in a couple of weeks and I must say I FEEL more beautiful than I ever have and that has nothing to do with me actually looking young and beautiful, trying to stay young or cheating the aging process. It simply means that I am more confident with myself than ever before. It also doesn't mean that I am sexually available, because I am very definitely NOT. The last thing I have any interest in is a sweaty night of grappling between the sheets. I do, however, enjoy feeling beautiful and that does not mean I look young or even beautiful to anyone else but me. Yes, I'm invisible but as some of the others have said, that's fine by me. I would say, yes, I do feel fabulous. As for your valerian, do you find it gives you weird dreams?

  41. Wonderful post and excellent comments, all!

    I love what Coco Chanel said~ "Nature gives you the face you have at 20. Life gives you the face you have at 30. But at 50 you get the face you deserve." Aging is a great truth teller, and the person that you are on the inside begins to show on the outside. I feel fortunate to have learned this at an early age from excellent examples; my mother and grandmother, both beautiful! ~ and so have strived to follow in their footsteps. At 48 I can proudly say that I feel as beautiful as I ever did. Not 20 something or 30 something beautiful, but beauty does not have to leave with our youth, if we are willing to adjust our interpretation of it.

    When I see someone like Victoria Principal selling her beauty products on TV, it makes me sad. She did not get that face from a bottle or jar, and she is doing herself and the women who buy into it a great disservice. At least Suzanne Somers and Jane Fonda are being somewhat honest about the lengths they have gone to.

    In closing I will say that I used to think that I would have work done as I got older. But now I think not. No Botox or other fillers, no surgery. Recognizing that beauty exists at all ages, coupled with a healthy, organic diet and commitment to exercise, will help to insure that I can do my own laundry for many, many years to come!

  42. Wonderful post. I was going to write more but you said it all. Thanks!

  43. What a thought-provoking post! I am perplexed by Ms. Somers. It's not that I don't appreciate her perspective on recognizing that hormones should be closely monitored through the aging process. But she seems so fixated on "staying young". At a certain point, who cares?? Iris Apfel is awesomely chic and stylish and she's got wrinkles and she's 90 years old. She doesn't try to look 40. And I am 41. Sure, I love it when people tell me I look young. But no one tells me I look 25 anymore. Whatevs. I'd prefer to look elegant and comfortable in my skin.

  44. Good post, Peter!

    I turned 60 last summer. It's weird to even type it let alone know it's a number that applies to me.
    I too follow Advance Style, and while some of the ladies are too far out there to be taken seriously as regards their personal style, with the others I see pride and contentment.

    Chasing your youth is a losing game. A game in which you sacrifice your peace of mind.

    It occurred to me a couple of years ago why I didn't date much as a teenager. And why I didn't get asked to the Prom....quite frankly....I ain't that hot....not even close. And now I'm grateful for it. I'd hate to spend my later years avoiding the mirror because what used to be there no longer is.

    Maybe that's the curse that comes with Beauty.

  45. You're nearly fifty? FIFTY? Fuck are you fifty. I'd assumed you were in your mid-thirties. W(h)elp.

    Hope that my outburst isn't inappropriate on a post about the immateriality of one's age, but... shows how good I am at judging ages.

  46. Really really lovely and insightful post (and I came here for vintage sewing machine info)! Personally I love faces with "character" and that only comes from age and living life.

  47. Jenny, everything I know about graceful aging I learned from Suzanne Somers. ;)

  48. In Hollywood people like Suzanne Somers, George Clooney etc etc all get plastic surgery mostly because they can't continue to find work if they don't especially the ladies plus they can afford it.

    Personally at 57 I hate aging for the most part but am taking good care of myself by going to the gym 4 days/week and by eating healthier foods and not smoking- even at this stage of the game I always take 6 years off my age and no one has ever questioned it. I live in a college town so I know what the youth fashions are I tend to wear adapted versions of them ie with a longer skirt instead of the long sweater pulled over leggings with boots that I see so often.
    i might get some work done but it is very expensive, i am college educating my daughter so that is a priority plus i am concerned that something could go wrong.

  49. I have nothing to add except that 5-HTP is amazing as a sleep aid and does not smell like doo.

  50. Fabulous post topic!

    Within weeks i'll be turning 46 and have been pondering my ageing. In mid December while having my last cut & colour i decided that i was no longer going to base colour my hair...only have foils to add warmth. The reason for this was to stop fighting the onslaught of grey hair.

    I don't want to be in a constant battle with my age but at the same time i don't want to give-in and let it all hang out.

    Woman like Ms Somers (the professional beauties) really annoy me; they constantly pressure us into the notion that we are only valid in society if we're young and sexually attractive to others. Even as a young woman i have never felt comfortable with the concept of "sexy" to be noticed by the opposite sex; i have always wanted to be found attractive for so many other qualities...intellect or personality for example.

    As i continue to age, i shall look after myself in ways that include being kind to myself rather than subscribe to the notion of eternal sexiness which subconsciously tells a message of self-rejection.

  51. I am 60. I don't feel that old in my head, but the mirror doesn't lie. This is what 60 looks like, to paraphrase Gloria Steinem. I'm happy and married to a man who thinks I hung the moon. He is 16 years younger than me, but that's not why I married him nor is my age why he married me. He had no idea how old I was when we met because he is a terrible judge of age.
    I feel sexy because I have enough life experience to know that age absolutely does not matter. I felt that way before I met my husband three years ago. At that time I had 20, 30, 40 and 50-somethings who found me attractive and I reveled in it. ( I don't mean that they were any more than harmless flirtations with men I knew, but still...) I think it is all in the attitude, because I am not a looker by any stretch of the imagination. If you carry yourself with a confident and joyous attitude, age is nearly irrelevant.
    Those who think too hard about whether they are sexy are probably not. Those who try to grasp at it for dear life, most certainly are not.

  52. I also had an interesting conversation with the tech who did my mammogram today. She said the overwhelming majority of women she scanned had a very distorted body image and spoke disparagingly of their breasts. No wonder women don't feel like they are sexy without "help". Somewhere along the way they lost themselves.

  53. First...cute widdle doggies snoozing on the vent--filled my cuteness quota.

    Aging...what a fantastic topic! So well thought out and written. As I approach my 48th birthday (next week as a matter of fact), I can hardly believe I'm almost 50. My 40's have been a Blur...mostly because I started my family as I approached my 40's and have two small children, almost makes one forget they are full on middle aged, but I digress. I don't like the idea that you are supposed to hold on to some kind of eternal youth--it's just not natural. I think woman who don't embrace their age look ridiculous. It even seems that Hollywood is starting to embrace more natural aging...Meryl Streap and Sigourney Weaver are the faces I'm thinking look amazing, not to mention Jamie Lee Curtis. Healthy, vibrant--that's beautiful. Anyway, I'd rather feel sexy than look sexy.

    It's funny you mention Advanced Style, they have been in my radar lately. A friend of mine (a fellow farmer) posted this video which was the first time I ever heard of this project. THESE LADIES ROCK...and I don't get the vibe that they are all high dollar ladies either--just woman who take the way they feel about their appearance seriously. I would expect you might run into one or two of them while thrifting. Anyway, here is the video that got my attention.

  54. OMG, you are wise beyond your years. Love your blog and this post!!

  55. At 56 I am far sexier than at 26 or even 16. I am a short, round shaped gal with lumps and bumps and I get more cute every year. ;-)
    It's all about how you feel. My once skinny dark haired husband is fully gray and has a big ole belly..and I still light up every time he walks in a room. And that belly of his just might scare off some young thing. (That and a wide wedding even if he took it off the tan lines would show. I recommend this ladies. ;-) )
    I am so much more comfortable in my skin now than at 20. And since the kids grew up we can do anything we want...and that includes more sex. Yep, your parents are likely having more sex than you are. So there!

  56. I agree with you, there are other games in town. I've gone through a personal tragedy and looking or feeling sexy is not even on my radar. I've been thinking 'deep thoughts' about my body and what it is for. I was pregnant and lost my little boy a day after he was born (he was premature). Right now, I am trying to look prettier for my own mental well-being, if that makes any sense.

  57. I was born in 1952, and during my teens and twenties men still had the right to comment loudly on women's figures. Apparently, mine was remarkable because it was constantly remarked on by men I walked past. I felt humiliated and hid inside oversize clothes. I slouched. I was happy to enter the invisible stage of my life! To me, "forever sexy" sounds like a curse rather than a blessing. So much for the good old days! I think we have become much more civilised, and women now expect to be treated with respect even if they look sexy. So, for young women, "forever sexy" probably sounds more appealing than to the previous generation. That's why talk about "modesty" makes me so cross. I strongly believe women should look and dress any way they please, and they must be treated with respect no matter what they look like.

  58. I'd like to add that these "professional beauties" really distort our sense of what real people look like -- with cosmetic surgery and photoshop. Sometimes you just want to say "aw, c'mon." When I watch movies that pre-date this kind of cosmetic intervention, I'm struck by how the people in the movie actually look like people I might know. People in current movies have a kind of cartoon feel to them much of the time. I'm on the cusp of 49 and recognize that the way strangers respond to me is different than when I was 39 or 29. But not a problem, and, in some senses, an improvement. My husband still makes me feel sexy and my family and friends still make me feel happy. The people I work with, the kids I help in my job make me feel significant. I don't think plastic surgery is in my future. And, more importantly, I love the pictures of the pooches!

  59. I think the real question is "What is sexy?" Sexy is not the same as being overtly sexual. Sexy is not about being obsessed with your looks.

    I've never found Sommers sexy, even in her youth. She's always looked fake to me. I don't find fake tits, over-plumped lips and bleached hair sexy. Sommers is nobody I've ever wanted to emulate.

    To me sexy is defined by an inner vibrancy, it's about being interesting and being fully developed as a person. It's about being appealing to people of both genders. A sexy person is a people magnet.

    Jackie O was certainly sexy her whole life. Helen Mirren, always sexy, but more so now. Carmen Dell'Orefice looks old and dignified, yet she's undeniably sexy.

    You don't even have to be conventionally beautiful to be sexy: Martina Navratilova, sexy as shit. Ditto for Steffi Graf.

    You don't have to be thin to be sexy either. Look at Adele. (Fast becoming a fashion icon, too.)

    Watch an Almodovar film sometime. They're filled with sexy women who don't fit the conventional mold of beauty.

    I can't fathom not wanting to be sexy. Being sexy means being alive.

    So heck yeah, I intend to stay sexy my whole life. But my version of sexy does not involve trying to look like a 25 year-old Hollywood floozy.

  60. Ah. I needed that one. As someone about to turn 50, and with this very topic occupying much of my recent thoughts, I very much enjoyed your post. Thank you kindly. :-)

  61. Wow! What a powerful post. I supposed, even though folks may have thought me beautiful, I never thought in those terms. I was always concerned (possessed?) about what I had accomplished or created today. Hence, at my age, I look for the light behind the eyes - that creative impulse, urge to push the inside to higher and more creative edges. That's also what I do with my clients and students. Maybe that's part of the reason I'm so lucky to have such wonderful and fabulous students and clients. But even in my beautiful brides and debs, I look for the light in their eyes, and immensely enjoy bringing it out. I know I'm finished with the dress when the clients is twirling and sashaying about as if there's no one prettier (on the inside as well).

    I think sexy isn't all it's cracked up to be - it's fun and great, but as you get older, it's not the end all - it's the sharing and experiencing life's adventures, sorrows, successes, joys, loves, mishaps and just plain ole life that matters - it's what you leave in a person(s)'s heart that matters.

    Amazingly enough, blogs are an interesting place to post this, as if we were to meet in person after a few conversations, we might find it very difficult to have these sorts of conversations - but ain't these blogs great for this?!!!!

  62. Great post!!! I will be 60 next month, and I don't want to be young forever. Sexy, it's a state of mind. I want to feel good and be able to run around and play with my grandkids. Well, I do wish I had just one chin....

  63. Thank heavens for the Atlantic Ocean! - from the safe distance of Britain I'd never even heard of Suzanne Somers. As others have said, she's not my idea of sexy. Trying too hard is never sexy, is it?

    I could prattle on about this subject for weeks so will spare you and just share an insomnia tip: another thing to get you to sleep at night is magnesium. The supplements happen to have the side-effect of zonking you out so are best taken at bedtime. Do read up on which type's best to take, and what else you should/shouldn't take with it though. And they're obviously best avoided on your sexier evenings, Peter! ;)

  64. Great post. As someone who is becoming less sexy, I think one of the most difficult things for me, is knowing that my baby making days are behind me. I don't want a baby, or to be pregnant, but there is just something about that feeling of fertility and the attractiveness that comes with it that is empowering. But really, who would want to feel that way forever? I guess the Suzanne Sommers sexy is something else: a sort of trope that symbolizes sexiness rather than embodies it.

  65. I really admire Joan Baez. She is more beautiful now than in her younger performer days. She isn't trying to look like she's 20 - she has a classy hair and makeup style that enhances her real looks.

  66. I love Joan Baez too.

    @Saro: so sorry to hear about your loss. Hang in there.

  67. OK then. Everyone else in the world but me knows who this lady is. Having googled her, conclusion is I've missed nothing.

  68. With my wildly fluctuating weight (thanks so much, prednisone), I've noticed that I seem to become invisible as a 'sex object' after a certain weight. And interestingly enough, I find that the friendships (both with men and with women)that I develop when I'm heavier seem to be deeper and more solid than those that start when I'm thinner and more conventionally 'attractive'.

  69. I will let Madeline Kahn as Marlene Dietriech speak for me: "I'm so tired"

  70. Excellent post! "Sexy Forever" does sound tiring, especially when the definition of sexy is conventional. The harder you chase your youth, the quicker it recedes into the past, I think. I have reached the age where I've peaked in terms of conventional attractiveness/sexiness and it's all "downhill" from here. It's hard to navigate and to know how to feel. Lots of food for thought here and in the comments.

  71. Slapdash Sewist: I think I speak for many here when I say you are hardly on the downhill slide.

  72. Hello. I often read, rarely comment.
    Just few days ago I watched an interview from 1969 / 1970- can´t remember. But anyhoodle, there she was, Gabrielle Chanel hunched in her large beige sofa telling that women who try to look younger than they are... that´s the most aging thing to do. How true. I think so much of this whole talk of saxywhatever is largely based on different cultures. What is sexy to some, might very well be bordering on vulgarity to some. Perhaps reaching towards one´s own true individuality and personal style might be way more interesting many a time.

  73. I can't get my mind around "forever." Although I'm closer to 50 then 40, I don't feel older. For example, I realized yesterday that this year will be my 30th High School reunion. Really? Seriously? Wasn't it just like 10 years ago that I graduated? Then I start thinking about friends I've know for over 20 years. How could it be 20 years when it feels more like 5?

    Personally, the hype that the media tries to sell us about "sexy' really seems more silly as you pointed out. I know a lot of people in there 50's and 60's I think are sexy, and not because they are trying to look or act 20. Sexy is looking good, but its also confidence and character.

  74. "Sexy" is a large plastic doll saying "OH." It is wrapping for an empty package to please undiscriminating baboons with hindquarters highly presented. How tight can Suzanne's plastic surgeon stretch a bongo face on a shrinking skull as the nose and ear lobes grow longer? Forever? Gollum will have his precious sooner.

    In "Sexy" where is elegance, courage, creativity, curiosity and tenderness that truly makes one desirable? The best we can hope for is the elegance and grace in having a meaningful extraordinary life. If I need choose a wrapping, give me cotton, wool, silk, linen, scissors and many sewing machines! Fine friends, dogs and cats certainly complete the portrait.

  75. Wonderful post. I wear three hats on this one, will speak from two. First, as the sister of two beauty queens, the energy, time & money invested in looks was staggering. My sisters now miss being Queens of the May (no pun intended), but only one of them has developed a sense of herself and the real world that lets her put away the poufy dresses and grow up. The other one is incredibly sad and bitter. The effect on me is the stuff of a different post; I was busy with my education among other things so never got bitten by the beauty bug. I am happier now (at 63) than either of my sisters.

    Second hat, as a professional journalist. The media can't sell stuff unless people buy it. A lot of people buy ideas to ease the pain of deep psychological fears, like being alone. So we can acknowledge the power of "cultural pressure," but we also have the power to push back and change it by buying more carefully. For example, I would like to see a lot more encouragement and acknowledgement for girls that money management is a useful and important skill, and saving money is a really cool activity. What kind of people are we to encourage our daughters to be spendthrifts on vulgar clothes, yet fail to save for the bigger purposes in life? There is an interesting debate whether the media reflect our values or actually create them; some of each, I'd say. But we don't have to buy the attitudes the professional beauties promote (great term, Peter). Many of the comments I read above address the same distinctions that apply to eroticism as compared to sexiness. As a woman well past 60, I have left sexiness to the 20-year-olds and enjoy the eroticism that is now part of my life. I wish everyone could travel this wonderful road, but some people, like my sister, get stuck. Suzanne Sommers looks stuck to me, a time warp defying biology unsuccessfully, and the sadder for it.

  76. I'm tired of sexy, really. It's such an overused word, an overused standard and has very little to do with what makes people amazing. It's just another feeling, like indigestion.

    I saw Jane Fonda interviewed somewhere recently who was expounding the virtues of taking testosterone in order to increase her libido. This really saddened me that her measure of vitality was about how often she had sex and being sexy. Really, at 70 this is all she seemed to have to talk about, sex and exercise. I'd hope by 70 there was greater wisdom to have shared than the same old stuff she was selling in the 60's

  77. Re sleeping and sexy: if you have space for it go for the separate bedrooms! It means that doing sex feels like an assignation or date or whatever you called it when when you did it early on. ( Better still,it comes without the cost of dinner and roses, though of course if Michael wants to cook you a lovely dinner or you want to buy him some beautiful roses don't let me stop you.) It also means that you can do whatever you need to get a good sleep without worrying about the smell, look or other impact on your beloved. Works for me and my beloved so far- 22 years and counting.

  78. I don't feel sexy even at 45 but that is more due to weight gain than anything else and I'm not talking a few pounds here ;o) However I think sexy is always a state of mind and nothing to do with physicality anyway, sexy isn't about how you look but what you are.

    I also attest to Valerian smelling vile, to me it always smelt of horse shit, sorry bring the level down!! But it does the job eh?!!

  79. Lord god, no! "When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple" doesn't need "... and worry about whether or not I'm sexy," as part of the title. I enjoy make-up and dressing-up and all that, but I look forward to not worrying about the clothes and things being flattering. Getting beyond the point where anyone would measure my sex appeal would be like breathing after being let out of a corset.

    The age-defying surgery the stars you mention go in for, when you really look at it, is so bizarre and so fake-looking that it doesn't come off as sexy. All the "cosmetic intervention"* makes these women look false, tired and uncomfortable with themselves, and none of those adjectives are remotely sexy.

    (*good phrase there, Erzulimojo :)

  80. I love the doggie stairs!

    I'm 62 and wouldn't even dream of trying for cute & sexy. My goals now are healthy & dignified. Still, if I decided to relate to the outside world solely in the form of an avatar, I might well choose to look cute & sexy.

  81. These beauty experts are so tiresome. Can't believe SS is still worrying about her looks at her age. Time to grow up Suzanne.

    Saro, I'm so sorry, what a terrible loss. Take good care of yourself. My second child was stillborn, can't believe it was it really sixteen years ago. You never get over it, but you'll figure out how to keep going. Thinking of you.

  82. sexy forever?? not what I want to be.

    happy forever? That I'd love to be!

  83. After your wonderfuln post that made a lot of us feel good for some reason, I'm sort of thinking you aren't. Hope you and Michael are having a great beginning to th new year.

  84. Peter -Thx for the great topic. We love you here on the left coast.
    I for one am ready to switch the focus to being attractive! Attractive includes being joyful, compassionate and emotionally generous.
    It is not based on age! Great style helps, but it is the frosting on the cake.
    What's the deal about worshipping youth? I am happier every day at 60 than I ever was at 20.
    Life is good!

  85. "Fashion cannot make you sexy. Experience makes you sexy. Imagination makes people sexy. You have to train yourself, you have to study, and you have to live your life."--Yohji Yamamoto

  86. Wow, what a great post, Peter. I turned 60 last year and it was quite a shock, but while I'm not as cute as I was in my 20s, I'm a whole lot smarter and much more fun to be with. Thank you for making my day.

  87. Not to far from turning the big "5-0", my goal is to be healthier and happier. Thank you, Peter, for your post.

  88. Love the diversity of topics you throw out there. You always get me thinking!


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